Normally I like to share a mix of gear reviews and DIY solution/tutorials on this blog with the occasional behind the scenes look my business. I like to do this mainly because I learned a lot of what I know through the wealth of knowledge provided (for free) from sites like STROBIST, CHASE JARVIS, FSTOPPERS, CINEMA5D, CHEESYCAM, and several more. In the last few years it has become popular (dare I say trendy) to share as many of those "trade secrets" as possible, thus making it possible to pick up a camera and make great pictures with a minimal investment in gear and no formal education. Each of those sites I mentioned has it's own niche and I would highly recommend that you check them all out. I try to include information here that has not been beaten to death by other sources. I often include links to relevant posts on other sites and to give credit where credit is due. I assume that I am not helping anyone by reposting information that is already out there, instead I would rather just add the context in which that info helped me and then point you to the original source.
So what exactly am I providing?
Well, I hope that I can provide a different context to some of this infomation. I know there are a ton of guys shooting at a level that I may never get to, but there are few that are shooting the kind of stuff I shoot and sharing about their experiences. I will try to share the solutions that I use for shooting every day
This is the kind of stuff that I shoot:
Stuff in the midwest Wake Surf Skate Snow Ski Bike
There are a few guys that write about that stuff, but not in the detail that I wished for when I was starting out.
In fact, I sent an email to a very well known snowboard photographer once, asking about what kind of strobes would be good to start out with. Here is the reply I got.
"I use Elinchrom some other guys use Profoto."
Now, I know that this guy was probably really busy, and he probably gets a lot of questions about that sort of stuff but jeez, that didn't really answer any of my questions.
First off, both companies make many different flash systems designed for diverse purposes. Second, both companies really only sell high end stuff, and all of it was far out of my price range.
No company markets flashes to action sports photographers, so I was asking for a little insight from someone who had a whole lot more experience then I, and I think that I was pretty much blown off.
But back to what I was saying, there is a huge amount to info around if you look for it, I don't want to add to the clutter, but I do want to pass along as much info as possible, whether it be through my words or simply sharing links.
Hopefully someone can benefit from my incites and experiences.
...and a few lessons learned
Hopefully you have noticed a lot of changes around this site in the past month ana half. In early February I switched from a template derived site hosted by a company that markets exclusively to photographers to a scratch built hmtl based site hosted by ipage.
First, let me say that I was reasonably happy with my old site except for the limitations enacted by the template based nature of the site (I wanted more freedom). So finally, this week I can say that most of the teething issues have been fixed with the new site and I am beginning to direct people to it exclusively.
You may have noticed though, that the site has been live for about eight weeks now and has gone through several stylistic and functional overhauls. I did this basically because I had to. The contract with the company that hosted my old site expired in early February and I had neglected to have a new plan in place, ready to replace the old one when it expired. I guess I could have renewed the old site for another year, but I was paying a lot for the old service and I new that I wanted a site in the next few months, so I pulled the plug and jumped into a new site without enough time to do it properly before launching it.
I would not do this again.
I knew that I was doing it wrong as I was doing it, but I didn't really have another option. The problem is that I opened a hole in my brand that may take a while to close. I can safely assume that anyone who visited my site while it was in the process of being fleshed out was not impressed. It is hard to tell if I lost any business from that mistake but I can tell you that my phone has not been ringing like it should.
The second mistake
Along with this new site came an opportunity to try out some new services. The one that I was most excited about a credit for advertising on Facebook. If you are not familiar with this, advertising is a big source of income for the site and one of the biggest appeals for both the advertiser and the consumer is that the ads are targeted at very specific demographics. Basically Facebook only serves ads that are relevant to the interests of the user that views them. My ad was targeted at HS seniors in Wisconsin. The ads run on a CPC (cost per click) system, so you only pay for the ad if someone clicks on the ad and visits your site.
Here is the image from the page that my ad linked to.
This is part of a series of portrait/action comps that I have been working on over the winter and this layout is currently featured on the landing page of my site. Each rider was given the choice of how they wanted their portrait to look, and there is an action shot to match. I really like this image, it is of my good buddy Nick and it is one of my favorites from the series. But you can probably see that there is a huge problem with it pertaining to HS Senior portraits. Nick is lighting a cigarette in the photo. Now, I don't condone smoking, but Nick is in his twenties and he can make up his own adult mind on the matter. On the other hand, it does make a certain kind of negative impression when a kid or parent looks at my website and this is the first image that they see.
Of course, I did change the ad to link to a more appropriate landing page, but the sad part is that it took me over a week to catch my mistake. Again I will never be able to tell the true effect of my mistake on my business, but the lesson has been learned.
Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to pay a little more attention to these sort of pitfalls in your own business dealings.