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Author Topic: Help getting started  (Read 5025 times)

T2iShooter

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Help getting started
« on: July 14, 2011, 09:37:07 AM »
Before I state my problem, I thought it would be polite to introduce myself. I'm a young photographer who got a T2i last summer (thus the name lol), and since then my dad and I have gotten a small selection of lenses. I have learned (self-taught) how to use the camera in full-manual, and take mostly landscapes and wildlife. I have been reading the CanonRumors site (and many of its forums) for the past half-year, and decided to join in.

Now to get to the topic. I have been told by many people that my photos are good, and I would like some advice on how to start selling my photos. I have a smugmug already, www.alexmojica.com , but after almost a year of posting pictures, my only sales have been to family  :( . Could anyone give me some advice on advertising?

(Also, if you want to give me some pointers for the photos themselves, I would really appreciate it!  ;D )

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Help getting started
« on: July 14, 2011, 09:37:07 AM »

awinphoto

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2011, 10:56:39 AM »
Hey... nice shots overall... From one professional to another aspiring professional, here are my 2 cents... It's hard to tell, but it looks like most your outdoors photos tend to be a little flat, desaturated, and about 1 stop under.  I dont know if that's your "style" or if you intended it to be that way, but something to think about.  Secondly, there has to be a reason WHY someone would WANT to spend money, especially in this economy, on a photograph that may have little to no emotional impact (kids photos, family, etc)... People are tightening their budgets and unless you have an image they cant live without, few people are going to splurge... What I would recommend for instance is your zoo pictures, see if the ZOO wants to buy them or at least allow you to have a few prints in their gift shop for sale... pictures of buildings, see if the owners of the buildings wants to buy them... You have a lot of "portfolio" style images on your site which may or may not sell well... "portfolio" style, I mean images that may not sell well but shows your talent/ability/idea in which could drive a potential client to want to commission you to take pictures for them... I would take your best photos, put them in a portfolio gallery.  Lastly, keep your portfolio small... 10 images of VERY STRONG photos is better than 40 pictures of mediocre work.   

Some of your photos are stronger than others and displaying some of what you wouldn't consider 4-5 star (out of a 5 star rating system) work could hurt your overall sales and prestige.  Also get unbiased people help you determine what they consider 4-5 star images because we as photographers tend to get emotionally attached to our photos and our judgement gets cloudy at times.  Lastly, marketing wise, vistaprint.com offers CHEAP business cards or if you want to splurge, overnightprints.com offers better cards... include your website and info and leave them around town.  Go to home and garden shows and leave cards... maybe even make some brochures or flyers with your pictures on it to help drive people to WANT to go to your website... Marketing is constantly changing and evolving and can be exhausting at times, however if you can gain momentum, you can start making money you hoped for. 
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

awinphoto

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2011, 11:08:16 AM »
Not to be long winded, but in my comments about needing to make photos that people would WANT to buy... this is the fun of "stock" photography... with that said you could try to sell to istockphoto or some other stock photography... anyways, back to photography, for instance you have a nature forest style shot with a nice s curve... that's a 3-4 star image... to make it better... have a little boy or girl walking away from you on the path into the scene, maybe holding a ballon or dragging a blanket or picnic basket... or maybe hang out at that scene until some wildlife comes out, wouldn't it be cool to have a deer or something like that on the path looking back at you...  They may seem like cheesy ideas but they will give that emotional connection needed for a stranger to click "BUY"... You have a LOT of photos that are good, but if you look at them... look for that emotional connection that people would need in order to buy, and think of how to add that final selling element BEFORE you press the shutter button, that's the difference that makes a amateur photographer shooting to himself and a professional photographer shooting for others... 
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

Kamera Obscura

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2011, 11:11:28 AM »
Hi T2,

Well for me it's always about the image. If I want to buy something, I buy because of the image.

You are a great photographer, but images are for me just plain boring.

Maybe that's why they don't sell.

kindly don't be mad with me. You asked and deserved an honest answer.

Mind you that is just my personal though. Others might love your image, but think you lack technical side.

Who knows? have fun,
dario.

awinphoto

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2011, 11:23:21 AM »
Hi T2,

Well for me it's always about the image. If I want to buy something, I buy because of the image.

You are a great photographer, but images are for me just plain boring.

Maybe that's why they don't sell.

kindly don't be mad with me. You asked and deserved an honest answer.

