What Happened When I Took My Photography Business In an RV and On The Road

What Happened When I Took My Photography Business In an RV and On The Road

RV life with Kathy Holcombe and family

It all started with a simple question on the way home from a three-day photoshoot.

“What if instead of racing home between assignments to mow the lawn and do the laundry, we spent that time together as a family in the wilderness that we so desperately craved?”

Over the next few months, as we scrambled from meetings to school events and did our best to cope with the frantic pace of normal life, that question began to resonate more deeply until we could no longer shove it aside. Needing to slow things down and simplify everything, we began to plan, in earnest, the greatest adventure of our lives.

When we told our daughter, Abby (then age 9), that we were moving, she expressed the typical concerns of any kid facing change …what about my friends? Where will I go to school? What about all of my toys?  But when we added that we were moving into a Winnebago RV for a year-long road trip, she was — for the first time ever — speechless.

With the encouragement of our friends (who secretly thought we were crazy), and the reluctant support of our family (who knew we were crazy), we sold most of our things, packed up the rest and moved into a 24-foot Winnebago RV. At best we were destined for the biggest adventure of our lives, at worst we would return with our careers in shambles, our family in financial ruin, and permanent emotional damage from life within the confines of 150 square feet.  We did our best to anticipate what the future would bring and minimized our risk: We eliminated all debt and monthly expenses (except the cell phone) and booked as many photography jobs as we could in advance, but ultimately the entire endeavor was a monumental leap of faith.

Kathy Holcombe and family in a cave

In the beginning, there was success.

First, life on the road was just like any of our other countless road trips over the years (except that life in the RV was way more comfortable than in our old pickup truck).  We spent the majority of our days kayaking and climbing and managed to tic one extraordinary adventure after another off of our bucket list.  But as the weeks and months passed, we realized that not only were we spending more time together doing what we loved in places where we wanted to be, but also that our business was growing exponentially, making this once-in-a-lifetime adventure a viable long-term lifestyle. So instead of returning home after a year, as we originally planned, the journey continues (for over two years now) with no end in sight.


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Life on the road has a way of changing a person.

For me, the moment we decided to embark on this journey, was the first time in my life that I allowed myself the luxury of slowing down.  It was finally ok for me to step back and say I don’t have to volunteer for every worthwhile cause, and I don’t have to charge, full-speed-ahead, down the career path that seems set on a steady, relentless incline. Abby and I would both be fine if neither of us took part in school bake sales and PTO meetings.

That mental shift  had a positive impact almost immediately. The stress that had for so long been by permanent companion simply vanished and my sleep patterns changed.  Regardless of where we were and how much noise was around us, I was finally able to sleep, night after blessed night, for the first time in over a decade.  And being well rested allowed me to accomplish more during my waking hours, leading to a healthier and more successful me.  Looking back, I could have just as easily stepped out of my self-imposed rat race while I was at home. The need to be more, to have more, to do more was my own internal struggle, that I was completely unaware of until I hit the road and let it all go.

Kathy Holcombe's family

Peter’s transformation was much more gradual. His sense of responsibility to pay the bills and provide for our family made it easy for him to put aside his dream of becoming a National Geographic photographer, of creating images of adventures across the globe and share those experiences with the masses. Instead of pursuing that dream, he opted to channel his talent and love of photography into a more traditional career path and created fine art portraits of families exploring incredible environments as personal art for the home (a rewarding and respectable career).

It wasn’t until we literally had nothing to lose (i.e. no debt, no bills, no house) that his dream of photographing adventures resurfaced. This time he directed his lens inward and focused it on our family and the extraordinary journey we were on — simply as a personal outlet for his creative energy. He posted those images through our social media channels and before long, we found ourselves overwhelmed with requests from outdoor brands asking us to partner with their marketing teams to create images, videos and stories of our adventures to share with their customers.

What started out as a creative project to document and share our personal adventures with our family and friends has since become a full time job. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we could make a living by photographing, filming and writing about our days in the wild doing what we love the most.

A whole new Abby.

Kathy Holcombe's daughter

The most obvious change for our daughter has involved her whitewater paddling skills.  She started out as a timid kayaker, uneasy on class II stretches of river.  But after two years and countless new rivers, she is now taking the lead and charging ahead into thundering rapids.  The confidence that comes from independently and successfully navigating potentially dangerous terrain is a skill that she will carry with her and fall back on for the rest of her life.

