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2 Minute Critiques w Sal Cincotta // Episode 1 - YouTube
The images:

Click to enlarge

Image #1

Let’s start with the simplicity here in this first photo. This is potentially a great landscape image that we’ve ruined by introducing a human. It looks like the leading lines through the frame were done deliberately, which is a very good thing.


A big issue I see is the pose. Posing is just as much part of the image as anything else and with this particular image, there are many things left unsaid. Why is she holding her hat? If you look at the water it’s very calm, so it doesn’t look like she’s holding her hat because it’s a windy day. It just looks like it’s hands-up, right? It doesn’t make much sense.

Off-Camera Flash

I see what’s trying to be done with off-camera flash, but you’ve got to drive the point home and still make sure you’re creating a compelling image. There are good aspects to this photo, don’t get me wrong. I like the range of shot here, I like that she’s really popping, and I like that she’s the brightest part of the image.

I think more could’ve been done with the colors in the sky. It looks like it’s a sunset, so where’s that vibrancy? Where’s the purples and the pinks in the sky? In this case, some of the shadows could be lifted, maybe get a little bit of HDR punch in there, and then you’d have a more compelling shot.


The last thing about this photo I would change is I would have had her looking towards the light. By doing that, I would see the rim of her face and get more detail in the image.

Image #2

First off, I really like this image. The bones of the image are good, but there’s clearly some room for improvement.

The Crop

In an image, what’s in your frame is either adding to the shot or detracting from the shot. The crop is so important to a compelling image. In this image, there are a couple things that I believe are pulling focus away from the subject. One of them is the large dark area at the bottom of the image. If I crop that out, it instantly becomes stronger because of the crop. 

Now, the second thing I’m seeing in this image is a little bit more open to interpretation: the sky. I see why the sky’s been kept in, because of the sun flare, but we have to keep in mind that people’s eyes will always go to the brightest part of an image. Right now, that’s the sky, so my eye just keeps getting lost up there, and the hard line of the roof is becoming a barrier to getting me to the subject. 

The Pose

With a silhouette shot, it’s more difficult to master all the aspects of the photo, but here’s a tip on posing: Rather than having her look at the camera where her face is completely in shadow, have her look to the side so I see her profile. By doing this, you’d see the more of the outline of her face, including her nose, possibly her lips – that would’ve made it a better image.

Image #3

This image looks to be a fashion or senior image. I definitely like it, but let’s put some of our principles to the test here. Your eye will typically go to the brightest part of the image. Where is that? Well, right now it’s not where you want it to be; we’ve got a hot spot on the ground, and the sun in the background. 

Fixing hot spots

The hot spot on the ground you can pretty easily fix with some dodging & burning in Photoshop. The sky is a little bit more tricky. I can see the photographer was going for a backlit, sort of blown-out look (which I love, by the way). What I do in those situations is change my perspective, which is called blocking. If this photographer had moved just a little bit to the left, her head would have been framed up really nicely in the gap of the trees, covering one of the brightest parts of the image with the subject, driving the eye there while keeping that nice sun flare.

There are other nitpick-y things that could be fixed in this photo, like filling in the gap in the trees on the right in Photoshop, and adding a little vignetting around the subject. A lot of people will be bothered by the foot in the wide angle lens, but that doesn’t bother me. 

One last tip: OPEN UP THE HAIR! 

All in all, there are some little things to fix, but this is a good image.

Image #4
Give the subject room to breathe

Alright, where do we start on this image? This is SO compressed as a portrait. This looks like an 85mm or 100mm – I have no idea how far away the photographer was – but I’m dying for some breathing room here. There needs to be more room around the edges. Her hat and shoulders are cut off. Again, because it’s so compressed we’re cutting off her forearms, so there’s two nubs popping out of frame. This is the first thing that can be fixed.


Keep in mind not to keep everything in the image so straight and one dimensional. I like creating angles in the body. It makes it more interesting and it drives your eye through the frame.

The hands

Something else worth noting here (that I know photographers NEVER want to hear about) are the fingers and hands. We have two major problems. The hands are super contrived, they don’t look comfortable, and it doesn’t look natural. The next part of this is the color of nail polish. I know you can’t control what your clients show up with, but you can control putting those hands in the frame.

What would I do in this situation?

  1. Not put the hands up in the frame and make them so prevalent.
  2. Change the color of the nail polish in Photoshop. It’s a 10-second fix to change the color of that nail polish, and it would tie it all together.
Get critiqued!

Have you ever wanted PERSONAL feedback on YOUR photography from Sal Cincotta?

Enter your images for a chance to see your work being critiqued by Sal! Need some guidance? Want to show off some of your best work? Submit your images here for a chance to see them critiqued.

The post 2-Minute Critiques | Episode 1 appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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Creating Vendor Partnerships with Michael Anthony

Those of you who have read any of my articles over the last couple of years will know that I am a strong believer that relationships are the absolute best form of marketing you can invest in. Building relationships with a team of individuals who are in your industry will help you with longevity, no matter what changes in the world of online marketing. As you continue to build your network, you will see that as a byproduct, your bookings will tend to increase. You will see more mentions of your brand on social media, and you will constantly get more opportunities to help new clients.

The question that often gets asked is, how do you build these relationships? Well today I am going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to meet more people in your industry.

Step 1: Build Awareness

Ok introverts, this is your time to shed that exoskeleton of embarrassment that has held you back in your business. You cannot be in business and be afraid to talk to people. I am by nature an introvert, yet I was an athlete, then a police officer, then a business owner, and I have spoken to audiences of over 1,200 photographers and fellow entrepreneurs. I was forced to be social, to learn how to make new relationships. After all this time, I still dread picking up the phone to actually call someone and talk to them directly. Weird, right? Well, to be honest, my will to succeed in my business outweighs my want to be introverted.

So now that you know what you have to do, it’s time to do it. Make a list of the most influential business owners in your local area. That is your target. And it’s time to get your name in front of those people. How do you do it? For the best results, you will want to get your targets familiar with you. Why?

It’s simple: People would much rather do business with someone that they know about than someone that they don’t, so walking into a relationship or meeting where people don’t know you significantly decreases your chances of forming a lasting partnership. I realized this when I walked into a networking event with business cards for our corporate brand, SoCal Headshots, and introduced myself as Michael Anthony to an owner of a local magazine. The business owner told me, “That’s funny, there’s a wedding photographer I know out here that goes by the same name.”

We had never met before, and he didn’t know what SoCal Headshots was; however, we had built such a strong brand with Michael Anthony Photography, that he instantly was able to recognize it.

So you can build awareness a number of ways. This is where online marketing comes in. As I have told you before, online marketing works very well for this purpose, but you need to do the footwork to get real results. You can run Facebook Ads or Google Ads, and target those ads to your target market. While a venue coordinator may not be looking for a person to photograph their wedding, they are always paying attention to local vendors in their market. So run the ads, and let people see them so they can get familiar with your brand.

You can also send out direct mail, advertise in local print ads, or do things like posters at the mall, etc. The goal is to create a household name in your local market.

Step 2: Outreach

Once you have done this for a month or two, now it’s time to reach out to your potential sources of referrals.

You can do something as simple as a phone call. Tell them you are a local vendor and that you would like to get to know them. Follow up with an e-mail invitation for them to get to know your brand. If you did proper awareness building, and they are familiar with you, then you will get the meeting. If not, go back to step one and continue.

You will have doors shut in your face, but don’t let that stop you. Keep trying—there are plenty of sources of business in most cities.

Once you get the meeting, now it’s time to further the relationship. Let me share with you a few different ways you can do that.

Step 3: Start Your Relationship

When building a relationship with someone, as I have told you before, it has to always be about how much you are able to help them. Don’t ever expect a coordinator to recommend you to people without you showing her that you can help her build her business. Don’t expect a venue to recommend you if you are not getting them their images quickly.

As photographers, we create imagery. You know what every business needs? I am sure that you do: imagery. Ask any marketer.

What better way to build a relationship than to offer to create imagery for their promotional materials?

Now, as a creative director, this will fall on you to envision, stylize and produce a shoot, but offering to create one for a local venue or business will help them to understand that you can give them more than any other vendor is willing to. We do this all the time, and since putting the focus on creating for our clients, we have been able to make new relationships with vendors we had never worked with before. We use Fundy Designer to create magazines for vendors, and distribute them with our images and logo (and obviously prime ad placement as a result).

