Thursday, May 31, 2012

"The Sparks Of Love"

The Sparks Of Love

"The Sparks Of Love"
©David A. Ziser

When it come to getting some spectacular images of the Cincinnati, OH skyline, Drees is about the best place in the city for a wedding reception. Not only does it offer a fabulous view of the city, there are other areas around this location that allow for some really exciting wedding images like this one at the main entrance of the building.

This is one of my favorite images from Saturday’s wedding.  I promised the bride and groom that I would only take about 5-6 minutes to move around the building and capture some images for them.  We first took a few photographs inside the entrance foyer then moved outside. 

Next it was to the front entrance where I made this image. I simple adjusted the exposure for the building underexposing it by one stop.  I then asked my assistant to position himself about 12 feet behind the couple with my strobe on 1/8 power.  I asked the bride and groom to just look at each other for an image or two then asked them to give each other a kiss – this was the image.

The fact that my assistant was higher in the background than usual resulted in the strobe light adding the nice star effect right at their lips – I like it. This is usually a tough shot because of the high ISO needed but the new 5d Mk II makes it a piece of cake.

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with 24-105mm IS lens at 24mm, F6.3 @ 1/30 second, ISO 3200.  Enjoy!  -David

Business Day Thursday: Secrets of Booking Today’s Wedding Client - “The Psychology of a Photographer from a Marketing Standpoint”

 

Good Morning Everybody,

I am really stoked this morning.  A few days ago I received an email from Matt McGraw, one of the most talented wedding photographers east of the Mississippi, heck, one of the best anywhere. Matt and I have stayed in touch via email for a number of years – in fact he did a web program for our photography association a few years ago to “rave” reviews.

Matt6

Matt sent me a quick note describing today’s wedding client and defining his new approach to booking the new generation of bride’s looking for photography services.  In today’s world of super connected everything and everybody, the new “playing field” demands a brand new approach in booking these new customers. But first, allow me to digress….

What Today’s Wedding Customer Wants

Modern CustomerToday’s customer wants to connect with someone on a more personal level before ever considering that vendor’s product and service.  For many photographers who have been running successful businesses for many years, that new customer has been quite elusive to book. The fact of the matter is that so many of the “old school” photographers failed to change with the times, that is to embrace what the new social media technologies bring to a company’s continued success.  Most of these companies have looked the other way hoping the whole Facebook,Twitter etc. thing would just go away.  Well, at 900,000,000 on Facebook and growing, that just is not going to happen.

On the other hand, many of the new wedding photographers are willing to settle substantially lower commitments from the bride and groom at $1,000 – $1,500. Sadly, many of the newly minted wedding photographers have difficulty building a sustainable successful full time business in this profession. Twenty years ago successful wedding photographers – full and part time - were averaging over $2,500 on nearly every event offering top quality product in a gorgeous custom bound album!  That’s an average most of today’s wedding photographers would “die” for.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

FAilure to communicateWhat I see is a generation gap between photographers on one hand and wedding customers on the other. On one hand we have a group of photographers whose wonderful talents are lost on the new generation of brides and groom’s because, to borrow a line from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke , “a failure to communicate.”  And on the other hand, we have the new crop of photographers that are really challenged to run a successful, ongoing business and only see contracting a wedding weekend event as “extra dollars” in their pockets.  The reality is that most of today’s wedding photographers are part timers, with little to no aspiration at ever turning it into a full time profession, who enjoy photography, and have week-end time available and enjoy the extra income from their event endeavors.

OK, let me say upfront – I am trying to make the point that the business has changed enormously in the past five years – lots of talented pros are out of business and lots of new shooters have little or no idea have to effectively sell their imagery. As a result, today’s bride settles for a lot less, let’s say, “Good enough photography” just to get the “booking chore” behind her. And today’s wedding photographers, most of them at least, will never create a successful, creative, vibrant, profitable, SUSTAINABLE business. There, I said it, now I’ll step down from my soap box.

DigitalProTalk Is A Wonderful Business Resource

Success tipsFor the last 5 years I have spent every Thursday sharing with our DPT readers tips, techniques, and strategies on just that – running a sustainable photography business.  Many have written and told me how the business advice has turned their business around.  Many others have told me how, because of the over 500 business posts that they have quit their day job and taken on their new found profession of photography full time.  For these realities I am truly honored. But that doesn’t mean that we resting on our laurels at David Ziser Photography either.

I too struggle with connecting with the new wedding client, but have been extremely lucky to have built up a very loyal following of clients over the last 25 years that continue to return excited about our imagery and photography. But what about so many other other photographers out there?  What about the “new kid on the block” wanting to kick start their business.  What about the seasoned pro who seems all hope is lost when trying to book today’s younger, more hip, super connected bride and is actually angered by that fact?

The “Must Read” Business Article Of The Year!

Folks I think a BIG part of the answer lies in Matt’s article below.  Please give it a read and then re-read it. The advice is golden for any photographer of any age wanting to not just connect with today’s wedding client but run a successful and thriving business as well – IT’S A MUST READ!!!!

Folks, please give it up for Matt McGraw, my guest blogger for today’s very important Business Day Thursday post.

“The Psychology of a Photographer from a Marketing Standpoint”… by Matt McGraw

I hate business meetings!!! 

With clients, new clients, potential clients, old clients, you name it I hate it!!… So I’m not a sales person you say. How in the heck do I have a business if I hate to meet with clients? After all, that is sales isn’t it? Well the bad, mean, and ugly word here is!?!?! … “BUSINESS!!”

You see I don’t meet my clients in my office. We meet at restaurants, bars, coffee houses. We meet on a social level, instead of meeting on a business level. Interesting eh? What I call this is social selling. Social selling!?!? What? Think about it, the world nowadays is all about?? … Social media, right?

The workshops regarding the selling tactics selling scripts etc. are a thing of the past.

Dead ideasOr they should be. You need to throw them out the door!!! Nowadays we know people we’ve never met. Why do we know them? Because of Facebook!!!! Everyone knows everyone… the 6 degrees of separation has really dropped down to the 3 degrees of separation. I can’t sneeze without 100 people telling me “bless you”. Take advantage of this my friends!!!

