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June 17th, 2015

A Photo Editor for Medium Makes the Case for Self-Publishing Platforms

Self-publishing opportunities abound, as we report in a feature story that’s now available at PDNonline.com, called “Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?” We interviewed photographers about how they’ve benefitted (or not) from using a variety of platforms, including Exposure.com, Maptia, VSCO Journal, and Medium.

In an effort to promote their work, photographers are filling those sites with what amounts to free content–much of it high-quality content. So the question is, are photographers benefiting from the exposure provided by those platforms, as much as the platform owners are benefitting from the free content they’re vacuuming up?

As the story was going to press, we got a thoughtful response to the question from Keith Axline, the former editor of Wired magazine’s Raw File blog, and now editor of Vantage. An offshoot of Medium, Vantage is new online magazine established to highlight the best photo projects that photographers post on Medium.

Axline’s response came too late to be included in our story. But here’s the question as we posed it, and his response:

PDN: What’s in it for photographers? With a few exceptions, those I’m talking to are reporting that their stories pretty much get buried on these self-publishing platforms, and they don’t really attract clients and assignments. Which suggests they’re of marginal self-promotional value so far. So my question is, how would you try to convince skeptical photographers that these aren’t just more sites vacuuming up free content (photo stories) shot by hungry professionals, for the benefit of the site owners looking to generate ad revenue for themselves?

Keith Axline: It’s a really tough question. Some projects that Vantage profiles, I really love, but they don’t get much traction with readers. It was the same when I was at Raw File at Wired. But others find their audience on Medium when they wouldn’t have found it anywhere else. There’s no one-size-fits-all for every photo project or photographer. Any of these sites, including Medium, is just a tool for photographers and it’s up to them to make the most out of it.

I totally understand the perspective that photo blogs are exploiting photographers by running their stuff without payment. That’s one way to look at it. I see that. Though I disagree with it. At Vantage we only want to make that ask of photographers who are excited to be featured by us and for whom the attention is an asset that outweighs the granted one-time use. It’s not for everyone. Our posts are promotional in nature because we’re excited to talk about photographers’ work. So in that sense whatever the perceived cost of the granted use can be viewed as a marketing expense. We also encourage photographers to contribute to us directly so that there’s no middleman between them and potential fans. They get to see all the traffic to their story, where it came from, and reply directly to comments that readers make.

I also think that it’s not clear to photographers, or most people for that matter, how to turn traffic and viewers into a plus for their business. Hopefully in the future Vantage and Medium can get closer to facilitating that, and I’m happy to have a “best practices” discussion with contributors (I’ve been meaning to even write a few posts about it).

I think anyone who runs a photo publication is passionate about photography to some degree and they’re probably not exactly raking it in from ad revenue. Participating doesn’t make sense for everyone, but there is a large swath of people who would love to be featured. I’ve never heard of anyone regretting being profiled by us, but maybe they’re just being nice.

Related:
Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?

June 8th, 2015

Photojournalist Charles Mostoller on the Advantage of Shooting Photo Projects Close to Home

Seventeen-year-old Shahir Drayton rears back on a horse in a vacant Philadelphia lot. ©Charles Mostoller

Seventeen-year-old Shahir Drayton rears back on a horse in a vacant Philadelphia lot. ©Charles Mostoller

Philadelphia-based photographer Charles Mostoller was on assignment in the city one day when a group of African-American teenage boys rode by on horseback. It was an incongruous scene, which Mostoller turned into a personal project that was eventually published by The Wall Street Journal. The project is the subject of “Picture Story: Urban Cowboys,” which is now available on PDNOnline.

When we interviewed Mostoller, he made a persuasive case for shooting personal projects close to home. He picks it up from here:

“As a freelancer who is not making tons of money, doing personal projects that are in my backyard makes sense financially. But also, I truly believe in general [that] running to the exotic, or running away and looking to do a story somewhere else because you think that’s where people want to see you, or that’s where the story is, I think that’s a backwards way of going about it. I think the best way to make quality work is to do it in a place that you’re familiar with, where you can actually understand the situation and can really say something about what’s  going on.

