Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Be in Control of Your Own Destiny

I read on the Photo Business & News Forum yesterday that several template-based website services such as LiveBooks and BluDomain have been having problems with their Google rankings as of late. I personally do not have a website with these companies so I can’t say for sure how much if any control their photographers have over their own site design but from what it sounds like they don’t have much. If ranking high is really a top priority for your business then the only way to go is to either have a site designed specifically for your needs or to do it yourself. At the least you should understand how things work under the hood so you can give adequate direction to your service providers.

I might sign up for a portfolio site with one of these companies eventually but I don’t expect that their search engine rankings are going to be as good as what I can do for myself on my current site. If you think about it, if every photographer out there had the same website structure then it’s just random luck that you’d crack the top ten on Google for anything. But with my own website, I can tweak and adjust my web content at any hour of the day according to how I see fit.

Getting the most out of the search engines isn’t just about throwing all of your eggs in one basket such as “Las Vegas wedding photographer”, you need to have a strategy – casting a targeted net if you will to draw people into whatever it is you want them to do. If one word falls off the list then you should have other variations of the subject to make up for that. Lets say that tomorrow my ranking for Southern California coast photos drops, well that’s not really a big deal in my opinion because people can find me still by typing in Point Vicente Lighthouse stock photos or Venice Beach travel photographer for example, where I’m currently ranked at or near the top on Google, Google Images and Yahoo.

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September 27, 2008 Posted by | Photo Business, Web | , , , , | 5 Comments

Olympus DS-30 Digital Voice Recorder Review

Pros: Small enough to fit into any pocket. Decent sound quality. “CD-quality” sound for small budgets.

Cons: No belt clip. No wind sock. Lecture recording mode sometimes makes voices sound digital. No recording volume control.

Olympus DS-30 Digital Voice Recorder

Olympus DS-30 Digital Voice Recorder

After having tested the Olympus DS-30 Digital Recorder for several weeks in a variety of photography shooting situations, I have mixed reviews about it for the type of work that I do. Since I mainly photograph outdoors and generally moving around in non-controlled shooting conditions, the limitations are fairly obvious. Without a belt clip, the sensitive microphone picks up a rustling sound every time I move around due to being in my shirt pocket. Since the device is too small for a wind sock, having a belt clip would be useless anyway because wind would be a factor outdoors particularly in coastal areas.

The plus sides are numerous as well. If you are planning on staying at one place for a while then the sound quality is generally excellent for the $100 price tag. The device is really simple to use and uploads the .wmv files onto my PC like an external hard drive.

Overall: I plan to return the Olympus DS-30 before my 30 days are up. If you are a college student, podcaster or a reporter that wants to jot down notes then this would be excellent for you. For a photographer that works in the field, the only option is to go for models that have a belt clip and dedicated wind sock. Unfortunately those models are a little pricier.

Examples: Girls Having Fun, Venice Beach Drum Circle

Griffith Observatory Planetarium, Los Angeles, California

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Music, Product Reviews, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Interesting Links – 9/17/09

How to Make Your Audio Slideshows Better – Good tips by Colin Mulvany, multimedia editor at The Spokesman-Review.

How Jill Greenberg Really Feels About John McCain – PDNPulse. Greenberg trashes the presidential candidate publicly after photographing him on assignment for The Atlantic. Career suicide or PR genius?

Dirk Panier – A photographer website with really interesting presentation. Turn on your speakers.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Weekly Links | , | Leave a comment

Interview With Dane Sanders – OC Wedding Photographer and Author

A Southern California-based wedding photographer, Dane Sanders has established himself as one of the top wedding photographers in the industry. A featured speaker for Adobe and Pictage, Sanders has been recognized and featured in such noteworthy publications as Rangefinder, Professional Photographer and American Photo magazines. His first book, Fast Track Photographer has received critical acclaim from many industry professionals for its fresh approach to running a successful wedding photography business.

You’ve built quite a following in just five short years. When you first established your business, did you have a solid understanding of business principles prior to that or did you mostly learn as you went along?

I had studied business in college but I knew very little about business in the real world.

How did the idea for Fast Track Photographer come about?

Great question. I literally woke up in the middle of the night with a vision for this book. I immediately got up and started writing. I couldn’t stop. It was a bit of an obsession. I wrote early and I wrote late. And when it was completed, I felt like I made a contribution [to the industry]. Of course, I didn’t know if anyone besides my wife would ever read it, but I knew in my heart that what came out of me was more than a business book on photography. It had the potential of helping people flatten their learning curve dramatically. I couldn’t be more pleased with the response so far.

In which ways can wedding photographers and non-wedding photographers benefit from reading the book?

I think what’s special about Fast Track Photographer is how dynamic it is. The experience of the read changes depending on the reader. It’s a custom book built to pull out a photographer’s unique strengths so they can maximize them for their businesses in our digi-flat marketplace. Most of my examples are from my experience as a wedding photographer but I’d put money down that it can help any genre of photographer or any service provider in any industry for that matter. When my attorney read it and said it was great for him; that made my day.

