New Chapter!

7 Jan
2010

It has been a LOOOONG time since I’ve posted. It’s terrible. I know.

The back end of 2009 was a rough one.

The two movies I worked on were the most unpleasant of my film career, I got a bacterial pneumonia that required a week in the hospital and two weeks of IV antibiotics at home, and to top it all off… my girlfriend and I broke up.

So I think I might have a good excuse (or three) for not having blogged in a few months. 😉

2010 however is starting to look good!

I moved back to St. Louis in December. I found a GREAT loft downtown on Washington (a stones throw from Windows On Washington) that is not only a great living space, but is also big enough to use as a studio. I’ll post some pictures soon.

I made enough money on the last two movies (as hard as they were) to make the move and focus some attention on getting the business up a running. I will probably have to do another movie in the next few months to pay the bills but I’m hoping to avoid it. We’ll see how it goes.

For now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things I need to do:

Pick a Lab*

Pick an Online Proofing System*

Pick and Album Vendor(s)

Revamp the website a little bit.

Solidify my pricing structure.

Get my contracts in order.

Create new business cards.

Set up the business!

I’ve got the fictitious name registered but that’s about it. I meeting with a business consultant and an accountant next week to help hold my hand with everything else I need to do (taxes and any other registrations I need to do, accounting methods, etc).

*For my current online proofing and lab I’m still using SmugMug. However, I really want to use a local lab. I want to support other small local businesses. I’ll most likely use Diversified for most my prints but I have to figure out a good online proofing system that I like.

I’ll post more detail on each subject as I figure them out.

That’s a quick update on what’s going on!

Thanks for reading.

Ben

Super Busy

18 Aug
2009

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted something. After the two weddings in Colorado I got back to Shreveport and started on Straw Dogs right away. Making movies take 110% of my attention. Between working 14+ hour days on the movie and trying to get over 6000+ images sorted and edited, there hasn’t been much time for blogging.

Hopefully in the next weekend or two I’ll have time to share some of the details of what has happened since my last post.

In a nut shell, the weddings went great. Check out benjamintrevor.com for sneak peeks from both weddings. The  response has been tremendous and I’m already getting inquiries about weddings and portrait sessions. I’m going to have to fast track getting the business set up too.

Thanks for reading!

Ben

I’m sitting in a Best Western in Dallas. I kinda dig the down time in a hotel room from time to time. Watch a little TV, read a little, blog a little… get three pounds of Spicy Chicken with Peanut from the Chinese place next door (seriously, about three pounds).

Anyway, I’m headed to Colorado tomorrow morning. My friend Molly is getting married this Saturday in Carbondale and my other friend Roo (like Kangaroo) is getting married near Loveland the following Saturday.

Roo has asked me and a couple other friends to shoot her wedding. Her aunt is doing the “getting ready” shots with Roo and her friend Bill is supposed to be doing the formal portraits. She likes my “more artistic style” so I think it will be sort of a 2nd shooter type role (which is fine with me). But I’m going to have more involvement than I did last time. I’m looking forward to more of an active collaboration with her aunt and Bill. Roo has told me she has example photos of stuff she likes as well as a shot list for the formals. Nobody is really “The Photographer” so I think we’ll need to make sure somebody is taking control, especially when it comes to the formals. I’m looking forward to talking with Bill about this and get a sense of his experience and personality. I feel comfortable doing this with only my one camera body because I know there are two other people there. If I wasn’t going it would be just them. If my D90 goes down half way through the night, Roo will still have shots she wouldn’t have if I wasn’t there.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more about Roo’s wedding and my prep and scouts.

Molly’s wedding is a different story. I’ve known Molly since I was a kid. Her family and my family still get together several times a year. My primary role at her wedding will be as a guest… but I’m still bringing my camera. Which brings me to the topic of “Uncle Bob”.

Uncle Bob is a guest at a wedding (male, female, old, young) who can:

  1. repeatedly get in the way of the hired photographer, often ruining shots, to get their own pics.
  2. try to take control of the formal portraits, usually by offering unsolicited advice and suggestions for framing, posing, and setting
  3. talking to the photographer constantly about cameras, lenses, settings, lighting, posing, etc.
  4. get the hired photographer in trouble by using a flash when it’s not allowed or breaking other rules set forth by a church or venue

These are just a few things that describe “Uncle Bob.” There is a great thread on DWF about Bob and his many incarnations. I think you have to be a Pro Member to read it. It’s here if you are.

