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The Best Ways to Improve your Online Photography Portfolio in 2014
This is the year. The year you’ll turn that business corner and get your online portfolio noticed. These essential steps will help you set your foundations, highlight your work so that your personal artistry shines through, and help your photography reach the right eyes.
1. Make A Plan
For the seasoned professional, it might be time to revisit your photography business and analyze what has worked or not worked for you in the past. Where some elements might need to be updated or entirely cut, new photography business tools and strategies can take their place. 2014 should be about trying to keep up with the dizzying pace of technological advances, finding new tools that can help your bottom line, and giving your business a Web. 2.0 makeover.
If you don’t already have a photography portfolio website, that should be the starting point of your new plan. Then ask yourself, is your website helping you achieve your business and marketing goals? Revisit your online presence. Enlist friends or colleagues to give you an audit. And change platforms if you’re not happy with the way things look. Perhaps switch from doing it all yourself to using a custom portfolio website builder. The best ones out there will offer you everything you need – from search engine optimization (SEO) and responsive web design to e-commerce capabilities and stunning photo galleries.
Another beneficial element to include in your plan is customer appreciation. Treat your customers like gold. Who were your Top 10 clients last year? Send them a note asking for a little shout out – even something as simple as a Like on Facebook, or forwarding your newsletter to a friend can go a long way. Word of mouth is a priceless tool and social media is how many people communicate most these days.
When is the last time you reached out to former clients and asked them about a new shoot? A little nudge might be all they need. Make contact via email, a social post, or comment and see where it takes you. In 2014 think really hard about email marketing best practices and how you can start communicating with your audience via email.
If you’re someone newer to the industry, it might be time you narrow things down and really find your niche. Targeted marketing has a much higher return, and there are many tools available to help you pinpoint and reach the right market.
What is your niche? This may difficult to nail down for some, but it is an important decision to make. You might need to talk this one out. Have lunch with a friend to discuss it. Write it all down and extract your image. Then blog about it – become the “thought leader” in your niche area and it can pay off enormously. And let your work backup your message.
2. Get Organized
For many photographers, this is the biggest hurdle. With so much work to select from, how do you decide which photographs to showcase? If you work with multiple media, how do you categorize it all?
Again, enlist someone to help you go over it all – a friend, colleague, partner, your mom. Someone you trust who will give you honest advice and keep you focused. Then take the stress out of how to make it all look professional online by using a portfolio service. There are many to choose from and something for every budget. These sites help you optimize everything, from SEO to how to sell your work. And with options like commission free online photo proofing, customers can review and order the photos they want directly on your website. Quickly, easily and efficiently.
3. Get Your SEO In Order
People can’t hire you if they can’t find you and SEO can help. Don’t be turned off or intimidated by the phrase. An online portfolio website can make it all foolproof.
For best results, use a system that doesn’t use Flash. Unlike Flash based portfolios, HTML based sites enable you to create a best-practices optimized website, including search engine friendly URLs, unique meta tags, and crawl-able content. Using unique content that is properly placed on the page and leverages strategically chosen keywords, you can drive traffic to specific pages and build inbound links to more than just your homepage.
And make sure that once you get a prospective client to your website, there is a clear goal for them to achieve. Whether it is signing up for your newsletter, completing your contact form, or buying a print, your website should have clear calls to action that help visitors navigate your site and complete a goal.
If you are like most photographers and the majority of your business is local, then the time is now to embrace Google+. Local search engine rankings are crucial to a local business, and a well optimized Google+ business page is where you need to start.
3. Get Social
If you use Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or any other social networking site – USE THEM. Make it a habit to go online on a regular basis to stay up to date and talk about any promotions or special events you have going on. But also make comments and engage where your clients are. An anniversary note on a client’s wedding image could result in a pregnancy shoot. Commenting is a great way to get your name out there and help drive traffic to your site.
Review sites like Yelp and Google+ offer a wealth of knowledge to consumers and, in turn, consumers rely heavily on the reviews and comments they provide. Get in there, engage, review a photographer friend’s work or compliment a stranger’s image. These sites often let you create a rich user profile and in one click you could be attracting your next gig.
As customers rely on web searches almost exclusively these days, a strong online presence is the best – and sometimes the easiest – way to get noticed. One quick Google search will tell you that! It’s time to embrace your inner techie and begin wearing two hats – professional photographer, and Internet marketer.