Offer a vendor headshots, family pictures, promotional pictures, promotional video, etc. I shoot these sessions monthly at our studio, and to be honest, they are some of my favorite to do, even if we are not getting paid directly for them, because they always lead to more revenue down the line. Remember, forming relationships is a marathon. Don’t make the mistake of treating it like a sprint; let your competitors do that.

Styled shoots are a great way to build relationships, like the one you see pictured here. Let me walk you through how this was put together.

I worked with Nina Mukhar, a talented and well-known hair stylist in Los Angeles. about two years prior for the images in this article. I reached out to Nina a few months back and asked her to help me put together a shoot. She had gathered an amazing team for makeup, and an incredible stylist. All of these people are amazing contacts for me as a wedding and portrait photographer.

Through this shoot, I was able to make new contacts with the stylist and makeup artist, and further a relationship I already had with the gown designer. We handled the shoot at our studio and submitted for publications, which helps the creative team further build their brands.

MAKE SURE that you provide credit to all of the vendors involved when submitting for publication. A cover letter always helps as well. It may read something like this.

“To Editor-in-Chief // (Publication Name)” 

I wanted to share this romantic bridal story with you for consideration in your upcoming issue of XXXXX. This bridal shoot was to showcase the Glaudi by Johana Hernandez Fall 2019 wedding line. For this shoot we showcased three gowns: (List name of Gowns here). The images were taken in Los Angeles, California and the gowns have not yet been featured in other publications.

Vendors: (list contact info for each one)

Photography: Michael Anthony // Michael Anthony Photography

Hair: Nina Mukhar

Makeup: Tara Thompson

Model: Sahar Golestani

Stylist: Ivan Arce // RC Model Management

Gowns: Glaudi by Johana Hernandez  

You can reach out to my office directly at (phone) if you have any questions or require any additional information. 

Jennifer Loizzi

Publication Director – Michael Anthony Photography

This is something that I think is so important to do as creatives: make sure that you are always looking to expand your network.

Step 4: Follow-Through

This article is about building relationships, but I will tell you right now how you could destroy them: by not following step 4. Once you go through the lengths to create content for your vendor partners, not completing the tasks you created for yourself will surely show them that you are not able to take care of their clients.

Everybody reading this is probably thinking, “Why would I do that? Of course I will give them their images.” Well if that was the case, then vendors wouldn’t constantly complain that photographers never give them the images.

Make sure that you treat these shoots just like you would any other client shoot. Get the job done, and make sure that you are overdelivering for the people who could help support your business. I can’t stress that enough. Make sure that you do not make them chase you down for images.

Use gallery tools like N-Vu to distribute photos in beautiful galleries for your clientele.

Step 5: Co-Marketing

Partner with them to help them bring in new business as well. This is a great technique for distributing the content you are creating for these fellow businesses. By setting up co-marketing campaigns, you are helping to market other businesses, splitting budget, extending your reach, and building awareness of your affiliation.

One idea you can use is running a contest for a free photoshoot at a local venue. Get a makeup artist involved, get bridal attire, and if the venue is a hotel, maybe even offer a night’s stay. This type of promotion will get a huge reach, and if you are newer in business, it will help you to build brand awareness, because perception is reality, and if you are perceived as being affiliated with all of these awesome local professionals, then you must be good, right?

You should always bring printed materials to all of the vendors involved in a styled shoot in order to get the word out about your business. I recommend a brochure for each one that features their product. They will love to give that out, and it gives a way for you to advertise your business inside of it.

Remember, everyone, these techniques I am teaching you will take months to see results. But business is all about sustainability, and relationships are the most sustainable form of marketing that you will be able to create. They will outlast any form of online advertising you are currently relying on, and in larger cities can really bring you as much business as you want, as long as you are willing to continually invest in helping others.

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Step Up Your Lightroom Game – Part 2: Managing Your Master Catalog with Dustin Lucas

Now that we’ve covered how to safely store and manage your RAW files, we can talk shop: managing your master catalog. I have lightly touched on why we have to do everything in a single catalog, but there is so much more to it than just importing, editing and exporting files when it comes to this Digital Asset Manager (DAM). With Lightroom, you can manage all your files in one place and finally get a handle on the chaos of wedding season. In this article, I am going to show you how to properly manage your catalog so you can finally shoot a wedding, import files, and work faster on your edits than you ever have before.

It all starts with a plan and sticking to it. I will show you how in this seven-part series on how to step up your Lightroom game.

Over the next six articles, in order, you’ll learn how to properly manage Lightroom catalogs so you’ll be ready to cull and sort your images while you import. Then, you will learn to Color Correct from the basics to the advanced stuff, leading you to a solid creative edit workflow with Photoshop. Once you dial in your editing, you’ll be ready to export and finalize your images. After exporting from Lightroom, you may want to take them into Photoshop, and I will show you how to keep things organized across the programs. For now, let’s jump into the most important step in Lightroom when it comes to efficiency: prepping RAW file previews.

Prep With Previews

When you open the Import module, you’ll notice a panel called File Handling on the right-hand side. Drop this panel down, and you’ll see Build Previews as your first option. When I started working in Lightroom, I had no clue what these options meant, and was always told to choose Minimal to save time importing the images into Lightroom. That option is great if you’ve preselected your images and do not need to edit in the Develop module. But why even bring them into Lightroom, then? That’s just not the case for most of us using the program.

My standard process for importing images into Lightroom requires me to go have a coffee or a beer while I wait. Follow these steps to save time: Choose 1:1 in the Build Previews dropdown options, and check the box next to Build Smart Previews. These two options are crucial for fast culling and heavy-handed editing. Your images will import and automatically build 1:1 and Smart Previews.

The reasons you should do this are simple. When you cull, you need to zoom into 100% or 1:1 to check that your subjects are tack-sharp. If you are working on a slower machine, Smart Previews helps with performance and portability, and in the end, you get speed, speed, speed. To give you an idea of how long this process takes, I was able to instantly import 10 Canon Raw files from my MacBook Pro SSD and wait 20 seconds for the Smart Previews and 40 seconds for the 1:1 Previews to build simultaneously. That’s pushing almost six hours to wait on 5,000 files. Once this is done, you’re ready to get set up to select.

Why not use Photo Mechanic before importing into Lightroom and save all the hassle? Well, Lightroom Classic CC frees you from having to wait hours to start culling. Instead of building 1:1 and Smart Previews when importing your images, choose Embedded & Sidecar. Import and preview building takes less than 30 minutes for 4,600 Canon 5D Mark IV Raw files. I love that you can start selecting as it’s building because it builds three per second. A job like this would take me two to three hours to select the best of the best.

Here is a crucial point about using the Embedded & Sidecar previews: They may look different due to in-camera settings, crops made in another program, etc. They are not as detailed and sharp as 1:1 Previews, and when you are ready to edit in the Develop module, you have to generate standard previews and can choose the option to automatically render these in preferences.

Proper Preferences Equals Performance

When working in a single master catalog, you need to keep the catalog at optimum performance and stability. Your first step is the easiest one: Click on File>Optimize Catalog. From here, it’s important to store your catalog on your local hard drive. Make sure you exceed the minimum hardware requirements for Lightroom and set proper preferences.

Opening your catalog preferences can be done from the menu bar by choosing Lightroom>Catalog settings or holding option and command while striking the comma key. These settings allow us to determine how our catalog processes certain functions in the background while we work in Lightroom. Mind you, these default settings can hurt your performance, and the settings are reset back to these defaults whenever you make a new catalog or export as a catalog.

Let’s go into the File Handling tab and review our options. Here you’ll notice that Standard Previews are mentioned—let’s discuss what these are for. Standard Previews are the automatically generated previews that Lightroom constantly is running in the background until all changes have been applied to the image previews. Well that doesn’t sound bad—we don’t have to do anything to generate them at least. However, any processes running in the background can reduce performance, so it’s very important we adjust the size and quality. First, you need to determine the long-edge dimensions of your monitor. My retina screen has a 3360×2100 appearance, so we need to choose an option right above 3360. Size is already set to Auto (3360px), and in order to make previews load quicker I can set it to other options. Keep in mind, we built 1:1 to handle zooming to 100%.