Mind you that is just my personal though. Others might love your image, but think you lack technical side.

Who knows? have fun,
dario.

I'm glad I wasn't too off in left field with my comments... They just seem to be missing an element or two or hastily thought out before you took the images... look for that emotional element that would drive someone to buy the image.  Also check the contrast, highlights, shadows, or if a scene is supposed to be dark, make sure there is a bright area that catches the eye that is the focal point of the image (like a ray of light shining on a building or tree or animal or whatever on an overcast day)... sometimes we need to slow down and think about an image before we shoot... try always shooting with a tripod... it will force you to slow down and see a scene a second or two longer and that may help you look for what may be missing or needed to help make it a better photo. 
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

steven63

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2011, 11:51:46 AM »

Some of your shots are really nice - most lack an emotional element.  Looking at your animal photos I didn't see any difference between them and something someone with a point and shoot would take.  But I realize you cannot control lighting and positioning at the zoo.  But that's just it...it's all about setting the shot and/or developing an eye for what the camera will see. 

Photography is an art - especially if you want to sell.  Therefore, your shots will have to be carefully planned and orchestrated.  Got photoshop?  Even the best photgraph will require some sort of artistic touchup to make it 'desirable.'

It's not just about grabbing a really good camera with a really good lens and snapping whatever happens to be in front of us.  It takes time to develop the eye and to find the shot that will evoke an emotion or make someone stop and look at it for a couple minutes.

Keep learning - as we all are.  And it's very positive to ask for contructive advice.  I hope you don't take anyone's comments on here offensively because we really are trying to help.

steven63

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2011, 12:00:32 PM »

Also, maybe to help you develop further you could do what I did.  I looked extensively at others' work and asked myself 'what makes this a good photo.'  Then I would go out and with that photo in mind, try to get as close to that as I could.  It really made me tweek my camera's settings to work the lighting.  In other words I was THINKING about making my photograph and not just taking a picture.  I quickly develop the sense of what the camera was going to do with what I was pointing it at.

When I first started out (I'm not a pro, more of a semi-pro with a full time job).  I did alot of free work (weddings and senior photos for relatives).  It really, really helped me develop a relationship with my tools - which I think is important.  Once I understood what shadows and lighting were going to do with someones face or a scene, it really helped to figure out where to stand, where not to stand and what to include in the photos.

I could go on and on but really it boils down to practice, practice practice.  And seeing as how you love to take pictures I'd say it'll be no time before you are producing some very nice art.

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2011, 12:00:32 PM »

T2iShooter

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2011, 12:13:30 PM »
Thank you all for you comments and criticisms. I see what you're talking about, and will try to slow down next time I press the shutter button to think about that element you were describing. Currently I don't have a tripod with me (my family and I are on a trip, and I could literally bring just my camera and three lenses), but I will devote as much time as possible to look for that 5-star shot you were talking about Awinphoto. I will continue to look at other people's work (guess we had the same idea about that, Steven ;) ), and continue to practice.

P.S.: I hold nothing against blunt honesty.

sb

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2011, 12:24:03 PM »
Plenty of people talked about the quality of photography so I’ll skip that.

T2iShooter, in my most honest and humble opinion - you are nowhere near ready to start making money from photography. You are all over the map at the moment. You have photos of trees and leaves and other snapshots mashed together in a incoherent way. To be honest, your website is consistent with someone who is just starting to explore photography as a hobby. That’s exactly what my website looked like years ago when I was starting out. You need to figure out what you like most and focus on that. Jacks of all trades usually end up being Jacks of no trades – people like to hire specialists. Which brings me to an important question – do you want to be hired for photography, or do you want to simply sell the images you take? If you want to sell the images you take, micro stock is your best bet – but you’ll have to approach it systematically and methodically. It’s a lot of work and the quality and subject matter has to be top notch. The photos you have right now won’t cut it.

If you want to be hired for jobs, then the sooner you start specializing and focusing your website on your particular subject of choice – the better.

You need to improve your photography a lot. You need to figure out who your clients are. You need to build your personal brand. All of this will take many years (not one year). It’s good to be ambitious, but you have to do things in the correct order.

Find your identity first, then you can start thinking about monetizing.