The first wedding I shot photos at, I was a guest (as my girlfriend’s date – I didn’t know the bride and had only met the groom once before). I wasn’t familiar with the professional photographer’s concept of Uncle Bob, but I do have common sense. I knew there would a hired photographer there contracted to do job and I didn’t want to get in her way or ruin any of her shots. I did take photos during the ceremony, but I took them from my seat without standing up. For example: before I took this shot, I made sure I wasn’t leaning out into the aisle and into her frame.

20090606-Wedding-11171

I stayed away from the formals and kept my distance during the reception. I got a few candids and a some nice detail shots. I’m sure the photographer noticed me. I had my D90 with my 105mm f/2.8 the whole time. Afterwords I felt a little bad about what I had done. Without even being familiar with the concept of Uncle Bob, I sorta felt like Uncle Bob (even though I was careful to stay out of her way). Should I have approached the photographer and introduced myself? I don’t know. Should I have kept my camera in the car? I don’t know, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Anyway, for Molly’s wedding, she has a pro photographer with a 2nd shooter. I don’t intended to repeat my actions from the first wedding. Molly has said she will put me in contact with her photographer before hand. Either way, I probably won’t pull my camera out until I have a chance to talk to them.

If I do shoot some, I’m considering offering my shots to the photographer if they want them and/or holding off on publishing mine in my blog (or showing them to Molly) until they have their images up. I really don’t want to step on their toes (or be an Uncle Bob in any way), but I also don’t want to let some good picture opportunities slip by.

Okay. That’s that. I have to get up in about 5 hours to catch my flight.

Thanks for reading!

Ben

I came across this video on Strobist that was originally posted on Wired.

The only thing I wish the video showed is him getting the model releases from people on the street. It’s one thing to be fun and as ask people to take their picture, but I’d love to see how they react when he hands them a legal document to sign. I’m not trying to be negative, I just REALLY want to see how he handles that.

I’m looking forward to reading and learning more about Clay Enos.

I asked the guys at Camera Dojo for a video tutorial on How To Clean You Lens. Today they posted it. They also gave me a shout out too!

A big thanks to Kerry Garrison and Camera Dojo for taking the time to do this:

Cleaning your DSLR lenses from Kerry Garrison on Vimeo.

I finally started reading Fast Track Photographer by Dane Sanders.

I haven’t done this since college: After reading Getting Started and Chapter 1, I re-read them… with a yellow highlighter in hand. I’m going to try and write a blog post after each chapter with my thoughts and ideas I like (and don’t like).

Getting Started

First all, I connected with his “late bloomer” status entering the world of professional photography. He was 31 when he got started, I’m 33.   I am also aware that several of the photographers that have taken me under their wing are nearly a decade younger than I. We are different too. He has a family, I don’t.

The core message of the book is that a photography business is about the photographer and not the photography. This is a concept I had embraced before I even picked up the book, but I do think that the photography itself is important too.

He uses Starbucks as an example. He basically says Starbucks is successful not because of the quality of it’s coffee, but because of the value of  “its ideas, its people, its signature style, its organization, its reputation, it vocabulary, its way of doing business.” I agree to him to an extent, but if it’s coffee sucked would it be as successful as it is?

I’m hung up on this example because I don’t like Starbucks, but I like their coffee. I prefer locally owned coffee shops that have the style, people, and way of doing business that I like. But I only frequent the ones that also have good coffee. In Shreveport, there aren’t many local coffee shops, but there is one down the street from me. It’s a funky mom and pop place and I really want to hang out there… but their coffee is terrible.  So, I go to Starbucks only because the coffee is better.

I think a valid comparison can be made to Dane’s philosophy on photography. You can be the coolest photographer in the world with the best branding possible, but if your photography sucks what does any of that matter?

But, as I write this I think I see what he’s talking about and maybe I missed the point (though I think this point could have been illustrated better in the book). Yes, you have to take good pictures. Lots of people take good pictures. Anyone with some time and patience and a desire to learn can take good pictures (that’s is a big result of the advent digital photography).  But the thing that will set me apart from all those people is me (and my really good pictures) which is the point of the book.