As for the Standard Preview quality setting, I always go with low because these are always running in the background, and you simply do not need to waste performance here. The main thing you need to remember is that whenever a change is made to the image in the Develop module, it has to be automatically generated. So if you sync multiple images at once and continue moving through the catalog, you want these to cause as little lag as possible. As for the setting for when to Automatically discard 1:1 previews, this usually stays at the default setting of After 30 days. One last setting I make sure to uncheck is in the Metadata tab: Automatically write changes into XMP. This is another useless process that runs in the background and is hailed by backup fanatics in case your catalog becomes corrupted or your computer dies.

Moving into the general preferences we can start to make additional performance tweaks. In the same menu bar dropdown menu, choose Preferences or quickly hold command and strike the comma key. In the General tab, go to Settings and uncheck Show splash screen during startup. Next, be sure to check both options: 1) Treat JPEG files… and 2) Replace embedded previews… . Now, let’s move into the Performance tab to discuss how to boost our productivity.

When Lightroom implemented this tab in its past updates, the issues surrounding it were terrible. I remember having one of the early 5K iMacs, and it ran so slow I had to boot up my older iMac (non-thinline). Even unchecking the Use Graphics Processor didn’t make much of a difference cycling between images trying to make just basic corrections. This feature supposedly got better and is geared more for 4K and 5K monitors, but I have yet to receive any speed from keeping it checked. As far as I’m concerned, it will be forever unchecked.

The Smart Previews option for the Develop module became a saving grace for many users. The funny thing is, I got the same efficiency out of smart previews, because I knew I needed to disconnect from my originals. Keep this setting checked at all times so you can keep RAWs connected, gain a performance boost while avoiding having to relink files to save XMPs. Be sure to enter 100 GB into the Camera Raw Cache Settings field. This is important to increase, because previews are always generating and being referenced.

Another useful tip is to optimize your catalog whenever you close it. This option can be checked in the backup catalog dialog box along with Test Integrity when backing up. To turn on the catalog backup pop-up box every time you close Lightroom, go back into Catalog settings in the general tab, and choose Every time Lightroom exits as the Backup catalog setting. In the Backup catalog dialog box, you must choose an external location for backup. If you are saving backups on your local drive, this is a 101 mistake.

Export as Catalog

The biggest decision to make when you start working in Lightroom is whether to continue working from your Master Catalog or create separate session catalogs. If you create a separate working catalog per shoot or session, you can quickly cull and apply heavy develop settings without a massive slowdown.

This option is great for outsourcing your work and lowering the amount of data you have to upload. Once you select the specific images, go to File>Export as Catalog. A dialog box appears asking for a location to save to as well as options for Export Negative Files, Build/Include Smart Previews, and Include Available Previews. Export Negative Files makes copies of the RAW files and puts them in a folder. This is a huge time saver versus individually selecting files in Finder. Exporting with Smart Previews packages them with the catalog in a new location. With this catalog opened, you no longer need access to the Raw files. Including available previews in the export is useful only if you are linked to the original files. These built previews save time when viewing and editing the full-resolution RAW files.

Import a Catalog

Once you are finished selecting and editing, you can import this working catalog back into your Master (or what I like to consider “Archive”) catalog. This is a similar process as Exporting as a catalog—simply open your main catalog and choose Import from another catalog. You quickly select the working catalog file and wait for Lightroom to scan for duplicated images and changes made to the images. Once the next dialog box pops up, you can make sure to select all files, see if any new files were found, and choose what to replace on the current files. I recommend only replacing the metadata and develop settings, as well as unchecking both options below this section. That’s it!

Final Tips

In your main catalog, you’ll be making changes to your RAW files like renaming, custom ordering from capture time sync, exporting files, publishing to client proofing sites, etc. Make final output changes in this catalog to keep everything organized. If you have multiple catalogs you want to open at once, you can duplicate the Lightroom app. This becomes very handy as I’m exporting files in the archive catalog and starting to select in another. Go to your applications folder, right click the Adobe Lightroom icon, and choose duplicate. Once it’s finished, you can double click it (notice it opens a copy of Lightroom)—I’d recommend saving it to your dock. I’ve been successful with three copies running at once without corruption.

Wrap Up

Now that you have spent time setting up Lightroom, you will start to see massive changes in the speed of your processing. Managing catalogs is just as important as managing files. Once you import RAW files, render previews, organize folders and sort images, you are ready to edit. It’s that simple. Always start and end in the Master Catalog to ensure all your changes are saved in one place. If you are working multiple sessions in parallel, you can make copies of Lightroom and open multiple catalogs at once. This is massive!

Tune in next month for Part 3: Cull & Sort Your Files. It’s time to start doing everything in Lightroom!

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The post Step Up Your Lightroom Game – Part 2: Managing Your Master Catalog appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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Top 4 Reasons to Go Mirrorless with Phillip Blume

It’s true: Gear doesn’t make the photographer. But it’s also true that the right gear can make your job a heckuva lot easier—and more fun! So after more than a decade amassing an arsenal of expensive DSLR cameras and lenses, our studio finally made the switch to an entirely new system. Mirrorless.

Converting our entire toolkit was expensive, time-consuming, and at times frustrating. So, was it worth it? Absolutely!

Let’s look at a few of the top reasons to go mirrorless. Then we’ll look at the top brands’ mirrorless offerings, and decide whether the upgrade is right for you.

1.Form Factor

The initial reason mirrorless cameras caught my interest was their small size. Sure, many photographers criticized these cameras for that very reason in the early days. They cried, “I won’t be taken seriously as a professional with this small camera,” or “It’s too little to handle; my DSLR fits better in my hand.” In the end, these were all matters of personal feeling. Most of that nay-saying has disappeared now. But in case it affected you, let me provide a different perspective.

For those of us who learned photography on small 35mm cameras in the film days (I’m only 35 years old; it wasn’t that long ago!), oversized DSLR cameras were already the exception—not the rule. So in terms of form, mirrorless photography is a return to normality. As tech advances, “smaller” should be expected. Besides, I’ve never given two cents whether some novice standing nearby judges me for my camera size, or whether my flash is a “luxury” brand, etc. I let my work speak for itself and encourage you to do the same.

For me, it came down to two big problems with my DSLRs: 1) The sheer weight of the huge body-lens combo was causing me injury over time. I got lower back pain carrying two cameras through a wedding day, and I began to develop early arthritis in my shooting hand from occasional one-handed gripping. 2) I got tired of carrying multiple camera bags for travel. If you travel a lot, you understand how refreshing minimalist options are. Especially after my wife Eileen and I added three children to the family mix, it’s no exaggeration that fitting all our cameras and lenses in just one backpack (instead of three rolling cases) changed our lives, especially for overseas shoots. We became instantly more mobile and free!

There’s a common argument that lenses are still just as large and feel awkward on small, mirrorless bodies. That’s partly true. At first, the industry (led by Sony) designed mirrorless lenses to be smaller, too. But third parties lost that vision and found it cheaper to churn out compatible glass at the standard scale. Good news, though—if you hold your lens barrel correctly, you probably don’t care about the lens size as much as the great mirrorless features. Besides, there’s still a good lineup of advanced small lenses, especially from Sony, who has at least a two-year head start in this arena.


Without a doubt, advanced focus technology is a top reason to go mirrorless. Instead of old DSLR focus-finding technology, which reflected a limited amount of light from the mirror to a phase detector, new mirrorless cameras have thousands or millions of phase-detect sensors built into the sensor itself.

Canon’s direct-to-sensor light technology allows their EOS R mirrorless cameras to use “dual-pixel autofocus.” Since every pixel has two light-sensing diodes, autofocus is finally a usable option, even for cinematographers. Nikon’s Z6 and new Z7 mirrorless models work on the same premise, and they can fire off a lot of shots while holding tight focus on moving objects. In concert with the sensor phase detection, these companies are pumping their best new Face Detection tech into these mirrorless cameras, too. Even Panasonic and Fujifilm have made big strides in focus over the past year, putting mirrorless on par or ahead of DSLR in terms of focus speed and accuracy.

The scope of this article doesn’t allow me to contrast brand specifications side-by-side. That being said, I am a former lifelong Nikon user who converted to Sony. Why? While there are pros and cons to all these cameras, autofocus was of huge concern to me, and I think Sony nailed this feature with the a7 III and a7R III models. Within many photography genres—especially sports, weddings, etc.—focus has been one of the most challenging skills to master. After 11 years as a full-time professional, I thought I was doing pretty well to nail just 65 percent of my wide-aperture shots if my subjects were walking or moving playfully. With Sony’s proprietary, super-advanced Live Eye AF and Animal Live Eye AF (introduced as a firmware update earlier this year), I virtually never miss focus on my human or animal subject. No manually moving the focus point, no rapid pressing of the back-button focus. I simply activate the feature, and it doesn’t matter if they look right at me or look down and turn away. It locks on the subject’s eye, not just their face. And I just don’t miss. It feels like cheating, and maybe I am. But isn’t that what technology is for—to make our lives easier?