With social media, we can pre-qualify like we never have before. We’ve all been through workshops and they talk about the money pre-qualifying … blah blah blah… again throw that out the door. Pre-qualifying shouldn’t and isn’t about money anymore.

Let’s go through an inquiry I got a week ago or so…..

It’s a simple email that read…

I’m getting married October 20th, 2013 and want to inquire about your packages, please email me

We’ve all got this email…… Now a normal email back might be “Dear client thanks for inquiring attached are my packages…blah, blah, blah…”  People, that doesn’t work anymore !!!

You have to make it personal.

It all starts out with finding out a little about my client or who my clients are via certain phrases etc. WOW question is, What the heck can I pull from that?… SO what do I do? I cross reference the email address on Facebook and even went as far as a Google search. What I learned was by the 4 photos I was able to view on this potential client was that this client is kind of artsy, a little hippy, liked micro brewed beer from what I saw in a camping photo. So my impression was these were simple people not really into the whole big glamour wedding.

Matt4There was also a travel photo from Costa Rica! So they like to travel. I also noticed on her about page she went to UNC Chapel Hill. She is also local, from my hometown! I was able to obtain all this on her about page and by a few images on her profile pics. WOW!!! I have a foot in the door.

So below is what I wrote her…. Now remember all I got in this email was “I’m getting married on October 20th and want to inquire about packages”…

My response --

Hi Potential client,

Congrats on your engagement. I’d love to shoot your wedding!!! Below is a slideshow that features a few images from 2010 and 2011. And attached are a few recent images that are some of my favs!

http://slideshow.mattmcgrawphotography.com/MattMcGrawPhotographyWeddings2011/

DAZNOTE: Please hit this link above and enjoy some very inspiring and exciting wedding photography.

Can you meet sometime in the next couple of weeks? Idea - lets meet socially instead of a business setting. I can help you guys with your wedding. I know all the good guys in town – vendors, that is. I can also give you some suggestions like the do’s and don’ts and must do’s and try to avoids, and can probably give you some money saving tips…. Let me know. : )  Also forward this email to your fiancé… definitely want him to see my style… If you can lets meet at this cool pizza place I know. And chat it up about your wedding….

That’s it.  Keep in mind; I don’t want to mention to her yet that I’ve stalked her on Facebook…. So I made no mention of that….

Matt3When It Comes To Wedding Samples, Forget About The Classics!

Now the photos I included were a wedding photo of the bride and groom in sandals and his shirt unbuttoned her laying in his lap sort of laughing, a wedding couple that got married on a farm, a bride that wore a little makeup, or in other words a simple bride. What I wanted to show her were photos that she might like or relate to.  I did include a destination wedding photo shot in Italy, What I’m trying to do is put us on the same level. Keep in mind, I have never talked with this bride either. This is just from my glancing at the few photos she has on Facebook before I was friends with her on Facebook.

I got a reply back almost immediately, within 30 minutes

We’d love to meet with you!

We exchanged a couple of more emails to schedule our meeting, etc. I haven’t sent her a package attachment or anything yet.  BTW, we were all a go for the meeting!!!!.

We meet at the awesome pizza place in town. Why? Because they have great draft beer! Remember I saw a camping photo with good micro brewed beer. In the meeting we talk about everything and a wee tiny bit - get this … photography too.

You’ve Got To Talk About Them!

What we talk about is her wedding details, talk about family! That’s important! I gotta know the drama! There isn’t a wedding without drama right? We also talk about hobbies, etc., education… not what they majored in but where they went to school. The point here is I’m adapting to who they are….. and somewhere in there…. we’re gonna talk about photography. Now remember I haven’t sent her or talked about a morsel of a price. No packages or anything.

So what does all this do?… what this does is establishes that they can depend on me. I am their friend. I put their mind at ease as just not a photographer buuuut someone she can depend on someone that’ll make her smile when the goings tough. I will absolutely take wonderful photos.

Photography Is #2 With Today’s Clients!

It really comes down to the actual photography is the 2nd most important thing about your job. It’s about relating to your clients. Feeling who they are on the inside… I’m gonna be friends with them. I’m gonna know their likes, dislikes, their comfort levels! They can call me about whatever they want. Not just photography related…. Nowadays you can’t just be the business person making a sell. It goes way beyond that. It’s establishing a relationship from the beginning. It’s adapting to who they are inside.

Matt2I want to go a step further with my couple… she asked me about doing a bridal portrait. Of course I photograph bridal portraits. I gave her the run down of what the process is, etc.…. but paused a hot second and said. You gotta bring your mom. I’d love to meet her. You see, bridal portraits aren’t just about the photos. It’s also about the bonding experience between bride and her mother. She’s gonna tell her mom I said this.

What this does is let the “traditional” mom know that she has a role in this wedding. That we certainly want her to be involved and “I” as a photographer am gonna hand hold her. I put a positive spin on her roll. It’s hard for a mom. Her daughter is independent. How much will her daughter let her be involved? How much will the daughter involve her mother? It’s not easy on a number of levels.

Matt5A wedding can bring out the good, bad and the ugly. Mom expectations, daughter expectations of moms might be different… We as photographers have the opportunity to relax everyone and make all these family annoyances easier. You’re hand holding sort of during the whole wedding process and it really starts from the very first email.

Now on To The MONEY!

Notice I’ve talked little about the money aspect….. So I finally talked money at my meeting…. Oh my!!! their budget was only $1500….. I’m toast!!!

Guess what? I wasn’t and the budget for photography just went up 2 fold. They booked me on the spot and … they now know and I made sure they know that I was an important hire…. get this… I said “I” I didn’t say photography. I, as a photo psychologist, am the hire and not the photographer… : )

Matt, Matt McGraw Photography

Watch the slideshow right here to view recent Wedding Images!  : )

Folks, how about a great BIG Thank You to Matt McGraw and his very insightful article on booking today’s bride. Way to go Matt – keep them smiling!!!

________________________________________________________________

Hey gang, that’s it for me today. I hope the sun comes up shining and you have a fabulous day.

I’ll see everybody real soon.

Adios,  David

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"To Us!"