All that being said, here is my favorite quote from this section of the book: “Only a tiny fraction of [full time photographers] make their business about the one thing that is competition proof: the unique photographer himself/herself.” I think that is very well put.

Chapter 1
They key point in this chapter that I’m currently struggling with is this: “your ultimate goal is to personally perform on those aspects of the job that are most central to who you are as a photographer and to outsource the rest.” So, basically he’s saying outsource as much as you can: website design, order fulfillment, album design, accounting, etc. Whatever is not “ME”, have somebody else do it so I can focus on what is me.

What’s interesting about this is, I’m currently doing what I want to outsource and outsourcing what I want more control over. Right now, I’m designing my own website and setting up the business on my own because I can’t afford to have someone else do it right now (though I am working with a business consultant to guide me a little bit).  I’m using SmugMug for prints and order fulfillment because it’s inexpensive and I don’t have the time to implement something else.

Part of my identity as a photographer will be customer service. Outsourcing all the order fulfillment to large company like Pictage (and Smugmug) makes me nervous. It concerns me that my couples would be dealing with people who don’t know me when ordering their prints (and resolving problems with them). I’m keeping an open mind about this issue and may be singing a different tune when I’m overloaded with orders, but at the moment that’s how I feel.

I’ve always been “into” technology and how it help me better do my job. From my ability to email a callsheet from my phone to the complex excel spreadsheets I use in my Production Reports, I embrace new technology. Dane is essentially suggesting the same thing for photography. In order to stay competitive, we need to embrace the new technology.

I’m eager to apply what I will learn from Fast Track Photographer. I think when learning the business (from books, podcasts, forums, or school) it is important to find what works for me. That really is one of the main points Dane makes. That may or may not be what works for everyone else.

<table border=”0″ cellspacing=”3″ cellpadding=”3″ width=”100%”>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td width=”50%” valign=”top”><strong>The Big Names</strong> <ul>
<li><a href=”http://www.scottkelby.com/”>Scott Kelby</a></li>
<li><a href=”www.kevinkubota.com”>Kevin Kubota</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://danesanders.com/”>Dane Sanders</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://scarlettlillian.com/”>Scarlett Lillian</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.sarafrancephotography.com/”>Sara France</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.robertevans.com/”>Robert Evans</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://candicecunningham.com/”>Candice Cunningham</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://esquirephotography.com/”>David Esquire</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://kerrygarrison.com/”>Kerry Garrison</a></li>
</ul></td>
<td width=”50%” valign=”top”><strong>The Names I Know</strong> <ul>
<li><a href=”www.sixeightythreephoto.com”>Tracy Lee</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.meganthiele.com/”>Megan Thiele</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.lphotographie.com/index2.php?v=v2″>Kristie Cromie</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.lphotographie.com/index2.php?v=v1″>Liz Reiff
Sloan</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.ahotphoto.com”>Alicia Hottle</a></li>
</ul>
<strong>Non Wedding Shooters Who Inspire Me</strong> <ul>
<li><a href=”http://www.scouttufankjian.com/”>Scout Tufankjian</a></li>
<li><a href=”http://www.dailywalks.com”>Diane Varner</a><strong> </strong><strong>
</strong></li>
</ul></td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td colspan=”2″ valign=”top”><p><strong>Photography/Branding/Design – That
I Admire (and why)<br>
</strong>The following websties have various characteristics that I
really admire. From the photography, to the website design (both asthetics
and funtion), to the photographer’s philospohy; they all contain elements
that really speak to me. That is not to say I don’t admire all of the
people listed above, of course!</p>
<p><a href=”http://www.conti”>Continuum Photography</a><br>
Their website combines the galleies, pricing, about inforation, and
blog in one website. I like this and I’ve modeled <a href=”http://www.benjamintrevor.com”>benjamintrevor.com</a>
in a similar way. The blog and image galleries are wide (about 1000
pixels) allowing for large images to be viewed. I also like the <a href=”http://www.showitfast.com”>ShowItWeb</a>
slideshows in the image galleries. I dig the green color scheme to but
don’t like the darker boarder under the main image header. And I like
the releaxed self portarits in the <a href=”http://www.continuumphotography.com/about-us/”>About
Us</a> section as well.</p>
<p><a href=”http://www.lphotographie.com”>L Photographie</a><br>
The design aspect of LPhotographie I like best is their logo. It is
sophisticated, yet fun. I like the bit about shoes in Liz’s About Me
seciton. In the <a href=”http://lphotographie.com/blog/”>blog</a>, I
like like the fact that user comments are visiable at the bottom of
each entry on the main page.</p>
<p><a href=”http://www.kochphotography.net”>Jon Koch Photography</a><br>
I like the simple elegance of his typeface and design. It’s very simple
and clean. Mostly, I like his photography. His muted colors and use
of long lens and shallow depth of field really appeal to me. He uses
light and shadowto bring your eye to the subject very effectively. When
he uses bright colors, he uses them pefectly.</p>
</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