3.Live Exposure Effect (with zebra stripes, etc.)

Honestly, I used to be horrified by the idea of a mirrorless electronic viewfinder in place of the real-life reflection you see through a classic DSLR camera. I rarely ever shot stills in Live View mode on my Nikon cameras, framing shots like a videographer often does on the camera’s back OLED screen. Those lower-res screens are hard to see under light, and the subpar picture is a delayed, distorted view of reality. Surely being forced to look at a tiny internal OLED would slow down my workflow and give me a huge headache!

Actually, the opposite became true. The action on the internal electronic viewfinder not only appears in real time without delay, but it looks fantastic. The Nikon Z model cameras arguably have the most gorgeous, clear display. But the Canon R and Sony a7R III are beautiful as well. For wedding and event photography, I primarily use the “entry-level” a7 III with a lower-res viewfinder; even so, the display is impressive and I’ve never once felt uncomfortable with it.

Beyond quality, though, it’s the revolutionary features of electronic viewfinders that have completely changed how I photograph! Because the preview image is generated by a computer rather than a mirror, mirrorless cameras allow you to see the finished image before you even take it. Now you “chimp” before you take the shot! Combined with the above auto-focus features, this live-view “Setting Effect” makes it almost impossible not to get perfect exposure in-camera on the first try.

As I scroll my thumb across the shutter speed dial or aperture, I literally see the in-camera image grow darker or brighter. Although there’ll always be a place for metering, I rarely need to consult my in-camera meter anymore. I quickly scroll till the picture appears perfectly in front of my eyeball. Then I click and move on. I’m so much faster not only in the field, but also at the computer, where my editing time has been cut drastically. When it’s this easy to get it right in-camera, you save yourself hours of post-processing!

Two more amazing viewfinder features (among many) are worth mentioning here: 1) When you want to manually focus, set the viewfinder to automatically zoom in on your subject as you turn the focus ring. You’ll see your subject under extreme magnification, but the picture returns to your actual composition as soon as you stop focusing. Even better, you can use Focus Peaking to reveal a clear, digital red line around everything that’s in focus. It’s fool-proof, and it allows you to choose from almost endless older lenses that, although they may not have autofocus, become suddenly very usable. 2) Set the viewfinder to display “zebra stripes” atop blown-out highlights or clipped blacks in your image. Again, master your exposure visually in the wink of an eye, rather than tediously working on curves after it’s too late.


You might foresee a problem with the Setting Effect option above. What if you shoot in studio or are a heavy off-camera flash user? You need to darken your ambient exposure first, but you still want to see your composition in daylight. Easy! Mirrorless cameras are ultra-customizable.

The “Setting Effect” mode is optional. Set a custom button to turn off the mode altogether. Or do what I do on the Sony a7 III: set the “AEL” button to “Shot Result Preview,” allowing you to deactivate the preview just temporarily while you hold it under your thumb.

Of course, mirrorless cameras have almost too many options when you consider all they’re capable of in terms of still photography and cinematography as well. You’ll want to spend a day or two with your new mirrorless camera, moving your most commonly needed features into a “Custom Menu” page you can access quickly. This is just the beginning of how you can customize your mirrorless camera to achieve results you didn’t know were possible—or that you thought you needed additional equipment and lenses to achieve!

For example, I didn’t make the choice lightly to change from Nikon to Sony. But just a few years ago, when Sony was already heating up the mirrorless game while other top brands were running to catch up, my friends inside Nikon kept me updated about their progress. When it became clear Nikon’s first releases (like those of other top brands) would not include double card slots and, despite being brand loyal, would still require all new native mirrorless lenses (RF series for Canon, Nikkor Z for Nikon), I started looking outside the home turf.

I wasn’t ready to jump ship yet; I had tens of thousands of dollars invested in Nikon glass. But I also realized, as a mature photographer, I had found my favorite lenses by that time, and almost only shot 85mm, 50mm and 24mm anyway. I have never been a gear addict, so we hadn’t upgraded our camera bodies in almost a decade. It was time to change, and I was the perfect candidate to make the conversion.

I was in the room when Sony unveiled its a7 III model at WPPI in early 2018. This changed the industry, and helped me make up my mind. For the first time, at the price of an “entry-level” camera, the a7 III actually surpassed most top mirrorless cameras in terms of features and speed. Sony was undercutting even its own pricing, because it knew it wouldn’t have a monopoly much longer. I’m happy with my choice, not only because of the amazing features and performance, but, again, because the customizations make my fewer lenses more versatile.

I am now using Sony’s Clear Zoom feature as a custom button on my camera, which essentially doubles the zoom reach of my lenses on-demand. This is not the same as a custom crop-sensor setting (which most mirrorless brands offer, and is a decent way to extend your lens reach if you don’t mind making your full-frame sensor act in a micro 4/3 fashion). Rather, Clear Zoom surpasses digital zooming by taking advantage of your current glass and high-tech sensor, extrapolating the info of your image, and filling in the gaps for impressive image quality.

There’s so much to learn and enjoy in the world of mirrorless. I haven’t even gotten into the amazing video features that each brand offers. I have a strong feeling this world is the future for us all. The question is, how soon are you going to join it?

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The post Top 4 Reasons to Go Mirrorless appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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July 2019 Inspirations: Mid-Year Best-Of: 2019 Image

Inspiration can come when you least expect it. As photographers, we are visual artists. We express ourselves through our camera and the images we create. Inspirations represents a sampling of our industry and the vision of professional photographers from around the world.

Congratulations to all our featured artists. Be inspired and create something that is you.

-Sal Cincotta, Publisher

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Building an Empire with Sal Cincotta

Thirteen years ago, I quit my job in pursuit of being a professional photographer. Believe it or not, I didn’t do it for the money. I had no idea that there really was any money to be made in photography. I wanted to do what I loved doing. That was my main motivator. Today, I often find myself laughing with my financial planner when she reminds me of my goals at the time. I said, “If I could just do $150k per year, I will be alright.” I kid you not, this was our conversation. My boss at the time thought I had lost my mind when I gave notice. Why would I ever leave a six-figure corporate job to be a “photographer”? He could not wrap his head around it. To be honest, as I reflect back, I am not sure what I was thinking either. The path has been anything but easy.

Sure, hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to pound my chest 13 years later and act like “I knew it.” It’s easy to see a company that’s won Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row and forget the sacrifices that were made along the way. I nearly bankrupted myself multiple times in the process.

Today, I’m not chasing $150k, I’m chasing $10m. You read that right—this is not a hobby or a passion project, this is my American Dream. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn. A kid whom they told he wasn’t smart enough, fast enough, or talented enough. They made one mistake—they underestimated his drive, his determination, his heart. I am not merely a photographer, I am an entrepreneur. I own over eight companies and real estate around the country. It started with one company, Salvatore Cincotta Photography. Just like you, I started as a photographer.

I risked literally everything I had in pursuit of my dreams. I will never apologize. There is nothing to be sorry for. We all need to dream big, and I am a true believer that we can do anything we put our minds to. I will never tell anyone, “You can’t do it.” We all have the naysayers in our lives. Shit, to this day, having accomplished all I have, I still have naysayers. It’s like cops and robbers, peanut butter and jelly, or any other opposite pair. We need naysayers in our lives—without them, who would we prove wrong when we finally kick ass? The naysayers are idiots. They try to project their insecurities and failures onto the dreamers of the world. They are like cancer, sitting in their little groups, festering and mocking others. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines talking shit when you are too much of a coward to go out there and try it for yourself. Life is too short—don’t let fear of failure or the negative people in your life ever stop you from chasing your dreams.

So, how can you build your own empire? Here are some of the things I have learned along the way. I hope they help you find your path or at a minimum avoid some of the mistakes I made in my journey.

Surround yourself with good people.

I have to remind myself of this statement daily. The number of negative and shady people you will run into along the way is just almost unfathomable. You will find yourself wondering, are there really that many shitty people in the world or am I just really good at attracting them? Here is what I have realized: If you are chasing what I like to refer to as rare-air, that elite level, the top 1 percent of your peers, that mean, there are a lot of people just routing against you.