To Us!

"To Us!"
©David A. Ziser

This is an image from last Sunday’s wedding.  Guests were making toasts to the bride and groom, and even though I was getting those photographs, we have to remember that we are there on the job not just photographing the wedding action. We are there to capture the moment.  A moment is a combination of actions and reactions. This is one of those special moments.

As the guests were making their toasts, I quickly turned, framed up their names on the dance floor with them in the top left quadrant  to capture this image.  The strong diagonal composition adds a dramatic and impacting feel to the image. 

It’s a straight available light image – no flash.  You’ve got to know when to let the flash fire and when to shut it down.  The beautiful setting with the monogrammed dance floor did NOT need any flash exposure.  Just let the moment stand alone. The high ISO characteristics of the 5D Mk3 make it really easy to capture these kind of moments at a decent shutter speed without all the noise one might expect in the older cameras.

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with 24-105mm IS lens at 24mm, F4.0 @ 1/25 second, ISO 3200.  Enjoy!  -David

Oh No – I Erased the Flash Cards!!! & Technique Tuesday: Problem Lighting – HDR To The Rescue!

Good Afternoon Everybody,

I sure hope everyone had a relaxing few days off over our long Memorial Day weekend, at least my USA readers. It was a short weekend for us and I cleared 3 weeks worth of images from flash cards and  got all of them organized on the studio’s hard drives. I only ran into one hic-cup – I mistakenly deleted two of the folders on three of the cards before I had copied them to the studio drives – YIKES!!!

Oh-Oh! I Deleted the Files Before Backing Up All the Data!!! Photo Rescue to the Rescue!

PhotoRescueI wasn’t so much worried that I couldn’t recover the images – it was just going to be a time consuming “pain” to do so.  I quickly headed over to DataRescue.com, paid my $29 and downloaded the latest (expert) copy of Photo RescuePhoto Rescue is my “go-to” card recovery software. I haven’t needed it very often, but it has never failed me yet.  It’s been a while since I last downloaded it so I thought for the small $29 price, I’d just pick up the latest copy.

I can’t believe how quickly Photo Rescue recovered the data.  It took about 30 minutes to find all the images – not bad for a 32 Gig card.  Once found, I quickly created a Recovered folder and simply instructed Photo Rescue to “Save To Desktop”.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, almost.  In the recovery process, Photo Rescue renamed all the files so I still had to visually verify that I indeed had all the images recovered and place them in their proper folders on the studio hard drive.  4 hours later I finally finished and called it a day at about eight that night.

Nevertheless, if you ask me, there is no better recovery software on the planet – highly recommended!!!

Quick Studio Update!

Summer School 2013Too little time and still so much to do!!!.  Boy, we just returned from a few weeks on the road – vacation, sure maybe part of the time but we still were going like crazy. Anyway, our feet are back on the ground and we hit the decks running this morning.  Our PhotoPro Network Summer School is coming up in about 7 weeks and there is still lots to do getting it organized and getting the word out.

Plus, the BIG project hanging over my head is the new book, Make Your Lighting Exciting: A Practical Approach To Making People Look Good.  No more time off for me on that project – I made a promise to my friends at Kelby Media that it would be ready by the end of August and I’m working full steam ahead for the next few months on the project.

I’ll plan to keep DPT updated regularly as time permits these over these next few months.  Summer is going to be busy, but like LaDawn says, “What’s new in Ziser World ;~)”

Technique Tuesday: Problem Lighting – HDR To The Rescue!

I’m pretty fired up about today’s tutorial.  I was shooting a wedding this weekend in the 95 degree heat with most of the formal images being captured outdoors. In spite of the heat, the weather cooperated nicely and we captured some great images of the bride and groom. Not only that, but I have been working with the family since both of their children were quite young and it was a real joy to see their oldest, beautiful Alyson getting married this weekend!

HDR2In the course of the shoot I always want to get some photographs of the ballroom before all the guests enter.  I had a few minutes to grab a some images before the doors were opened.  Yes, it was beautiful – only one “slight” problem – the “lighting dynamic range of the scene was extraordinarily wide, my best guess, about 10 stops!!!  That meant that even shooting RAW, I was going to have problems holding detail in both the super bright highlights and the very dark shadows.

But then it hit me – I was holding the solution in my hands – my Canon 5D Mark III with built in HDR capabilities!  By shooting the scene in HDR mode I could let the camera do much of the post-production “heavy lighting” and capture the result I wanted.  I have to say, it worked like a charm. I was in a hurry, typical wedding day rush, to snap the photographs and shot them all hand-held. 

HDR1If I could do it it again, I would shoot the HDR images on a tripod to ensure the proper alignment of all three images the camera uses to create the new HDR image.  It wasn’t a big problem for me on Sunday, but being more prudent would guarantee the best result.  I’ll have another chance in just a few weeks ;~)

The very cool thing is this: It’s not always about getting it right in the camera.  It about getting to the end result as expeditiously as possible and our new hardware AND software tools allow us to do just that.

Why not hit the PLAY button below and let me show you all the camera settings I used and how I finished the image in Lightroom 4.  This is quite an info-packed tutorial, including the Lightroom 4 portion so take you tame going through it to pick up all the tips and tricks along the way. I sure hope you enjoy this week’s Technique Tuesday.

__________________________________________________________________

Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  I know it’s late and after I post this, I’m calling it a day.  Hope your week goes great and I’ll plan to see you soon.

Have a good one, David

DAZ SignatureBlog inverted

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride"

Mr. Toads Wild Ride

"Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride"
©David A. Ziser 

After getting yesterday’s very late post up on-line and a quick bite to eat, we headed down to a small amusement park in the heart of Myrtle Beach. There are two such areas here in the city, The SkyWheel and Family Kingdom. I have been eyeing both since we arrived hoping to head down after dark and try some more HDR shooting.

It was about 10:00 pm when we arrived.  I set up the camera on my tripod – I wanted to capture some of the motion of the rides – framed up the shot of the Ferris wheel and began making exposures. I quickly found that I preferred the longer exposures to the shorter one. After a few tries, I was getting exactly what I wanted.

