Referencing My Business

Mike Allton over on Google+ (G+) shared a column from The Social Media Hat called:
You Are A Bad Blogger, But That’s Ok.  On G+, when Mike shared the column he asked if anyone had advice for new bloggers.  Here’s what I said:
–Set a schedule and stick to it:  
Post on the same day(s) every week and don’t miss a day.  Your readers will come to expect your columns on the day you blog.
–Get ahead and stay ahead.    
Write your columns way ahead of the day they are due. I write three blogs and I’m a month out.  Staying ahead is the only way you can be assured you won’t miss a beat.
–Reference your business site as often as you can. This is one piece of advice I must work on.

One piece of advice that I haven’t been following and the most important reason I’m blogging via:
CJP Photo News is to draw people not only to my blog but also to my business is to reference my business site.  I MUST start doing so to attract new clients to my photography site.  With that in mind, I have created a link to my photography site directly under my Gravitar.

In the future I will be adding links to new pages to CJP Photos when I return from a photography shoot.  In the meantime feel free to explore my photography site above.  It’s where I sell my images.  I hope to do more referencing to my site in the future.

Once spring rolls around I should be out more with my camera.  Before that happens, and with winter showing no mercy in New England, I’ll share a few pages of springtime photography in Madison, Connecticut to prepare you for spring which is arriving shortly:
Spring Photography in Madison, Connecticut
Spring at Bauer Park
Spring at Madison Country Club

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Star Magnolia outside
The Scranton Library

Enjoy the Spring photos and know that the warmer weather and colorful blooms will be here shortly.

In the meantime:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Raw vs Jpeg

Let’s discuss shooting Raw vs shooting Jpg today.

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I’ve been shooting digital since 2005 and just since 2011 have migrated to Raw.  So glad I FINALLY made the leap.

What held me back?  I THOUGHT when shooting Raw, everything would go manual
Manual focus,
Manual ISO etc.  

After discussing this with several photographers I realized I was incorrect.  See?  The old adage proves true yet again:
You REALLY can learn something new all the time.

What is the advantage to shooting Raw?
–There is no compression (files are extremely big) Meaning there is much more data to work with.
–You can edit an image and not work on the original image.

Raw images come with a data file and when you erase the data file you lose all the changes you made to the image

So why am I shooting Raw now?
As with any decision, it comes down to personal choice and experience.  If you’re just starting out in the DSLR field, then I DO recommend beginning by shooting Jpg.  There is steeper learning curve when it comes to shooting Raw.  Start slow and move up.  Once you’re comfortable with your camera and you’ve shot with it for a time, then play with Raw.  Go back and forth for awhile.

I think eventually you’ll see the benefits of shooting Raw full time.  For the average photographer, someone who simply wants to shoot family and and occasionally venture out into landscape and nature, shooting Raw probably isn’t the way to go.  You’ll know what type of photographer you are, which category you fall into.

For myself, I knew I was interested in going professional from the moment I put my hands on my first SLR when I was 17.  That interest never flagged and when I migrated to digital, the flame burned brighter.

So what is a Raw image?
In the simplest term, think of Raw as a digital negative.  You have so much more control over what you can do with a Raw image.

–Make a mistake with lighting?
You can edit it in Raw.

–White balance off?
You can fix that in Raw too.

–Exposure off?
Easily remedied.

None of these are as easily fixed when you shoot in jpeg.

In a Raw image, there is no compression.  When you shoot Jpg, the camera compresses the size of the image and by compressing the image you lose valuable data; data that can be used when shooting Raw.

Shooting Raw was a natural progression for me.  From film to point and shoot digital to Digital SLR.  As from film to Jpeg to Raw.  I recommend everyone at least dabble in Raw at some point during their digital experience.  I realize above I mentioned it isn’t for everyone, but how will you know which photographer you are unless you play with Raw for awhile.

Good luck with your choice.

