[b] – the interview with Becker – part 3 – [b]ecker on blogging and websites

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[b]ecker on blogging and websites


How can photographers distinguish themselves?

I love the people at Blu Domain and Big Folio and they make a nice product for a fair price. A template website is a great thing for you to get your business started for the first year or so. If you have a template website after three years in business it is just like “what are you doing?” People ask me all the time “I have $2,000. What lens should I buy?” And I say, why don’t you hire a real graphic designer or real website designer and stand out? People will complain that their competition has the same website – you have a template – what did you expect?

What if you cannot afford a custom website?
Throw your site away and get a blog. Spend money on a custom blog. I love mine from Infinet Design. They are expensive, but you can go out and get a wordpress blog for free and just pay a designer to customize it. Go with a blog. That is where the traffic is. You need to have a blog with galleries. You can have a blog with a contact form and with some information. I think what Jessica Claire has done, her blogsite is about the most state of the art thing there is. Blogsites are the future. I spent so much and love my website so I am not going that way just yet.

You have built very successful blogs. What advice do you have for others trying to create successful blogs?

Blog and blog often. I blogged for 500 days in a row and I did not miss a single day, not even a Sunday. I blogged every day for the last half of 2006 and every day in 2007, and I built this traffic that kept building and building and building. Create a personality on your blog. And you will get more and more fans.

Coming up tomorrow: part 4 – [B]ecker on networking and the [b] school

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[b] – the interview with Becker – part 2 – [b]ecker on being a great photographer

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[B]ecker – being a great photographer

What is the best advice you have for photographers on how they can stand out from the crowd?
Everyone is different. When you see photogs that inspire you, be inspired, but do not try and be them because they are them. You may not have the same personality or the same talents, ambitions or aspirations. Figure out what makes you tick. I see photographers all the time that I love, like Jesh De Rox and John Michael Cooper, and they are doing something that is so different and out there and funky and cool and I respect it as another artist and say that is beautiful stuff but I am not gonna try and do that because that’s not me. I think Jesh’s work is beautiful but mine would look terrible if did that because that is not my thing. So my advice is figure out what makes you tick. Figure out what you like and are passionate about and make that known to the brides. …Find your nitch, find your thing.

It is not really just about the photographs. You have to be a decent photographer and develop a style, but the bottom line is if the people like you and enjoy you and your personality and the service that you give them on the back end, you will get referrals. You can take the best pictures in the world but if you deliver the album late and you do not return phone calls on time and if you are a pain to work with, the bride may love the photographs but she does not love you. And she is not going to be doing everything she can to get you more business… Think big picture as a whole experience and do not worry about the new lens or what shutter speed to shoot that at… those are all little things that do not matter to the bride that much. People get too bogged down in the technical stuff or even the art of it. many people can take a good picture but not everyone has the skills to take it into a successful business. There is so much more to running a business. Photography is one of the smaller parts of the pie.

What are the most common mistakes people make when they start a photography business?

They think that it is all about photography. They do not build their business on sound principles. Not everyone can handle stress of weddings.
Photographers when they start out worry way too much about if they should use Aperture or Lightroom or Bridge, or if they should get the Canon 1.4 or 1.2 like Becker. It’s like, if you are new and you are buying a 1.2, unless you just have loads of funds sitting around, you can use that money for better things. Or if they should buy this program or that, this lens or that. If you or your buddy designed your logo, hire a professional graphic designer and put together a brand identity or get a better site. Hire professionals to brand yourself. There is too much emphasis on gear and software – your money is better spent on marketing and branding from beginning. A lens is not going to make you a better photographer or a better business person.

What can any photographer learn from your experience as a wedding photographer?
Everything. I am not saying my way is the only way, but here is what works – “think big picture”.