And try to enjoy your hobby while it’s still a hobby. When you start getting paid for photography, your “hobby” will start disappearing more and more each day. I don’t remember when was the last time I just went out and took some pictures for myself :-)

Velo Steve

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2011, 12:42:12 PM »
...
I have been told by many people that my photos are good, and I would like some advice on how to start selling my photos. I have a smugmug already, www.alexmojica.com , but after almost a year of posting pictures, my only sales have been to family  :( . Could anyone give me some advice on advertising?

(Also, if you want to give me some pointers for the photos themselves, I would really appreciate it!  ;D )

It seems that most of the comments have been about the content of your photos.   They are good comments, for the most part, but don't completely address your question.  I won't claim a complete answer, but I have a couple of different thoughts.

First, take the comments of friends with a grain of salt.  Lots of people tell me what a good photographer I am, and I have even been invited to be the next artist in a rotating display at the local library.  Does that make me competitive with the best?  No way!  Everyone is a photographer these days, and I'm sure many thousands are better than I am.  Many of those are probably as good as you or better.

Of course there's a good side to this.  Potential customers are not necessarily more discerning than your friends and family.  You don't have to create the best photo of "X" in the world.  You have to offer a very good photo of "X" in a place where paying customers will find it.  Once you reach a certain level it's more about marketing than the actual photography.

Apologies if this has been covered, but two very different market niches come to mind.  One is art photography - the sort of thing people buy to hang on their walls because it is beautiful.  The other is the sort of photography used in advertising, books, commercial web sites and so on.  I'm not really an expert on either, but it is obvious that what you shoot and how you market to each niche will be very different.

One last thought.  Making a little money from your hobby is one thing, and making a career of it is another.  In my opinion, it is only getting harder to be a professional photographer.  Some photography jobs will always exist, but the proliferation of high quality cameras and people who enjoy using them means that there will be increasing competition, and many of the new photographers are giving their work away under Creative Commons licenses.  Organizations which might have paid a few hundred dollars for a minor photo for their publications are now finding them online for nothing.  If you want to be a pro, be prepared to work hard, to work smart, and to adapt your preferences to what actually sells.

T2iShooter

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2011, 02:38:32 PM »
@sb: I see what you're talking about, and I think I will start to downsize my site to just have the photos in there that I want to be noticed for.  My only problem is, I'm at a three-way tie between birding, landscapes, and architecture  :-\ . Luckily I have quite some time before I have to decide.

Also, I would like to have people simply buy the photos that I take. Is that a wise choice? For now though, I'm going to stick with finding my identity, and will definitely try to enjoy it as much as possible :) .

@Velo Steve: I have noticed how there's more people in the photography market lately, and I think I would prefer to be an art photographer.

Thanks again for the opinions!

awinphoto

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2011, 05:23:01 PM »
@sb: I see what you're talking about, and I think I will start to downsize my site to just have the photos in there that I want to be noticed for.  My only problem is, I'm at a three-way tie between birding, landscapes, and architecture  :-\ . Luckily I have quite some time before I have to decide.

Also, I would like to have people simply buy the photos that I take. Is that a wise choice? For now though, I'm going to stick with finding my identity, and will definitely try to enjoy it as much as possible :) .

@Velo Steve: I have noticed how there's more people in the photography market lately, and I think I would prefer to be an art photographer.

Thanks again for the opinions!

From one photographer to another, I specialize in architecture, and this is (of the three you chose) is the toughest to get into and get paid.  Unless you plan on taking pics of things like the sydney opera house or some famous bridge or some common house-hold name, you can literally become a starving artist doing such...  I'm lucky enough to have contracts in place with commercial mortgage companies who want yearly photos of the buildings they have notes on for their portfolio (and to make sure the investment is being taken care of by the owner). 

Birding and nature would be the easiest to sell in regards to getting the emotional element going... ask yourself... you go to a guys house, would you expect to see architecture pictures splashed all over his walls or nature... Just have patience and work at your portfolio... remember it's rumored ansel adams would camp out at a location for days at a time with his camera on tripod set waiting for just the right moment before he takes the photo.  Personally the longest I ever waited for any one photo was one entire afternoon, but taking that much time makes you really dissect a scene and walk through it in your minds eye to help you make sure thats the photo you want to take. 
Canon 5d III, Canon 24-105L, Canon 17-40L, Canon 70-200 F4L, Canon 100L 2.8, Canon 85 1.8, 430EX 2's and a lot of bumps along the road to get to where I am.

dr croubie

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2011, 08:56:29 PM »
hey,
you sound a lot like me in a way, just starting out and wanting to make a bit of cash to sort of justify all the time and money you've poured into it.