Julian Dormon is the founder of BigBlackBag, specializing in professionally designed, artistic portfolio websites perfect for photographers, artists, and other creative professionals. He’s an amateur photographer and professional entrepreneur with a passion for all things beautiful.
I recently saw a photographer post a “before and after” photo of a beautiful woman that was so drastically Photoshopped she looked like she had a dozen surgeries to make her 40lbs thinner. The photographer was fishing for critique from colleagues on whether her editing skills looked natural and proportionate. I couldn’t believe the comments I read. Photographers were praising the image on the natural editing and how much the woman would love the images. This woman’s body was so far from her natural shape she was unrecognizable!
My question is this, “Why do many photographers feel the need to distort shapely women to look like someone they are not?”
There is a misconception that in order to photograph and please women who aren’t super model skinny, the photographer must present their clients with liquefied images. Most women who aren’t stick thin don’t hire photographers to make them look 50 pounds less. They hire you to help them look their absolute best.
When doing portraits you should focus on creating a photo that shows who the subject’s personality, dreams, hopes, fears and love. The minute you change the way a woman’s body naturally looks, you are sending the message that she is not beautiful as she is. As photographers, we can encourage women with any body shape to embrace themselves and feel beautiful just by how we interact with them during the session and by the photos we deliver. By combining posing techniques with simple editing, you won’t literally change your subject’s weight or shape, but can masterfully control the angles, lighting, and proportions to create images she will love.
I’m not saying that it is wrong to Photoshop women’s images, as I personally spend a lot of time editing; however, I absolutely do not change her body to look like a different woman. I use editing to correct things that I didn’t catch in camera, such as clothing and underwear puckering, distractions, lens distortions, hair wisps, lighting flaws that overly enhanced imperfections, and blemishes that eventually heal. It is my goal that when she sees her photos she will say, “That is me, and I am beautiful.”
Photographing Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions
Last summer I had the chance to do a My Beauty Campaign Beauty Session for MCP Actions owner Jodi (you can read her story here). She was nervous to be in front of the camera and just like every single woman alive, she was self conscious of her beautiful body. It was such an honor to see her work through her insecurities before, during, and after her Beauty Session and to read about what her experience meant to her. I have included some of her images from her session to illustrate the techniques. I honestly feel that Jodi’s pictures are much more than a photo of her body. You can really see her personality and how beautiful Jodi is as a whole. That should always be your #1 goal when photographing any woman.
Keep reading for 10 tips on flattering posing, posing different body types together, and editing.
When I photograph a woman, I always remind her that I will not make her beautiful, but that she already is! I only imply that I will bring her beauty into focus and allow her to recognize the beautiful woman that she is today.
Posing Curvy Women: 10 Techniques for Flattering Images
Technique 1: Give Her Body Shape
You can give her body flattering shape by either the way she faces and angles her body and by using her arms to enhance her curves and direct the eye. You can also strategically use the surroundings to cover parts of her midsection or hips to either break up solid colored outfits, or to keep the focus on her face and not her body.
Technique 2: Drop the Front Shoulder and Release Arm
This is one of the best techniques you can use on any woman and it is so flattering! Just lower that front shoulder! Every woman wants to avoid the notorious double chin and this is achieved by elongating the neck and pulling the chin forward. If you direct her by saying “now pull your shoulders down towards the ground,” instead of “lengthen your neck up” you usually avoid her lifting her chin and eyes up awkwardly.
Techniques 3: Shoot Directly at or Above Eye Level
I have found that across the board, most women’s favorite part of herself is her eyes. These tightly framed beauty shots are usually the favorites of their portfolio because of the focus on the eyes. You can get away with shooting below eye level on slender women, but it is just not as flattering on women who carry more weight. When you shoot slightly above her eye level, it slims her chin and jawline. Just be sure to not have her put her chin too far down because it will make her forehead appear larger than it really is. These tight head shots are also the most flattering through 85mm lenses or more. I usually shoot these on my 70-200mm 2.8 zoomed all the way to 200mm. I think this because I can get a very tight shot of her face without invading her space by shooting a foot away from her. I am out of her “bubble” and she can be more natural.