Busy, Busy, Busy

16 Jul
2009

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I’ve posted anything here.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with BenjaminTrevor.com (my main photography website and blog).

  • I got the design of the site to a place that I’m happy with for now. Although I’d love to have the comments be visible on the main page (like LPhotgraphie’s blog) and I want a better footer that lists the categories and archives (like the Big Folio Theme). It will have to wait until a later time though. Bigger fish to fry.
  • I finished editing the photos of my good friend’s family.
  • I finished editing the photos from the B.G.’s softball games on Sunday.
  • I finished editing the photos I took at wedding a few weeks ago. I’ll get them posted as soon as I get the okay from Kathryn. (Kathryn loved what I got and I can’t wait to get them up.)

Here’s what I’m working on now:

  • I  need to update the images in my flash header… those were just thrown together quickly (not such a good thing since my images are the most important part).
  • Working with a business consultant in St. Louis to start taking the first steps in making Benjamin Trevor Photography a real business.
  • Getting a contract and model release template finished.
  • I need to get my “Cool Places” page updated as wells add a “Cool People” one too.
  • I really want to do a Nikon/Canon and a Backup Workflow post too.

I got a job on a movie in Shreveport that starts on August 3rd and runs through mid-October. I’m super excited about it and looking forward to the income. Unfortunately, I’ll be much less active here once I start. Filmmaking requires 110% of my attention. It will be hard to put the photography aside (except on weekends) but I gotta pay the bills.

I’m going to Colorado next week for two weddings:

The first I will be a guest at and I intend to be a guest. I’m going to bring my camera (it’s a wedding on a ranch in Colorado, how can I not?) so I’m trying to get in touch with her photographer. I don’t want to be an “Uncle Bob” when I pull out my D90 and 105mm lens at the reception.

The second is a different story. The couple doesn’t have much money and can’t afford a professional photographer. It’s not that they don’t want to spend the money, they just don’t have it. The bride’s current plan is to have her Aunt take photos of  her getting ready and another friend take the formal shots. She wants me to shoot too (which I’m more than happy to do, I need the experience)  so my plan is to try and enter the group as a 3rd shooter.

I’m going to talk to her other two “photographers” to make sure we’re not stepping on each others toes. I’m hoping her friend will continue to manage and shoot the formals so I can be off to the side getting profiles and candids (which I prefer to shoot anyway).

Okay. Back to work!

Thanks for reading.

Ben

In a previous post I talked about some of the different approaches to the website.

I have some website experience. I have an old version of DreamWeaver and enough CSS and PHP knowledge to get by. So, for now, I’ve decided to set up my website on my own.

The templates available from places like Blu Domain or Winklet are great, but cost more than I want to spend right now. On top of that, it seems that almost every photographer out there has a very similar flash website. I like the idea of having a site that is different in style and function, but my step dad made a good point:  If a bride gets used to the function of wedding photographer sites (which are very similar), will she have a hard time navigating mine if it’s laid out different? It’s certainly something to consider. Eventually, I might upgrade to one of them or hire somebody to design a custom site for me.

I registered my domain names with Network Solutions.  I probably would have saved some money if I had registered them when I signed up for hosting, but I already had a website (www.ionadfilms.com) registered there. For convenience sake, I want to keep all my domains registered in the same place.

