ProStudioUSA

Providing photography equipment and expertise to amateur and professional photographers alike

The Dying Art of Photo Albums!

I have an artist/photographer friend that shoots a photo a day, every day. She posts it on Facebook. She is on year 4 as we speak. This photo turns into her personal journal. She prints these pictures into an album every year.

She chooses an album worthy of holding her honored images. Unfortunately, there are less options then ever before making it tougher to find the right one. There is a decline in clients wanting albums and photographers offering them. It may surprise you to know that even I as an album supplier am finding less options and harder to supply albums. Because everyone is selling less albums, our manufactures are making and offering fewer and fewer.

Just because the majority of consumers are not using albums doesn’t mean there is no longer a need for them. Photo albums are becoming a lost art. Because this artist has no intent on stopping her photo a day and wants a regular printed album she has found that she needs to change the album style almost yearly.

My thoughts for you lie in this direction: Is the album dying a good thing because it affects so few? Even here we have at times considered not carrying them. Is this just one of the things we have to let go of? It goes back to an earlier blog that photos need to be printed. Should that not be in an album? Somehow a photobook, a really nice one, does not seem cost effective compared to an album. You can easily go to a drive through book maker but is that really the quality you want? You can also spend a small fortune on a high class book. These books can reach hundreds of dollars to create.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject! Please share your ideas and what you’ve done in your photography business.

Non-Scientific Pole

A friend and I recently asked every photographer we knew if they ever enter photo contests and if so, how many. Many said they do and also enjoy it as a hobby besides their photo business. This was the case with most of the people we talked to. Most explained their professional photography businesses help pay for their hobby.

Analytics showed heavy response whenever we posted anything to do with contests on our Pro Studio Facebook page. We plan to continue announcing contests on our Facebook page  so make sure you’re following us on Facebook and our twitter feed for updates and more.

Here’s a quick approach to entering contests. Always research each contest thoroughly. Most of them will allow you to see previous winners. This is helpful in deciding if it’s a good match for your style of photography.

Review the timelines and terms. If a contest is a good match for you, you don’t want to miss the deadlines. You can set-up reminders in your smartphones for two weeks and 3 days prior to keep you informed. Keep track of award dates. It’s too easy to loose emails into spam accounts. You can also use a variety of colored markers to track contest dates on a paper calendar.

The terms of each contest are very important to consider. You need to see how the photographers picture rights are handled and what’s expected of you if you do win.

I make an effort to track the contests I’ve entered to be prepared again next year. If I receive an honorable mention or more I print the picture for a portfolio or album along with the award or mention. This is a very important part of the process. This is a resume builder and looks great when speaking to clients. Think of the confidence boost a client will have working with you if you can show them your “award winning” images in an album.

If any of you win a contest, please let us know with a twitter post on our feed. We’ll help you spread the word there and on Facebook. We have a reach of 10,000 photographers world-wide. Pro Studio would love to spread some love for you’re work.

Lighting

The challenges of studio lighting can be intimidating. So many factors go into lighting. But the most important one is the photographer’s ability to demonstrate their person voice. It’s all to easy lighting instructions on the internet. But they’re usually cookie cutter with little thought behind them. I would suggest you learn the basics but tweak them to create your very own style and unique voice.

Today, lighting can set you apart from the competition and bring you more jobs. Fine art photographers have known this and seek out specially lit images. They understand that light can create a dramatic look, or a soft look and more importantly, combine them into an extra special image.

Portrait photographers new to photography, usually default to a standard setup. They haven’t learned any other way. In this day and age we need to accept that “everyone is a photographer”. The camera manufacturers told them all they need is their camera. A more experienced photographer will have the ability to control their light in most situations. With a commitment to on-going study and learning they can perfect their craft and thus stand out in a crowded arena.

One suggestion can assist you in developing a lighting style. Learn to use your walls to bounce light off. You can use your existing walls or create some walls from foamcore or other materials. One of the more ambitious ones is drywall on wheels. A wood frame is built to your specs. and can be placed anywhere in your space. You can also add a slopping top that either adjusts or not.  By moving these panels around, you can control where your shadows fall and learn to sculpt your light for each subject.

Once you’ve committed to bounce lighting your fun begins so start experimenting with what works best for you. Some will devote a light unit just to this bounce wall. You should know how your light equipment function. View the additional piece as insurance that you have exactly what you need and it’s there when you need it. Pro Studio Supply sells a very affordable set of add-on wheels that can attach to your light stands allowing you to easily move them where you need them. Too many concentrate on the cost of their equipment and forget that their running a business. Your goal is to create quality images and the ease at which you do this is directly related to your financial success. The appearance and professionalism you display will bring more customers faster than cheap prices. We carry several lines of lighting and peripheral equipment at affordable prices. Call an associate for free advice and options.