Technique 4: Chin Towards Camera, Hips Farther Away
This is a simple technique to visually slim her mid-section and hips. Whatever is furthest away from the camera will appear smaller. By having her bring her face closer to the camera and pushing her hips away, she will look proportionate and the focus will be on her face (while also utilizing the previous techniques). Be sure to have her slightly lower her chin while her jaw is still pulled towards you. She will feel strange leaning so far forward, but her neck and jaw will look amazing, her midsection and hips will look flattering. In the images below, her face was at least a foot closer to my lens than her hips were creating this lovely slimming effect.
Posing Different Sized Bodies Together
Techniques 5: Flattering the Mom in Family Photos
When posing the Mom in family photos it is very natural for her to hold her children, but you can use this to balance the composition. Simply place the children in front of mom to de-emphasize certain areas. Also be sure to use the previous techniques and she will absolutely love her family photos. This same technique applies when using the surroundings to either cover parts of her lower body or midsection, to keep the focus of the attention on her face.
Technique 6: Smaller Body Type Faces the Camera, Larger Turn Away From Camera
When posing a smaller framed woman next to a woman who is larger, you can balance out the different body sizes by having the smaller framed woman turn more towards the camera, and the larger woman turn toward the side looking over her shoulder. Just be sure to have the same amount of body shown on each woman even if one needs to be completely profile and the other mostly facing the camera. You can also utilize the smaller framed woman’s arms to add even more. This will balance out the composition and both women will love the image.
Editing the Natural Way
Technique 7. Fix Clothing Puckering
Many women wear spanks or a belt which can cause unusual bulges at the tightest point that are not her natural body shape. This is one of the only times I change her body shape. Natural body curves are not lumpy like the image on the left. So I even it out. Now changing her body would be to bring the bulges into the smallest point on the belt. She would look much slimmer if you did this. Instead, I loosen the belt to make a smooth transition. I usually find these problem areas from bra straps on their back below the shoulder blades, waistlines from pants or spanks, or her biceps because her arm is pressed against her body making it look larger than it really is. After working with her, you will know her body shape…just be sure to not change her beautiful body!
Technique 8: Editing Skin
I personally smooth skin on every photo because with the incredible glass in lenses today, we get lovely crisp images…but crisp skin is not a women’s friend. Sharpening during post-processing also adds even more harshness to the skin. So when I edit, I have a strict rule that I will not remove any permanent features. However, if a marking on her face will eventually heal or fade or the redness will go away, I will speed up the process by cloning or using the healing brush. The goal is for the viewer to focus on her eyes and smile, and not a last minute zit.
You can edit skin manually in Photoshop or using tools like MCP’s Magic Skin actions or even MCP Newborn Necessities actions (yes they are not just for newborns).
Technique 9: Look for Short Lighting and Other Flattering Lighting Patterns
Whether you shoot in natural light or use flash, watch the way light falls on your subject. You can use lighting to mold the face and body as well as utilize shadows to slim and flatter your model. In the example below, look how the light is flattering her face. Also notice how the light source is above eye level casting the shadows from the top of her head to the bottom. To see if you have your lighting right, always look to see if there is a slight shadow under the nose. If there is no shadow, either raise your light source, or have her bring her chin down. Always utilize the light on the most flattering side of her body.
Technique 10: Stop Photographing a Body Type – and Simply Photograph a Woman!
So often we can get so caught up on what type of woman we are photographing and not who we are photographing. Every woman has an incredible story, personality and love for life that you need to discover. The most beautiful photos are ones that show who she is and what makes her beautiful. Her body is only an extension of who she is and should not be the main focus. Find her. Find her Beauty.
As stated earlier, it is not our job to make women look like someone they are not. However it is our job to be sure we photograph her best self. Unfortunately there are times that we forgot to have her pull her arm away from her body and it appears larger than it really is, or her clothes are puckering strangely, or camera distortion made her look out of proportion. If you pose your subject correctly, you should have less editing. Please be aware that the more you change your subject, the harder you are making it for her to accept and love the body that she has. All women are perfect because of who they are, not because of how much we can edit. Remember the vulnerability she feels when she is in your care. You have such a valuable opportunity to build her self esteem and grow her confidence in herself.
