Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Google Social Search Can Help You Get New Business for Your Photo Studio

Google Logo

Competition in today’s photography industry has never been greater. Seasoned professionals and the up-and-coming are all trying to secure their portion of the market, and to get it they’ll need an edge. Let’s just assume that as a photographer you already have the skills to make great photos, so what edge do you have over your competition?

If you’ve been following for a while, you know I’m a big proponent of having a strong online presence. A blogsite with regular updates and new photos, being active on other blogs and forums, and being heavily involved with social media will all help to give you an edge over your competition. In this article I’ll show you how Google Social Search combined with your online presence will help you gain exposure, get more clients and ultimately increase sales.

So you may be asking what is Google Social Search?

Google Social Search helps you find publicly available web content form people and websites within your Social Circle using Google’s search engine.

So what is your Social Circle?

Your social Circle is the network of your online friends and contacts. It consists of people you’re connected to through Twitter and FriendFeed, people in your Gmail or Google Talk chat list, people in your Google groups, people you’re following in Google Reader and on Google Buzz.

So how does Google Social Search work?

It all starts with your Google Profile. A while back I wrote an article titled “Do You Have a Google Profile?” that explains what it is and a few reasons why you should have one. When you set up your profile you have the option to connect your websites and online profiles like Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, etc. to your Google Profile. By identifying these connections Google can determine who the people are within your Social Circle through publicly available information. Google takes it a step further and builds an Extended Social Circle by including friends of your friends.

I like many, use Google products such as Gmail and Google Reader everyday. To use these products you have to sign in to your Google account. Once signed in, if you perform a Google search for let’s say “photography news” you may notice at the bottom of the results page, a heading that says “Results from people in your social circle for photography news” and may be one of the results (See image below). These results are what Google determines to be most relevant to you because they are from people or websites that you’ve indicated a connection with.

Google Search Results Page

A broad search term like "photography news" returned 454,000,000 results, but because is in my Social Circle, it shows up on the first page of results. Very powerful!

For more information about Google Social Search and how it works, watch the short video below from Matt Cutts, Google Search Quality group.

How Google Social Search works

So how can I make Google Social Search work for me?

With the millions/billions of people that use Google search and their other products everyday, odds are pretty good that your current clients or prospective clients are using them too. Now you need to connect with them. If you know they’re on Twitter, start following them and engage in conversation. Politely encourage them to follow you back so you can continue the conversation. Update your blogsite with great articles and photos that will be of interest to your clients and share links to them. You need to create compelling content that will make them want to visit your site or better yet subscribe to your site’s RSS feed using Google Reader.

Note: I suggest using to create the RSS feed for your site. Feedburner is a Google product and by default will ask the viewer to subscribe with Google Reader if they are logged into their Google account. Other reader options are also available. See my RSS button at the top for an example. ;)

When they subscribe to your blog using Google Reader, Google can determine that they made a connection to you and will add your site to their Social Circle of connections.

For example, let’s say you’re a commercial photographer and you’ve connected with Art Directors and Creative Directors in your area on Twitter. Since you know they’re interested in design, you start writing articles about the latest photography techniques effecting todays designs. Then you share links to these articles on Twitter. You may have caught the interest of a few of these creatives so they decided to subscribe to your blog so they can keep up with your information. Now let’s say that one of these creatives has an interest in using HDR photography in one of their new designs. They go to Google and do a search for “HDR Photography” to learn more about this technique. At the bottom of the results page they see your blogsite listed with a great article you created about HDR photography and how this is a new service you’re offering. In the article you have links to your portfolio with samples of HDR images you’ve created. Will they pick up the phone and give you a call, I don’t know, but at least now you’re on their radar as a source for HDR photography.

So what if they don’t subscribe to my blog using Google Reader, will I still be linked to their Social Circle?

If your clients/prospects are friends/followers and have a Google Profile with links to their social networks you’ll be in their Social Circle. If they don’t have a Google Profile it does become a bit harder to determine their Social Circle. To find out if they have a Google Profile click here and enter their name. If Art Director John Smith is on Twitter and has a Google account but doesn’t have a Google Profile set up with the Twitter connection, Google can’t easily put the two together. Since Google now indexes Tweets, it may be possible through the use of advanced algorithms to make the connection but you will need to be actively engaging in conversation with your followers/prospects. When Google sees you mentioning someone and them mentioning you on a regular basis they may link the two of you together in the Social Circle.

Another way to become part of a prospects Social Circle is to become a contact in their Google Contacts and be classified as friends, family or coworkers. How do you get in their contacts? Offer to email them with more information about your business or send them a FREE pdf whitepaper. Tell them to add your email address to their contacts so you get whitelisted. There’s no black hat stuff going on here, if they’re not interested they’ll tell you. You can’t make them do something they don’t want to, so make them want to. Be compelling and offer great information that they will be happy to receive.