More importantly, Abby has broken free of her shell.  Every person we have met along the way, who has taken the time to ask Abby about her unusual lifestyle and shown excitement and interest in who she is and what she has done, has helped her morph from a shy little girl who rarely spoke up in a group to an outgoing young woman, comfortable in almost any social situation.

This became evident when we were working on a photo-documentary presentation of our recent adventures for a large audience in at the Winnebao Grand National Rally in Forrest City, IA.  Abby insisted that she do an equal third of the presentation and spent the next week rehearsing her part.  During the show, I stood on the sidelines and watched my 12-year old daughter take the stage.  Her commanding presence filled the entire theater and captivated every person in the standing-room-only crowd.  It was at that moment that I realized the profound impact this entire journey has had on her.

When we set out, we were simply trying to maintain some semblance of normal and avoid any permanent damage while we chased a crazy dream. This incredible experience has simply been the catalyst that ignited the spark and gave us permission to become our best selves, the ones who have been there lying dormant for so long.  We hope that our new sparkle shines brightly through our images and stories and inspires others to get outside, go on adventures, and live the best life possible.  I have no idea what the future holds for us, but can’t wait to fire up the RV and discover what lies just over the horizon.


Learn how to price your photography for a sustainable lifestyle with Kathy Holcombe

“If you’re struggling to figure out the business process of photography, this class is one of the clearest and most concise I’ve ever seen. If you’re experienced but the business side and pricing are eluding you, you will find clarity here. I own at least twenty CreativeLive courses and hands down, this one explains pricing and strategy better than any others I’ve purchased or watched live.”


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How To Change Directions Without Starting Over

How To Change Directions Without Starting Over

how to change directions

Image via Flickr

Remember back when Groupon was a fundraising sight for social change? Or when Pinterest, then called “Tote,” was all about retailers? Of course you don’t, because those brands successfully changed directions and became way more popular because of those business pivots.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, your business feels like it’s headed in the wrong direction. Maybe you’ve realized the thing you’re trying to market just doesn’t have a market, or that you really don’t like the freelance services you’ve been offering. Maybe you started when you were pretty young and you’ve decided it’s time for a mature image change.

Whatever the reason, if you’re thinking about guiding your small business or freelance outfit into a new direction, it’s important to understand that you don’t need to blow up everything you’ve worked for just to make the change. It’s also important to be really clear about why you want to change, and how you’re going to go about it.

Be realistic about your reasons. What are you changing — and more importantly, why are you changing? If it’s because that you feel unfulfilled or unhappy with the current direction of your business, it’s a good idea to look into why that is. What currently isn’t working? What will the new direction help to correct?


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Or maybe you want to change directions because you feel suffocated in your market. Say you’re a newborn photographer, and you feel that there are just too many newborn photographers to compete with. This is not the best reason to change, especially if newborn photography is what you really love.

In that case, consider branching out your services — but also consider why it is that you feel so crowded. Do some market research to find out if the market is really that competitive, or if maybe there are smaller changes, like a beefed up marketing plan, that can help you stand out more.

Remember that you don’t need to change everything. If you’re going to make some changes to your business — like alter your services, or readjust your focus — you might be inclined to swap out all of your branding and other materials to match your new direction. That could be a good idea down the line, but rolling out too many changes at once is a quick way to confuse clients. Instead, stick with just what needs to change, then tackle the other mismatches later.

Remember, too, that brand loyalty is strong. Consider all of the times companies have tried to “freshen up,” only to be met with disastrous results. Sometimes, a facelift should be passed over for something more subtle.

You can’t do it alone. “Change works best when it’s a collaborative, interactive process,” says Harvey Mackay in Inc. “Keep everyone in the loop: your leadership team, line employees, customers, vendors, funders and other stakeholders. Provide them with updates on your progress. Ask them how it’s going in their view and what could speed things along.”

This is good advice even if you’re a sole proprietor. Your changes are going to impact your tribe, so make sure you fill them in.

Change is addictive. Have you ever noticed how some companies seem to rebrand every other week? That’s usually because the people within the company believe that eventually, if they make the right change, everything about their business will improve. But truthfully, that’s almost never the case.

Change takes time to reflect in numbers and other significant business indicators. Give yourself time to really see the ROI — or maybe the lack of ROI — of previous changes before making more. A new logo, a new business direction, or a new menu of services isn’t going to transform your business overnight. You need to let things take shape before trying something new (again).

Keep your eye on the prize. Before you make any change, decide what the end goal is. More money? A larger client base? A job title that you like better? Whatever it is, make sure all of new plans are leading in that direction.

