As a way to kick start the new year, I’m offering a discounted portrait session for anyone who books before the end of January.
This is a club just around the corner from where I live. I’ve never been inside – I’m pretty sure it’s a members’ club – but there are often parties going on in there over the weekends; parties to which I am never invited. You probably need to have a boat to get invited in. Just a stab in the dark (hint: it’s called ‘Vaucluse Yacht Club’)
I can walk to this spot in five minutes. Five minutes! Eight months ago I was cooped up inside a one bedroom flat in one of the grottier corners of South East London, and now I live beside Sydney Harbour. Life’s a funny thing isn’t it? You just never know where you might end up.
It’s been a bit quiet round here lately, I know. I’ve been busy working out some new approaches to my photography. Not necessarily to the imagery itself (although that is always a work in progress), but the more mundane business of marketing. I’ve had some ideas, and I’m trying some new things.
I’ve set up a new business, a new brand. It’s very niche, but I’m going to stick with it for a little while, and see how it pans out. I’ll still be working on this side of my photography, and hopefully will have some fun things to share in the near future.
If you’re interested though, here’s a link to Wagtail Images, my latest brainchild. It’s very much in its infancy, but so far results have been encouraging. I probably won’t mention it again over here, as my aim is to keep the two enterprises separate, but I’d hate anyone to think that my silence lately has had anything to do with laziness. Perish that thought!
I’ve been spending all day today doing the hard yakka (as they say here in Oz) of keywording, uploading and sorting images. It’s a job I’ve been putting off for a while, mainly because I’ve never really taken the time to work out what an IPTC field really is, and how it’s different to EXIF data, and how do you say that anyway? Ipptick? Ecksiff? I’m not good with acronyms. Or data. So up until now I’ve been inefficiently muddling through.
Today I took the bull by the horns. Grasped the moment. Carpe’d the Diem. During this process, I’ve had some revelations. A couple of eureka moments, if you will. I’ve worked some stuff out, and although it’s probably bleeding obvious to many people out there, my ability to do a pretty good ostrich impression has meant that until now I’ve been working under a couple of misapprehensions and wrong assumptions. And you know, I get so damn tired of trawling the internet for answers on how to do things properly, that I invent a patch-it solution and then stick doggedly with it. Even though I know that there is a better and more efficient way, and that upon learning this better way I will save myself oodles and screeds of time in the long run. Yet, stubbornly, I persist. Until I desist.
I’m so thrilled to have finally wrung some sense out of all of this, that I felt like I just had to share. It’s all kind of tecchie though, so don’t blame me if you glaze over. But…if I help just one other befuddled soul out there, I’ll feel this post has been worth it!
A headline is the the short descriptive title (not to be confused with the Title in your data fields) that you should give ALL of your photographs. It’s the one that says something like “Craggy Hill in Dorset County”. The headline is very important to help the internet find your image, if wanting it found is what you’re after.
The ‘Title’ field is kind of redundant. It can simply be the filename, or even left blank. That’s right, it’s worthless. Do you know how many of my images have the ‘Title’ field carefully filled out with long, descriptive, carefully worded – and it turns out, pointless – titles? What fool would think that something called a ‘Title’ would have any real relevance to naming conventions? I may have wept for a minute or two.
The caption field is the place where all those long, rambling descriptions belong. Something like “Mum sliding on her bum down Craggy Hill in Dorset County”. Captions are also very important for internet analytics stuff. Apparently Google is a bit of a fan. Up until today, my working practice has been to stuff all and any descriptive sentences into both the Title and Captions fields – hedging my bets by doubling the work, rather than knuckling down to find out the proper truth – and so all is not lost when I need to backtrack. Phew!
Keywords are just a pain in the bum, and I have no revelations to share with you about them. Batch keyword where ever possible; that’s as much as I’ve worked out. Outsource if you’ve got the funds.