In this photograph, even though the camera was on a tripod, I must have fired the shutter with a little too much finger force and shook the camera during that first exposure. In spite of the camera shake, I love the result.  The extra “shake” is what added the “wildness” and chaotic feeling to the image.  Add to that the the motion blur, all the wild colors, and the “out the of register” 1st image and I got a great abstract image – much more exiting than the standard long exposure amusement park shot – I like this one the best ;~)

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with 12-24mm Sigma lens at 17mm, F13 @ 4 seconds, ISO 125.  Enjoy!  -David

The Rest Of The Story 

We were set to move though the midway and enjoy our HRD evening.  15 minutes into our visit and two minutes after I took this photograph, the announcement came across the PA that the park was closing – WHAT!  We just got there. I worked quickly to get off another photograph or two of the Ferris wheel.  I framed up the next ride just as the lights started to be turned off all over the park – rats.

I suggested to LaDawn that we walk the sixteen blocks up to the SkyWheel, surely they would be still be open on this very busy Memorial Day Biker Weekend. We headed up Ocean Drive and 25 minutes later were nearly there.  In the near distance, I could see that the SkyWheel was shut down too, oh no.  We both smiled to each other, turned around and headed back to the car.

Bike weekBy noon earlier in the day the Myrtle Beach streets were backing up with bikers from all points north and south.  By 10:30 pm it was pretty much gridlock.  I have to admit that some of the  bikes were decked out with beautiful metallic paint jobs and colorful neon light treatment.  This was the weekend to show off your bike and is one of the top events in Myrtle Beach. I’m glad to say we felt like we were in the middle of the action.

I’m just wondering about the effects of all the second hand exhaust fumes to my lungs ;~)  Anyway, I did get a few cool shots and we enjoyed our walk back to the car chatting up a few of the revelers on the way – it was a great evening!

_________________________________________________________________

Hey gang, that’s it for today.  We head for the airport in just about an hour and then returning home later this afternoon.  I hope everyone enjoys our Memorial Day weekend in your part of the world. Stay safe and remember our veterans and service men and women around the world.

Have a great weekend everybody.  I’ll see you back in Cincy on Monday.

-David

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Tranquility Base"

Tranquility Base

"Tranquility Base"
©David A. Ziser 

This was the view the other night from our 11th floor balcony.  The rain moved in during the later part of the afternoon but by around 8:15 pm the storm clouds were clearing leaving the scene you see above. It’s not a spectacular sunset but still it imbued with a certain tranquil feeling throughout.

What I like about this image is the fact the you see the promise of the clearing storm with the evening colors just starting to break through the heavy cloud cover. I also like how the light just kisses the edge of the beach.  But still remaining on the beach was a slight fogginess that added a certain amount of peaceful feeling to the evening scene.

The simple color pallet, oranges and subtle blues, also helps carry out the overall feeling of this image. I know I’m going to miss this view after we leave tomorrow.

Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 18-200mm IS lens at 40mm, F10 @ 1/640 second, ISO 1600.  Enjoy!  -David

Business Day Thursday: It's Always The Difference That Makes The Difference!

Good Morning Everybody,

DAZ with Mike and JoeIt was such a nice day yesterday, and since LaDawn reminded me that we were on vacation, I decided to take the day off from blogging. But, you guessed it, I’m back at it today. But as you see, pretty late in the day. I got a call from local, and very talented photographer, Michael Slear [link] on the left who invited us out to lunch with his friend Joe Carr [link] on the right, one of the leading portrait photographers in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Be sure to check out their websites for some pretty inspirational images. 

Lunch turned into a very nice, leisurely visit we all enjoyed.  Next it was off to Brooktree Gardens one of the most amazing parks and statuaries in the world.  Be sure to hit that link too – amazing!!!   In fact, it IS the largest in America. Needless to say, I didn’t get back to my earlier started blog post until this evening.

BrooktreeThis evening we’re planning a walk down the mile long pier into downtown Myrtle Beach where I’m planning a little HDR photography just to see what I capture – it should be fun.  After some much needed R&R and a couple of rainy day afternoons, we've had a wonderful, relaxing time visiting the Myrtle Beach area. The balcony of our room overlooks the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and the sound of the waves is forever peaceful.

But, it's time to head for home and go back to work. Come next Tuesday I begin putting down the first actual words of my book onto paper, or actually into the computer.  I'm really looking forward to getting into the guts of each chapter over the next couple months. In addition to writing the book I’ll also be working on our PhotoPro Network Summer School coming up July 13 and 14th. Check my blog for all the details which should pop sometime next week. I hope you mark your calendars now then find the opportunity to make it to Louisville, KY and be part of the weekend festivities.

And finally, we have one busy shooting schedule for the month of June. I'm shooting every single weekend – a couple weddings, a Bar Mitzvah or two, and a high school graduation. I've been telling most of my friends that I'm trying to slow things down at this stage in my career but most of them laugh at me and tell me I'll never do it ;~)  I guess the fact of the matter is; that if you enjoy what you're doing you always want to keep doing it.

In any event, we've got a full summer ahead of us and have some great plans coming up in the fall. We’re looking forward to experiencing every one of our summer moments and I  hope you get a chance to do the same. Hey, enough of me waxing fantastic over our summer plans. I’ve got an important post - so let’s get right on with today's Business Day Thursday.

It's Always The Difference That Makes The Difference!

I don't care if you just starting a business or you’ve been in business for a hundred years, I think today's advice is important for anybody trying to be successful. I have tried to live these opening words for most of my photographic career.

Last week, while visiting New York City, this mantra was aspired over and over again – great companies achieving that greatness because they chose to do things differently. My daughter’s graduation commencement address was given by Danny Meyer . Danny MeyerDanny always thought he would enter college and be an attorney according to his family wishes.  But he never really felt that this was the course he wanted for his life. He always enjoyed cooking and had a love of food. Danny was encouraged by the career changing advice of one of his uncles. He decided to go into the restaurant business instead – and for anyone in the business – he knew it was going to be challenging to say the least, especially in NYC! 