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Picking the Right Camera bag

Okay.  So you have a DSLR and a variety of accessories.  The next thing on your list should be a camera bag.  I’ve gone through almost as many camera bags as I have camera lenses and like the lens quandary I initially found myself in I have settled on a bag:
The LowePro SlingShot AW

Why this particular bag?  First let me tell you the other bags I’ve owned have all been handheld bags and they have been a nuisance to carry around with me.  When I needed to access any of my gear, it meant putting the bag down on the ground, fishing out what I needed then carrying the bag in my hand again.

Too much time and too much trouble.

The SlingShot however, is a backpack, so if you happen to be out walking somewhere your hands will be free.  But that isn’t the best feature of the SlingShot.  The best feature is:
That even though the bag is a backpack, there is a strap that fits around your side and the bag easily slides from your back to your front for easy access to your gear.

 I use the feature ALL the time and as with my decision to only use  Canon “L” series lenses, I will only be seen with the LowePro SlingShot bag when I’m out shooting.

The SlingShot comes in three sizes:

I find the 202AW to be the perfect size as it can carry just enough gear to not be so heavy as to cause back pain.  I actually owned the 102AW for about a year but when I upgraded my lenses I quickly discovered that my new equipment wouldn’t fit in the smaller bag.  I had to upgrade to the 202.  Fortunately, I knew someone who needed a camera bag ASAP.  We settled on a price that was amenable for both of us and I was able to upgrade my bag.  So my advice is learn from my lesson:

If you are considering purchasing a SlingShot, I highly recommend the 202AW.  You may think that size is too much.  Look what happened when I made that choice.  You should always think bigger when you purchase anything.  Better to grow into something then have to move on to a bigger product six months to a year out.

I love this bag and I think you will too.

In the meantime:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.

Ninety Percent of Success

This column first appeared at Wisdom and Life on Monday, October 2011:
Ninety Percent of Success Thus the datedness of it.

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There’s a fine line between being arrogant, boastful, letting your ego get the best of you and giving yourself the advantage to succeed.  I recently discussed this on Google Plus with Jeff McDonald on a topic he shared called:
How to crank G+ to 11.

I replied twice to the thread.  My second reply was this response:
I’ve ALWAYS said there are better photographer in Madison, Connecticut, where I live and I’m not putting myself down, I’m simply stating a fact. There will always be someone better at anything. But where I excel, where I COULD be the BEST is marketing. My day job is at the public library, but more people know me as a photographer then as a librarian. I get many more opportunities in my photography pursuit because I’m ALWAYS at ALL the events w/my camera.

So I guess what I’m saying is, it takes work to market yourself, whether online (no one will find you unless you put forth the effort) or out in the world (if you want people to know you then you have to make the effort to be seen) And it doesn’t happen overnight.

My photography persona took well over ten years to develop and it’s something you have to massage on a daily basis, You can’t think:
“Oh, I’m here now. No one will forget who I am. That’s when someone else will move in and take over. You have to be ever vigilant, online as well as out in the world.

The tricky thing here is to know where that line is.  Step too far over and you’ll likely see blowback that may result in negative feedback.  In another Google plus thread I posted some photos from a recent trip to Mercy Center, in Madison, Connecticut.

Before uploading the photos I posted a status update:
While shooting this afternoon, one of the maintenance crew zipped up to me on a riding mower and told me Mercy Center was closed for the season. Thought he was going to ask me to leave. In fact I THINK that was his initial reason for coming over. But he smiled upon seeing me and said:

You must be one of the most recognizable photographers in Madison. As I got closer I realized who you were and figured you’d be safe enough to let stay here for awhile.

My BEST friend always calls me a celeb, because EVERYONE seems to know me. Guess that celeb status worked to my benefit today. It isn’t the first time I’ve been given permission to be somewhere after hours or after season.

One of the HUGE benefits of living in a small town and having a public profile. Having worked at Stop and Shop for ten years, RJ Julia Booksellers for seven years and the public library (All in Madison, Connecticut) for ten years gives me huge benefits. I love knowing that I have this persona of a safe person. I left about ten minutes later. Didn’t want to overstay. But it’s SO nice to know that I have this status in Madison.