5. Ipptick and Ecksiff
I haven’t looked up what those acronyms mean, because I know my brain. It won’t hold onto the knowledge anyway. The way I understand it is that EXIF is all the information that your camera saves for you and that is automatically transferred across to your computer, and then across to the internet when you upload files. It’s the clever stuff in that it does it all by itself, and it’s where your secrets are hidden. Your too-high ISO for the conditions. Or the old camera body that you thought was hiding behind a fancy lens. It’s the technical details of your shot that hitches a ride along with your files. I guess there are ways to hide that information, but for the purposes of this analysis, it’s the data that is there without you having to do anything. How’s that for scientific?
IPTC data is the stuff you need to fill in. Your name. Your copyright information. Location details. Headlines and captions (but don’t worry about the Title, remember). If you forget to fill this stuff out, or don’t export it with your files, then your work may be bobbing out there in the internet, alone and scared, unanchored to you, the rightful owner. It’s important, important, important. And it doesn’t do it itself.
This is all so easy, yet to find a clear answer to the questions I had this morning was not easy. It was difficult. And so, I have written the post that I was looking for this morning. A little helping hand from me to myself, if you will.
Right, enough procrastination. Back to the drudgery.
At some point in your photographic journey – whether that journey is personal or professional – you’re probably going to think about getting yourself a website. And I’d say go for it! It’s a great place to showcase your work, as well as to give it some context. Flickr is great, and works well for some, but having a domain name that’s all your own – your very own little corner of the InterWeb – well, who wouldn’t want that?
When I was working out how to put my website together, I spent quite a lot of time researching how best to approach it. It was a bit of a painful process to be honest, as it was the first time I’d ever tried to be the actual OWNER of a website. It was also very exciting – I was going to appear on Google! – but I tell you, I spent SO much time trying to work out what to do and where to look. Honestly, I was left with only a few chunks of hair that I hadn’t ripped out, and no fingernails on either hand. It’s all grown back now, thanks for asking!
So what I thought is that it could be a nice idea to share some of this hard-won knowledge. If you’re in a similar boat, and considering setting up a web presence, you may find some of this useful. If you’re generally more web savvy than I am (and most people are), then it’s probably not so useful for you. What you could do is leave a comment with a link, and help out those of us who are less web-ified!
The first idea I had was to design and build my own website. Yes, I know. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. I spent a couple of frustrating days wrestling with Dreamweaver and wading through HTML and CSS tutorials, and then I realised that I wanted to be a working photographer, not a web designer. Talk about misdirecting your energy. If, however, you are interested in learning web design and coding (for free), this site is the best one I’ve found for complete beginners. I’ve been dipping my toes back into these waters lately in fact, cause I figure it can’t hurt to have a few extra strings to your bow, and being able to modify code gives you more Power and Control. Power and Control are important. Also, my inner geek actually quite enjoys this stuff.
Having decided to get a professional to sort out the website for me, I started looking at how to get something that looked properly designed, as well as having a bespoke feel specific to my photography and my brand, all without having to pay huge sums of money. I appreciate that web designers are highly skilled professionals and certainly deserve to charge for their expertise. The problem for me starting out was that I simply didn’t have the resources for such a huge outlay.
Smugmug was one of the sites that came up in my searches. I remember at the time thinking that it looked like a great way of sharing photos with families and friends, but that it didn’t really offer the full professional package that I was looking for. Checking the site now, however, I see that things have moved on over the past 12 months. There are differently priced options catering for the hobbyist through to the professional, and I would say they deserve a closer look.
Another good option to consider is Photoshelter. I’ve started digging around through what they offer, and what I’ve discovered so far looks pretty exciting. They understand all the ins and outs of SEO – that’s all the text and keywords in the background of your site that search engines can grab onto to push your pride and joy to the top of the Google pile – and they provide lots of information to help you understand it for yourself. Your site can have an embedded stock library of its own, as well as the capability to access those files from anywhere with an internet connection. There are templates and designs to choose from, as well as the ability to edit the code yourself, if you are so inclined. It’s making me positively giddy!
In the end, the site I went with was Photobiz. I purchased a template from them for about $120 (I think, it was a while ago), but am in no way locked into that specific design. There is a good selection of templates to choose between and it’s really easy to switch between them. I have a slideshow area, where I can upload a selection of images and then forward the link to myclient, thus allowing them to look through the selection at their own leisure. I can even password-protect the slideshow which gives confidence that the work they are paying you to produce is not splattered all over the internet. There is an optional shopping cart area which works well for portrait work or if you are trying to sell prints. It’s an easy, clickable way help people shop for your images. Oh…there’s loads of features and stuff, and it’s really reasonably priced. In fact, you can move the monthly payment amount up or down in line with the growth of your business.