Mandi Nuttall is the founder and creator of My Beauty Campaign where photographers are uplifting women all over the world. Learn more about how you can make a true difference in women’s lives by joining the movement and becoming an My Beauty Campaign Photographer. Use the discount code MCP for 65% off the photographer’s MBC Kit. Expires April 5th
I hear a lot of photographers who have been shooting for many years give flack to the kit lens. And I can understand why – with an arsenal of high end, thousand dollar lenses, why would you shoot with the kit lens? I haven’t touched mine in months, personally – but I remember a time when it was all I had, and for the people who are going to be getting their first camera this season, it may be all they have to start with, too. So let me help you create beautiful portrait images with the kit lens, regardless of how new you are to photography.
Here are some useful tutorials for beginner photographers:
And if you plan to open your own business, these tips may help you along the way:
Creating the illusion of depth of field
Sometimes you want to have that creamy bokeh, but with a kit lens, it is hard to get most of the time. Adding a lot of activity to your immediate foreground and background can assist with that. This image was shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/1250. The wildflowers and grass in my immediate view are blurred so well with their distance to my camera, creating the illusion that I am shooting a little wider open than I am. It allows for this image to have a nice depth of field, despite being shot at 5.6.
This image, shot at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/500, brings together an even better perspective of a wide aperture with the large amount of flowers in the foreground.
Enhance a golden hour shot with sun flare
Another way to enhance an image without doing a whole lot to it is using sun flare. You may not have a super blurred background, but you can take the focus off of it with a little bit of creativity and back lighting. This image, taken at f~5.6, ISO 200 and 1/125, is almost over flooded with the sun flare, but it lights it up with a beautiful golden look and enhances the depth of the image.
This is another image shot at f~4.2, ISO 200 and 1/30, that is enhanced by a subtle, but still beautiful, sun flare coming out of the woodwork in the gazebo.
Use an interesting texture or story in the background
It goes without saying that you want your subject to be the focal point in your image, but if you fill the background with an interesting texture, you can enhance it without needing a huge depth of field. The leaves in this image below, shot at f~16, ISO 400 and 1/10, add an interesting feel to the image without overwhelming it. The focal point is still on the beautiful subject, who, in her light grey jacket and bright scarf, stand out really well.
Adding a storyline to the background is another way to enhance an image. Capture who the person is in the photo, and it won’t matter as much that your depth of field isn’t shallow. This photo, showing a girl who is a country girl that lives on a farm, explains who she is with the handmade fence and tractor in the background of the large field.
Go artistic with your shot
Create something on the artful side. Don’t just make the photo about your subject, make it about what’s around them. Tell an interesting story with your image. This image, shot at f~11, ISO 200 and 1/15, has a vintage feel, with the old building behind him, but for those who know the senior, it shows off who he is and really brings out the raw nature of his personality.
This is another image of the same senior that also tells a story about his personality. F~6.3, ISO 200, 1/100.
There are a lot of ways to utilize the kit lens to the best of nearly any situation. Learning how to work with aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the first steps, and learning how to manipulate the foreground and background to work with your subject are the next steps. It’s also important to remember that it isn’t the camera that takes the shot – it is the photographer, and you can learn how to create beautiful images no matter what kind of equipment you have.
Jenna Schwartz is a baby and family photographer in the Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada areas. She also travels to shoot high school seniors in the summer and fall each year in Ohio. You can find her on Facebook or her website.
Sometimes its a great idea to step away from traditional photo editing and create something completely different just for fun. For the last two weeks my daughter was visiting me from California and I asked her to tag along with me to help with a large family session. This girl never ceases to make me laugh and today was no exception. While we were waiting for my clients to show up she asked if I would take a photo of her on the rocks of a waterfall. After the first shot, I asked her to climb around and I would get some more in different positions. She is such a crazy girl I knew these would be fun poses.
Here is the result: If we had been planning ahead I would have had her wear something more vivid to stand out from the rocks, but again, it was spur of the moment.
Creating a multiplicity image is surprisingly simple. It’s also a great way for beginners to learn how to use layer masks effectively. Layer mask fundamentals are essential to working in Photoshop and getting a custom look from Photoshop actions.
Step 1. Use a tripod, when possible, to make your life easier once you get to the editing steps. This will keep all of your images lined up making the blending easier. I did not use a tripod but I will show you how I compensated for this in Photoshop.
Step 2. Ideally, shoot in manual in evenly lit location with consistent lighting. Make sure the only thing moving is your subject. Have your subject move around in the frame striking various poses to create more interest. Snap pictures in each location. Get creative with the posing like jumping in the air, doing a handstand, etc. You can even have them pretending to look at themselves. Kids love doing this! I would recommend at least 3 – 10 poses. We did 8.