Changing directions can often feel like a cure-all, but remember that it’s unlikely that any business pivot is going to alleviate all of your pain points. Be realistic about why you’re making changes, then commit to them.


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5 Ways Modern Photographers Can Find Inspiration in Classic Art

5 Ways Modern Photographers Can Find Inspiration in Classic Art

Photography’s 200 year history is brief compared to the vast and varied past of other mediums such as painting and sculpture. Yet many of the techniques photographers use now came from before the first camera was invented, from Rembrandt lighting to compositional “rules.” The ties to the past are only increasing — Adobe Stock lists History and Memory among the 2018 photography trends as an increasing number of photographers pay tribute to classic work even while using modern cameras. The trend joins others like Creative Reality and Multilocalism.

So what does this trend look like, and how can photographers find inspiration in it while also making it their own? Here are five ways photographers can find inspiration in classic art.

Light

Painters understood light long before photographers were able to capture it with a camera. Rembrandt lighting, for example, is a commonly used photography lighting pattern named after the 17th century painter that often created the light pattern with a paintbrush.

While painters understood light before photography was even a word, the light in classic art isn’t as broad as the number of different lighting patterns used today. The light in classic art can easily become inspiration for modern photography. Look at your favorite classic art pieces and identify the shadows and highlights. Can you determine where the light is coming from? How is the subject, whether that’s a person or a still life fruit basket, placed within that light?

After re-creating the lighting pattern in the shot, fine-tune in post, lightening or darkening shadows and highlights to finish that classical inspiration. Using a classic lighting pattern is an excellent way to use historic inspiration for a modern subject.

Color

Sure, choosing a color palette for a photograph isn’t quite as easy as opening a specific shade of paint — but that doesn’t mean photographers can’t find inspiration in the colors of classic artwork. Maybe it’s the range of blues in Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or the contrasting orange-blue on Edvard Munch’s The Scream, or the warm earth tones in the Mona Lisa.


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Once that classical inspiration hits, choose a subject and props that falls into that color palette. Then perfect the classical colors in post. Inside Lightroom, adjust the colors in the photo to more closely resemble the tones from from a classic oil painting — this can be largely done with the HSL panel. Hue will change the shade of that color, while saturation will change the intensity of the color. Luminance alters how light or dark the color appears and can be used to mimic the darker tones found in some classic paintings. Split toning can add hints of color to the shadows and highlights — this tool is best for recreating the look of an old photograph by mimicking the colors created in the darkroom, such as with cyanotypes and sepia images.

And if you want the flexibility painters had to dip into any color, open Photoshop to change the color of objects to match that classical inspiration.

Composition

A camera may not be able to capture a face the way Pablo Picasso painted people, but classical inspiration doesn’t stop at composition. Even the classic artists used the Rule of Thirds. Look in the background of The Last Supper, where parallel lines receding into the distance add depth to the popular painting.

While painters can place objects wherever they want with a few brush strokes, photographers still have several compositional tools with historic roots. Look for leading lines that can give that two-dimensional art depth in a landscape, or find inspiration in the lines of a pose from a classic painting for portraits. Choose your lens carefully — a wide angle will exaggerate distance and angles in your composition, while a zoom lens will make everything appear closer together.

Emotion

Art classes around the world from different cultures look at an image and often feel the same emotion, even across language barriers. Generations later, classic artwork still has a way of connecting emotionally. That same emotional connection with the viewer isn’t lost in photography.

In a portrait, often the emotional connection comes from the expression on the subject’s face. Don’t automatically aim for that big dimpled smile — find inspiration in a more subtle smile like in the Mona Lisa or slightly parted lips like in Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. The placid expression of individuals in the earliest forms of photography is another source of inspiration.

In any category, including landscapes and even abstract art, the emotion from the piece stems from colors, shapes, light and narrative. Once you’ve found a classic art piece that inspires you, ask yourself what emotions that work brings out, and how you can use the tools available to photographers to recreate them.

Posing and Props

While some photographers simply capture what they find, others are more like stage masters, starting from scratch and creating a scene to capture on camera. If your work falls in the latter category, why not take that classical inspiration further and use props and posing inspired by artwork? Hit up flea markets and antique stores for vintage props and clothing. Find inspiration for the pose in paintings and sculptures, whether that’s paintings of angelic cherubs or carefully posed portraits. Complete the pose and props with light, colors, composition and emotion inspired by classic art. Or, juxtapose classic and modern to better convey what you are trying to say.

