Building Your Photography Business With Social Media

Don't overlook social media when building your business

There are some businesses that lend themselves particularly well to promotion via modern social media and photography is one of those businesses. At a minimum you’ll want to create a Facebook group page and link to it from your personal page and your photography web site.

As part of the customer interview process get your customer’s permission to use social media to distribute some of the photos, but respect their wishes if they’d rather not. Online image collections of events are a great way to expose your customers entire social circle to your work. If the customer publishes the photos themselves, you lose that opportunity.

Online marketing pro Eric Hardenbrook explains, “Find out early if customers are comfortable opting in for online photo sharing. If they are send them a Facebook friend request. Post selected shots from a “life event” type shoot (wedding, baby, graduation, prom) to an online gallery and announce the post on your own wall. Their friends and family will rush to see your work and call you for theirs.”

The added service of loading the photos to an online gallery for your customers is another value angle for your business both in terms of service and exposure. The idea is to provide a path from their event photos to your contact information in a manner that respects the privacy of your clients.

Twitter is another convenient mechanism for communicating with customers and announcing the availability of photos or posting a few online with Twitpic. It’s also a convenient mechanism to advertise specials, like special deals on senior or family portraits. Twitter doesn’t tend to be a big money-maker but it is very convenient for communicating event information.

A LinkedIn account is important for anyone trying to build commercial and business contacts. Recruiters and media companies are increasingly using LinkedIn for locating local talent rather than putting out a hog call on the freelance boards or Craigslist. Getting location jobs these days really is a matter of who you know. Working your LinkedIn profile will build your business.

Another online marketing opportunity are microsites, small web sites focused on one particular facet of your business. Instead of just one big site that lists all your services, split off those services to individual sites focused on just one of those services and have it point back to your main site. “Many small companies are ignoring microsite strategies,” explains Eric. “They are inexpensive to build and greatly increase your web site footprint and search engine rating with back-links.”

Put your best foot forward with a great website - photo from Subtlevox Photography website

Blogging is another way to raise your web site profile and promote your individual brand value in the form of your unique selling points. “WordPress is a popular blogging platform that is very photo friendly,” explains Hardenbrook. “Use it as a gateway to your portfolio by posting slide shows of your shoots in different categories on your site. Adding links to your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles gives you a professional image.” Blogging is one of those activities that will get you business.

To get the most mileage from your online marketing efforts you have to make sure all your social media efforts are working together and echo your main selling points. Your social media message should be what sets you apart from others in the field of photography and why specifically customers should hire you. These are not “set and forget” advertising venues, but part of an ongoing relationship that eventually yields business.

“Remember that social media is all about the conversation. You want to be involved and available, allowing people to interact with you on their terms. Know who your clients are and use the media that they use.”

Archiving Your Film Legacy

Plustek scanner
The Plustek 7600 Ai - by Plustek

If you’re like a lot of photographers who have been in the business a while, you probably have a box of old slides somewhere.  If you’re like me, you have cases and cases of old slides, negatives and prints stacked in a warehouse.

Maybe it’s time to move your old film and transparency legacy into the digital world.  There are some options for doing it yourself, or sending them off to someone to do it for you.

You can send them to a place like Larsen Digital where it will generally run $0.25 to $0.35 to have them done for you.  If you’re like me, you’d have to sell your car to pay that tab.

Doing it yourself means getting a slide scanner.  There are two ways to go: Cheap or spend some money to get a decent scanner.

I tried a Pacific Image scanner with limited success.  It’s adequate but painfully slow.  The specs say 25-90 seconds per slide, depending on resolution, but mine seemed to take forever.

Like with many things in photography, you get what you pay for.  A better option for me is the Plustek OpticFilm 7600 Ai.  It’s only marginally faster, but it’s doing a 4-pass scan and averaging the values.  The scans look fantastic as it’s using 48 bit color depth.

old nuke at Hanford
A scan of a slide I took at the Hanford Reservation in Washington State

The software that comes with the Plustek does an excellent job of dirt and scratch removal, which is fortunate because I can’t seem to work up the energy to make a couple passes with a static brush before putting them on the scanner.