Set yourself apart and that will lead to more clients. Each client wants their portraits to be special. Cookie cutter is no longer acceptable.

Getting to know Mark Stall – Guest Blogger

Mark Stall has been living a dream as a photographer for a long time and the owner of Pro Studio Supply for 27 years. The photography business was very different when he first got started. They were strictly clinical and utilitarian. Webpages were devoid of personality and meant to be strictly useful then. I’m a local photographer who had the pleasure of meeting Mark through another local photographer. It was a great thing we met. We had a lot in common and a lot to share with each other. I wrote this ‘’get to know’’ Mark Stall blog because he’s worth knowing.

Having been an engaging photographer, it was a different type of feeling for Mark. Now, the world is a place where we all want to know each other.  Mark was kind enough to answer some questions recently so that I could write a blog post about him.

1.) Music has always been an important part of my life. I used to attend every major rock concert here in my state of WI. I would capture pictures of every one of them. I would hand hold my 200+mm lens and shoot mostly slide film for that instant gratification under multi-changing stage lights. I have a great collection of photo albums I cherish to this day.

2.) I enjoy movies especially scifi! My father was a big influence on me. From 2001 a Space Odyssey to Blade Runner, I watched and dreamed of space travel and extra-terrestrial life.

3.) I love to take trips with my family. When our two boys were growing up, we would travel our state and several longer trips around the USA together. We all enjoy the ocean, national theme parks and cities. I also traveled with my parents and siblings growing up. We drove to over 40 US states.

4.) My wife Nancy and I attended an international photographic trade show every other year in Cologne Germany back in the 1990's. It's known as Photokina and is still running to this day. We got to know the beautiful town of Cologne Germany and we'd often travel to other European countries while on these trips.  

5.) My wife and I are going on 30 years of marriage. We met and were engaged in just four weeks. We have a lot of common likes but are very different from each other. Perhaps this is why we've been able to stay together so long.

6.) I'm an award-winning fine art photographer. I may have got started late, but I've been juried into dozens of shows over the past 15 years. I exhibit at art shows, art galleries and a variety of retail venues. I'm the past board member and treasurer of a fine art photography group called The Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA) here in Milwaukee, WI and in the local Cedarburg Artists Guild which offers so many opportunities to exhibit my work.

After I read these answers I realized Mark is a very diverse photographer/person. I say photographer first because I believe it defines him in so many ways. I also had a better understanding of his motivation to be in the business he is in. It is not just that he understands it, he lives it! Lastly, it made me think about his customers. I wonder how diverse they are. It is not a simple world anymore. It is a far more interesting world.

In part of my discussion with Mark we both wondered how we could find out more about his clients. I am willing to bet it is more diverse than we think! Now, I just have to make sure we don’t end up discussing Sci-Fi because we’ll never get anything else done!

The Decay of Historical Pictures

Presentation was an art form at the birth of the photograph. The final picture, a luxury at the time, was carefully placed in a presentation folio that could be an ornate as the picture itself. The idea of presenting pictures in such a fashion continued well into the digital era.

The sad state of these early presentation folio today is a state of decay. Many are tattered, torn and worn. These folios as beautiful as they are have reached their limit in many cases. The ones that have not reached their limit are likely not archival quality.

One of the great things the digital age has brought us is the ability to have archival papers, inks and all the acid free materials we could ever hope for. It is so prevalent we forget that acid free was ever really an issue. Archival is almost taken for granted now.

What about all of these historical pictures? I, personally can’t see destroying the old folios. This is what I can envision;

Preserve, carefully, the old ones while scanning and printing them. After printing put them in a new folio for viewing. Alternatively, re-locating where you can the historical picture to a new presentation folio.  If desired you can keep the old folio with the new one so that you do not lose it but neither do more damage to it.  I would advise scanning the folio to keep with the scanned print as well. Be aware there is some value to some of the folios.

No matter what you can envision for these you will want to make sure that if you do go with a new folio to get a nice quality one so that in 150 years more the same issues are not had. It is also not a bad idea to consider a high quality box to store all of these pictures in.

While no one really wants to disrupt history in any way, while we would prefer to leave them as they are there is a very real risk that they will continue to deteriorate past the point of recognition. If you have other thoughts I would love to have them shared with us. We will pass them along in an upcoming blog. This is a problem that belongs to all of us to solve. Even businesses are hiring companies to do this work for them. It is after all history.

Creating a Printed Portfolio

A small printed portfolio to show clients is critical. Many potential clients will talk to several photographers. Having a face to face meeting is important. It gives you a chance to get to know your client and a chance to show them your portfolio.