This is the advantage of being so well known as photographer in Madison.  I have opportunities presented to me that other local photographers may not have.  It’s all because I know how to market myself without crossing to that arrogance line.

Do you know where that line is and how NOT to cross it?  That’s an important lesson to learn.  Learning the lesson can help you in any number of ways, not just in photography, but in life in general.  Learn the lesson and you’ll be 90% of the way to successful.  I’m sure you’ve seen the slogan:
90% of success is attitude.

That’s true but you have to know when to temper that attitude.  When you learn that, you’ll be almost there.

Good luck!

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Lens Accessories

A Few Must haves if you are going the DSLR route when investing a camera.

Lens Accessories:

UV Filters:
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There doesn’t seem to be a true consensus on whether a UV filter is absolutely necessary for your lens.  However I would rather air on the side of caution and have one.  The UV REALLY doesn’t do much other than protecting the glass on the lens.  If you accidently swing the lens around and tip into something solid, I’d rather damage a $45.00 filter than a $200 upwards lens.

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A Polarizer is an important tool to have in your camera arsenal, if you are shooting in sunlight and blue sky.  A Polarizer deepens the blues in the sky.  If you are shooting into water, when you use a polarizer, you can actually see what’s in the water.

One of the challenges with using one however is that they generally step the f stop down one level.  I have one and it stays on my lens.  You can actually pace the polarizer directly over the UV filter which is what I do.

Lens Hoods:
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I learned my lesson the hard way.  In may 2013, I went to the Memorial Day parade in Madison, Connecticut.  When I arrived home to edit the photos, I was distressed to see lens flare on almost every image I shot.  Extremely unhappy, I felt.  I couldn’t use any of the images.  Now I when I shoot in sunlight, my lens hood is on my lens all the time.  Using the hood almost entirely eliminates lens flare.

Of the three lens accessories listed here, a lens hood is the most important to own if you anticipate shooting in sunlight.  It should be the first thing you purchase after your lens.  One of the advantages to using Canon’s Pro “L” lenses is that each “L” lens comes with a lens hood in the box.  If you are purchasing consumer lenses, I believe it is imperative to also have a lens hood and use at all times when shooting in sunlight.

A polarizer filter is another accessory that can be used in sunlight as it deepens the blue color in the sky.  I generally use my polarizer when I’m out shooting landscapes during the day.  If I’m shooting sunrises or sunsets, both the lens hood and the polarizer are left behind as I don’t necessarily need either one.  I will sometimes bring the lens hood if I need it, however, since sunrises and sunsets are not bright, lens flare is usually not a challenge.  The same is true for the polarizer.  Since the sky is dark, the polarizer won’t do much more than make the image darker.  Use these tools as they were meant to be used and you will see your photography improve.

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Selling Your Photography

Marketing Your Photography:

If you are a photographer who has received comments from people such as:
–Your photography is wonderful.
–You have quite the eye
–Have you considered selling your images?

And you don’t market your photography, why not?  When I was writing fiction and joined a writer’s group over twenty years ago, I wrote because I felt compelled to, I didn’t feel as if I needed to market my fiction.

I wrote for myself  became my refrain.  I found a friend in that first writer’s group I joined and he gently prodded me to get better.  Jason introduced to Heinlein’s Rules of Writing.

A couple of these rules can be translated easily to the field of photography:
–A writer must write.  Just as a photographer must take pictures.
–You must put your story on the market.  Just as a photographer must put his work out to sell.
–You must keep it on the market until it sells.

This took me some time to get brazen enough to “put myself out there.”  I believe being a writer first, marketing my fiction first, taking my friend, Jason’s advice and putting that first manuscript in the mail helped me realize that showing my photography for sale didn’t have to be a challenge.  Seeing the success I experienced selling my fiction made it that much easier to convert to selling my photography.