For anyone who’s ever visited the Big Apple, you know there about a gazillion restaurants on every block within that giant metropolis. After looking at what the competition was doing, Danny decided to take a different approach, and as a result opened what has since become one of the most respected restaurants in the city – Union Square Café. Danny’s Union Square Café Hospitality Group in now one of the most successful in the city.  He has also received several culinary awards over these many years.

The interesting fact is that Danny didn't stop after creating this signature restaurant – Union Square Cafe. He also noticed the sea of mediocrity among all the burger and fry joints around the city. He worked on a different concept. After studying all the other burger establishments he discovered they all seemed to be doing things pretty much the same. Danny decided to break the mold with high-quality ingredients, a well run,  well trained and knowledgeable staff, burger restaurant.

Shake ShackShake Shack was born and has become the definitive burger and fries place to go throughout the city. It was voted best place for a burger by New York Magazine in 2005!  In fact, many store locations have a web-cam set up showing the lines to the counter so you know just how long a wait is before you arrive on your hurried lunch hour. What this shows is that Danny knows how to do things right. Wait, more importantly, he knows how to do things that are different from the competition.

Now How About YOU!

Now let’s start looking at other companies that we're all familiar with – Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, Groupon, and the most notable company in recent years Apple. Each of these companies looked at the niche in which they wanted to compete – books, social marketing, coupon sales, and life style products. And each of these companies soared to the top of their field.

Okay, you might be thinking to yourself, "Ziser, I'm not an Amazon or Facebook or Apple brand. I'm a small business trying to do business Small-ville, Suburbia America. How does that advice help me grow my business and be successful?"  The answer lies not in trying to become the next Apple or Amazon. The answer lies within you. For the last several years of lecturing and training I've always began my program by offering the best business advice I could to all the attendees – that advice is echoed in today’s post title.

Let's get back to that sea of mediocrity in products and services so prevalent around the world today.  The same is obviously true, and especially true, in our digital age when it comes to photography. Everybody and their mother, brother, father, aunt and uncle thinks he or she is a photographer. We have cameras in cell phones, Facebook’s 900,000,000 members sharing photos, the free cost of capturing a photograph all making it easy for everyone to look through a viewfinder from one personal device or the other, frame up their image, and start shooting away. We all know, that these photographs elicits a certain thrill in each of us as we look at our final results. But even my statement above speaks to the fact that everybody is doing pretty much the same old thing.

Don’t Let SAMENESS Rule!

SAmenessHere's the deal:  To do the same old thing – do the same thing everyone else is doing – means that we produce work that for ourselves and for our clients all looks pretty much the same. As photographers try to compete, and professional photography is a very competitive field, it's not about being the same as everyone else that will lead to your success. In fact striving to be the same means that you have only one criteria to compete on. And, it's NOT your photography….. It’s price alone!

This fact is born out very clearly by the number of Craigslist photographers on line. They post their services on Craigslist at rock-bottom prices and hope to book a few events because of those low prices. Sure, but the Craigslist photographer will get the booking, but to expect to build a career by offering your services at the rock-bottom price is no road to success. In fact it's a road to financial doom.

Now don't get me wrong. I know everybody needs to start somewhere. I too was the cheapest guy in town when I opened my business over 30 years ago. Luckily, I learned the lesson very early  that low prices were no way a foundation to the road of success. I had the opportunity to attend several lectures by some of the top wedding photographers working at the time. In fact, I continue to attend seminars and workshops even today. Why? Because I continually want to differentiate my work from the competition and the competition is particularly fierce today. Yes, I said I’m continually working to differentiate my work. Before I go much further let me spell out for you the secret of success in any business.

The BIG Secret – Drum Roll Please!

Top SecretThe BIG secret: It’s The Difference That Makes The Difference! Here's my advice to you. Analyze exactly what you're doing in your business right now. I don't care if you’re a part-time business or full time enterprise, the process is the same for everybody. Take a look at every aspect of your business – how you answer the telephone, how you phrase your emails, look at the line of products that you offer, the level of service that you give, the style of your photographs, the look of your albums, the packaging on your DVDs that you offer your clients…etc. Make sure that your list is long and inclusive of everything that you do in your day-to-day business.

Now, this next point is most important. After you've compiled that long and comprehensive list of what you doing in your own business operation, compare each and every one of those line items on your list with your competition in your local photographic community. Analyze each item on your list and determine whether it's a “sameness” or “difference” when compared with the competition. For each item on your list that is pretty much the same as the competition’s, give yourself a big S. Give yourself a score of “D” for anything that is “different” from the competition.

Time To Go To Work

At the end of the process, and be honest with yourself as you work through this process, and analyze your scores. Most business owners will find that they have a lot more S’s than D’s. This is common within the business world today – everyone does pretty much the same old thing, the same way, which explains why we see such mediocrity in too many companies. Weather it be restaurants, burger and fry joints, or photography – when compared with each other's market niche – sadly there's a lot more S’s among these businesses than there are D’s or differences.

You need to proactively work on changing as many of your Sameness's into Differences as possible. You're not going to do it overnight but you definitely need to do it if you plan to walk down that road of success. At the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the month – you should've determined which of the items on your list you can change easily and which ones are going to take a little more work.

Wait, There’s More: Corollary To Success Secret #1

Money2Another lesson to learn to is that once you make the changes you will see that the number of Differences will eventually outweigh your Samenesses. And guess what? Your clients will notice too. And guess what again – drum roll please…. You can charge a heck of a lot more for Differences then you can for Samenesses.

Let me caution you about one thing. Regardless of how successful you become, regardless of how successful you are at creating the new list of Differences eventually they too will fall back into the Sameness category. It’s important that you recognize the trend early.  Then get back to work revisiting your list and go to work again. The bottom line is; you can never become complacent. 

You Can Do It Too – And Must, Over And Over

That's why it's important for you to revisit your list at least every six months – the goal is to stay ahead of the competition – don’t let them catch up! Always stay ahead of the crowd. As I said, I've been in this business a long time and unless I went through this process many, many times myself I could not have maintained our business success over all these years.  I wish each of you the same level of success, but remember, success takes, work, effort, diligence, and perseverance.