It took a while to realize I was not the best photographer. It is important to have artist pride and passion, but early on I focused too much on the pictures. Good photographers are a dime a dozen. I like to be the first person to meet the couple so I set the bar. So I have them come over first thing in the morning. I show them what I do and paint the big picture of the experience that we provide. I know that they are gonna meet with other photographers later that day that are better photographers than I am and photographers who are cheaper than I am. But I do not know that they are going to meet anyone that can out experience me. From just how my living room and my gallery is decorated to my online presence with my blog and website to the lighting, the gallery the furniture, the candles, the plasma TV, the pictures, the iMacs, it is like wow, it looks nice. We give them that experience. Then it is like, did they connect with my personality, did they laugh at my jokes, could they hear the passion in my voice? Let me talk about what I love and why I love shooting photos and stuff, and then it is like “go meet with the other 12 and then call me at the end of the day with your credit card number.” And it happens like every single time. It is because I connect with the people really well.

Coming up tomorrow: part 3 – [B]ecker – on blogging and websites

 

 

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[b] – the interview with Becker – part 1 – [b]ecker the photographer

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I had a great time this past Friday interviewing Becker. He is entertaining and fascinating. Not only is he one of the top wedding photographers in Orange County, California, he is also an inspiration to his tens of thousands of photographer fans across the internet.

Enjoy getting to know Becker in this four part interview over the next four days.

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[b]ecker the photographer

How did you get started in photography?
I was in high school and I was into drawing and painting. I wanted to be a cartoonist and I did a little comic strip for the junior high and high school newsletter. I took an art class that in my freshman year that was normally only available to juniors and seniors. It was taught by the photo teacher. He was the coolest guy ever and said I had a knack for this and recommended I take one of his photo classes the next year. The bottom line was I took photo class the next year instantly fell in love. I was so amazed by putting the paper into the developer and watching the picture come up in the darkroom. I thought it was like magic and I was hooked. I never drew or painted again since I picked up a camera.

What photographers inspired you when you first started your business?

I found out you could take the school newspaper class for college prep English credit. My teacher really encouraged me to pursue photography…I would shoot all the photos for the school and I would have to drop them off at a photo lab to get developed. The guy at the photo lab, Mike Cutler, said, “do you want a job. You are here every day anyway.” And I said OK. I worked there for 7 years. He taught me how to build a business and how to hustle. Mike said, “that is great you are shooting for your school, but how about do something to make some money.” I went back my senior year and shot half my class’ senior portraits… So I am a senior in high school and I am making some serious money. Instead of making $4.25 minimum wage, I was making $75 a hour. It was crazy.

Where did your business go from here?
Mike encouraged me to find something I liked doing, and back then I really wanted to be a fashion photographer… I was shooting swim wear and actresses head shots and model portfolios. I did that for about two years while also working at the photo lab. I got so burned out on the industry, but not photography. I loved shooting the photos. I loved shooting the girls. I just hated dealing with these people. I did not like how it seemed like everyone was on drugs. It was crazy and it was not my thing. It was a sad world to be in.

What made you decide to start your wedding photography business?

In 1997, I got really sick. My buddies from the photo lab brought over the Dennis Reggie video tapes… I watched all 16 hours of videos in 2 days and never looked back. It was as simple as that. I decided this is what I am going to do. I am going to take all these principals that he talks about and I am going to apply them to my life and my business… And started building and networking. My first full year in 1998 I did 61 weddings.

What distinguishes you from other wedding photographers?

I had lunch with a guy yesterday who told me I was a branding and marketing genius. I told him that it is totally not true, that it is my people who are branding and marketing geniuses. I just take pictures and stuff… When I was 23, I thought I was really a good photographer. Then I started going on forums and realized there were many who could shoot me under the table… I realized when I was young that there was more to it than the photography. I think my greatest asset is not necessarily my photo skills but my people skills. …I have a way of relating to these people that they just feel comfortable. I shoot the portraits in a quick, painless way. I try and make the bride not only look but feel beautiful. I love showing bridesmaids pictures on the back of the camera how bridesmaids how they look in the back of the camera and say look how hot your friend is. When her friends are ooohing and aahing, it makes the bride feel good… I have been able to really connect with my clients and I have been able to shoot what we call the “relaxed portrait.” I know my stuff is not the most creative stuff out there but I am good at making people look good and feel good.
Do you do all your own marketing?
…I met with this couple. They got married in 1999. When I met with them in 1998, the guy called him the next day and said, “we want to hire you for the wedding, but we cannot afford you, but you need a new logo. I am gonna do it and we are gonna trade.” Tim did not ask me, he told me. I just loved his attitude and I was like “alright confident boy.” I was actually looking for someone to do a new logo and had no idea how to find someone. All I knew was that he was going to “Art Center” which is the most prestigious art school in the world. And he is there in the graphic design program. So I said, “fine, you are hired…” Trading this out turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.