I’m not trying to be this super pessimistic guy, I really am very positive, but this is experience and reality talking. For the most part, people will scoff at your dreams. I mean after all, if they can’t chase their dreams, why should you? They won’t be that blatant, but it’s there under the covers.

As I have grown as an entrepreneur, I have become incredibly stingy with whom I let inside my inner-circle. Today, I am blessed to have people close to me who truly share in my happiness, my success and my failures. They want to help however and whenever they can. We celebrate successes together and share in the disappointment of the failures. They are more than peers or co-workers—they are part of my family.


Don’t trust anyone. Everyone has ulterior motives, and that’s truly ok. You’re probably thinking, whoa, how is that ok? Well, think about it—you have motives when you reach out to a vendor to partner, don’t you? Motives are ok, just understand that most people are not operating out of the goodness of their heart. So, instead of being surprised every time someone acts in their own best interest, understand that we all do. The real power here is knowing what their motivations are. Once you know and understand what is motivating someone, you will never be surprised.

Better yet, you will place yourself in a much better position for your own goals. Knowledge is power, my friends.

It takes more money than you think.

Trust me when I tell you, you will burn through cash like never before. I learned this the hard way. Things cost money. Nothing is free. You can only barter so much, and I am all for putting in the sweat, but I significantly underestimated how much actual money I would need in the beginning. I am always transparent about things. I almost bankrupted myself three times in the beginning. I thought I was going to lose everything, but I never gave up. It motivated me to work harder.

The burn rate is a measurement in business on how fast and how much capital is being used to operate the business. In the beginning, expect a very high burn rate. You will need equipment, sample products to sell, office supplies, computers, etc. It’s easy to think you can make do with what you have, but I am telling you, do it right the first time. It will actually cost you less in the long run.

Put a plan together for equipment, marketing, insurance, and everything else you think you need to start up and run your business. This is your master list, and it will help you truly wrap your head around how much this crazy dream of yours is going to cost you.

There is no Plan B.

Plan B is a complete distraction from Plan A. Too often, we quit when it gets tough. That’s the easy thing to do. I give up. It’s too hard. I’ll just go back to whatever job I was doing before. Or better yet, the job I never quit to begin with, so nothing lost, nothing gained. How pathetic. Truly. I mean, are you going to commit to this empire you want to build or not? You think this is easy? You want to be part of the top tier, but when it gets a little hot in the kitchen, deuces, you’re out?

This is what separates the winners and the losers. Winners are afraid of losing it all, just like you. Winners are taking risks, just like you. The difference? Winners push through the darkness. Winners don’t have “Plan B” in the back of their minds. When that’s sitting there, waiting, then the second things get a little tough, we abandon ship. That saying, “It’s darkest before dawn”—yep, that’s what that means. Keep pushing. Success is so close and you don’t even realize it.

When I quit my job, there was no Plan B for me. I never thought to myself, “I’ll just go back to my corporate job.” Plan A was the only path for me. I had to succeed. I had to find a way, and I would not quit until I did. When it was darkest, I knew, this is where others quit. I kept telling myself to keep pushing. We are close. Keep pushing, this is where others quit. I will not die on this hill today.

Be more than a photographer.

Are you just a photographer, or are you an entrepreneur? Every business is faced with challenging questions like this. What business am I in? It’s a fair question. I think the best answer is: You are in the business that makes money. That’s the business I want to be in. So, of course, photography is what your true passion is. How can you monetize that? How can you leverage your wealth? Businesses based solely on your effort are businesses that usually don’t survive long-term. You will eventually hit a wall. The business can’t scale if you are the only resource it has. In addition, if you don’t work, you don’t make money. See the issue here?

Instead, look for other ways to generate income. Real estate is a perfect way. Rental income will allow your money to work for you. You buy the property while someone else pays off the mortgage. I own several properties, and it’s helped me build my personal wealth.

In addition, I have looked for many other ways to add value to the photography industry. I know this industry. This is where I will grow new opportunities. What do you know? Where can you add value beyond just photography? Is it video, or marketing? See where my mind is heading here?

Your photography can and should be a massive tool for you to use in other areas. Sure, I love shooting weddings and high school seniors, but is that all I can do with my craft? No. There are other opportunities for me to grow my business. As an entrepreneur, you need to look for ways to expand your business beyond the obvious. Make no mistake; this is a lifelong journey. I’m not going to be able to tell you, do “this” and “that” will happen. That’s not how it works. I have tried and failed more times than I care to remember.

Your goal should be to find ways to build wealth and income beyond your core business. Today, I am looking at restaurant franchises to invest in. Tomorrow, something else. The point is, I am trying to grow each and every day.

Work harder than anyone you know.

Hustle. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. I have been hustling for as long as I can remember. When my competitors are sleeping, I am working, I am thinking of ways to elevate my companies. When my competitors are on vacation, I am working. On average, I work 16-18 hours a day, seven days a week. You might be thinking, that sounds miserable. Not for me. This is my happy place—I love building successful businesses. I love experimenting and seeing it succeed or fail. Wake up, and try again.

Work hard. Play hard. It’s more than just words on a page. It is truly how we live our lives. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, meet incredible people, taste incredible food. Every day I remind myself how truly fortunate I am.

But, I fail. Trust me when I tell you, I fail a lot. And trust me when I tell you, I don’t give a shit. I wake up and go at it again. Nothing worth doing is easy. It’s about having the right attitude. I know that I am willing to outwork and outhustle my competitors. I know that I am willing to make sacrifices that they are not willing to make.

This is your secret weapon. At least, it’s mine. This is that heart and grit I was telling you about. Let your competitors underestimate you, and use that to your advantage. It will be their downfall.

I truly hope this helps you better understand the path that lies ahead and motivates you to build your own empire.

And never forget, this all started in the basement of my home from my core business, Salvatore Cincotta Photography. If I can do it, you can do it too.

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Workin’ It: Off Camera Performance with Andy Strong

We’ve all seen countless portraits or headshots where the subject is obviously uncomfortable. They’ve got a disconnected look in their eyes, or they are just not present, or they are trying too hard not to try too hard. What went wrong? Just as a film director would speak with an actor on set, we are responsible for the performance of our subject. We must maintain awareness of how our clients feel if we want to direct them to be more present. How can we come closer to connecting with them so we can create a better experience? Let’s talk about off­camera performance.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

How many times has a client said to you, “Do your best, but I’m warning you, I’m just not photogenic!” How do you react? Have you said the same about yourself? I’d like to ask you to strike that phrase from your vocabulary. I’ve heard so many photographers claim that they have no business in front of the camera, but why not? Take the opportunity to gain valuable insight by getting out of your comfort zone and spending more time in the spotlight. Explore what you can do to feel more centered under pressure.

Take the Awareness Tour

Imagine yourself getting your photo or video taken. Truly take a moment. Imagine you’re in your current environment, and someone points a camera at you. Did your body make any adjustment? What about your mind? Did you hold your breath? Get even more specific and visualize yourself surrounded by lights and softboxes—see the action of a professional photographer bringing a camera up to their eye to take a closer look. A closer look at you. Register the difference in how you feel. What might you say to yourself to become more comfortable?

Write Your Strong Script

Using a mirror, walk yourself through the following scriptwriting exercise to help develop your language and style as a director. Keep in mind, you don’t always have to use your full script, but having it readily available will help you call on snippets and confidently improvise direction during a session.

Ask yourself the following: If I wanted to appear more beautiful and strong, what would I do? How would I hold my head? Where would I place my hands? What else would I do with my body? Practice directing yourself in ways that make you feel like you are exuding the confidence that comes with feeling beauty and strength. Develop a script that you can pull from during a session to guide your subjects.

Self-Script Example A – Beautiful and Strong: “In order to feel more beautiful and strong, I allow my shoulders to settle down and back into their natural resting position. I bring my chest up and open my heart. I take a large breath in through my nose and smile through my eyes as I look through the camera and gently exhale.”

So, if a client is looking closed off during a session, you could direct, “Go ahead and take a moment to settle your shoulders and open up your upper body toward the light, and breathe in your strength. When you are ready, exhale and allow your eyes to come to the camera and let your head and body follow.”

Self-Script Example B – Victory Celebration: “In order to feel more victorious, I inhale and imagine I just sank a buzzer-beater three-pointer to win the NBA Finals, and I smile as I continue breathing. My feet are planted, my knees have a soft bend, and my breathing is even. I raise my hands above my head and look to the sky and say thank you. I feel victorious.”