_________________________________________________________________

Whew!  that's it for me today (finally). So, have a great rest of the day and I'll see you  back in Cincinnati, Ohio. The good news for me is that after we arrive, we need to get ready for big wedding on Sunday with another one of my past clients and I’m really looking forward to hanging with them this weekend. 

See you soon, David

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Pier Pressure"

Pier Pressure

"Pier Pressure"
©David A. Ziser 

I captured this image while on our morning walk today.  We're staying on the north side of the beach and just outside our window about a half mile down the beach we could see this very large 200 feet high SkyWheel in the distance.  We made a slow walk down the beach eventually reaching this giant structure near the Myrtle Beach Pier 14.

I aligned up myself (and my camera) to get a perfectly front facing symmetrical view of the SkyWheel.  I loved how the white color of the SkyWheel played against the rich blue of the SC beach sky. I shot away and this is the resulting image. It is sort of an abstract but still interesting in the context of the Myrtle Beach, SC beach front.

Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 18-200mm IS lens at 40mm, F16 @1/800 ISO 400. Enjoy!  -David

Technique Tuesday: Central Park Revisited – Three Lighting Tips To Make Your Lighting Exciting!

Good Afternoon Everybody,

We left the frantic pace of NYC behind us and landed in Myrtle Beach, SC about 5:00 pm yesterday.  By the time we got settled in it was pretty late in the evening and we were happy to relax and enjoy a much slower pace, especially after our whirlwind eight days in the Big Apple.

Myrtle Beach PierActually we came to Myrtle Beach to check out the area and also to get some real work accomplished.  With our well connected world these days, it's easy to set up shop anywhere and work away, albeit the beautiful surrounds of a small beach town in the south.

In about 7 weeks PhotoPro Network will be having our "Hot Times In The Summer" event in Louisville, KY and it's mostly my job to pull it all together. This year we're concentrating on lighting and all things new in the world of Adobe, particularly Lightroom 4 and CS 6.  I've got most of the talent lined up and will be providing additional details once I have all the arrangements nailed down. We're keeping the costs low and the content over the top - so stay tuned.

Central Park Revisited – Three Lighting Tips To Make Your Lighting Exciting!

Hey gang, I think I've got a very cool Technique Tuesday for you today.  I reviewed all the images I did at my B&H Shootout last week and selected about 15 images I want to share with you today.  The gist of today's program is to focus on three specific lighting techniques I demonstrated during my shoot out.

The point of all this is that too many photographers around the country, no, around the world are satisfied with ordinary lighting on their subjects.  Folks, it comes down to this - put ordinary lighting on your subjects and you get ordinary results.

Let's change it up a bit – let’s put exciting lighting on our subjects and get some exciting results.  That's the point of today's lesson - how to make your lighting exciting easily and effortlessly without breaking-the-bank with a ton of expensive gear.  Why not hit the PLAY button below and see what I'm talking about.

______________________________________________________________

Hey gang, that's it for me today.  The post has taken a little while to get up today. In fact I’ve uploaded it twice to Vimeo today and then it took forever to process – sorry for the delay. I think my computer is on relaxed southern time too ;~)  In the meantime, LaDawn and I are going looking for that good time southern hospitality the area is known for.

Have a great rest of the day and I'll see you soon,  David

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Central Park Beauty"

0009- Friday Recap - 919C4638

"Central Park Beauty"
©David A. Ziser 

This is another image I captured at last weeks B&H Shootout in Central Park. Part of my lesson to the attendees was how and why to shoot with wide angle lenses. I love shooting with wide angle lenses because of how the lens accentuates the convergence of lines.  The steps in this photograph illustrate the point perfectly. See how the “lines” work as a very dynamic background for our subject.

The secret to shooting wide angle portraits is to keep the subject away from the corners of the frame. To not do so will severely distort their “body parts”.  You have to be equally careful about how close you position the subject to the edge of the frame. 

Lighting was also a challenge for this image.  The lighting was quite flat and uninteresting as we were photographing between 12:00 and 3:00.  I dropped a Westcott silver reflector just out of the scene camera right.  I then used my on-camera flash, rotated it to bounce into the reflector, to give me the off-camera light I wanted for this photograph.  LaDawn had inadvertently laid my Quantum flash on the ground, while still in the on position, just out of camera range camera left.  The light firing from that flash created the “hair light” you see in the image.

Lighting, composition, expression, all came together for  very cool photograph of our model.

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with Sigma 12-24mm IS lens at 20mm, F6.3 @ 1/160 second, ISO 200.  Enjoy!  -David

Triple 5’s Quick Hit Monday: Photography; Photoshop: Fun Stuff; and NYC Wrap Up

Good Morning Everybody,

Aids WalkWe wrapped a great week in the Big Apple and the week truly went flying by. The highlight of the trip was my daughter's Honor’s Recognition on Tuesday and her Commencement Exercise on Wednesday and my shootout for B&H in Central Park on Thursday. When LaDawn and I visit New York City we love to walk and logged about 20 miles walking a good deal of the time including the 6 miles we walked, along with 45,000 other walkers, at Sunday's Aids Fundraiser along with the crew from Animoto. The Walk raised over $3,000,000 for Aids research – a good thing.

The restaurant stops were delicious our favorite being the wonderfully elegant Dovetail Restaurant, considered one the best in the city, on the upper West Side. Even their website makes my mouth water ;~) Our good buddy, fine artist, and Photoshop guru, Vincent Versace, had arranged our reservation a few weeks before and it was wonderful – THANKS Vinnie.

We also loved the plays we saw, Porgy and Bess, a favorite of mine for years; and Newsies, a rousing new play for the stage.  Both are nominated for several Tony Awards this year.

One of my secret pleasures when visiting the city is talking with the cab drivers. And, yes, we were also in a lot of cabs. Heck, I had to dig into my retirement savings just to pay for all the fares most of which were spent just sitting in traffic ;~) 

Here Are A Few Cabbie Trivia Facts For You:

NYC CAbs1. It costs a cab driver $800/wk. to rent his cab for the daytime shift, $900 for the event shift.

