Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Good to Be Gray: Winter Nature Photography

Another week of snow. Another week of sub-freezing temperatures with many inches of snow and ice on the ground.  I could have sipped my green tea and fumed over the fact that my MacBook was being repaired while I sat indoors with rare, idle time.

If the birds can tolerate the cold, so can we.  Clean the lenses, clear the memory cards, time to go out.

While it's great to have a goal for your shoot, photography is a form of art.  To capture art, it's important to take in all the elements.  If you're too focused on one mission a magical photo opportunity may be missed.

Each season brings its own charm. Winters in Michigan with its bitter cold and isolating gray is no exception.  Farmland and rolling hills are framed with icy, barren trees. Memories of time gone by ignite when I happened upon abandoned farm equipment on one of my winter shoots last year.

Of Time Gone By
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm, f/10, ISO 250, 1/400 sec
In February, there are a few wintry weeks left before the Snowy Owls head farther north. With location tips from fellow birders, knowledge of their habitat, time to create my own luck. 

Before leaving to go back home on a winter shoot, we drove one last time through the route. The Snowy Owl appeared.  Our magnificent Ghost Owl.  He was probably there all along, watching as we drove through our version of the tundra searching for him for a couple of hours. 

He was quite stoic, perched patiently atop an old telephone pole as I put my camera on the tripod.  He then scratched, moved his head 270 degrees a few times. 

Snowy Owl Watching
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500mm, ISO 250 f/9, 1/640 sec

He posed graciously for many snaps until we both were startled by a child coming out of nowhere shrieking, "What are you taking a picture of?" 

Yes, he flew away. While he flew, we both silently stared as his casper-like wings moved softly in silent flight.  A treasure to observe.

When I showed the young girl the many owl images in my camera, she became genuinely inquistive in the owl, about birds and photography. 

Hmmmm.  A potential convert.  It's good to be outside in winter.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Social Media & Photography - Can it Make Cents?

Blue Petals
Nikon 600, 105mm lens
It's relatively easy to create awareness of your nature photography using social media. Generating an income however, requires engagement with your audience and a commitment of time.

Digital photography has made it easier for people to find their talent versus back in the days of film.  The outcome is many levels of photographers, more competition online and in the traditional retail space.

Let's face it, when you think of famous photographers, everyone is quick to say "Ansel Adams" or "Art Wolfe" and from there it can be a fairly short list.

So how do you create awareness?

Personal facebook page - use your personal page to introduce your friends to your work.  Post a couple of images at a time a few days apart for 2-3 weeks to see what generates interest (aka 'likes').  Your friends are your first real fans, and your fans 'likes' will help you decide what has broader appeal.

Duckling's Bubble Bath
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150 - 500 lens

Next, create your Facebook photography business page.  If you know the name of your business already, use it here.  It's very helpful if your business name reflects you and your type of photography.  This is the beginning of building your personal brand.  Don't underestimate the name, it's how others find your work.

When you create your page and make it public, initially fill the page with your images, interesting information about you and relevant links.  Immediately invite your friends to like your page!  This is where your audience begins.

Add one maybe two images per week to your page.  Adding many images at a time doesn't do your work justice. The attention span of the viewer is seconds, they won't look past the first few images.

Including an article, bloglink or other posting occasionally that is interesting and reflective of your brand can engage viewers. When your friends 'like' and share your postings, more people will see and 'like' your page.  Here is the link to get started: Creating Your Facebook Business Page

Cherry Blossoms, Nikon 600, 105mm

Network, network, network!  Find other Facebook photography pages and interact with other photographers. 'Like' their work (from your personal page so it will count on their 'like' counter) and if inclined from your own Photography Page too.  Photographers are not only helpful but their work can inspire you in taking yours to another level.

You'll find that there are sites whose mission is to share others work.  This may be in a given category, theme of the day, or hosting regular contests. (see a small list below).  These sites may share your work, the link to your page.  From there, their fans can 'like' your work and your page. 

If 'Likes' created revenue, that would be great.  But they don't.  'Likes' can validate what images have broader appeal and get your work more visiblity as their friends see what they 'liked'. 

Have I generated sales as a result of social media? Yes, which leads to my final tip for this blog. 

Create your website (see Why Re-create the Wheel? Your Photography Website Made Easy). After creating your site, embed your link on your Facebook page.  Announce that you have a website to your photography page audience and your friends a few times a year.

As you progress, you'll find other social media and photography sharing sites to use as well.

It takes time to get traction, but you have to take the first steps!


Megashot on Facebook
Soulful Nature on Facebook
Camera Cruise with K on Facebook
Nature Photography | Wildlife Photography
Nature Photography on Facebook

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Seriously, I'd Rather Be Behind the Lens

A sun starburst edges from behind a tree as the magic hour approaches.  A fluffy hooded merganser glides through a gold illuminated  pond at sunset.  We pause when the bright, rapid beat of a red-bellied woodpecker's tapping echoes through the forest.  And sometimes…it is the sound of silence as you gaze into the gentle brown eyes of a deer in the woods.
Swimming in Gold
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500
It's moments like these that beckon nature photographers to rise well before dawn, embrace cold, snowy conditions, all for that desired shot.  Then it's the thrill of editing and bringing the images in the camera back to life as we sip our steaming green tea.
Red Hat
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150 - 500mm
The last place we want to be?  Reconciling invoices, expenses and legal paperwork! To help expedite getting your business back-office established, here's a few key steps.

Deer eyes….
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm lens
First, I recently established my Limited Liability Corporation: Sheen's Nature Photography LLC. Since I'm not an attorney, an accountant or effective book keeper, I needed to apply the KISS method - keep it super simple!

Legal Zoom uses the KISS approach and completes the tedious legwork for you.  It took about 45 minutes online and a well-deserved payment.

They took care of everything. When I made a slight mistake, they called for clarification. As a result, I had a credit applied to the total.  They gave me email and voicemail updates every step of the way.

All that I needed was delivered to my door, earlier than planned.  There was no way I could get time savings, accuracy and legitimacy by doing this on my own.

Next, a business checking account.  Note:  financial institutions require you to have an EIN and your articles which Legal Zoom provided.   Huntington Bank was my choice as their service has always been professional with insight to assist in quick decision making.

And last, we can't forget a small business credit card to keep our business expenses organized.  The American Express Small Business Credit Card is a great way to go. Since I am a frequent traveler with Delta, the ability to earn miles is an extra perk. Those miles will fly me to photography adventures.

It's February and a 2014 resolution has been accomplished, with eleven months to spare doing what I love with my free time.