Take Control of Time

shooting a time lapse
Sunsets are prime time lapse subjects - by Brynn

One of the more fascinating exercises in photography is shooting a time lapse.  To be able to  compress hours worth of activity into just a few seconds.  It never fails that you’ll see an event in a different light, you’ll notice things you can’t see at normal speed.

Shooting time lapse is a fairly straightforward process.


You’ll need:

  • A camera with a built-in interval timer or that accepts a third party timer
  • A very large storage card or the ability to change cards in the middle of shooting
  • A spare battery or plug-in power
  • A sturdy tripod
  • A video editing system with the ability to import a series of images as video

Doing The Calculations

First, decide the frame rate of your video timeline. I use 24 frames per second as my standard because it fits with my video time lines, which are either 24 or 30 fps.  The math works like this for 24p:

Length of event:  3 hours
Desired length of final video segment:  90 seconds
Number of frames needed for final video segment:  90 x 24 = 2,160

3 hours is 10,800 seconds.

To compress 10,800 seconds into 2,160 frames that means 1 frame every 5 seconds (10,800/2160).

Each actual minute of real time will be 0.5 seconds of video.  One frame every five seconds should yield a nice, smooth motion in the final video, perfect for clouds, sunrises and smooth continuous motion.

If the shot has a lot of moving pieces, like people and cars moving around, you may want to raise the frame rate for more continuity in the final product.  Otherwise you have cars suddenly appearing and disappearing in the video instead of driving through.

Set up

  • Pick your subject and find a good location for your camera (on a tripod) that will not be disturbed by anyone
  • Set your camera to take JPG pictures to save space
  • Set your camera to manual mode
  • Turn off auto-focus
  • Turn off auto white balance
  • Take a test shot and adjust your cameras settings to your liking
  • Wait

Once you are done you will need to use a movie making program like Quicktime Pro to put together your video.
Good luck and happy shooting!

Tips For Recording Better DSLR Video – Part 2

DSLR rigged for video
A simple DSLR video rig - photo by Bill Pryor

In Part I we covered the basics of shutter speed and frame rates.  Today we’ll delve into some of the more technical aspects of video production with DSLRs and you’ll understand better why you can’t just run out and shoot amazing video with your camera without some education.

Turn Auto-Everything Off

It’s hard to turn off all the automatic settings on the average DSLR, there are quite a few you might not even think about.

The easy ones are turning off auto exposure, automatic white balance and auto focus.  Less obvious are turning off auto ISO, Peripheral Illumination correction and Long Exposure Noise Reduction.

Anything that automatically adjusts the picture quality in the middle of a shot has to go.  The reason for that is when doing color correction in post, if auto anything is enabled, your color settings will be changing in the middle of shots.  Nothing will get a video colorist on to a new career path faster than color settings jumping around in the middle of a shot.

Shane Hurlbut recommends the further step of changing the color space from sRBG to Adobe RGB, but that’s the where I draw the line.  I’ve tried them both and never run into a situation where the color curves where that far off.  Be aware that if you change your color space, the camera will change the file naming format.  I’ve had panic moments because my file browser didn’t recognize files with a “_” at the beginning .


When it comes to getting good audio out of the camera, you can pretty much forget that.  Occasionally the camera audio will be adequate, which is only proof that even a blind sow gets an acorn once in a while.  Most of the time you’ll need to record second sound.

Luckily there are many good options for portable recorders.  The Marantz PMD661 and H4N Zoom are popular among DSLR shooters, matched up with mics like the Rode NTG-2 shotgun.

For syncing up video and external audio, it’s a lot easier if you make a loud noise at the beginning and end of a shot, or use a clicker.  If you don’t want to do that then invest in software like PluralEyes which will save your sanity.

Aliasing and Moire

Aliasing and its French cousin moire are two challenges that have been with DSLRs from the first day they were fielded.  Aliasing can be seen in any tight pattern shot at a higher f-stop.  Strong side lighting can make the effect even worse.  Brick walls, composite roofs, and herringbone fabrics are famous for producing the kind of alias strobing that makes it looks like the background is alive with crawling ants and patterns.

To reduce moire you’re going to need to use your ND filters to stop down to a wider f-stop and pull the focus just enough to soften the background as described in this article.  For herringbone clothing, your talent is going to need change or you’re going to need to go really tight on their face.  No way around it.

Or you can buy a $400 anti-aliasing filter.  It really depends on how much video you plan on shooting.

Color Presets

I could write a book on custom presets for DSLR video and there are several good articles on the internet that go into great detail on creating custom presets for DSLR video.

Simple interview setup
A simple interview setup for a DSLR

Luckily there is one custom profile, developed by people who really know what they’re doing at Technicolor.  It’s called the CineStyle preset and it’s the one I use for all my video work.Use the Technicolor CineStyle custom preset, turn off all the automatic functions of your camera, shoot at 24p and watch tight patterns and the video people you work with will be both pleased and impressed.

Tips For Recording Better DSLR Video – Part 1

DSLR rigged for video
A DSLR rigged for video - photo by Bill Pryor

Back when Nikon and Canon engineers first started getting requests from field reporters to add video to their high end still cameras, I’m sure the top two manufacturers were doing it so they didn’t lose business to the other.  It wasn’t an unreasonable request at the time because video capability was turning up in all kinds of appliances.  If your toaster had a camera, someone would have added video recording.

Even though they were reluctant participants at first, that all changed when the first video from the Canon 5Ds hit the internets machine.  The film world experienced a collective jaw drop as video from a full frame 35mm sensor behind quality glass hit home.  I remember there was a great disturbance in the Film Force that went through the normal stages of grief:  Denial, anger, bargaining and, ultimately, depression.  Hard to believe that was just 2008.

Today Canon DSLRs, particularly the Canon 5D and Canon 7D are as common on movie sets as Assistant Directors.  The film world recovered from their initial shock and life went on.

For still photographers, the transition to video isn’t always easy because the rules are different.  Instead of framing a shot and pushing the button, you’re scripting a scene that might feature multiple angles.  The normal rules for exposure and composition go right out the window when you flip the selector switch from the little still camera over to the little video camera and DSLRs have some quirks that you need to aware of when shooting video.

There’s so much information about what goes into quality video, I’ve divided this into two separate features.

Frame Rate

I’m continually amazed at camera reviewers who take the position that 30 fps is “better” than 24 fps.  It’s not a question of better or worse, when it comes to quality the two are almost indistinguishable.

A frame rate of 24 progressive frames per second is a hold-over from film days.  When the film vs video worlds first collided, there was 24p on the film side and 30i (okay, 29.97) on the video side and neither was about to budge.  DSLRs changed all that.  Video from a 5D was good enough to be inter-cut with film, only the frame rates didn’t match.  So some techno-wizards came up with the Magic Lantern firmware update which gave the Canon 5D the ability to output 24p video and, shazam, film and DSLRs were suddenly BFFs.

Today, most high end DSLRs support 24p, 30i and sometimes 60i.  As movie theaters move away from film projection and production switches to video over film, the 24p/30i argument is less critical in production. Still, if you are thinking about shooting a video feature on a DSLR, you’ll want to stick with a 24p timeline.  Mixing 24p and 30i on the same video timeline does not work.  Sure, there is expensive software, like Twixtor, available that changes the frame rate and it looks decent, but the motion is still always a little off.

Unless it’s a quick cut-away shot, when you start a project in 24p or 30i, you’re stuck there for the entire project.  Choose wisely.  If you’re just grabbing some quick video at the beach, it doesn’t matter.  If it’s a feature length documentary or film, you’ll want to shoot 24p.  I shoot exclusively in 24p.

Shutter Speed

This one trips up a lot of photographers new to the video world.  They think they have have the same exposure control they do over a static image.  If you want a smaller f-stop, just bump up the shutter speed to compensate.  Easy, right?

Wrong answer in video, where your shutter speed options are dictated by the frame rate:

24 fps → 1/48 (or closest, usually 1/50th)
30 fps → 1/60
60 fps → 1/120

Ignore those rules and your video with either look smeary at slower shutter speed or the motion will look choppy at higher shutter speeds.

If you want to change to lower f-stop for a shallow depth of field and the light isn’t right, you’ll need to use ND filters.  To get a wider depth of field at a higher f-stop, you may need supplemental lighting.

In Part Two we’ll talk about color space, presets, audio, moire, and camera settings.