2. Average fare runs about $14. That means each cabbie has to make 57 trips before he even breaks even.

3. A New York cab driver can make about $70,000/yr. but that means working 12 hour days 6 days a week.

4. Many cabbies have families with kids living in small apartments where rent is $1800 or more a month.

5. Most cab drivers are not US born - our drivers last week were from Bangladesh (2), Pakistan (2), India, and Turkey - but you probably already guessed that ;~)

7. Most cab drivers, ALL that we met were friendly, helpful, and quite conversational once I started the conversation.

Stories From The Back Of The Cab: My Favorite Conversations With The Cabbies Included:

CAb FaresOur trip from LaGuardia last Sunday: He said the job was not a great job.  He wasn't killing himself working 12 hour days.  He enjoyed his time with his family, took days off as needed to spend time with his children, but most liked the fact that he was his own boss.

On the way to B&H: His wife was joining him from Pakistan. They were married a year ago. The first time they met was just a day or two before their marriage ceremony. It was an arranged marriage. He was really looking forward to her arrival as it took nearly a year for her visa approval.  And yes, she was cute he said ;~)

On the way to Liz's Honors Ceremony: Our cab driver was telling us how his daughter was just given one of the highest honors in her high school.  He was quite proud even showing us pictures of her on his iPhone. Yes, it was as he was driving;~)

On the way to Dovetail Restaurant: Our driver was Indian, asked where we were from, and said Cincinnati, OH. He was thrilled to hear the news.  He has several family members living in Cincinnati and were in the restaurant business - we were very familiar with the restaurant he was talking about. Like they say, small world.

Can’t Wait To Come Back

On all fronts, it was just a great trip. We can't wait to come back. But for today, it's off to Myrtle Beach for a little R&R. We've never been together to that part of the country and are looking forward to our short 4-day visit.  We return home on Friday and then face a full schedule of weddings, graduations, and the start of my new book.  It's going to be a busy summer!

Triple 5’s Quick Hit Monday: Photography; Photoshop; and Fun Stuff

Hey gang, that's my NYC wrap up. How about we get on with today's Triple 5’s Quick Hit Monday post.  I've got lots of goodies for you covering photography, Photoshop, and a brand new "In General" section.  Let's get right to it.

Photography:  In today's photography section I want to share with you a few links covering portraits, composition, technique, and inspiration. Give a look.

1. 25 Paintings Every Photographer Must Study: [link] Insightful post for all portrait photographers.

2. How to Scan Film Negatives with a DSLR: [link] Very handy technique to know.  I use it all the time myself.

Vanishing Point3. 6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know: [link] I’ve been preaching this information for too many years to count.  Here’s another take on the same subject – Classical Lighting.

4. 26 Photographs That Use a Vanishing Point to Great Effect: [link] Beautiful images included, this posts speaks to my image of the day above.

5. 10 Stunning Photos of Open Spaces by Scott Ackerman: [link] A little Monday morning inspiration for you.

Photoshop Goodies:  Hey gang, this week I've got 5 great Photoshop Freebies for you.  Give a look.

1. Bleach Bypass: How To Make Extreme Portraits: [link] Kind of a cool look.

Textures2. Selection Tools Photoshop Tutorial: [link] Some good tips about how to use them to their best.

3. Free Download: 40 Exclusive Photoshop Patterns: [link] Some nice stuff.

4. 10 Free Textures: [link] All Free - all the time.

5. Use Photoshop to Open JPEGs in ACR without Bridge: [link] Thanks to blogging buddy, A.J. Wood for this super handy tip.

In General: This is a brand new section this week. In my weekly readings I, many times, come across a few posts that I find interesting and/or inspirational even though they are not related to photography.  I've decided to start sharing them with you.  I hope you enjoy the reads.  Here they are.

1. 14 Action Inducing Lessons From Ben Franklin: [link] We can all use this advice now and then.

2. Share A Hard Drive Wirelessly With All Your Devices Including Your iPad: [link] A big Thank YOU to Terry White for this post.

3. What Cool Things Can I Do with All This Free Cloud Storage Space? With all the FREE options for Cloud Storage, this is a pretty handy link.  [link]

Ice Bride4. Is Your Blog Ready For Pintrest: With all the interest in this new Social Media darling, you may be interested in this post right here. [
link]

5. Awesome Destination For Wedding Photography: [link] Way cool, in fact really cool, like in freezing COLD conditions but what a great place for that very special image.  Watch the video hereCheck it out!

_________________________________________________________________

Hey gang, that's it for me today.  Enjoy today’s Quick Hit Monday links. We need to leave for our plane shortly so explore and enjoy all of today's read and I’ll plan to catch you tomorrow in the great state of South Carolina.

See ya' then.

-David

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Coming At You"

0007- Friday Recap - 919C4541

"Coming At You"
©David A. Ziser 

This is just one of the images I captured yesterday at my B&H Central Park shootout.  It's just a simple portrait of this lovely young lady, Laurence.  What makes it special is the lighting.  Whenever you shoot under a gazebo like structure the light is usually flat and uninteresting. Unfortunately, most photographers are perfectly happy to shot away and be satisfied with an ordinary result.

How about we choose instead to make our lighting exciting and bring in some light from a direction that really flatters our subject?  I choose to do this by shooting my Quantum strobe through my super large 84inch Westcott translucent umbrella.  As you can see, the extra effort was worth it.

I balanced the strobe with the ambient light till I had the look and feel I wanted then asked my model to hit a comfortable pose and shot away.  I think we captured a really nice, easy portrait on a Thursday afternoon in Central Park

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with Sigma 70-200mm IS lens at 200mm, F3.5 @ 1/400 second, ISO 200.  Enjoy!  -David

My Shootout At Central Park – Great Time and Great Images!

Good Morning Everybody,

What a day! We arrived at Central Park's Belvedere Castle, the location selected for my B&H shootout, around 10:45a.m.  Everyone was starting to gather for the big event.  Peter, from Quantum, and I scouted the surrounds for some good places to shoot. My buddy, David Brommer from B&H suggested a terrific location the castle which worked perfect for the day’s sessions.

0001- Friday Recap - IMG_0023By 11:30a.m. the crowds had started to gather and by noon we were off and running.  We had a huge crowd for the photo event, the largest in B&H/Central Park history.  David had put quite a bit a planning into it so it went off like clockwork.  Because of the large number of photographers, the larger group was broken down into 6 smaller groups who rotated through each of the 6 shooting stations they had organized around Belvedere Castle.