I chose to set up my own hosting with Host Gator. Some of the design sites like Live Books and Show It Sites require you to host the website with them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you don’t want to deal with a hosting provider. I like the idea of hosting my own site, because I feel I have a little more control and options. I can easily add sub-domains (like this blog) or “add on” domains  (www.benbrammeier.com). I have full control of unlimited email addresses. I have the option of obtaining an SSL certificate for secure online sales.  Furthermore, with unlimited storage and bandwidth, maybe it’s a good off site storage solution? Most of this can be done on my own at any time. No waiting for a tech to get back to me.

Instead of designing website from scratch with Dream Weaver, I decided to use a WordPress blog. It’s awesome. And it’s FREE. Most hosting companies, including Host Gator, offer a way to install WordPress automatically with few mouse clicks. Once WordPress is installed, there are tons of free templates available. Ben’s Photo Blog is the Evidens [White] theme by Design Disease.

There are people out there who make custom WordPress themes. That definitely appeals to me, but at the moment, I don’t want to pay for it.

For BenjaminTrevor.com I wanted something I could “easily” customize on my own to give it a more unique look. I chose the Soft Tofu 2.2 theme by Tofurious. I chose to buy the 2.2 theme for $30 because it had the flash slideshow header already included. I probably could have set it up on my own, but the $30 was well worth the time.

Once I installed the Tofurious theme, it took me a few days to modify it, so it looks more unique. I really don’t know what I’m doing compared to a pro web designer. But compared to most people, I know a lot. I learned most of what I know from trial and error and reading countless forums online.

I decided to use pages instead of blog posts for my portfolio galleries.  I don’t like the default image gallery options in WordPress. I almost purchased Show It Web but at $100 or $200, I decided to hold off. Eventually I’ll probably get it, but for now there are a few FREE options that I like:

Simple Viewer
As of this blog post, the Simple Viewer gallery is what I’m using. See it on my Portraits Portfolio. There are a few ways to use it. Lightroom actually has Simple Viewer built into the Web Module, but I haven’t been able to get it to work correctly.  It will successfully upload the files and gallery to Host Monkey, but it just doesn’t work once it’s up. (If you’ve figured this out, please let me know! It would save a couple of workflow steps!) Fortunately, Simple Viewer is also a plug-in for WordPress. I upload images to a directory via FTP and Simple Viewer does the rest. You can customize the colors and thumbnail placement.

Made by Simple
I haven’t used this one yet, I actually discovered it right when I got the Simple Viewer working. It definitely looks cool and the “pro” version is available for $10.  If I hadn’t just spent half a day getting the Simple Viewer to work, I would have given it a shot. It’s also available as a plugin for WordPress here.

Client Galleries and Order Fulfillment
I’m going to continue using SmugMug for now. I signed up a few months ago. At $150/year and 15% commission per sale, it’s okay for now. It’s also relatively easy to customize too.

What’s Left:

  • Logo – I’m going to try and get someone to help me out with this.
  • Content – I’m still filling in the pages (About, Prices, Vendor Links, Etc).
  • Portfolio Galleries – I have galleries up but I want to spend some time with the photos in them (very important).

It’s a work in progress. But at some point, I have to just stop tweaking the design and focus on new content. That’s the most important thing about websites (especially blogs). Design is important, but content is king.

Good Advice

7 Jul
2009

On of the things I’ve notice over the past few months is this:

If I get the same advice from everyone, I’m inclined to follow it without giving it much thought.

But if I get conflicting advice, like I did with my “name,” I’m much more inclined to really think about what is right for me.

I think that was a really important realization, not only in my pursuit of a professional photography career, but also in life and everything else.

Even if you get the same advice from almost everyone about a given idea, you should still take the time to think about if it’s really right for you.

I decided.

I’m going to run with Benjamin Trevor Photography and use the URL benjamintrevor.com

I will start introducing myself to prospective couples, vendors, and other photographers as Benjamin Trevor. That will be a bit of an adjustment, but I think it’s a good idea.

I’m not going to completely ignore my real last name. I foresee signing most emails and letters Ben with Benjamin Trevor Brammeier somewhere in the footer.

Thanks for all the advice from friends, family, and total strangers. I got nearly a 50/50 split on the advice. Which brings me to my next post.

Thanks,

Ben

Benjamin Trevor Brammeier
________________________________________
Benjamin Trevor Photography
benjamintrevor.com

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