If you’re in your clients/prospects list of Google Chat contacts you will also be linked to their Social Circle. Ask them to have a chat with you to discuss their needs and how you can help. Offer to give them a demonstration on how you shoot HDR images. Think of it as an educational webinar offering great information. They will have to add you to their Google Chat contacts in order to make the connection.

While there’s no guarantee that you’ll get new business through Google Social Search results, it certainly gives you the edge over those who don’t show up. Getting noticed and staying in front of your clients and prospects is very important and Google Social Search can certainly help you out.

Next Steps…

1. If you don’t already have a Google Profile, click here to create one. Fill it out with as much information you feel comfortable sharing and link all of your sites and online profiles to it.

2. Get connected with your clients and prospects on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, etc. and start engaging in conversation. Be helpful and answer questions, provide links to share useful information both on your blogsite and other sites.

3. Encourage site readers to subscribe using Google Reader.

4. Connect via email and Google Chat to get on their contacts list.

5. Continue to create compelling content that will make readers want to keep coming back for more. This helps to build you as an expert in your area and the go-to photographer for their needs.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tips on photographing Shy Guys

Photographing guys can be challenging, because as a portrait & wedding photographer I spend all of my time taking pictures of people who are not models and don’t know how to pose. To make things more difficult most of my male subjects don’t even like to have their picture taken. With that being said I enjoy working with guys and actually find it very easy because I have found 5 tips that help me every time, capture priceless portraits.

camera shy photography tips

Canon 5d MkII: 1/250th @F5 ISO 2500. Lens: 70-200 2.8 @ 85mm

The first step in my mind is the easiest and most important. As the photographer your subjects will be looking to you for guidance, because we have been trained from an early age to stop and say cheese when somebody is taking your picture. The problem with “posed” portraits is your pictures will all look stiff and boring. The popular buzz word over the last few years is photojournalism, which is fine but if you were to only work with that mind set you would never get any official shots, and I think its being lazy. I know we are getting paid to take pictures but as a good photographer you need to be engaged with your clients. The more fun and engaged your are with your clients the more open they will become to the camera. In a way your subjects truly make the difference if you pictures pop or not. If you took the most amazing technical image but your clients don’t like you and don’t open up the image will be without emotion. In the end as photographers we are there to capture emotions out of our subjects and viewers.

When you are taking pictures of your clients you still need to pose them to a point. Remember as a photographer we are still responsible for the images background, foreground, and composition. What I recommend is actually put your subject where you want them so the light and other photographic elements are good but have fun with your subject and encourage them to joke around with you. Trust me this will make the experience for your client much more enjoyable, which will show in the images.

positioning hands in portrait photos

Canon 5d MkII: 1/200th @F6.3 ISO 250. Lens: 70-200 2.8 @ 105mm. Flash: Canon 580EXII off camera left at Manual 1/16

Let me start by saying hands are difficult, and actually my least favorite part, of takings portraits. I feel like hands look like dead blobs attached to our subjects arms. I also think if your subjects hands are just at their side it destroys even the best of photographs. I have a hard time describing it but hands at the side look like your subject has no interest in the photograph. Often when I start taking pictures my subject will ask me what do I do with my hands.

Start looking at pictures in catalogs, or advertising campaigns and you will notice the subjects hands are always doing something. I call this giving your hands a task, if you have your subject do something with their hands your images will look more engaging. If your subject is in a suit I often have them put a hand in their pocket, I often have them lean on a wall which gives them a place to put their hands. Another idea for hands is to have them hold something, this can be anything from a coffee cup to holding on to their jacket. Remember give your subjects hands a task or your subject will look/feel funny.

environments for portrait photos

Canon 5d MkII: 1/200th @F6.3 ISO 800. Lens: 70-200 2.8 @ 200mm. Flash: Canon 580EXII off camera right @ Manual 1/32, Canon 580EXII off camera behind subject right @ Manual 1/8.

I know your subject is the most important part of the image, but please don’t forget your environment. When I am taking portraits I am actually spending most of my time thinking about the environment, framing, composition, and depth of field. Most newer photographers actually forget to think about this part. I have seen tons of pictures where the subject is looking good and having fun but it was shot on a flat background. When I say flat background I am saying its a view of the water, or a grass field. Don’t get me wrong a scenic background is great but if you are wanting your pictures to stand above the rest find ways to add depth to your image. Picking a good environment can make a complete difference in a picture.