“Also, if you’re trying to show [potential clients] you can hack it, it’s much more difficult to make very good stories that are kind of pedestrian, or where nobody would expect them. Nobody would expect this story [about teenage urban cowboys] out of Philly, but everyone is expecting young photographers to want to go to Haiti. So I could show Haiti pictures, and no one’s going to care, but this one story has people everywhere coming up to me, saying, ‘Oh my god, I saw this!’ It made the rounds because it was so surprising. I’m not always looking for something exotic in Philadelphia. this one just happened to be that. but I think it’s important to focus on where you’re at as a young photographer doing personal work, rather than saying, OK, I need to go somewhere else to do my work.”

Related Articles:
Documenting Philadelphia’s Teenage Urban Cowboys
PDN Video Pick: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists
How to Find Projects in Your Own Backyard

May 21st, 2015

Science Says: People Like Filtered Photos

Love them or hate them, photo filters are a staple of photo sharing. While some may view them as a shortcut to creativity, new research suggests they’re also a powerful lure for eyeballs on the web’s most popular photo platforms.

New research from Saeideh Bakhshi, David Shamma and Lyndon Kennedy of Yahoo Labs and Eric Gilbert at Georgia Tech aims to understand how filtering and “visual post-processing” impacts photo sharing.

What they found, simply put, is that filtering photos drives more engagement: photos with filters were 21 percent more likely to be viewed on Flickr and Instagram than those without. What’s more, filtered photos were 45 percent more likely to be commented on.

There is an art to filtering, though.

“Filters that increase contrast and correct exposure can help a photo’s engagement, and filters that create a warmer color temperature are more engaging than those with cooler color effects,” the authors write. “Photographically speaking, filters which auto-enhance a photo (e.g. correct for contrast and exposure) drive more engagement. We find the less-engaging filters exhibit transformation effects which are exaggerated and often cause photographic artifacts and/or loss of highlight details. The exception being filters which make a photo look antique.”

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The study gleaned insights from interviews with Flickr users, plus a quantitative analysis of over 7.6 million images from both Flickr and Instagram.

Incidentally, filters aren’t the only means of increasing engagement with images. The researchers also found that the more tags a Flickr image had, the more likely it was to surface in a search. The age of a Flickr account also had a “positive but small role” in the number of eyeballs an image attracted.

The full report, which provides a detailed breakdown on the methodology used in the study, is available here.

May 19th, 2015

A Website As a Calling Card: Robert Gallagher Dishes on His Online Tools

Sponsored by Clickbooq

Robert Gallagher’s photography career is dynamic: One day he’s shooting a travel feature in Bora Bora for The Guardian; another day it’s the cofounder and CEO of the dating app, Tinder, for the cover of Forbes. When we connect over the phone, he’s brimming with excitement over a shoot in Los Angeles with singer, songwriter and musician John Lydon, who is best known by his former stage name as the Sex Pistols’ front man, Johnny Rotten. The shoot was a treat for the photographer, who having grown up in England in the 1970s, notes that it was “Margaret Thatcher vs. the Sex Pistols” in the spectrum of cultural iconography. He had the opportunity to get to know the family-man side of the infamous English punk rock singer when he gave him a ride home from the shoot. “That’s why I love my job,” he says. “You never know who you’re going to meet from one day to the next—I love those little vignettes of life.” But what really struck him about Lydon was that he showed up to the set with only a simple plastic bag full of his belongings. “He still a little bit anti-establishment,” Gallagher laughs.

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John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, on www.gallagherphoto.com / Photo by Robert Gallagher

Gallagher has a no-nonsense approach both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. In marketing his work, he believes his images should do the talking. That means he wants a website design “without all the unnecessary bells and whistles.” His site, he explains, is his “calling card” and a “marketing piece in itself,” so a clean design and a gallery that displays his images edge-to-edge is what gives the photographer’s work the most impact. “I have to get out of my own way and let the images do the selling for me,” he explains.

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Billy Idol, photographed for Der Spiegel / Photo by Robert Gallagher

And sell his images do. Gallagher’s celebrity portraiture, travel editorial and personal surfing images have landed him jobs with top clients: from Vogue, Forbes and TIME to MTV, Apple and Nike. When the photographer isn’t on the road, he’s running the day-to-day aspects of his business. He doesn’t have a web designer, but having started his photography business before the digital era, he’s no stranger to adaptation. “I’ve had to learn how to think like a computer but I don’t want to spend all of my time learning a new program,” he explains.