What does your body do when you feel more playful? More trustworthy? More powerful? Translate these scenarios into director soundbites that you can call on at will.

Vibes Management: Pre­Camera Warmup 

We can’t take a photo without a camera, but that doesn’t mean we have to start the session with our hands on our gear.

Whether they would admit it or not, our portrait subjects are paying us to create a safe space for personal freedom as well as for our gear and technical expertise. I like to think we are in the business of vibes management.

Think about your own reaction to getting your photo taken. Wouldn’t you like to have a moment to warm up before the camera points at you? You can save so much time during the shoot by putting the client’s mind and body at ease before you ever reach for your equipment. Try out these exercises for yourself, and when you feel comfortable, see what happens if you introduce one or more before a session.

Mirrored Breathing

Stand comfortably and take a few breaths together while directing them to maintain eye contact. Don’t be surprised if this simple task is a surprisingly vulnerable thing to do. Breathe in and out without pausing to hold your breath at either end. Mirroring our breathing helps bring us into the same space and put us on the same wavelength. We feel better, because we have more oxygen flowing in our blood, and we feel more confident in our connection once we have centered ourselves together. Try it out, and register the difference in how you feel afterward.

Grounding Wall Lunges

Stand near a wall. Raise your arms to shoulder height, and press your palms against the wall. Drop one leg back into a lunge, and align your body so that you create a line from the floor to the wall. Bring your attention to the point of contact between your feet and the ground as you imagine pressing your feet through the floor. Align yourself to create a nice line from the backs of your legs all the way through to your palms. Now switch to the other leg back and repeat. Step away from the

wall and notice the increased attention to the contact between your feet and the ground. Take a slow, observant walk around your space and see if you feel a difference in how you are carrying yourself.

The Abundant Joy Hip Shake

What does it take for you to shake your hips in a public setting? Maybe on a great night out with trusted friends or when your favorite song comes on and you just can’t help it? Do you want your clients to be able to tap into this joy in an instant? Get comfortable with this on your own or with trusted friends before introducing it to a client. We hold a lot of tension and vulnerability in our hips, and working through this will make you more confident in your presentation, helping you to break down barriers with your client.

Stand comfortably in mirroring position, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows so that your hands are approximately at hip height. Face your palms out and move your hips up and to the right, then back down through the center, and then up and to the left. Once you are comfortable in the motion, go on and move those hips side to side. This is a fun one to see how long you can maintain eye contact with your client. Make it a game and see who breaks first or smiles. This bit of silly joy before the shoot can relieve so much pressure as well as giving a kinesthetic reminder of a time when each of us felt good enough to dance.

Callback During the Session

Now that we’ve introduced these connections into the shoot before we’ve begun, we can always take a pause to revisit when we find the client stiffening up. I can’t tell you how many times I shake it out or take a breath or do a five-second dance party with someone during a shoot. It’s such a fun reset.

Honor the Shared Time and Space

When you warm up with your clients before a portrait session, truly take your time. Place your camera to the side. Make eye contact with your subject and honor the space you are sharing together. Bringing mindfulness into your session can create breakthrough moments, both for your subjects and for you. Have you ever struggled to communicate with your client? You might have been thinking too quickly, trying out a new technique, or fumbling with your gear. Imagine recovering from and/or trading out one of these moments for observing your breath with a client. Imagine replacing a feeble, “Can you give me a little smile?” with confident, concise direction that brings a genuine smile and warmth to your clients and leaves everyone at your sessions buzzing. You may have just imagined yourself Workin’ It!

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The post Workin’ It: Off Camera Performance appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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An Interview with Momma C: The Woman Who Made the Man with Jeff & Lori Poole

For the Anniversary Issue, we’re taking a break from The Business Corner to explore what makes the Shutter world so great. This month, I wanted to interview Momma C. You may have seen Sal’s behind-the-scenes photos of Momma C’s portraits, but he had no idea they were for this interview!

Here’s the backstory: When I do something in my own life that my mom is proud of, she always reminds me, “Don’t forget—I made you!” While on the surface, it’s a silly joke between her and me, it has planted this reverence in my mind. Mothers (and fathers) shape who we are. The mothers of great people must be great themselves. It is with that idea in mind that I approached Shutter’s ultimate den mother: Terri Cincotta, affectionately known as Momma C.

So here it is. An interview with Momma C: The Woman Who Made the Man.


First things first: Momma or Mama?


Tell us your backstory.

I was born and bred in Brooklyn. After graduating high school, I worked on Wall Street. I had Sal when I was 20. I remember when I held him, I made a promise to him. I was going to take care of him and raise him the best way I could. I stayed home with him for five years and enjoyed every minute of it. I wouldn’t change one bit of that time in my life.

Sal started first grade at private Catholic school. Giving him an education was paramount. I believe that’s the most important thing you can give your children: the tools with which to take care of themselves. It came before vacations. It came first. As a parent, I knew that kids will go one of two ways. I can pay my money to tuition, or to a lawyer. I wasn’t about to let somebody control my life or his life.

I continued to work on Wall Street until 1989. Eventually I did real estate in Ulster County, New York for 20 years. When the market crashed, I decided to move to St. Louis.

What is the greatest thing you learned from your own mother?

My mother came here from Lebanon when she was 16 or 17. She could speak multiple languages and came to this country when she was so young. There weren’t very many jobs for women during the Depression. So she worked in a factory and did beautiful embroidery. Sal and I still have some of her pieces.

She taught me to appreciate everything, to treat everyone fairly, to give back to your community. She was a God-fearing woman who taught me to always have integrity and honesty. You could have all the money you want. But if you don’t have any values or morals or ethics, you have nothing. I have those things, and I know I’ve passed them down to my son. I’m grateful that she was my mother. I attribute every quality I have to her.

What is your version of success? Of failure? How did you model success for Sal?

When I worked on Wall Street, I used to have to stay late many nights, until 11:00 or 12:00. I did it because I needed the paycheck. My focus in life was being a good mom. And if I had to put in those hours, fine, but I didn’t put in those hours every day, nor did I compromise my time with him.

Sal had to participate in whatever went on in the house. For example, we went food shopping for us and my mother on Friday nights. One night, he told me he didn’t want to go. When I came home, he asked for his snacks, and I told him they were at the store. And he just kind of looked at me, but he got it. He never sent me out alone again.

As a photographer, you can go shoot your pictures all day long. But if you want to create a business, you’re doing that at night behind the scenes. When you’re starting out or even when you’re established, you can’t afford a high-priced back office. People want to reap the benefits without putting in the time. That is one thing I did teach him: You’re not getting anywhere in life with a shortcut. It just doesn’t happen.

Sal’s version of success works for him. He’s up at two in the morning wondering what else he could do, what other business he could get into. He loves every minute of it. There’s nothing about what he does that he doesn’t like. He’s on his own mission, and everybody around him follows. And still, nobody handed him anything.

When Sal was young, what did you think he was going to be? Tell me about some of the businesses he started as a child.

I would come home from work, and Sal would be going a mile a minute. “Mom! Mom, Mom. Can you buy this for me? It’s a private investigator course.”

And I said, “What are we going to do with that?”

I never ever dismissed what he asked me. I always gave him a hundred percent of my time. I told him, “Go in your room. Make me a list of pros and cons. Then come back and we’ll discuss it.”

So he went to his room and came back out with a list of pros and cons. He was very honest with the cons. The kit was a hundred bucks—a lot of money 40 years ago. I agreed to get it and I didn’t threaten. However, I thought to myself that if I got it and he didn’t even look at it, it will have been money well spent. I’ll never do it again. But I got it, and he did master it.

When Sal was 11, he was delivering groceries. He usually went by himself to pick up his paycheck, but this one day I went with him. The owner said to me, “You know, I never see him.”

I said, “Excuse me, doesn’t he work here?”

He said, “No, he subcontracts it out.”

So we get outside, and I asked Sal, “What do you do?”

He said, “Well I get the pay; they get the tips!”

It was crazy to watch him at that age, to see how his mind worked and how he was going to make money.

At age 14 or 15, he decided he wanted to take a real estate course. He actually made appointments with realtors to go look at property. Although they wouldn’t take him seriously because he was a kid, I knew that he was learning about business.

I always knew he was going to do something. He was never going to sit still.

Sal is quite candid about challenges he faced as a child. Fist fights, trouble with school, overcoming being poor, promises made to his father to “do well.” He also credits you as the “Alpha-Female” who encouraged him to dream.