My friend, Michael Bennett over on Google+ recently sold his first image.  What if he thought:
Ahhh, I’m only doing this as hobby, I’m only doing this for myself?

How will you know if your photography is “sale worthy” if you don’t make the attempt.  You can’t be intimidated.  I can tell you from personal experience that underneath the:
I’m writing just for myself that I did my best to convince myself of lay the factor of intimidation.

I felt that maybe my fiction wouldn’t be well received.  Maybe that’s what is at the root of many artists.  Let me tell you something:
Get over it!

Too Much Work:

–When I began selling my photography, I built my own website using Adobe GoLive/Dreamweaver.
–I added new pages and new images to each new page.
–Customers would email me the images they wanted and I would print them, and ship them out myself.

You can certainly see how time consuming and financially challenging this can be.  I worked this way for over five years.  Thankfully, my friend, Jeff Buxton who is also a photographer helped me see the error of my ways and unbeknownst to me, he researched photography services that hosted websites.

I resisted this at first, because I felt didn’t want to lose control.  As I began using one of the services Jeff discovered I realized just how much time I could save.  Using templates, having print services and drop shipping product to customers, I discovered left me a staggering amount of time to concentrate on the important part of a photography business:
Actually taking pictures.

So, if one of your challenges to marketing your photography online is that you believe it is too much work, you can put that to rest right now.  There are several websites that host sales sites:
Exposure Manager

These are the three most popular template based photography services available.  Each one offers a trial version.  They each of their own benefits.  WHEN; NOT IF you consider selling your images online, review these services and come to a decision about which to use.

And as far as promotion goes, you can look back at last Wednesday’s column here:
Marketing Your Small Business for advice on that topic.

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Seeing as Christmas and New Years fall on Wednesdays,
I will not be posting columns again until January 8.  Enjoy the holiday.

Marketing Your Small Business

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Are you using every avenue possible to market your small business?  There are so many many Social Media Platforms available today and it can be challenging to decide where to devote your time.  I’ll mention four here:
Facebook has its grip on society.  When someone mentions Social, their thoughts immediately gravitate to FB only because it is so prevalent in the human lexicon.  I’ve found that just because something is popular that doesn’t make it the best tool to market however.  Did you know that much of what you post to FB doesn’t even get seen by the people in your “Friends” stream?  Facebook is constantly tweaking their privacy settings so you never know who is seeing what.

Twitter is another interesting platform.  Limited to 140 characters, it can be a challenge to get your message out clearly.  Unless you spend quality time on Twitter you won’t see much traction.  At least that’s what I’ve seen.  That doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Pinterest is according to several metrics, the fastest growing platform available today.  With Pinterest, you post pictures (pins) to bulletin boards you create.  Those that follow your boards then have the option of sharing or re-pinning your pins thus hopefully driving traffic to your pins.  Until you get the hang of using images to drive your message, Pinterest can appear to be a bit disconcerting.  If you can locate the “correct” image to go along with your topic, you’ll be golden.

Google+ is the new kid on the block and like most new kids. Google+ (G+) has been shunned for much of its first few years.  I’ve written about G+ at another blog I write:
Google + at Wisdom and Life.  Many people are still under the misguided perception that you must choose one platform and ignore the others.  All four of these have their place and I’d say to ignore them you do so at your own peril.  Pick two out of the four and spend your time getting getting to understand them.  I’ll be honest here:
I’m very G+ centric.

Only because I’ve received the most traction there.  As I said in my first G+ column at Wisdom and Life:
The Power of Social Google is first a search company so they are building their “social” around search.  Don’t wait too long to join the bandwagon that G+ is and will become over time.  I find it amazing how many content providers are still not using G+ to their benefit.

One other thing I must say about those of you who are on G+, if you have a small business. I believe it is imperative to create a business page.  Here’s how:
How to Create a Google+ Business Page in 5 Simple Steps

Why is this so important?  Well let me ask you another question.
Why are you on Google+?
Isn’t it to promote yourself?  If you have a business, whatever business that may be, you’re missing out if you don’t promote that business separately from your personal account. Photographers, especially have a wonderful opportunity with Google+.