Bora Bora with Andrew O'Hagan. Travel feature for The Guardian W

Bora Bora with Andrew O’Hagan. Travel feature for The Guardian / Photo by Robert Gallagher

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Tinder cofounders Jonathan Badeen, Sean Rad and Justin Mateen. / Photo by Robert Gallagher

This is why he turned to Clickbooq when he wanted to build a website: The templates are user-friendly and intuitive so he doesn’t have to spend his time learning new technologies, and the new HTML5 sites are search engine optimized and fully responsive so he knows he’s on the cutting-edge of web design. Further, the highly-customizable Moderna template displays his portfolio in a grid-style that gives an overview of his work, but can also be expanded edge-to-edge, allowing portraits of icons like Lydon to shine. “I personally think [the grid] is what people look at—they want to see the general [portfolio] overview. I love how it repopulates based on the browser size,” he says. “It kicks butt.” He also notes his delight over the full-screen images that “show off” his web page. “I know it will have an impact.”

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“Tearsheets” thumbnail view on www.gallagherphoto.com

Gallagher is also enthusiastic about the possibilities of integrating his more recent motion work into his website; he recently added a video page in just a few minutes, describing the “user-friendly” process of embedding “video playboxes” as “genius.” Over the phone he asks me to refresh my screen to see if I prefer his videos in a larger format. “I just made that change while we’ve been talking,” he laughs. But on a more serious note, he says, “Clickbooq is genuine about wanting to make their websites better for photographers.” And for a photographer who is as forthright as Gallagher, that makes all the difference.

Ready to launch a new website? Sign up for a free 14-day trial and take 15% off any new plan with promotion code, PDNNATIVE.

January 16th, 2015

Martyna Galla Makes Her Mark with a Format.com Online Portfolio

Sponsored by Format

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At just 22 years old, fashion photographer Martyna Galla is a force to be reckoned with. She’s amassed a list of clients that includes Avon, Universal Music and Elle; success she credits to her insatiable enthusiasm for creating imagery. Raised in a small town near Warsaw, the burgeoning teen’s discovery of the medium began when she was given her first camera at 14. Galla began photographing her sister and “the prettiest girls at school,” and within just two years, landed her first paid job shooting model tests at Warsaw modeling agency D’vision Models.

The professional opportunity solidified Galla’s aspirations to build a career as a photographer and propelled her to enroll film school in Łódź, Poland, where she was further trained in photography.  Now out of school, constantly shooting tests, regularly investing in gear and studio space, and expanding her contacts to include a wider range of models, make-up artists and stylists have all contributed to her growth.

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© Martyna Galla

Just as crucial to her development as a professional photographer, however, has been the ability to market her online portfolio. “People must see your work,” Galla says. “Potential clients, friends, agents, models—you never know who will like it and recommend your work.” But not all websites are created equal, as Galla has learned. Out of all the options available, Galla rates Format.com, a portfolio website platform for creative professionals, above the rest. “Format was not the first platform I used to share my photography, but it is the most professional. My work is available in high quality and is viewable on any browser or mobile device,” she says. “My Format.com portfolio is the one I continue to share with clients. Its professional design lets my work shine.”

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© Martyna Galla

Format’s online portfolio website offer photographers all the advantages they desire when showcasing their work online. Its elegant, professionally-designed themes enable photographers to create a stunning presentation of their work in an instant—all without any knowledge of coding. Format’s websites are also fully customizable, including a custom domain: photographers can choose from a wide variety of specially-designed page templates or build their own from scratch using Format’s advanced code editor. In addition, Format’s websites are mobile- and tablet-ready, and include built-in, powerful, image-based blogging, seamless linking to social networks, unlimited bandwidth, automatic and fast image resizing, continual fast speed image loading, password-protected pages, search engine optimization, video capability, and 24/7 around-the-clock reliable service and support no matter the time zone.

Work as strong and as unique as Marytna Galla’s demands a presentation that only Format.com has been able to deliver—and quite effortlessly so. Interestingly, when asked to describe her photographic style, some of the words Galla uses are “easy,” “sensible,” and “calm,” adjectives that could also be used to describe the Format.com experience. “I like to keep things simple,” she continued. “When I find the person in front of my camera to be charismatic and interesting, I let them have the advantage while shooting. It always brings something new and unexpected.”

Visit Format.com and create your very own online portfolio.

See a short video on Galla and her work below.

 

December 1st, 2014

4 Tips for Making a Lasting Impression with Photo Clients

Sponsored by Zenfolio

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Whether it’s on your website or in a directory listing, how you present your photography business online is crucial when it comes to booking a new client. Minnesota-based photographer Shelley Paulson has been shooting professionally for eleven years, and she showcases her warm, Midwestern-influenced style of wedding and portrait photography on Photographer Central to help grow her business. Follow her four tips to make sure you’re wowing your prospective clients and making a memorable connection.