I was very, very strict. Action/reaction: This is what you do, this is what you get. I don’t know another way to be. I never let up.

I don’t believe that any parent should kill their child’s spirit. I think children are wonderful little human beings that require a lot of patience and time. Just because you don’t like what they’re doing doesn’t mean you should crush it. But I am also a firm believer that there are parameters that should be set.

I think it’s hard to be a parent. He challenged me every day.

Sal says that his loved ones accept him, even if they don’t understand him. As a mother, what are some of the difficulties of having an entrepreneurial child? Were you ever tempted to encourage him to stay in corporate America to avoid risk?

He went to work right from college. He had a series of great jobs, from Proctor & Gamble to Microsoft. So one day, he called me up in New York and he said, “I’ve made a decision. I am quitting Microsoft. I want to be a photographer.”

And I promise you there was silence on the phone before I said, “Are you out of your effing mind? You’re giving up six figures, a pension plan, stock options … for what?” I could not wrap my head around it.

He said, “This is what I want to do. I’ll make it work.”

We have that kind of relationship where he’s going to tell me something, I’m not necessarily going to agree with him, but I’ll support him.

What is one of your favorite memories with your son?

I was selling real estate in upstate New York when the market plummeted. I just wanted to get out of Dodge. He had been nagging me for seven years to move out to Saint Louis. He would keep me on the phone for an hour telling me about all the pluses of moving here, and I was like, “Who the hell wants to live in the Midwest?”

He said, “Don’t come here when you’re in a wheelchair. I want to enjoy you.” It was such a touching time. So I finally made the decision. But I was so overwhelmed with selling the house, moving here, finding a place to live. It was so nice to have that person to call up and ask for help. When I look at him, sometimes I see the little boy. To get to a point in your life where you can let go and let somebody else handle it … It was a “wow” moment for me.

What do you think the turning points or most influential experiences have been in your life?

One was becoming a mom, and the other was losing my mom. Those two things really affected me so deeply that it just gave me such an appreciation for life.

Every time somebody important in your life dies, along with them go all the memories you had with them. And there’s nobody else you could share a memory with. You can share the story, but not the memory.

After your mother dies … Nobody loved you as much as your mother. Once your mother dies, you realize there’s nobody on the face of the Earth who loves you that much.

And Sal is the only person who loves me that much. Realizing that I could call him any time, and he’ll be there. Even when we’re arguing. Or “disagreeing,” because we don’t argue.

He’s a gift. I wish everybody had a child like that. He would be the same way whether he was successful in business or not. We’re just always very close.

When and how did you make the decision to work for Team C? What is it like, working with your son?

When I first moved here, I stayed home, and I wasn’t happy. So he said, “You’ve got to come to work, Mom.” He made me work here. I do the books. My son can’t afford me, Lori. He can’t afford all the work I do for him. I just tell him how friggin’ lucky he is all the time.

He’s a pain in the ass! Absolute pain in the ass. But I also am a pain in the ass to work for. He was my partner in my real estate company in New York. We both have that Type A personality. We have the same kind of work ethic.

But that’s why ShutterFest is so successful. It’s so detailed, and it’s amazing to think that a staff of five or six people can pull that off. It’s crazy. It’s ludicrous.

But he’s very kind. When I come in the office, I get a kiss and a hug every day. And when I leave, I get another kiss and hug. It doesn’t matter, even if he’s in a meeting. He always gets up and always says I love you when I’m on my way out the door. He includes me in everything. I’m very, very fortunate and blessed. How many kids want their mom around forever?

This is the Anniversary Issue—a celebration of accomplishments. Is there anything you want to say to Sal, but never have?

Actually, I tell him on a regular basis how much I love him. I’m so proud of him. I’m proud of the person he is more than the business he’s built. I’m proud of his energy and proud of the goodness that I see in him. I tell him every day.

What are your final thoughts?

So much devotion and love go into being a mom. The rewards of seeing your child grow into a wonderful person are priceless.

I turn 70 this year, and God has been really good to me. I’m so lucky. I could do a happy dance.

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The post An Interview with Momma C: The Woman Who Made the Man appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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5 Ways to Communicate With Your Clients with Vanessa Joy

The standards for client communication are changing constantly; what might have been standard five years ago just isn’t anymore. In general, communication with clients is now about more texting/internet time and less in-person/phone time. You’ll find that not knowing how to talk to your clients in the language and medium that they prefer will lose you potential business and cause you stress for no reason. If you are working on weddings, learn how to “speak bride”; for other photography contexts, learn what it means to “speak the client’s language.”

When you know what the best ways to communicate with your clients are, the stress level goes down—well, goes down some. Here are some ways to make sure your clients feel like you’re super responsive and always there for them.

1.Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

As the percentage of clients who are also millennials and Gen Z (or whatever they are calling younger-than-millennials) is going up, you’ll see that your clients spend a lot of quality time with their phones. To reach them well, you have to learn how to use the devices they love so much.

You may be finally getting the hang of sending comprehensive emails, but most likely, when a client sees a long, text-heavy email, they just won’t read it. We need to email our clients, and email via automations as well, but how we email needs to change. If you get leads through email, of course you should respond via email, but honestly, I respond and reach out however I can: I send a quick text, or I comment on Instagram. I try to respond in the method that the lead first used to contact me, and then later move them to email so I can get them in my normal workflow. Absolutely use a good old-fashioned phone call, though, if that’s how your lead reaches out.

Basically, make yourself as available on the many forms of communication as you can, and importantly, monitor all those avenues. You want to be just as responsive on Facebook and Instagram as you are on email. Think of this as building your business: communication paths aren’t the place to streamline, especially when things change so fast. You need to be wherever your customers are.

2.Make Videos

Video isn’t just the hottest thing in marketing—it’s incredibly useful for making sure clients feel ready for the next step in the photography process. For instance, if you make a valuable “Frequently Asked Questions” video instead of a long FAQ page on your website (or in addition to it, if you really love that FAQ page), you get a bunch of benefits:

  • People connect more with you if they’ve seen your face and heard your voice, but in the video format, they don’t have to speak back to you (cue joke about millennial fear of talking on the phone? Nah, moving on.)
  • The video ensures that, when they see that it is super short, they’ll actually hear everything you want them to know for the next session or interaction with you.
  • You still get to have the video afterward (phone calls, you know, evaporate into the ether). Use the video as part of a YouTube channel, on another social media channel you’re popular on, or as part of your website … or all of the above! New content brings in new clients, especially if you add a searchable transcript.

Not quite sure when this would be useful?

Visit www.animoto.com/vanessa-joy to see how I’ve used marketing videos to guide my clients and offer value to those who stop by my site.

3.Use Social Media

Social Media is a wonderful way to find new clients, so jump on whatever media you prefer: get on Facebook, Instagram, even Snapchat, if that’s your style. However, realize that your clients are finding you there, and as they get to know your brand through your social media, they think they are getting to know you, so make sure what you post is fully in line with the brand you want to convey.

Everything you post should run through a filter in your mind: “Do I want someone to ask me to do exactly this again?” If you cannot say a wholehearted “Yes,” then rethink what to post next. This is crucial for what types of photos you post. My brand is a bright and vibrant style. Do I take dark and moody photos? Absolutely. But I don’t put them on social media, because it’s not what I want to train my clients to expect from me.

4.Be Fast

Yes, it’s one thing to have the overall expectation of twenty-four hours to respond to an email, but that just isn’t the standard anymore. Most clients want to hear from you nearly-immediately, i.e. within about one to five hours. The expectation is that you’ll get back to them as soon as you are out of whatever your current, super-pressing, meeting-with-the-President-level activity might be. Honestly, many of them may expect you to respond immediately, no matter how busy you are with some other important photoshoot.

Obviously, you may be so busy that one-hour response times are a pipe dream, so instead of responding to clients in a way that seems super late to them, figure out a solution! 17Hats is a great client management system option, though there are also lots of others out there that can keep you organized and ensure that no client or lead falls through the cracks.

Another good option is a virtual or in-person assistant, someone who knows enough about your business to keep the communication channels with your clients open and moving forward. When you find the right assistant, they bring amazing value.

5.Always Share What’s Next

 This tip is a timeless truth: Many of your clients won’t know what to do next or when to contact you. If you are already getting in touch with them about proofs being done, why not tell them that the next step is to set a time for an album design consultation? Your clients will feel more certain of themselves and more sure of you if they know what the timeline is, what’s happening next, and where you’re going together from here. Yes, that’s more work for you to convey all in one message, but it is well worth it for the client satisfaction and their gushing rave reviews afterward.