TIP: When you are shooting, try to position the subject so that each pose is not overlapping another pose. This can be tricky but it will make editing a little easier when you are first becoming familiar with this technique and working with layers.
Step 3. Once you have all of your images loaded onto your computer, open Photoshop. Select FILE>Scripts>Load Files into Stack. This step will bring up a window where you can browse for your images. Select all the images you just created. If you did not use a tripod like me, then check the box that says “Attempt to Auto Align.” Photoshop executes a bit of magic here and usually does a great job lining up all the images for you. But again, you should use a tripod if possible. Depending on how many images you have this step will take a few seconds. When it is completed, all of your images are stacked as layers in one document.
Step 4. Next click on each layer one at a time and add a layer mask to each layer (the layer mask button is the rectangle with a circle in it at the bottom of the layers panel). When you have finished adding them to each layer all of your layers should now look like this.
Step 5. Now select the mask of the top layer in the layers palette. Make sure you are on the white box, not the thumbnail of the image. Once selected it will have a box around it. Using a black soft-edged brush, loosely “erase” the subject. This sounds backwards but trust me it will work. After the subject is completely erased, with the mask selected, use the keyboard shortcut Control + I (PC) or Command + I (Mac) to invert the mask. This last step should reveal the subject you just “erased” and then reveal the subject on the layer just below.
Step 6. Go to the next layer and repeat Step 5. Then, repeat again for each additional layer until all of the different positions are showing. Make sure to look for any possible areas that are not lined up, and if needed use the clone tool to blend them.
Step 7. When you are happy with the result, save a layered .PSD Photoshop file (in case you notice any areas you need to fix later). Then flatten the image and edit with MCP’s Photoshop actions. Get ready to amaze your friends and family. They will think you are a genius!
Leigh Williams is a portrait and product photographer in South Florida and has been shooting a little under 3 years. Her favorite subjects are high school seniors and families. You can find her at her website and Facebook Page.
We’ve all had that moment of scrolling through our images and finding “the one” but then realize there is a ugly, distracting object in the background! Most of the time we grab our clone tool and quickly clone it out, but that’s not always the case. I’m going to show you my all time favorite method of how to remove unwanted objects using the mirror effect.
Mirror The Background In Photoshop To Remove Unwanted Objects
In this image the unwanted object is directly behind my subject. Using the clone tool would take way to long, especially trying to remove it around my subject.
1) Open the image in photoshop and create a copy of the background layer by pressing CMD-J (Mac) or CTRL-J (PC).
2) Go to Edit/Transform/Flip Horizontal.
Now you will be looking at a copy of your image that has been flipped.
3) Rename that layer to Background Copy. Lower the opacity of the background copy to around 50% opacity and use the Move tool to place your new background over the original background. By lowering your opacity of the background copy you’ll be able to see where to place your new background. Then raise the opacity back up to 100%. Make sure you always raise the opacity back up to 100%!
5) Add a mask by clicking on the camera icon in the layers palette (notice I have it circled in red). Click CMD-I (Mac) or CTRL-I (PC) to invert the mask. Your mask will turn black and now the image will look like what you started with, but don’t worry.
6) Use a white soft brush to paint in the new background over the distracting objects. If your painting close to your subject raise the hardness of your brush to around 30% and lower the opacity of the brush to around 60%. Gradually paint around the subject until everything is blended.
7) Now go to Layer/Flatten Image. Grab your Clone tool and use it to clean the rest of the image up. In this image I still had part of the bed remaining and a line from the layer I flipped horizontally, so I used the clone tool to quickly clean it up.
Now that your background is cleaned up, you can go on to edit your image. Here is the before and after. I used MCP’s Free Facebook Fix photoshop action to create the before and after template. You can click here to get it for free!
I edited the image with the MCP Inspire Photoshop Actions – to give it a toned, artistic finish.
Lastly, I decided last minute to do a real quick video tutorial to show you how quick and easy this method is. Just bare with me and excuse my country accent
Mirroring Background Video Tutorial
Amanda Johnson, the photographer of this image and guest writer of this blog post, is the owner of Amanda Johnson Photography out of Knoxville, TN. She’s a full time photographer and mentor that specializes in Baby’s First Year, children and family portraits. To see more of her work, check out her website and like her on Facebook Page.