You are probably thinking why? They have seen it online. Photographers for many years now have gotten used to the online portfolio. The entire time we were getting used to it we knew prints looked better than anything online.

A print does something to a person. It sets it above what we seen on the computer because it can be held. That same client who sees your well done portfolio might just want one for their wedding too. Prints are prints are prints, until we prove they are something more.

A professionally done portfolio is selling point that will set you apart. It shows you care enough to print your work. It shows you stand behind your work. It is the extra step. I choose to keep all of mine in boxes as I feel they look more modern. It also makes it easier to hold the picture, a vital part of my portfolio process.

Successful portfolios have several factors. Each portfolio must have all necessary releases. I keep my releases right in the bottom of the box. They are size appropriate to fit right in the box without folding. No staples or paperclips are allowed. I print these out on high quality paper.

Next up, I have a portfolio for each type of client I may encounter. Weddings, portraiture, commercial and any other types of clients you may have. I have no more than 7-10 pictures of any style in each portfolio. Choose your pictures carefully. I do try and get a mix of clients when possible.  I look for the prints that standout in my archive. I look for diversity in the prints that I place in my portfolio.

If you want to go the extra step an embossed or embalmed insignia on the top is a nice touch with the studio name and type of portfolio. This adds to the look of quality. This will also do two other things. It will ensure you always grab the right portfolio. It may also encourage clients to ask if you have other portfolios. That allows you to talk about your business without ever having to sell yourself. Alternatively in this day and age you can order different colors for each portfolio. Let your personality shine with the trendy things done to update these boxes and folios.

Part of this process is right from the beginning I want to meet face to face with my potential client. I want to discuss what they are looking for. If they can’t meet then I try and arrange to at least stop by and leave the portfolio for a day. Most take me up on meeting face to face, the ones that don’t meet with me have not turned down the portfolio being left with them. I follow up a day later to pick up the pictures.

There are so many photographers these days that it is about the personal touch. It is about standing above. Portfolios are a wonderful way to do this.

Google Vice President Vint Cerf and the Digital Dark Age

What does this really mean? Digital dark age, how is that possible? This is a topic that is gaining momentum in recent weeks. In order to truly understand this topic we need to look first to the past.

That past that allows you to see and hold your grandparents wedding pictures. The past that allows you to see and hold pictures and documents that were produced prior to the digital era.

Now let’s jump ahead a bit. The digital era brought us floppy drives and tape drives for backup purposes. How many pictures live on that style of media still? The more important question is how difficult is it to get those pictures off that media? This is the easiest illustration of how these pictures and in some cases documents (i.e. letters, proposals etc.) can be lost.

Society got aggressive about storing things digitally. You can’t argue with saving trees and space. You also have to love having everything in one place.  Technology though is designed to always advance. It is designed to get better, faster and more intuitive. As technology advances mediums advance and before you know it the old way is obsolete.

What you are left with is the digital Dark Age. Will you be able to save those pictures and documents? Will your great-great grandchildren be able to look at wedding pictures of their great grandparents like you did?

There are more problems associated with this than you think. The number of suppliers that are making the supplies to hold and store prints is on a downward spiral. The quality that is being offered on things like albums and portfolio boxes is lessoning. This is a direct result of the lower demand. The options are getting harder to find in a quality that Pro Studio Supply can stand behind.

The funny thing about this is that it is a technology giant warning us. Vint Cerf, V.P. Of Google might just be foreshadowing another leap forward in technology.  That leap ahead is inevitable as it keeps companies in business.

Photographers can’t be all knowing and see the future of technology. However, we can learn from the past. The past as shown us technology will evolve. It would be nice if the digital era did something for photographers that helped us to provide prints once again, even if in a more limited amount than in past years.

Five Things Digital Photography Took Away from the Photographer.

Many things can be said about the pros and cons of digital photography. Those pros and cons have been re-hashed over and over. It might just be time to live with the fact of these pros and cons and then adjust accordingly. Being in the business of studio supplies for over 25 years I can tell you some subtle things photographers need to adjust for.

1.     The loss of presentation. The “wow” factor is lost. The final reveal of the photo presented in a professionally manner with the professional on site is mostly gone. Now we have online proofing sites.

Photographers loses the ability to impress upon the client their professionalism with a thoughtful final presentation; that picture they can hold and run their hands over. This presentation is the final chance for the photographer to show their commitment to the quality of the service they offer in a tangible way. It is that something extra.

2.     Photographers no longer see the initial reaction. Photographers no longer have the ability, with those same online proofing sights, to see and hear the initial reaction.