Remember, especially in a wedding photography setting, many of your clients have never done this before and may never do it again. You want to make this part of a much bigger and more complex planning process for them, so easy that they see you as a major source of wedding Zen … or at least a really great communicator.

Feel like you are still figuring out what the brand is that you want to convey through your social media? Download the free eBook “9 Secret Ways to Brand Your Business” at www.BreatheYourPassion.com—once you’ve made your mark, you’ll be ready to do amazing outreach to clients that will keep them engaged and moving forward with you as their photographer.

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The post 5 Ways to Communicate With Your Clients appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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How Important Is Image Optimization for Your Photography Business’s Website and Your Digital Blueprint? with Myrna Daramy

In today’s world, visual content and visual information play a role in practically every aspect of our lives. According to Dr. Lynell Burmack, an educational consultant who studies visual literacy, here are some interesting facts:

  • We can get a sense of a visual scene in less than one-tenth of a second
  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text is.

As the increasing dominance of visual content continues to expand on the web, it creates new opportunities for increasing your site’s traffic and overall digital blueprint. Just as I tell all of my photography clients, you are the gatekeeper to this valuable content, and you have a slight advantage, because you are the creator of visual imagery. So it only makes sense that you should optimize the images you take and place on your website in order to not only attract your target audience but make it easier for Google to connect you to them by optimization.

Because Google understands how important visual content is, the search engine giant invested a ton of time and energy into image search. You may have even found yourself using the Images tab in order to search for information.

Basic Optimization Tips

In order to optimize your images for your website, you need to first understand what search engines can read:

  • The text surrounding the image and on the web page (copy on the page, title text, alt text)
  • The image’s filename
  • The location of the image file (above the fold line, toward the bottom of the page, etc.)
  • The image’s dimensions
  • The image’s file size, which impacts your webpage speed

Unfortunately, search engines can’t interpret your pretty images and can only use text in order to gain context of any visual imagery. I also can’t share my insight about image optimization without mentioning the impact of mobile and the need for speed. I often tell my clients that, more than likely, their prospective clients will encounter their businesses on their mobile devices before they engage with the desktop version of their websites. As a result, the amount of time it takes for your website pages to load will directly impact how Google will rank your site in search results. Here are some basic image optimization tips that you should apply to the visual content that you upload to your website on a consistent basis in order to increase visibility, provide better search ranking results, and leverage your digital blueprint.

1.Choose the Right Type of Image

Without getting too technical, there are two types of images—raster images and vector images. Vector images are images that are simple in nature, created by lines, shapes, or polygons, and are best used for basic shapes, logos, icons, graphics and flat images. If you zoom into a vector image, it will always look the same. Raster images, on the other hand, are made of pixels within rectangular grids. A pixel is a single point or the smallest single element in a display device. If you zoom in to a raster image, you may start to see a lot of little tiny squares, and the image will look blurry. Most likely, a majority of the images you use on your website are raster images, since the images are photographs.

My advice for the best results on your website is to use a combination of both types of images. Use the vector format for your logo and simple images (if applicable) and raster for the remaining.

2.Select the Best Image Format

There are several image formats you can choose to use for your images—SVG, PNG, JPG, GIF, or recently introduced next-generation formats (JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP).

The best vector format to use is SVG, and the best raster image formats to use are PNG, JPG, and GIF.

SVG formats produce flat, two-dimensional graphics.

PNG formats produce higher quality/resolution images and are known to handle transparency. Typically, this image file format is often used for logo image assets where you need the background to show through or for times when you want to save every detail of the image. PNGs can be saved as a PNG-8 bit, PNG-24 bit, or PNG-32 bit. The PNG-8 file type is limited to a pallet of 256 colors, whereas the PNG-24 and PNG-32 will deliver a much higher-quality display, but result in a larger file size, which could disrupt your webpage’s speed performance.

JPG formats produce great-quality images that work with many colors, shadows, and patterns to display in high-resolution. They aren’t heavy in terms of file size, which is really good for website page speed, and they are my preferred image format for your website for several reasons. In fact, they are the most widely used and the most suggested format due to their hassle-free nature. However, one downside to this format is that it uses lossy compression, which means that the image quality can suffer depending on your settings and how much you compress the file.

GIF formats produce animated images, and like PNG formats, this file type is limited to 256 colors. It also shares something with JPG formats, as it uses lossy compression as well. It isn’t as widely used, but if you are looking for animation, it is the ideal choice.

Recently, in the SEO world, there has been a lot of conversation about next-generation image formats like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP. In fact, Google has been suggesting that sites use these formats, because they load much faster than their predecessors. There are several free tools that can convert images to these formats, but please be mindful that they’re not universally supported by all browsers yet. Ideally, you should still keep using JPG for images with lots of color and PNG for simple images that need transparency.

3.Name Your Images Properly and Include Attributes (if applicable)

One of the biggest missed opportunities I witness with my clients is how they name their images. The name of your image file can allow search engines to discover your visual content in context. For example, a business owner may be searching for pictures of amazing backdrops for a headshot, and you are a master at taking headshot photos. If the images you have in your portfolio for headshots have file names like 24579-cdg.jpg, Google would have no way of making the connection in a search result. Instead, the file should be named stunning-headshot-for-business-owners.jpg. One of the biggest mistakes I see here is that people use underscores (_) and not dashes (-) to separate the words in the file name. Name your images in all small letters with hyphens in between, and leave no spaces. Incorporating keywords that meet the prospective client where they are in their consumer journey is the best method of file naming. I suggest that the file names be short and limited to no more than four keywords that are specifically related to the image, so that Google does not ding your images for keyword-stuffing, which may negatively impact your rankings.

In addition to the image file name, some website content management systems (CMS’s) allow for you to add additional attributes to image file names such as a title text, alternative text, and captions. Depending on what platform you have, a simple guideline to use for attributes is to be succinct, using around 80-150 characters that can get details about the image content across.

I also want you to be mindful of the written content that is surrounding the image files, as this copy is important for search engine optimization (SEO). The most important copy is the text that immediately surrounds the image, like a caption.

4.Resize Your Images

Although this optimization tip is really important, it is one of the most confusing, because there is no exact formula that I can give you in terms of knowing what the proper size of your images should be. It must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis which will vary with practically every image. People also often confuse image size and image file size and assume that they are the same thing. Your website is multi-dimensional, meaning that there are many different variables to take into account in order for website visitors to see what you are expecting them to see. Image size refers to the dimensions of the image, whereas image file size refers to the byte size or the weight of the file.

Image size can get a bit complicated, because there are several factors that you have to account for, such as the many different screen sizes or devices where your images may be displayed. For that reason, I am going to keep it simple—try making your images one of the following sizes:

  • 1080 x 1080 pixels or
  • 1500 x 2500 pixels
5.Compress Your Image File Size

Compressing a file is possibly the simplest yet most crucial part of image optimization, as it directly relates to the website’s loading time. As I mentioned above, image file size has to do with the “weight” of the content. The higher the resolution and dimensions of your image, the larger its file size, the “heavier” it is, because it takes a lot more dots (or pixels) to make the image appear very crisp.

I totally get it—the visuals on your website need to look great and be of high quality. If it were up to Google, websites wouldn’t have any images and only a ton of copy, so that their scanning robots could interpret what your content is about a lot faster. But as stated above, we live in a visual world, and I would hate to have you compromise on the quality of your photos. Here is a simple guideline to follow when compressing images:

  • Try keeping your images as close to 300 KB as possible for large images and 70 KB for smaller, less important photos

One of my favorite tools to use for compressing images is TinyPNG, which can compress up to 20 images at a time.

Closing Notes and Overview

In summary, visual content is extremely powerful for your digital brand. In order to leverage your brand’s online presence and increase your exposure, you need to optimize your images. Here are five tips that you can incorporate into your digital marketing strategy in order to rank higher in search results and attract more visitors to view your content:

  1. Choose the right type of image.
  2. Select the best image format.
  3. Name your images properly and include attributes (if applicable).
  4. Resize your images.
  5. Compress your images’ file size.

See images + Video Content

Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the current issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

The post How Important Is Image Optimization for Your Photography Business’s Website and Your Digital Blueprint? appeared first on Behind the Shutter | Free Photography Education.

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