When I am trying to do some work on the van and a Goldfinch shows up I have to take a break and take some pictures. I have seen Goldfinches in the river bottom in Lethbridge. This one must have heard about the amazing food that we have and decided to do a road trip for lunch. Of course I had to sneak into the house to take some pictures. I always have the 150 – 600 Sigma ready to go on the 70D body. So I grabbed that set-up and shot off a few pictures before I had to get back to work.
He was a very cooperative subject and I got some great images. One question that I am asked about shooting birds in your backyard is how do I do it?
Do I have windows without screens on them?
Do I open windows to shoot?
Well it is yes and no. I try and remove the screen from the window and quietly open the window. But many times if I do that I scare the birds away. If they are at the back of the yard I will try and open the window. If they are close to the window I will shoot through the window. All these pictures are shot through the closed window. I do not shoot through the screen part of the window. Fortunately for me half of the window is screen. The rest is glass. So I can shoot from any window and use the non glass part.
I am a BIG advocate of using external hard drives to store your images and data. This is of course in addition to other back-up sources. Things such as DVD’s, extra external hard drives and additional computers.
External Hard Drives
Recently I went out and bought another external hard drive. Picked up a Lacie to transfer all my nature pictures to. That way I would have them in one place and be able to take it with me when I am on the road without taking other files. Spent a Saturday night and part of Sunday transferring and organizing the new drive. I have several other Lacie drives as back-ups and have had no problems to date. Then I took the to the studio to download the files there.
I plugged the drive into one of the studio computers and watched as it said “New Drive Detected”, “Installing Hardware”, “New Device is now ready to use”. Then I clicked on My Computer to find that the device is not there. Tried a second computer then a third, all with the same results.
That not good
I was finally able to locate the drive through a couple of backdoor routes and found that the drive was running. But after a lot of research I found that even with the computer recognizing the drive it was not accessible. After looking into it I found out that it is the way the drive was set-up from the factory.
So a word of warning, if you have an external drive that you are using make sure that it is readable on other computers! You should do this ASAP!!! I would actually try several computers to make sure if your computer should die, or be upgraded, that the external drive is accessible.
Check your drives NOW!!!
Again as a word of warning, if you have an external drive check it on another computer ASAP to make sure that it can be read, before you need the drive to work and it doesn’t. This is one of those issues that if you find out when you have a computer problem it is too late!!!
One of the most common questions that I am asked is – “I would like to get more serious with my photography, what equipment should I buy to get better pictures?”
Well it is not an easy question to answer as a lot depends on the type of photography that you want to do. I will address this post from the nature / wildlife photographers area.
A DSLR camera, one that will take interchangeable lenses. Yes you can use other cameras and I know some great photographers that do. A DSLR allows you to switch out lenses and do upgrades using the same camera body. Also a camera that is at least 8 megapixels is a good place. If your camera meets the above specifications then I would upgrade other equipment first.
A good wide angle lens for landscape and a good telephoto lens for wildlife is a must. You do not need to go with the $14000.00 lens but small improvements in your lens quality and range will help you to properly frame your pictures better. I have a amazing Sigma 150-600 that I LOVE for my wildlife. Well worth every penny!!!
For nature and wildlife I would stay away from spending on any flashes. In my opinion more important areas should be updated first.
Tripod / Monopod
If you do not have a good tripod this is an area that you should look at. The cheaper tripods are fine as a platform to hold your camera in bright light but nothing less. A good tripod will hold your camera still and allow you to pan with your lens. You can use your tripod for long night exposures and also to hold your larger lenses. Monopods are a great option if you like to hike or just need some extra support for a big lens in bright light. They are cheaper than a tripod and a lot lighter. These are designed to add some additional support when hand holding.
A good carrying bag is a must to keep things organized and safe. If you do a lot of hiking get a good backpack and you will never regret it.
Extra batteries are relatively cheap and a great idea. Nothing is worse than getting out to a location and running out of power. A in-vehicle charger is also a good idea to charge your batteries if you are going to be on location for a number of days.
Other items like filters, remotes, etc can also help improve your photography. My way of telling if I need something or not is if I have needed it at least a couple times I will put it on my list to buy. I NEVER buy something if I don’t need it for some type of shooting.