If you have a business and you are on G+, get on the train before it is too far gone.

Pinterest is another platform that all content providers would benefit from embracing.

–Social Media is here to stay.
–Search is becoming social.

If you don’t start taking advantage of Social, you’ll find that it will pass you by and once the train picks up momentum, it will be extremely challenging to get on.  Google+ IS the express train and I’d suggest jumping on sooner rather than later.  You’ll be glad you did.

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Pro Lenses vs Consumer Lenses

Those of you who read my first column here at CJP Photo News know, I’m a Canon user so this blog will be Canon centric when I discuss products.  I’ve owned to Canon digital bodies:
–The Canon EOS 20D
–The Canon EOS 40D

Here is my default setup I own:
40DYou may ask what is on the front of the lens:
It is a lens hood. 
We will discuss the lens hood in an upcoming column here.

I’ve owned many more lenses:
Consumer Lenses:
EF 28-135
EFS 10-22
EF 70-300

Pro (L) Lenses:
EF 17-40
EF 24-70

Next question I bet you’ll be asking is do you still have all of these?
No I don’t.  I now own two lenses:
EF 70-300
EF 24-70

The others on this list I have ebayed and have received almost the same price I originally paid for them.  Of all the lenses here I no longer own, it is the EF 17-40 that I miss the most. The lens that is literally glued to my camera now (in other words it is on the camera ninety five percent of the time I shoot is the 24-70.)  As you can see from my description of the type of lenses I use I’m mostly a landscape photographer.  I do very little telephoto work.

The EF 17-40 and the EF 24-70 are Canon’s pro style lenses.  Canon signifies their pro glass with the “L” designation.
A list of Canon’s “L” Lens

After using an “L” series I will NEVER go back to Canon’s “consumer” style glass again.  The image quality of the “L” lens far surpasses the consumer series.  Yes the “Ls” are far more expensive than the consumer brand and you have to weigh the cost to use ratio.  For myself, the decision to move up to the pro series was an easy choice to make.  Let me tell you a quick story:
The EF 24-70 I now own was the one lens I coveted since purchasing my second Canon Body, the 40D.  That lens was so far out of my grasp because the full retail price is over $1500.00.  The price didn’t stop me from wanting it however.  I scoured eBay each chance I had.  However prices were comparable there as well.  I do all of my photography shopping at B&H Photo online.

And a few years ago in September, one month after my birthday I went to the store, and saw the 24-70 in B&H’s Refurb section for $900.00.  I IMMEDIATELY called the store to discover the reason the lens was in their Refurb market.  The person I spoke with told me the lens was an open box sample lens that the store used.  Because it was an open box sample, they couldn’t see it as new. They sent the lens back to Canon to have it cleaned up and read it for resale.  Because it was never used, I jumped on the lens.  And because my birthday had just passed, I also owned a $200.00 gift card to B&H.  How could I pass up the ONE lens I’d been coveting for almost two years, when I could receive it for almost half the retail price?

I’ve owned that glass for over five years now and love it more now than the day I received it.  So why I did I covet that one lens over the myriad others Canon produces?

It is because it is very fast at f2.8.  See?  I like to shoot in low light sometimes.  (Sunrises, Sunsets, and Night photography)  And you need a fast lens if you generally shoot in low light.  Not only are “L” lenses more expensive than consumer lenses, even the faster consumer glass can expect a higher price.  At the time I owned the 24-70  I also owned the EF 17-40, another “L” lens.  (As you can now see, I do what I say.  If you recall earlier, I stated that I would NEVER use Canon’s consumer brand again.)  The challenge I experienced owning both of these lenses is that the focal length overlapped to such a degree I could never decide which one to use when shooting.  I LOVED the wider angle that the 17-40 gave me, however the f.28 24-70 gave me more low light range.  I gave up the 17-40, eBaying it for almost what I paid for it.  To this day, it is the ONLY piece of glass that I continually miss; only because I shoot lots of landscapes.  If that lens had been an f2.8, I think I would still own it.