So tell us more about your branding?

Tim (at Reddoor Creative) created the whole [b] logo. He helps me with the whole image. He said, “your work is really clean, simple and beautiful. You are not the most creative or artsy guy in the world so we are gonna keep it really simple.” The style that I have reflects that brand. It is just the [b]. All my letterhead is white paper with silver ink, nothing fancy, no crazy script fonts. We tried to make everything so it matches. You know, nice classy, clean, simple style – really simple branding. It is powerful because it is consistent throughout – my blog, my letterhead, mt website, my business cards, my mailing labels, my dvds, my dvd covers. Everything that we do has this unified look that makes it look like you are a real company. When you get your branding, it is not just graphic design. It is the whole research, developing the entire brand and the entire line… He helps me with the writing and the messaging. Tim was the one who said, “let’s drop the ‘Christopher’ and you could just be ‘Becker’… let’s make you into a Bono, Sting, Madonna. Let’s make you into an icon in the industry and make you someone who stands out.” So we went with the one name so it would be memorable and stick in their heads. People remember that. Trust me.

Why are you known as “the Becker” instead of just “Becker?”
Well www.becker.com was taken and the owner wanted $100k for it. So I went with “the Becker” because I liked “The Edge” because I was a U2 fan.

If you were to get married who would you want to use as your wedding photographer?
My stock answer is “whoever is working at the drive through chapel in Vegas that day.” It is just too hard of a question to answer but most likely since all my friends are wedding photographers, it would be a big group shoot.

Coming up tomorrow: part 2 – [B]ecker – being a great photographer

Here is a look at a few images from his blog.

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Video Tutorial: Burnt Edges FREE Photoshop Action Set

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This tutorial will teach you how to get the most out of my “Burnt Edges” action set – it is a free action on my website at http://www.mcpactions.com.

I will teach you how to do more with it than just clicking play and adjusting the opacity.  Have fun watching!

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MCP to the Rescue- “can you fix my red faced child?”

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 MCP TO THE RESCUE – PHOTO MAKEOVER

“Help – I ruined this shot.  Can you save it?” from an MCP Training Customer

 Answer: While it is not always best to save photos, and is better to get it right in camera, sometimes you just mess up but for sentimental reasons want to keep a photo you take.  You still want it to look as good as it can.

During our “One on One Training” I edited this for her and she said I could post it as long as I did not say who she was.  Fair enough.

So here is the before and after.  It is still not the perfect photo, but it is now one she can print and be happy with. 

How did I do it?  I started with a product from OnOne software called “Skin Tunes” from their “Photo Tunes” plug in set.  It really is amazing.  I could have color corrected by hand and usually do, but for extreme casts, this is faster than hand editing.  As a side note, OnOne has said that I could let everyone know that instead of 10% off, anyone who reads MCP Blog can get 20% off now through June 14th, 2008.  Very cool.  The code you need at checkout is MCPACTN20.

Back to the editing.  I continued editing by using a few actions from the “Quickie Collection” - “Underexposure Fixer” and ”Crackle.” From there I used the ”Eye Doctor” to brighten and sharpen the eyes and the “Dentist” for teeth whitening. I manually used the patch tool to lasso under her eyes and reduce the dark circles.  Lastly I used the free action I have posted on my blog called “Touch of Lightness | Touch of Darkness” – so that I could brighten her skin and deepen the background. 

ba bad cast MCP to the Rescue  can you fix my red faced child?
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