1. Boost Your SEO
Clients won’t remember you if they can’t even find you. Optimize every online channel you have for SEO so that you’re showing up in search results. Most web-hosting providers have this feature built into their product so you never actually have to worry about getting your pages indexed yourself. There are also directories like Photographer Central that do all of the SEO work for you. After completing the easy set-up process, the Photographer Central team works on driving traffic to the site and getting more exposure for your photography business.

2. Showcase Multiple Shoots
When sharing your portfolio online, demonstrate your wide range of skills and artistic abilities by sharing images from more than one shoot. If prospective clients only view images of the same subject against the same background all with similar lighting, your breadth of experience will hardly come through. A wide range of variety lets a client know that their photo shoot isn’t going to be an exact replica of someone else’s and will assure them that the results of their shoot will be unique, personalized, and special. Sharing shots from multiple jobs also conveys that you’ve had more than one client. Show your experience to clients so they’re sure their pictures will come out just as amazing.

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3. Limit Your Genres
You might be adept at shooting in seven different categories, but someone looking through incredibly different portfolios in one place might become overwhelmed. If you specialize in fine-art photography and commercial work, don’t combine the two because it lessens the impact of your portfolio as a whole by confusing the overall aesthetic. Consider separating each genre out into separate sections or pages so that clients can choose to only look at the ones they’re most interested in. On Photographer Central, you have the ability to publish up to five separate listings in a single account. Use each one to display a unique portfolio.

4. Don’t Skimp on Styles
Whether you shoot in photojournalistic, black and white, with natural light, or more, clients benefit from seeing examples of your entire range. For clients who aren’t aware of the differences, doing this can actually help them realize their style preferences, and better communicate that when it’s time for a consultation. Photographer Central listings allow you to select which styles you shoot so clients easily sort according to their own preferences, allowing you to connect with clients who are looking for your exact set of skills.

As a professional photographer, marketing and advertising your business can turn into its own fulltime gig. Make sure you have the time and energy to focus on your art by taking advantage of the resources out there that can alleviate some of your burden. Photographer Central is the directory that lets you utilize all of these tips and make a great impression on your next client.

Sign up for a listing and save 20% with code GETSTARTED20.

*Promotional code expires on December 31, 2014.

November 7th, 2014

Reimagine the Client Gift: Custom Self-promo Magazines

Sponsored by Blurb

While small self-promo pieces for clients are a popular option for photographers during the holiday season, a multi-page printed promo can have much more impact.

Fashion photographer Benjamin Kaufmann recently created his first print run of a custom self-promotional magazine that mimics the high-end glossy magazines that he regularly shoots for.

For design and production of the issue, Kaufmann turned to self-publishing platform Blurb. He found that the site’s design capabilities, high-quality paper options, and flexibility in production was the perfect vehicle to create a magazine tailored for his clients. And with on-demand printing, he could quickly follow up with new clients to solidify the relationship.

“The more one communicates on a personal level with clients and the more effort one puts into self-marketing, the greater the feedback will be,” Kaufmann says.

For the full article on PDNonline, click here.

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Photos © Benjamin Kaufmann

October 27th, 2014

PDN Video: Marcus Smith on How to Develop Your Brand Identity

Marcus Smith, Part 2: How to Develop Your Brand Identity from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

In a previous PDN Video, advertising photographer Marcus Smith explained how he used personal work to land his dream clients. After winning his first few commercial assignments, though, Smith decided he needed a stronger brand identity to maintain momentum. In this video, he explains how he figured out the right brand message for his business, communicated it to a designer, and got a professional-looking brand identity on a tight budget.

Smith will speak at Photo Plus Expo on a panel called “PDN’s 30: Strategies for Young Working Photographers” on Saturday, November 1 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Others speaking on the panel include Dina Litovsky, Greer Muldowney, Keren Sachs, and Tony Gale. For complete details about Photo Plus Expo seminars and events, see the Photo Plus Expo website.

Related:
PDN Video: Marcus Smith on How to Attract the Clients You Want

October 23rd, 2014

How to Boost Traffic to Your Site and Increase Print Sales

Sponsored by Zenfolio

You may be the most talented photographer in your genre, but unless you have an excellent web presence and advertising put in place, no one will know you exist. Here, we provide four crucial steps to get more exposure to your site, gain and retain customers, and boost sales for a profitable photography business.