I get asked a lot about the need for image stabilized lenses. Many people also want to know if a point and shoot camera should have image stabilization. People want to know if it is needed to get good pictures or just a gimmick and if it is worth the money?
If you would have asked me years ago I would have said outright don’t waste your money. But as I get older and I push my photography limits I have to say that I do like it.
I HATE HAVING PLANS!!! I know I need to have a rough idea of what I am doing each day. But laying out hard and fast plans for me never works.
Yesterday was an example of that.
I was asked for a appointment from a client for the morning. Moved things around to free up the morning only to have that person reschedule. I knew I had to drop my son off at 9am. Then pick him up before lunch and that all worked out. But the entire afternoon went to the opposite of what was planned. I had a meeting at 5 to look at a trailer. So I told someone else that I would be here after 5:30 and the 5pm meeting got cancelled. I had a meeting at 5:45 – 6 for a pick up. I waited till 6:15 before I went out to take some cloud pictures.
Found out that the camera I keep at the studio had major dust on the sensor so decided to clean the sensor. Could not get it cleaned after a couple tries. The clouds were moving on so I decided to run home and grab another camera. Then the person from 5:45 was here. Had to power up a computer to transfer files. By the time I was ready to head home and grab another camera the clouds were not worth the effort to shoot.
People have been asking me how to improve their photography business, simple it comes down to the print! The past couple of weeks I have had a chance to sit down with a number of photographers. I have been hearing a lot of the same things from these people and I thought that it would be worth sharing with others. The main issue is how do you impress your customers, set your business apart from others and improve your sales?
Several points keep coming to the forefront
1) For those that do shoot & burn weddings (shoot the wedding and burn the digital files to disk or USB for the client) I have been hearing a number of photographers mention that their customers are complaining about bad prints. Their clients are taking the images to a discount lab to get prints made. When they get the prints back they are coming back horrible. Most times the photographer does not know how their client feels as they don’t hear about the bad prints. The clients think it is the photographer ~ because the lab says it is not them. If the photographer hears it is through a third party and the bad printing has damaged the photographers reputation.
2) Many photographers have seen a drop in the number of assignments they get. A couple photographers actually inquired of past customers and received some feedback. One of the biggest points is that clients were not happy with the final prints. Many clients mentioned that it was a pain to go and get the prints done themselves. All had mentioned they were having prints done at a discount lab.
The common statement went something like this…….
“…. the photographers service was great”. “We were not happy with the way the final prints looked”. “The prints looked like the ones that you get from a one hour lab ~ not professional prints”. “It took me a week to get a couple pictures done properly. It was a HUGE waste of my time”. One photographer actually brought me a couple of files to print. Their customers had them done someplace else. They wanted to see what their client thought. The response from their client was “These are amazing, we never thought that the printing would do that!!!!”
3) Many of the photographers also mentioned that they needed something to add a WOW factor to the services that they were offering. They have been giving clients 4×6 & 5×7 prints. The small prints were not impressing their clients.
In just about all the comments one thing was clear. The photographer’s clients want/demand something more than a cheap 4×6 or 5×7 one hour print. I have been saying for years that if photographers want to survive that they need to set themselves apart. Something more than what uncle Bob is doing ~ usually for free because he is a relative and wants to be helpful. Uncle Bob can have the nice camera. Many times he is handing the wedding couple a disk and that is it. Or he is printing some prints at the one hour place and handing them to the couple. The problem is if that is what the “professional” photographer is doing we are not setting ourselves apart and WOW’ing our clients.
So what should professional photographers be doing?
First, every client should be getting a WOW picture. Something that stands out like a 16×20 or 20×24 portrait fully finished!! Second you should be providing your clients with some professionally printed images that they can show friend’s and family so they can see what a great picture looks like. Prints that they cannot get at the local one hour!
Finally if you are handing over the disk to the client make sure they know the difference in the printing that they will get.
Remember we need to set ourselves apart for the positive. One of the best ways to do this is with professional printing!
To help with giving some wow to your photography we are offering a coupon for a discount in printing that you can give to your client to get professional printing. That way they will get the best image possible from your files. Drop us an E-mail and we will run off some discount coupons for you!