trying to keep it short, some ideas i've had, and advice i've been given for sales:
- local art groups, see if they do exhibitions you can put one or two shots in.
- country markets and such, sell them from your car boot. downside is you need to invest a lot in printing to sell only a few. can be a fun experience though
- competitions are good, can get your name out there, if you're in their expo some will let you put a 'for sale' sign under the shot, or a bucket of business cards.
- ask a few local cafes and restaurants if they'll hang your stuff for free, with a 'for sale' sign underneath. scope out their decor and offer them something that suits the colour/style of the place.
- in general, nothing gets sold without advertising. handing out business cards has been said, and word of mouth only goes so far. giving out some free is always a good advertising, if you can work it properly.


as for the photos:
- quality vs quantity. I've been told this a lot. you might have a real gem in your portfolio, but people get bored looking through all the mediocre ones on the way there and give up (trust me, i know. i must have uploaded a few thousand to facebook when i was travelling. wasn't trying to sell any, just showing to friends. still, i doubt many people ever looked at them besides if they got tagged in some).
- i love animals too. but anyone can take stuff in a zoo. if they see photos in a folder marked 'zoo', they can think 'ah, i can take that too' and they head off to the zoo with their own camera and you get nothing. take the tigers in the snow photos. if you didn't tell people that was in a zoo, they might imagine some snow-covered area in north india, think 'i can never go there' and buy the pic because they can't make it themselves (or maybe that's how i'd think at least)
- you need to have the 'je ne sais quoi' shots. for me in your pics, it's the blue bird nicely framed by the tree, looking at the camera, with a "what you doin'?" expression. it was a lucky shot for the expression surely, and it's the expression that makes the shot. out of all of them, that'd be the one i'd be most inclined to buy (but sorry, i just don't buy)
- in general, it's the expressions of animals i like (maybe it's just me though?). two tigers play-fighting makes a more emotive photo for someone who has a close sibling, a bird feed a baby might mean more to someone who's just had a kid of their own, a pic of a bowerbird in his nice nest might make a good housewarming present for someone who's just bought their first house. that kind of thing.

in general, good start, more power to you for asking for the help and critique, and good luck to all of us...
« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 11:18:31 PM by dr croubie »
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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2011, 08:56:29 PM »

awinphoto

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2011, 12:28:25 AM »
- i love animals too. but anyone can take stuff in a zoo. if they see photos in a folder marked 'zoo', they can think 'ah, i can take that too' and they head off to the zoo with their own camera and you get nothing.

Hahaha +1  Same thing is happening in the real estate photography market... REALTORS are buying 5D's and 7D's (even asking to buy such kits on local craigslist ads)...  If they (any potential client) feel like they can take the same image by themselves, they will never dish out money for someone else to take it for them...
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Canihaspicture

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2011, 04:30:13 AM »
There are quite a few snapshots on your page that you shouldn't be showing to anyone; like what has already been said. Show just your best photos. Only put your name on and display images your are the MOST proud of.

Something I noticed in many of your photos was the improper use of DOF. It's making many of your images soft. You probably aren't noticing it too much because of the crop sensor, but it's pretty noticeable. On some images I can't tell what was focused on and everything looks blurry. I look at your exif data and it shows you shot with the aperture wide open. You must know what you want the image to look like before taking the shot and before choosing your aperture.  Every single setting must be for a reason otherwise it's just spray and pray.

I recommend you keep taking pictures, take hundreds and hundreds until you begin realizing that it is a waste of time to click that shutter unless the image you're capturing means something to you. Make sure You use aperture, shutter, and ISO to convey what it means to you and how you see it, then finally in post (lightroom, photoshop, whatever...) fix the image to convey your feeling. Ask people you know what their eye is drawn to first in your image, what feeling do they have about the image... Is anything distracting them? Is it the same feeling you wish to convey? What can you do better to change the way you shoot or post process to get what you are looking for.
 
I highly recommend David duChemin's books (all of them, in order).

I also recommend you check out the site 500px.com and click popular photos. The photos are fantastic, what do you personally think makes them fantastic? Do you personally believe your work is on par with these people? If not, then what can you do to improve?

Try these things and you will improve immensely. Don't worry about selling you images until you have something that you'd be proud to hang in your house, something that would make people say "Wow" instead of "oh, that's cool".

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Re: Help getting started
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2011, 04:30:13 AM »