Photography, like all art, draws inspiration from a number of different sources. But despite changes in technology and methods, photographers are increasingly paying homage to classic art — and for good reason. Take a look at the history and memory collection from Adobe Stock, or learn how to submit your own work to Adobe Stock.


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How to Start a Photography Business

How to Start a Photography Business

You’ve decided to do it. You’re going to purchase a ticket to the crazy roller coaster of starting your own photography business. Maybe you’re tired of working for “the man” or maybe you’re straight out of school and just aren’t ready for a traditional nine-to-five career. Whatever the reason, you’re about to do the scariest and most wonderful thing you’ve ever done. You’re going to start a photography business and become a professional photographer.

For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming you have the gear and know how to use it. I’m also assuming you have a good camera and can create a series of high-quality photographs under pressure. If not, this should be your first port of call. Professionals are expected to respond and solve problems under pressure while keeping their cool — the same goes for professional photographers (no matter if you want to get into wedding photography or portrait photography). This is a prerequisite of getting into any new business. You’ll want to have a wide variety of experience (not necessarily in different fields, but in different situations) before you start getting to your business plan. So, get started on building your portfolio — this will be your marketing material and help you start a successful business of new clients.

Starting your photography business

Build Your Portfolio to Create Marketing Materials for your New Business

As with any new business, you’ll need something to sell. As professional photographers, we are selling our future work and so we need to have past work to show. If a coffee shop simply promised you they could grow coffee, would you put your hard earned cash on the counter in the hope they were telling the truth?

You have to show what you want to be hired for, and that means you need to create that work. Reach out to friends and family, in the beginning, to see if anyone can help you with procuring subjects for your photography. If a family member needs editorial portraits of his workers for a promotional series, offer to make them. Maybe your best friend’s latest home-brew has reached the levels where he’s selling it to local bars, see if you can shoot some promo posters. Do whatever it takes to create the work you want to be hired to do. This is also a good way to start networking and meeting potential clients.


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The majority of my clientele are visitors to Korea. They are here for a short time and are looking to make pictures during their stay. It’s not lost on me that it takes a huge leap-of-faith to make a bank account deposit to a person you’ve never actually met or spoken with. I need to show the right work, and have the right attitude to gain people’s trust. Any business owner needs to do this well.

Starting your photography business

 

Build Your Network to Meet Potential Clients

Before I went full time with photography, I built a network of new people I could potentially reach out to through the work I was doing. I was shooting for book vouchers and free meals and handing out business cards with my contact information clearly spelled out to anyone who could become a new client. Not only was I getting relatively stress free access to places and new people I wouldn’t normally get to, I was getting to know them and get a feel for the business world outside of my current job.

I let everyone know I was a professional photographer. If it came up in conversation, I made sure to let them know about my photography business. Even a few years into this, there are people around me who don’t know exactly what I do. So, when the topic comes up, I make sure I’m concise and let people know with confidence the services I provide. Word of mouth is a strong marketing tool. If people know what you do, they will call you when the time comes.

The key here is to decide who you’d like your potential clients to be and then figure out where they gather. If you can, attend their meetings with the intent of getting to know them. Once you have established trust, you’ll no longer be that guy who turns up with a sales pitch. This could be the local PTA if you’re a family photographer, the local chamber of commerce if you’re looking to work more with professionals, or even the journalists’ club in your local city. Sharpen your people skills, find the right people and get to know them. This is particularly important for new photographers.

Starting your photography business


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Cooperate with Other Professional Photographers

I cannot stress this enough. Professional photography is a small business. Most of us are one-man-shows trying to find a slice of the pie to nibble on. There will come a time when you’ll need some advice, a shoulder to cry on, a lens to borrow for the weekend, or someone to run a promotion with. That will be the other photographers in your community. Don’t make them your competition, make them your allies. A successful photography business will depend on other professional photographers at one point or another.

I’m not talking about the online social media community, I’m talking about getting out there and meeting with humans. If you’re a part of a strong community in your local area, you’ll have a support network that will keep you away from the trolls on internet message boards. You’ll be able to help each other navigate this wild profession.

My best friends and biggest advocates have become the other professional photographers I meet. We respect each other and work together whenever we can. Not only that, but we hang out on our days off and share knowledge whenever we can. Without the others, we’d all be wandering in the dark.