This causes several problems. You no longer area able to refer back to how others have reacted to our photos in that first initial gut reaction. Instead we get the secondary “We love the pictures”. This is not nearly as effective as the client who excitedly screams out “Oh My!” or “Awe” when speaking on how other clients reacted to you pictures.

3.     Controlling how your work looks. Your work is found through word of mouth or through the internet. The pictures speak for themselves. You are at the mercy of how those pictures look on someone else computer screen.

The print simply looks better than a monitor. This could hurt the photographer. Let’s face it we have all been there looking at our photos on a monitor that is improperly calibrated or worse yet dirty. Photographers have an eye for that. The common client does not.

4.     A print to hand to your client. Pictures are meant to be held. They are meant to be printed. Some are meant to be special. Yet in the digital age we treat them all the same. They go into the digital wasteland. Now instead of one place in the house to look for them we have hard drives, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and who knows how many other sites. 

This means no more sitting around albums looking at family pictures. It means passing around phones and looking at cold websites. It also means that the pictures of the family pets are treated the same as that cherished wedding day.

5.     In part the core service is lost. Photographers should be reminding clients about this part of our service. Many photographers stopped doing just that. Instead of getting innovative many conformed. Worse yet many of the “new generation” does not even understand paper. Paper is the basis of the print. The consumer might understand archival or they may just go to Walgreen’s. Now the prints you do have floating around are not truly reflective of your work.

Who Cares if You're a Skilled Professional Photographer?

The state of portrait photography today is a free-for-all. The traditional highly experienced photographer has relied on a known variety of techniques in lighting and posing to achieve successful portraits. The newer photographer can design their portraits based on the newest trends or something they saw by someone else, but only if they have the skills or patience to learn it. Every photographer must use a combination of personal style and well thought out lighting to design a portrait the customer will like.


Customers select a portrait photographer based on a referral, an ad, social media or they've always used the same photographer. Photographers need to know what particular style the customer is looking for and what is the reason for the portrait. We all agree the goal of the photographer is to please their customer and do what they're looking for without sacrificing something.


Years ago I attended a few lectures by the master photographer Joyce Tenneson. Ms. Tenneson will take a limited amount of portraits based on getting to know her subject intimately before proceeding. Upon completion of the session, she will select and present her client with her final choice. Period. Few of us have the luxury of selecting the final portrait without the customers say, but Ms. Tenneson has the ability to create and interpret a portrait through her understanding and commitment to the craft.

There's more to being a portrait photographer than just taking a picture. And it should be more than just placing your subject or subjects in front of backdrop and shooting. For you to succeed and prosper you must study today's trends and understand past photographers to become a skilled practitioner. Every successful photographer before 2005 made some major effort to study photography. Starting out, they attended as many workshops as they could and practiced with whatever equipment they could afford to accomplish the job. Passion isn't enough today to please your customers. We must give this field everything we got to remain a respected profession and only the most skilled will succeed.

 

V-Drapes for High School, Colleges and Debutante Cotillions.

 

Pro Studio Supply is the main sources for Black V-Drapes in the USA. It's like a poncho style wrap made from quality velvet that appears like a formal gown from the front. A graceful V is created in the front and falls gently off the girls shoulders. To many, this may seem very ''Old-Fashion'' and it is. But what it accomplishes is an equalizing of every girl by breaking down the portrait to a beautiful face, a supple neck and her shoulders. Many schools have been creating framed composite mats for the graduating class with our drapes. Class composite frames are a clean impressive way to feature their classes.

The Classic V-Drape is a simple wrap specially designed for ease and speed. It slips right on and uses a basic velcro closure on back to keep it in place. Black tube tops are available to help the girls feel more secure. Each drape is simply adjusted to a proper placement for the neck and shoulders and every girl is done the identical way. Several drapes are required for large groups of girls to avoid spending too much time adjusting each one during the photograph. This way, while the current girl is being photographed the one on board is being prepared and ready for her photo. Our Misses or Medium style was designed to fit at least 90% of all girls. An extra large is available for plus-sizes.

We also carry the Double V-Drape which is a true poncho and features a V in front and in back. It's placed on over the head and you can do over the shoulder shots with it. There is a need for colors other than standard black. We created a selection of custom colors for those requests that include Royal Indigo, Burgundy, Hunter Green, Navy, Red and White. The custom color drapes may require a week to ship but have been filling the need of many high schools, colleges and debutante cotillions.

Throughout the United States, many high school seniors and college graduate photography is still done with a formal Classic V-Drape. But today, due to the influx of people doing photography the trend has clearly changed. Senior photography has almost become a modeling session for both girls and boys. It's a time for the photographer and student to become creative with many change of clothes and props. But for many schools still requiring a black wrap, Pro Studio Supply will be ready to meet your demands.