I’m totally just scratching the surface here – there are plenty of template sites to choose from. As a compromise between a professional look, and value for money, I don’t think you can do much better than one of these guys. And good luck!
I was having lunch today with a friend of mine. She’s a film-maker and we were throwing around ideas of how we may be able to collaborate on projects in the future. Nothing concrete was decided, but in these uncertain moments where I’m working out how to re-establish myself, it was great to meet up with someone who knows exactly what I’m going through. Purely through the virtue of going through it herself.
We didn’t manage to come up with a winning scheme that will set us both flying down our respective career paths (not yet, anyway), but while chatting she said something that only this evening has fully registered. And I had a revelation. Nothing huge and certainly not anything that hasn’t been thought of before, as well as being articulated better by countless others. But it has given me a shift in my thinking, one that I think is going to help me to keep striving to achieve my goals.
She was telling me about a job she once had. It required going up to strangers on the street, armed with a video camera, and asking their permission to conduct an interview. And she didn’t enjoy this process, not one little bit. But she did it, because she had to. And she had to because she was being paid to do it. In return, I was telling her about a trip that I took on the weekend. I went to a funky, bohemian corner of inner Sydney, a low-key couple of hours to do nothing more than take some photographs. An exercise, a chance to get a few shots for my portfolio. And an opportunity to face my biggest fear – getting street portraits in urban cities. I’m fine doing it in a far-flung destination, where gesture and goodwill bridge the language gap, while at the same time negating the fear of refusal. But place me in the familiar context of my own city, and I become gripped with anxiety. I come up with a million reasons to not approach these strangers.
And there’s the juxtaposition. There’s my eureka moment. The reason to ignore the procrastinating, fearful, hold-me-back voice in my head. And that reason is simple.
Do it for a client.
If I was given a brief to get a series of street portraits for a client, I would get out there and do it. Simple. Would I still be anxious and terrified? Of course. Probably more so, because the get-out clause which I often hand over to myself when it’s ‘just’ a personal project is no longer valid. But, you know what? ‘Client’ is a loose term. It can be applied in any number of ways. A stock library is a client, and if I get some great shots – and maybe a model release or two, who knows? – then that personal project has turned professional. Those shots may be the ones in my portfolio that attract a new client to me and my work. And if nothing else, as a freelance photographer, it is my duty to my own professional growth to treat myself as I would a client. No excuses or procrastination.
Talk about realising the bleeding obvious. But you know, often it’s just the small shift in perspective that makes all the difference. I really feel like this is one of those small shifts that just might keep reverberating into my future.
The kind people at Freelance UK have run a small spotlight feature on my photography and business. Check out the interview here. I will be starting a monthly column with a round-up of photography news and resources, with the first installment coming out in a couple of weeks. I’ll keep you posted.
Well, isn’t summer just here! It’s been tempting to do little more than laze around on the beach or in the park with friends, soaking up the sun and feasting on barbequed burgers. Oh, who am I kidding? There has been plenty of downtime sun worshipping over the past couple of weekends. But, it hasn’t all been just fun and sun .
In mid-July I’m organising a fashion-type photo shoot, which is a departure from my usual wandering around, candid aesthetic, and a welcome challenge. My next big trip is not until the end of next month, and in the interim I thought it would be good to organise this new project to challenge my existing skills and work on improving new ones. For the past couple of weeks I have been working on finding willing models, scouting for a location, and doing lots of research for ideas for images and lighting.
The internet has worked its networking alchemy, and in a spurt of generousity has not only sent me some lovely models for the session, but also threw in a new photography partner. Darren, a wedding and portrait photographer from Milton Keynes, is going to join in on my shoot, and has kindly invited me to join him on a shoot he is doing during the same weekend.
It will be great to work with someone new, and to have someone to bounce ideas off. It’s all very exciting, and I know we’ll get some great shots for ourselves and the models’ portfolios.