When purchasing a lens keep in mind that the glass is where all the technology goes, which is why they can wind up costing more than the camera body you choose.  That’s why in my first column:
Is a DSLR on Your Holiday Wish List?

I suggested spending less on a body and using the money you saved on getting a more sophisticated lens.  If you are a beginner I don’t know that I could rightfully recommend pro glass to start out with.  I stand by my opinion that the EF 28-135 is the perfect starter lens if you are a Canon user as I am.  If you’re looking for close up photography, the EF 70-300 lens I own is another winner you can’t go wrong with.

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Moving forward

I’m going to do my best to publish columns here once a week on Wednesdays.  This blog was born out of this Madison Connecticut Patch column:
Small Biz Owners – Here’s Five Reasons To Start A Blog Today!  I also have CJP Photo News publishing at:
CJP Photography on Patch.

I will occasionally publish updates to Madison Patch that I won’t be publishing here.  So my advice is to check my blog at Patch as well.

In the meantime:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.


Is a DSLR on Your Holiday Wish List?

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I’ve been a photographer since I was ten years old.  Pardon me if you’ve heard this story before:

My maternal grandfather bought me my first camera for my tenth birthday, a Kodak Instamatic.  I can recall running around the house taking pictures of anything and everything.  My Grandfather infected me with the photography bug.  It wasn’t long before I graduated from the Kodak to an SLR (Single Lens Reflex.)

Again for my sixteenth birthday in 1980, I moved onto a Canon T50.  That camera traveled with my to Sweden a few years later.  The T50 became another appendage.  I carried it with me everywhere I went.  I immediately saw the benefits of an SLR over the Kodak:

–Faster Shutter Speeds (The ability to shoot at a quicker speed)  For example, birds in motion.
–Image Quality.
–Looking More Professional.

The above reasons also translate to a DSLR over a point and shoot digital camera.  In fact the biggest reason I transitioned from a point and shoot digital camera was the “Shutter Effect.”

When I migrated to digital I moved onto a Canon point and shoot.  I soon saw the same limitations I experienced with the Kodak Instamatic.  Specifically, the slow shutter.  I sometimes like taking photos of birds as they fly across the sky.  With a point and shoot camera it is quite challenging to do so as you pan the sky and press the shutter the bird can be in the next town by the time the image is taken. For me, that’s the biggest advantage to a DSLR camera.  Of course there are a myriad other reasons to consider a DSLR:
–Image quality is another huge advantage.
–The ability to change lenses.
–And again looking more professional.

So now that we are done with my photography history, let’s get to what you should be looking for if your are considering a DSLR for someone on your holiday list:
–The most important thing I can tell you and PLEASE heed this advice:
Do NOT I repeat Do NOT buy a camera with a kit lens.

I’ve seen more people do that for the convenience of having a lens immediately.

Why shouldn’t I purchase a kit lens?
–The build quality of a kit lens is not the same as a lens you can purchase separately.
–You’ll also find image quality is lacking.

Since all the technology goes into the lens if you are on a budget, the advice I ALWAYS give to new DSLR buyers is:
–Spend less on a camera body and use the money you would have spent toward purchasing a more sophisticated lens.

Purchase a camera body separately THEN buy a lens.  You’ll be MUCH happier. Since I’m a Canon user I can highly recommend a decent walking around lens to start out with:

Canon EF 28-135mm.  I’ve had experience with this lens as it was my go to lens for as long as I used my first DSLR.

If you think you will be shooting close up as well, check out a 70-300 lens.  Again since I’m using Canon I’m only familiar with their lenses.  I can recommend:
Canon EF 70-300.  This is a fantastic lens as it has two Image Stabilization (IS) modes.

I’ve given you much to digest today.  I’ll be back soon with more advice.

In the mean time:
Focus on what’s ahead of you.