Take the above image as an example technically the images exposure and lighting is strong, but I fee like the environment is the only thing keeping my eyes attention. This picture has a great framing, and a good use of lines. I know pictures are two dimensional but I spend lots of time trying to make them have depth, in the above image this is done by the repeating lines and shallow depth of field.

portrait posture poses

Canon 5d MkII: 1/200th @F4 ISO 50. Lens: 70-200 2.8 @ 200mm. Flash: Canon 2 580EXII off camera left at Manual 1/4.

Posture and emotion is a very important element for any photography. If you are trying to capture a silly picture you would not want to have your subjects frowning would you? Since I am a wedding and portrait photographer I spend my time making people look friendly and happy, so I use posture and camera angle to help tell my story. Camera angle is very important and subtle, If your subject is trying to show power you take the picture looking up at him a great example of this is politics. Look at political pictures most of them will be shot up at them, as it shows power. So if you are to take pictures where the subject looks friendly you would shoot down on them. These changes don’t need to be dramatic, as little changes go a long way. I personally don’t do this at extremes because the more of an angle the more obvious it becomes. The difficult part for me is I am not a tall person so shooting down on people is difficult. I spend most of my days standing on my toes/boxes or looking for smalls hills.

Your subjects posture is also very important. If you are trying to take images where your subject looks happy make sure to put them into relaxed poses. I rule always say to my subjects is if they feel funny in a pose to stop because if they feel funny it will look funny in the image. Often I find my self telling my subject to meet me over by that fence and I watch how they stand, because most often they will stand relaxed. If I know what is relaxing for my subject I can then just make a few changes to make the image strong instead of me trying to pose everything with them.

portrait accessories

Canon 5d MkII: 1/200th @F2.8 ISO 250. Lens: 100mm Macro 2.8 @ 100mm. Flash: Canon 580EXII off camera left at Manual 1/32.

I find accessories to be important as it is an extra element that shows your subjects emotions or personality. In the above picture I found out while talking to my subject during the photo-shot that he loves playing the guitar. I asked if he had his guitar with him and if so would he get it and play something for me. He played some song for me, I actually have no clue what he was playing but I used that time taking his pictures while playing. While he was playing he opened up and relaxed out of “picture mode”, which was great as we got his best pictures during that time. It was wonderful when he started to smile because in the picture I was able to show more personality then just a picture of him sitting along a fence.

Accessories for the most point are always good in photos, because it gives the viewer more to look at in the image. Accessories can be things like bags, hats, jewelry, skateboards….. anything that adds to the photo. When using accessories try and tie their color into the image, so for example if your subject was carrying a blue hat try and find a shade of blue to add to the picture. Think of the color wheel and use complementary colors to your advantage to make your image pop.

About the Author
This has been a guest post by Kyle Miller. Please visit their Photography Tips blog for more great tips and tutorials to help you improve your photography.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nikon Releases the D7000

Check out this awesome review from Chase Jarvis on the brand new Nikon D7000!

A quick summary of the 2010 AGM

We had a great meeting - 19 members in attendance and it was well run and efficient! We were done in 2½ hours. By supporting the AGM, you are letting your voices be heard, which is vital to the success of the Association. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who let their name stand for the ballot and to thank all of you came out to support our AGM.

For those who could not attend our new Board of Directors are for 2011 are:

Mimi Boule - President
Desmond Snyman - Vice-President
Ken Frazer - Past-President
Jeremy Hiebert
Fred Elcheshen
Jocelyne Hebert

I think that I can speak for the board here when I say that it is our desire to hear from you all. What are your thoughts on the Association and what can we do to serve you better?
Please send any thoughts to a board member or

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bruce Berg is coming to Winnipeg!

Our fall seminar is fast approaching and this is an event that you sure don't want to miss. One of the greatest things about events like this one is learning and sharing with other photographers and drawing from that a few gems that will improve both the creativity and productivity of your business. I hear time after time from photographers that they took something away from a PPOC Manitoba event that has already made them piles of money!

I sure hope to see many of your members there!
If you have any questions about this fall seminar please, PLEASE call Jeremy Hiebert or Desmond Snyman. We would both be stoked to talk to you and tell you more!

Friday, September 10, 2010

PPOC Manitoba AGM

Hi Folks!
Just a reminder of the AGM on Monday night.
Here are the details ::

Canada Inns on Pembina Hwy
Start at 6pm
We'll meet in the back conservatory room where we were last year.

It would be great to see you all there this year - Each and every one. Lots to discuss and vote on as usual and we would really appreciate your input into the future of your association.

Feel free to call anybody on the board for any questions at all!

Looking forward to seeing you there.