Starting your photography business

Don’t be Afraid to Ask

This one final piece of advice is something I wish I had the confidence to do right from the get-go. I’ve found that the biggest gains in my time as a professional photographer have been when I asked. Even people who know you don’t know everything you need, so reach out and see if they can help you out.

Asking is what ties the previous points together. May I come along to the gathering tonight? I really need some advice, could I get you a cup of coffee and ask you a couple of questions? I’m looking to go in a new direction with my portrait photography, would you mind being a model for me so I can do some tests? All of these are situations you can get yourself into by simply asking for the things you need. Asking is what has got me to every photograph in this article, and most of the highlights of my career thus far.

Honestly, what is the worst that could happen? You might get your feelings hurt. That’s the absolute worst that could happen.

Of course, there are hundreds, if not more, of considerations that go into starting your photography business, and these four small points just scratch the surface. For more information on how to start your photography business — from attaining a business license to selecting a business name and building your business structure — check out Pye Jirsa’s Photography Business class!


Ready to start a successful photography business? Tune into Pye Jirsa’s class to help launch a photography business in 12 weeks. Learn more.


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5 Essential Steps Toward Starting Your Business

5 Essential Steps Toward Starting Your Business

Lloyd Baggs is the definition of a modern day creative entrepreneur. A successful photographer, designer, musician, and businessman, Baggs has been through it all in striking the balance between creative and industrialist. Most well known for his manufacturing company, L.R. Baggs, he has successfully worked in the music industry for over 30 years developing some of the worlds best acoustic guitar pickups, microphones, and preamps.

How did someone who started out like me, a creative soul hailing from a small college with an art degree, end up a business tycoon in an artist’s industry? I called him, and here is what he said.

Photo: LR Baggs Official

Photo: Courtesy of LR Baggs

1. “FIND YOUR LANE”

One of my biggest struggles is answering the eternal question: “what do I want to be when I grow up?” I find that I still don’t know what that means. If you find yourself pondering the same question, I have some good news: you are not alone! Baggs bounced around quite a bit before starting his now successful manufacturing company. Beginning as a cellist, then a master printer and photographer, a guitar luthier, followed by a four or five-year stint as a car salesman, Baggs had his own confusing journey to the top. He kept telling me to find my lane. When I asked him to elaborate, he responded:

LB: “If you find what you’re good at, don’t listen to anybody who tells you otherwise…I used to build stuff as a kid: rebuild cars, rebuild engines, I was always out in the garage making stuff. Both my parents would say, ‘you know, if you would only pay attention, if you would only give half the effort to school as you’re giving to this – you’d be somebody, you’d go somewhere.’ Right? So, what am I doing today? I’m making stuff in my garage. It’s just a bigger version of it!”

It is important to feel confident in what you are pursuing.Though it may take a few tries and a few fails, find your lane and hold steadfast.

LB: “I think one of the most important things for twenty-something people to do is work a bunch of bad jobs to know what you don’t want to do…I knew I didn’t want to be a classical musician. I sucked at guitar, I didn’t want to be a printer the rest of my life, and I was pretty good at woodworking, so I just started making guitars as a hobby and half way through, it just went ‘click.’ I was 26 at the time when I heard that click. I thought to myself – that’s my lane.”

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2. “GO ALL IN”

For many, discovering what they want to do with the rest of their life is the easy part, but how do you go from a lane to a freeway? What is the fastest path to your creative business freedom? Lloyd shared his most important tip to getting started – if you’re going for it, go all in.

LB: “There is a thing that I call the ‘all-in club,’ and if you’re not all-in on what you’re doing, it is not going to work.”

When I asked Lloyd to elaborate more on his ‘all-in’ moment, he explained that the crescendo came to him at the birth of his daughter, Jenny.

LB: “I just really wasn’t very disciplined or focused…when I was making guitars, I loved it and I did it with all of my heart. I felt like that was a feasible business, but I had been approaching it more as a hobby until my daughter came along…when our daughter Jenny was born, it was like somebody dropped a hot coal down the back of my trousers and it’s been burning ever since…that was about the time that the pickup business came into the focus.”

This moment can come to you in different ways, shapes, and forms – but when it does come, dive in. Baggs explained that it was by no means an easy process getting started.

LB: “I took a job selling cars about 50 hours a week, and then I built the business with the other 20 or 30 hours that I could stay awake. I probably worked 70-80 hours a week for several years.” As he later told me, “any time things get kind of hard, my wife says – ‘well, you know, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.’ There is a factor in there of just being crazy enough to outwork anybody.”

