Thursday, April 21, 2011

Private Forum Membership

I have at times, been a member of PPA, SEP, DWF, Pro4UM, SPI and some other private membership groups. Each of these communities has their own activity level and talent and creativity levels, and caters to specific groups of the photographic industry.

I remain a PPA member for the indemnity insurance and several other benefits, including their focus on education and certification. I'll probably always be a PPA member. But I'll be honest - their online forum is very weak. 

For a vibrant private professional photography forum I have used Digital Wedding Forum (DWF), which incidentally now supports portraits and other types, and Pro4Um, which was started as a senior portrait group and has since also broadened its scope. Pro4um is Kirk Voclain's baby. He is a nut, and a top-notch senior portrait photographer, and has attracted top talent to his forum. It's definitely my favorite at the moment.

Why do I write this?  For a few reasons:
- Casual blogging, public forums and open subscription sites are OK. They teach you some good stuff. But they are also teaching every other wannabe photographer the same basic stuff.
- To really grow, you need to rub elbows with working pros, as peers.  Real pros, who have shot 10x to 100x what you have. You need to hear what the real world of professional photography is all about, from people who have done it for 20 years or more.
- These paid forums have posters with thousands of messages to their credit. They are the ones that will set you straight and will blow your mind. They post everyday about something. They are avid, I might say rabid, posters about the life and world of professional photography.
- Truly creative ideas come from those private, pay sites. People open up and share with their peers. They trade secrets, from pricing, to special offers and favorite poses. Their "shots of the week" will make you cry - either from their emotional impact, or from your own sense of insignificance as you compare your work to these amazing artists.

I have learned many things from these forums: How to shoot beach photos at sunset. How to use RadioPopper triggers. How to use modifiers on my hot-shoe flashes. Specific approaches to posing male and female subjects. Certain wedding poses and approaches. And many more topics and impressions that I have since absorbed into my skill set without even knowing where they came from.

So, I'm NOT telling you to abandon my blog or other free sites. I still hit free as well as paid forums on a regular basis. But consider including DWF, PPA or Pro4um or other paid sites for some of your photographic learning.  You still need to go to seminars and get hands-on experience. But you also need to talk to people in Australia, England and somewhere else in your country or state who have gone through what you are doing right now.  Search the archives and spend a weekend soaking up their knowledge.  There has never been a time such as now, when you can benefit so heavily from others' experiences, without ever seeing them face-to-face. You will get $1000 of benefit in the first 2 days, I guarantee.

Then, after you have soaked it up, pick up your camera and show us what you have learned.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Find The Light!

On and around May 16th, nearly 100 of your colleagues across the country are opening their studio doors to host photography workshops and share their knowledge with fellow photographers. 

This year, I'll be hosting a workshop in Erie, entitled "Exploring Light: Natural, Studio & Portable Lighting". In this all-day seminar, held on May 16th from 9AM until 5PM, we'll work with natural light indoors and outdoors (weather permitting), use multiple studio strobes and a variety of modifiers, as well as experiment with off-camera portable flashes.

Super Monday Spring 2011 pre-registration will remain open until May 2, 2011, for the discounted price of $99 for a full-day program. After that date, registration is $120 and must be completed on-site, space permitting. 

These programs are brought to you by PPA - the Professional Photographers of America.  You do not have to be a PPA member to attend!
If you would like to expand your horizons in lighting, consider this very affordable seminar.  There are also many great discounts in the Super Monday package.

You can register here.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Certified Professional Photographer

This week I started the process of applying for the Certified Professional Photographer program. This involves declaring your intention, submitting a portfolio of 20 of your best images for evaluation, and passing a 2-hour exam on the principles of photography. The CPP certification is a mark of excellence in the photographic industry, and a key milestone that all professional photographers should consider on their journey to excellence.

I have been teaching photography classes for some time, and I felt pretty good about the material for the exam.  However I knew I had some weak areas, particularly in the understanding of the color wheel, traditional lighting ratios, and filter nomenclature. I had recently been working with Jaime Rowe, who had taken the CPP exam earlier and lamented at the lack of good study guides and resources available. She has produced some excellent study materials that support the CPP exam effort on her website, There, she offers videos, tutorials, sample questions, and most important, a CPP exam study eBook at a very reasonable price.

I recently read the book and took the practice exam at the end. It was very helpful to me, both as a refresher and as a tool to help me identify my weak areas and study to improve.

Based on her exam and book, I know where I need to focus for my study activities. I'm planning to take the CPP exam in May of this year, and expect to do well based on Jaime's excellent study materials.

I'll keep you all posted on my progress, both on the image judging and the exam!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Building a mobile website

My customer website is flash-based, which is fine for most computers, but does not work on iPads, iPhones, and is very difficult to read on smart phones.  I suspect that many of you may be in the same situation.

I looked around and ended up trying iFolios, ( which is a Word Press-powered smartphone website template. After a bit of self-inflicted difficulty, I got the site installed and configured and running very well.

Here's a snapshot of my regular website. Note the look and feel with the background:

I was able to reuse the background, and all of my website images in the companion website, which is stored on my same domain and accessed through my normal URL, There's logic in my main index.html page that detects a smartphone or iDevice and automatically redirects to the mobile sub-folder. That means that your search engine optimization will direct mobile viewers to their special view without creating two different domains. Additionally, the body text and key words in your images and pages will create additional internal strength as rich content.

Here's the top-level image for my mobile web:

I rearranged the images and topics to be product focused. For example, under Wedding Photography, there are image galleries, price lists, and a "how to book your wedding" link.  All are short, clear and very readable on a smartphone.  There's even a custom contact link, so I'll know if someone emails me from my main web or a smartphone.

I encourage anyone with a traditional website to consider a companion mobile site.  There are several providers that can help you, but I'll continue to recommend the iFolios product. It's very flexible and the instructions are very clear to support installation.  They do offer a reasonably-priced assisted-installation option as well.