Briefly explain for us the concept of “Signature Brands” and your take on this:

Well, Signature Brands are one side of a continuum of possibility for photographers. The other side is to go the freelance photographer route. Signature Brands are businesses that are built around the greatest value engine of all: the actual photographer. I argue that who you are is far more valuable to higher-end clients than even the photography you create. Our art just validates the signature brands we’re creating.

Budget seems to be a top priority for many couples when looking for a wedding photographer. If you get an inquiry from someone that is interested in your work but doesn’t want to pay to your regular fees or just wants a disc full of images for a flat fee, how would you respond to them? Is there any way to turn this into a positive outcome for your business?

Sure. The positive outcome is to either convert the client to hire the photographer rather than the photography. If they make the shift, they will pay the premium. If they are truly in the market just to get pictures taken though, I would recommend that Signature Brands pass that job on to a Freelance Photographer friend in their network that gets paid by the hour. That would be a better fit for the client.

Any upcoming photography business announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?

We have some really exciting announcements in the pipeline. I can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet, but the best place to track what’s coming is to sign up for my newsletters at http://fasttrackphotographer.com. While you do, you’ll get a free copy of my introduction and first chapter to really get a taste of what we’re up to. I hope your readers really get value from them. Thanks for this opportunity!

To see more of Dane Sanders photography visit his website: www.danesanders.com

To order his book, Fast Track Photographer, visit: www.fasttrackphotographer.com

September 15, 2008 Posted by | Interviews, Photographers | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sherri Meyer Photography Lands on National Television

Joe Winkler of “The Boomer Report” interviewing Sherri

When Jeff and I returned from our recent Road Trip, we had a very exciting phone message awaiting.

The message was from Joe Winkler of “The Boomer Report” (the first and only television news program for the Boomer generation) in Sacramento. He wanted to do a story on me, because I specialize in photographs of “Baby Boomers.”

Joe had stumbled upon my previous interview with Professional Photographer and Writer Richard Wong. A story on Baby Boomer Photography was the perfect fit for his on-line and nationally televised news program.

I returned his call and a date was set. This past Thursday was the big day. Fortunately, Jeff was home that day and got to be a part of this too. Joe spent a couple hours at our house and produced a great video clip about Sherri Meyer Photography. It started airing on ABC, NBC and CBS on Friday, in numerous states across the country. Unfortunately, it will not appear locally and San Diego is the only city in California in which it is airing.

Joe filming Sherri photographing Jeff & Cocoa

The good news is, you can view it on-line at “The Boomer Report.”

Note: Please allow a couple of minutes for the video to load. Loading times will vary, depending on what type of Internet connection you have.

Thanks to Joe Winkler and Richard Wong for making this all possible. It is a day Jeff & I will never forget!


Sherri Meyer Photography

September 7, 2008 Posted by | Interviews, Marketing, Photo Business, stock photography | , | 4 Comments

Interesting Links – 9/5/08

The PLUS Coalition: Standardized Licensing Codes – DigitalPhotoPro article by Jim Goldstein. This has been a widely discussed topic in the stock photography industry for sometime now. This article aims to simplify the idea by PLUS.

My Two Most Valuable Business Lessons – Digital Exposure article by Rick Sammon.

CPA – The Holy Grail of Online Advertising? – This article examines what CPA is and compares it with the CPC and CPM ad models. According to this article, CPA is best for advertisers, CPM is best for publishers and CPC is good for both.

Marketing Moves That Sell Books – PDN

Jay Reilly Photo Blog – Some great lifestyle photography.

Mike Mclaughlin Photography – Very powerful documentary work.

Zoriah: War Photographer – PhotoNetCast. A great podcast interview.

September 5, 2008 Posted by | Weekly Links | , , , , | 2 Comments

Alaskan Photographer, Ron Niebrugge Interview

Based in the quaint fishing village of Seward, Alaska, photographer Ron Niebrugge and his wife, Janine, travel for up to six months out of the year photographing extensively throughout the Western United States. Niebrugge also has an MBA degree from UC Irvine, so let’s find out what he has to say about the business of photography.

Desert Sand Verbena and Dune Evening Primrose bloom on the sand dunes of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Desert Sand Verbena and Dune Evening Primrose bloom on the sand dunes of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Many professional photographers like to say that professional photography is 90% business and 10% photography. Since you have an MBA degree, in which ways did having this business education help you to get where you are now?

You know, that is an interesting question. I think it helped in a few ways. First, I think I may approach the business with broader, big picture perspective, more so then I might have otherwise.

I believe that one of the best things that my education has provided me with is confidence. Growing up in a small Alaska town, I kind of felt like the rest of the world was way ahead of us, and knew all this stuff that I didn’t. After obtaining a graduate degree and working in the business community for a few years, I began to realize that my business skills, abilities and knowledge were on par with others. Really we are all in the same boat. Before I might have looked at a Getty and Corbis with awe but now I realize that even these giant stock agencies are full of people that are trying to find an edge in a competitive industry, just like myself.

There are some photographers out there that dream of having a wife run the photo business while they handle the photography, while others would probably fight like cats and dogs if that were to happen. What is the secret to maintaining a successful business partnership with your spouse?