Photo: Lloyd Bags Official

Photo: Courtesy of LR Baggs

3. “DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES”

When you decide to throw yourself into your creative business and commit to going all-in, it doesn’t mean you will do everything right or be an overnight success. As with any endeavor, you are bound to make mistakes, especially if you’re heading into unknown waters. Accept them, and learn to appreciate the knowledge you’ll gain by getting back up if you take a fall. Baggs agreed.

LB: “You know, really, I didn’t know anything about business. I didn’t go to business school, I had a degree in art. I mean, if you ever want to force your child to become an entrepreneur, send them to art school. That is the only way.” He laughed and continued, “I mean, maybe five people get a job with Disney or something like that straight out of school. Most people struggle like crazy…I had to just kind of make 10 mistakes and hope they didn’t bury me. Man I made so many mistakes, but as long as I did one more good thing than bad, I was still moving forward and learning.”

Pushing forward with confidence, knowing that there will be both failure and successes, and choose to inherit both as a learning experience will lead to our eventual success. By simply taking a leap, we will be better prepared for future obstacles.

4. “PERSEVERE”

Jumping into your creative endeavor or new business is not going to be easy. If there is one thing that a mistake will teach you, it is that the hardest part will be picking up, dusting off and starting again.

Here’s a video of L.R. Baggs sponsored artist, Peppino D’Agostino, playing “Acoustic Spirit.” As a self-taught musician, D’Agostino truly embodies perseverance. He’s gone from playing guitar on the streets of San Francisco, to releasing eight critically acclaimed solo studio albums.

LB: “I’ve got to hand it to my family for hanging in there with me. It didn’t always look like we had what people wanted. I was just bull headed enough and stubborn enough. That’s just kind of how I did it.”

When I asked Baggs if he had any big moments of struggle that stood out to him, he laughed.

LB: “We came out with this really snazzy new product called a duet which had this big preamp on it. At the time, we didn’t have any electronic engineering on it. I was hiring the designs out from various contractors at the time. So we went into building these things and they weren’t cheap. At one point, we got this big box back from Godin, which was about the size of two suitcases. It was filled with these electronics that were failing. The ones that didn’t fail were brilliant but these ones had failed.”

Baggs and his small team spent months reengineering them, spending countless hours and dollars to get them just right. All the while, the box of broken units was shoved under a desk in their office.

LB: “By this time I think we had four or five employees and everybody was pretty depressed looking at this box. So one day I thought – let’s do something with this.”

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He ended up throwing a company BBQ party at his home. After everyone was fed and the party was winding down, Baggs pulled out the box for the last time.

LB: “I poured the whole box onto our patio and gave everybody sledgehammers. We beat the crap out of those things. Then we swept them all up and dug a big hole in my backyard and poured them in… the guys that were working for us at the time all peed in the hole and moved on! Said, ‘NEXT!’ ”

Baggs later recalled another time where he tested about 100 completed pickups, thinking they worked, only to find that they all failed.

LB: “My wife and I just sat in our little garage where we had our business and cut the wires off of our entire month’s production and just cried. I mean, it was pretty scary… But the story’s got a happy ending [because] we persevered.”

Years later, that little garage would expand to become one of the most successful pickup businesses in the world. It was by no fault that each and every mistake they made along the way lead them straight there.

Photo: Courtesy of LR Baggs

Courtesy of LR Baggs

5. “REMEMBER WHAT IS IMPORTANT”

In all the excitement of finally finding confidence to follow your dreams and even finding success in your creative business, it can be easy to lose hold on what is important. What was your purpose in pursuing your creative passion? Which values do you want to instill in yourself, your mission and eventually your employees?

LB: “I really feel like this business, the product of our business, is not pickups and electronics. The product of our business is the change that we can instill in people’s lives.”

As L.R. Baggs has grown, its founder has held on to the same values and business philosophy he set out with. Baggs has built his legacy on a foundation of generosity, honesty, belief and a confidence in himself and his employees. Baggs strives to pass down lessons from his own journey to his employees who may be just beginning their own.

LB: “You know, I had a job…but I really didn’t get that I could steer my life or that I could make it what I wanted it to be so that I could do what I wanted to do. There really wasn’t anything that I couldn’t achieve. I think most people don’t really understand that. There is a pathway to do anything. That’s huge.”

Baggs continued to explain that he sees his own company as a place of learning for other twenty-something’s who are going through similar discoveries of their own.

LB: “I like to think of our business as an incubator. