In Episode 26 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about when to get a pro lens, online photography portfolios, and marketing strategies for your photography business.
Guide to Episode 26
[1:31] Airshow photography: how do you acheive proper prop blur?
If you have too fast of a shutter speed, you’re going to get a shot of the plane’s propeller blades frozen, and you won’t get any blur. A good rule of thumb is to take a picture with a shutter speed of somewhere between 1/20 “- 1/100”. Of course, the best time to get a good shot of prop blur is when the plane is moving slower (when the plane is on approach).
[3:19] I’m going on a cruise. What gear should I bring?
One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that most of the time on a cruise you’re still moving at sunrise and sunset, which is the best light of the day. Because of this, cruises aren’t necessarily the best option for photography.
Having said that, Dustin suggests taking a really good walk-around lens (a 28-300mm lens is perfect for this) and possibly some genre-specific lenses (like a nice wide angle lens for landscapes). But really, pack light. You don’t need to bring everything with you, and you really won’t get better pictures if you do. Bring the neutral density filter for sure, but don’t overpack your photography gear. For a good tripod, check out improvephotography.com/tripods to see what we recommend.
[7:37] Is too much variety in an online portfolio a bad thing?
This is really a tough thing to decide. Dustin suggests having a specific gallery for each category of photography – a gallery for macro, a gallery for portraits, etc. Jim suggests on your homepage, have a slideshow of just a few of your very best shots (not necessarily of any specific genre) and then users can go to the specific galleries to see certain genres.
You can check out improvephotography.com/site for a tutorial on how to set up your photography portfolio using WordPress. Jim is also trying Squarespace right now. It’s easy and quick to get started, but the themes either have small pictures on some of them or HUGE pictures that go off the screen and the site crops them for you. The jury is still out on Squarespace. 🙂
[13:00] What are some things you’ve found that are the best marketing tools for your photography business and small businesses in general?
Business cards are great, but really that’s not where you need to focus your initial time, energy, and money. We teach a 30-day Business class on photoclasses.com where we take you step by step through the process of creating your photography business. (If you follow our plan, you can have a business in 30 days!!)
A few important things we teach in this class:
1) Your email list is critical (go to mailchimp.com, or to improvephotography.com/emaillist for our recommendation). You HAVE to have an email list if you’re going to go into portrait photography. You’ll want to make sure to use a good service, because if you just try and send your marketing emails out through your gmail account, you’ll be marked as a spammer in a hurry and nobody will wind up getting your emails at all. Also, having a good service like this will let you have some automated email marketing campaigns. What are you going to send them? Email them real, practical, useful tips. Help your readers get a LOT of value through your email campaign and that will help you earn a LOT of business. Have a signup on your website so people can sign up to receive tips from you.
2) The customer experience you provide will do wonders for your client list. If you really roll out the red carpet and make the experience good for your customer, they will refer their friends to you and talk you up to everyone they know. Meet with your client before the shoot, and talk with them about what they need and what they want.
3) Be creative with your marketing. Think of ways that you can make yourself stand out to your clients. Don’t do what everyone else is doing.
4) Give them something. If you give your client something, they feel like they need to return the favor to be nice. So give them a free snack, bottle of water, etc at the shoot. Meet with them beforehand for 15 minutes or so and buy them a drink or something else small.
[26:49] Indoor sports photography: how can I get more depth of field and how can I get a faster shutter speed?
When you’re shooting sports photography, the one thing you don’t want is MORE depth of field. The background isn’t going to be anything beautiful to look at. Instead, what you want is that shallow depth of field that allows you to have the athlete in focus but everything behind them is nice and blurry. If you are looking for a snapshot, then go ahead and close down your aperture. But for a nicely composed, interesting, compelling photograph, shallow depth of field is great.
To get a faster shutter speed, you really are going to need to have your ISO up high. Unfortunately, flash photography really doesn’t work for sports photography for a few reasons: (1) Your flash won’t reach all the way to the players to give you any good results and (2) if you do get close enough to the athlete to make your flash effective, you’re going to really irritate (and distract) them. You’ve got to plan to work with what you’ve got and don’t feel badly if you have to have a REALLY high ISO – go as high as you dare.
[32:05] Third-party lenses: are they comparable to the Nikon/Canon lenses?
Purchasing good quality lenses from Nikon and Canon can be really hard, because the price is really steep. But if you’re looking for better quality, a third-party lens isn’t going to help you there. If you’re in a position to afford the pro lens and if you’re really serious about photography, go for the good quality lenses. Bottom line: are you shooting for photographers, or are you shooting for family and friends? Most people aren’t going to notice much of a difference. Don’t worry about the lens nearly as much as you worry about the lighting, composition, and creativity of your photos.
[37:07] What is the purpose of going to the really expensive ($2000+) lenses?
Faster focus, quieter focus, multiple choices for how image stabilization works… there are lots of things that make these expensive lenses what they are. But it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to sharpness than just the pro lens. Go to improvephotography.com/sharpness to see what things could be causing your photos not to be sharp. Make sure it really is the lens before you drop that kind of cash to buy a lens. Most of the issues with sharpness are solved with a good understanding and application of the fundamentals. Get your basics down first before you blame the issue on your camera or lens.
[45:36] Doodads of the Week
Jim’s doodad of the week is the Vagabond Mini Lithium battery by Paul C. Buff. It’s a battery pack around the size and weight of a bible. It has a normal adapter on it that you can plug in to the wall, so this is awesome for travel.
Dustin’s pick of the week is that he is revamping the gear page of the website (check it out at improvephotography.com/gear). We have suggestions here for all kinds of photography gear. Check it out in the next few weeks to see the awesome changes he’s making