I think a lot of photographers including, a photographer from England and a couple of female photographers also from Europe, just wanted an opportunity to photograph the pretty models - who wouldn't - and everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to do so.  I took a different tack and decided to present an extremely fast paced training session featuring the focal length lenses I use, some great portable lighting techniques, and a few compositional techniques thrown into my 30 minute segments for good measure. Yep, all in 30 minutes for each of the six groups.

I have to say, by 3:15, I was exhausted AND out of breath ;~) It was like a marathon lecture -high speed, non-stop for over 3 hours. In that same three hours I captured some wonderful images and, from the feedback of the 6 groups, it sounded like everyone really enjoyed my sessions.  In fact the buzz from all the photographers was that B&H organized a great event and everyone is looking forward to additional photo-in-the-park extravaganzas.

My Shootout At Central Park – Great Time and Great Images!0001- Friday Recap - 919C4404

Most photographers are happy with shooting away in this kind of flat lighting situation (right).  Not me! For me it's always about making your lighting exciting.  I added a little off camera flash, thanks to my Quantum strobe, and got this image (below) instead.

0002- Friday Recap - 919C4362

In this next photograph we set up in another part of the gazebo. Shooting in this direction gave me a nice full green background of trees and foliage.  I needed to get the background well out of focus so I chose a favorite lens, the Sigma 70-200mm IS lens, for the job.

0005- Friday Recap - 919C4475

The problem was that the lighting was quite flat and uninteresting. BUT, if I turned our model’s face INTO the light, I could once again create that wonderfully flattering loop lighting pattern on her face.  I asked Laurence to rotate her head till I could just see the beautiful lighting caressing her face.  What I found was that her profile offered not just optimum lighting but also a beautiful natural light portrait of our stunning subject.

In this next image I wanted to demonstrate to the groups how they could take a photograph of their subject looking directly back into the camera and not have to settle with the flat, uninteresting, unexciting light the the scene presented originally.

0001- Friday Recap - 919C4432

I wanted to add additional light in order to create that detail, depth, and dimension to the subject.  This time I added the additional light by having LaDawn hold a 36 Westcott Silver reflector approximately 15 feet outside the shaded gazebo catching some of the sun rays and kicking them back onto our beautiful model.  The result was exactly what I needed but a bit too harsh for Laurence’s stunning features. It’s important to consider the look you want to obtain with your images.  This high contrast light source works better on guys, or a hard edged image instead of the soft background and overall feel of Laurence’s look. But in a pinch it is certainly better than no directional light source.

In the photograph below I wanted to show the class another way to add directional light to the photograph.  This time I wanted the light to be extremely soft so I decided to shoot through my 84 inch Westcott translucent parabolic umbrella.

0006- Friday Recap - 919C4507

It worked like a charm.  I used my Quantum flash with the reflector dome removed, on 1/2 power in a bare-bulb configuration.  With the flash tube completely exposed, and with the strobe head pushed in about 1/2 way down the shaft, the light was able to spread out and completely fill the super large light source. The results were amazingly soft and beautiful and a much better over-all feel.

The last thing I wanted to demonstrate was how I use wide angle lenses to accentuate long, converging lines in many of my compositions.  We stepped out of the gazebo down the steps on the opposite side.  The steps gave me just the compositional ingredients I needed to make my point. Fortunately the steps were shaded so it was easy to set up a decent composition in this location. 

The secret of shooting super wide lenses like my Sigma 12-24mm, my all time favorite wide angle optic, is to keep the subject away from the corners of the frame.  Get them, or any body parts too close and you'll create the Mr./Mrs. Gumby effect and optically stretch those body parts way beyond their normal perspective.

0009- Friday Recap - 919C4638

0001- Friday Recap - IMG_0071The next problem I faced was getting my tried and true dimensional lighting on my subject.  My creative solution was to place my Westcott silver reflector leaning against the wall to my right and just out of camera range.  I then asked Laurence to find a comfortable, relaxing position on the steps. I turned on my on-camera Canon 580EZ II flash, rotated it towards the reflector to bounce the photons from the reflector back onto my subject. I once again was able to obtain the lighting I wanted.  Pretty cool result, don't you think?

We had a great day in the park.  I was able to cover a lot of techniques in our short amount of time together.  My special thanks to my three vendor buddies, Westcott, Quantum Flash, and Sigma Lens for being on hand to answer any specific questions, loan lens and gear to the photographers and be available for tech support as needed. Thanks you guys!!!

My thanks to David Brommer and the entire crew at B&H for putting the entire day together - it was a great time!

Katz DeliLater yesterday evening LaDawn and I, my daughter Elizabeth, Jesica and Gabe from B&H and Nancy all headed down to Katz's Deli, for a taste of real New York City chowing down on Pastrami and Corned Beef monster sandwiches. Of course we selected the best seat in the house as you see from the sign over our table!  By the end of the day, after many laughs and giggles a good time was had by all, especially LaDawn and I. We can't wait to visit the Big Apple again!

______________________

Hey gang, on that note I'm out of here.  We've got the day mostly off and plan to catch up with our friends Ralph and Cindy Romaguera.  We just found out that Ralph is in town receiving the United Nations IPC International Award - quite an honor.  He doesn't know that LaDawn and I are also in town.

Last night Jesica told us he and Cindy were taking a tour of B&H today around noon. The plan is for me to don a B&H green vest, keep my back turned till they get up to the counter, then turn and offer my assistance as a B&H employee -  thus surprising them.  It should be a good practical joke. 

Later this evening we have tickets for the multi Tony nominated Porgy and Bess Broadway play.  Tomorrow we're seeing Newsies, another "hot Broadway play ticket".  Then on Sunday we are both supporting the huge Aids Walk taking place at, you guessed it, Central Park. 

Yep, it's one busy weekend.  On Monday morning we jump a plane to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a few days of real R&R.  How about I plan to see everyone on Monday from the warm temperatures and ocean breezes of Myrtle Beach. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

-David