I think we both had some apprehension when it came to trying to work together. Most of my photographer friends have a spouse with a full-time job. This is nice for them because it does provide some financial security and maybe medical coverage. I’m really glad that we didn’t have to go this route because now we are able to travel and see so many amazing places together.

I think the secret is – we have a very distinct division of responsibility in areas where we could potentially have a conflict. One area that comes to mind is pricing. Frankly, I’m too attached to my images so I tend to be terrible at pricing. Whereas Janine really does a great job of negotiating licenses. So we have a deal that I never ever price an image. I can be very personable and enjoy visiting with clients, but when it is time to talk price I hand the phone over. This has really worked out well.

In other areas, we can share responsibilities without any problem. For example, we will both work from the same list when we adjust images, keyword, etc… This stuff we can do together without issue. We will often bounce ideas off each other or consult with each other about an image adjustment – “is this too much saturation?” that kind of thing. I think this makes us both better.

By the way, Janine doesn’t have any desire to be a photographer. That might be a good thing. I could just picture us coming across a wolverine and both racing for the telephoto at the same time!

Buffalo at sunset, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Buffalo at sunset, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We keep hearing about how the stock photography industry has been changing for the worse over the past few years due to an increase of images from digital cameras and how amateur photographers are de-valuing the art form by giving images away for pennies. Sounds like a modern-day Economics 101 case study. So what advice what you give to other photographers when it comes to getting adequate compensation for their work?

We are having our best year yet and have had a two of our largest individual sales ever, so I try not to get too wrapped up in all the industry talk. I think there have always been lots of people losing money and struggling with photography just that the Internet made it easier for them to be heard.

At one point in college back in the 80’s, I thought seriously about trying to pursue photography as an occupation. I was told back then that it was extremely competitive and very difficult to make a living as a photographer, so I didn’t do it. Today, all you hear about is how great it was back in the 80’s and 90’s!

I think a lot of people don’t want to spend the time and effort necessary on marketing, so they take the easy way out and turn to using royalty-free agencies. I think this can be a mistake. Once you create the perception that you are a source for cheap images, it can be hard to shake that reputation. Not to mention once you sell an image as royalty-free, it can’t ever be marketed in any other rights-managed model – not if you are ethical. Had I gone down that route when starting out, I wouldn’t be able to earn a living with photography today.

I’m starting to notice some backlash against the royalty-free licensing model by some of the better customers. They just don’t have time to try to find that one gem in the endless sea of royalty-free images. It is worth it for them to pay a little more and have someone who can provide the research, post potential images to a viewing platform, and provide quick service. For many buyers, time is money.

You have an interesting photo blog that is updated almost daily. Would you consider this to be a vital part of your business?

Another good question. So many people nowadays have a blog so the benefit has definitely been diluted. I have a feeling many of them will eventually go by the wayside because it is much more work than most people realize.

I don’t think it is a vital part of my business given the amount of time that I spend on it. There are probably many more vital things I could be doing but there are some search engine benefits. It is also a way to keep in touch with some of our valuable clients. A number of them have mentioned to me that they do drop by to see what we are doing from time to time. We have even made sales of images captured while traveling thanks to the blog. These are images that wouldn’t have appeared on our regular site for months. So there are some benefits.

The blog can be a time burden at times without a doubt, but I have actually found it to be fun and rewarding. I get lot of very appreciative emails. I used to spend time each day answer the same questions in emails over and over – now at least those efforts can be shared with others.

I should add that I’m a terrible writer and have never enjoyed writing before starting my blog two years ago. (I’m glad that you are helping me edit the responses 🙂 I like that blogging has forced me to work on this personal weakness.

Aerial view of Copper River Delta, Chugach National Forest, Cordova, Alaska

Aerial view of Copper River Delta, Chugach National Forest, Cordova, Alaska

Other than Seward, where would you recommend a first-time visitor to Alaska to go?

It’s hard to decide where to go because Alaska is so large but that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion.

I love Kenai Fjords National Park, so I think Seward is a must because it is practically right next door. Plus, it is about one of the easiest places to visit in Alaska.

I also recommend first time visitors to go visit Denali National Park. This will expose you to an entirely different ecosystem and will give you a nice variety of coastal rainforest, interior mountains, tundra and boreal forest.

A trip to where I grew up in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park is always rewarding, as would a bear viewing trip into Katmai National Park, or Lake Clark National Park. Alaska has 19 National Parks / Monuments and numerous State Parks, so it can be tough to choose – I haven’t even been to all the National Parks!

For an older, less mobile or adventurous visitor, you really can’t beat an Alaskan cruise. It is an easy way to see some amazing country in complete comfort.

Any photography business announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?

Nothing too exciting. The last two years we have really had a heavy travel schedule that has kept us out of the office for well over 200 days each year. We may spend more time in the office this year, and address some of those things we never have time for. Having said that, we will probably take at least a short trip to the Southwest this fall, and maybe a two to three month trip this winter.

Thanks Richard.

To see more of Ron Niebrugge’s photography, visit his website: www.wildnatureimages.com

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Interviews, Photographers | , , , , | 6 Comments