1. Create an SEO-friendly website.

When potential customers are searching for a photographer in their area on Google or Bing, will your website show up? Aside from referrals, discovering photographers on search engines is the top way clients find who they want to hire, so making sure your website is SEO-friendly is key. Providing relevant keywords and text on your pages, such as geographic location and genre, will help. Zenfolio is built with HTML, so it automatically submits your sitemap to major search engines and lets you know which fields are important to fill out and display on your pages.

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2. Give People Incentives to Buy.

Now that people are on your site, how do you get them to buy? Creating time pressure, offering a special promotion or bundling products into packages are all great ways. To get customers to act, set an expiration date on a gallery so that they have a limited amount of time to purchase before the images go away. If you decide to offer a special promotion, create early bird coupons for those who make purchases within the first week photos are online, or include a gift certificate. Bundling products is great because people want more for their money. Create a package of prints and products, and lower the total cost of what customers would pay for the same items à la carte. Zenfolio has all of these features, including shopping cart reminders, so that a customer will receive emails reminding them of their unfinished orders, encouraging them to complete checkout.

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3. Follow Up with Offers.

After a sale has been made, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. People are always in need of a gift for the holidays, anniversaries or birthdays. Offer discounted items or rewards for referrals, and keep in contact with clients on a personal level. With Zenfolio, you can set up a contact list that captures visitors when they come to your website, so you can send emails to them later.

4. Have Flash Sales.

Having several sales throughout the year is a great revenue boost. During the holidays, offer a big discount for presents, or participate in Cyber Monday or Black Friday. Put photos back online for a limited time, or offer new products, as framed prints or canvas wraps. With Zenfolio, you can easily create gallery banners so visitors are aware of the sale.

In order to be successful, it’s crucial to make new customers want to work and buy from you. Make sure your website is set up to sell and can easily be tweaked and changed as necessary.

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Get started on your own website today and save 25% on a Zenfolio account with the code getstarted25 at checkout.

August 4th, 2014

In Image Library for American Airlines, Erik Almås Discovers His Other Style

It’s a challenge for photographers to evolve creatively and keep up with the changing tastes and expectations of the market, while maintaining their brand identity. But photographer Erik Almås happened upon a new style while shooting for American Airlines, and he’s now using it to reposition himself.

Over the past 18 months, he has shot a number of assignments for the airline’s print campaigns and corporate image library, photographing everything from interiors to runway and in-flight beauty shots of jets. The shoots included two days with a Boeing 777-200. It was a big deal for the airline to take the plane out of service, Almås says, so he took advantage of it. “I had the camera going whenever I had the chance,” he tells PDN through his rep, Bennie de Grasse at Vaughan Hannigan.

An image for American Airlines' branding campaign. ©Erik Almås

An image for American Airlines branding campaign. ©Erik Almås

The images he produced for AA campaigns are tightly controlled, and reflect the hyper-real style for which he’s known. But while he was re-visiting his AA archive in search of images for his portfolio, he discovered that he had two separate bodies of work: the “studied” work used for the AA branding, and “more random shots” that amounted to unintentional personal work. The latter are quiet, contemplative images that Almås recently described in his blog as “the moment between the moment[s]” that comprise an “alternative narrative” to the campaign images. They were “somewhat unexpected for my style of image making,” he wrote.

He’s been posting those images on his Instagram feed every time he boards a flight to an assignment, which is frequently–he traveled 270 days last year. “Instead of posting the classic pictures of clouds out of the plane window with the wing in the corner on social media I would go through the American Airlines images and post some of those instead,” he tells PDN.

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

The process of reviewing his files with Instagram in mind “has brought a great awareness to how I edit,” he says. And Almås and his agent are now capitalizing on his more personal style.

The interest among advertisers in an “amateur” (i.e. “snapshot”) style “is accelerating due to the advancing of smartphone and camera technology,” de Grasse explains in an e-mail. “People are beginning to get used to this look and feel,  which creates a growing need for more images for more platforms.”

Almås adds that clients now expect photographers to shoot motion, behind the scenes images, and social media content–in addition to images for print campaigns. “If I can [let clients know] that I can give them all of this as a content provider I’m in a good place for the changes we already see happening,” he says.

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås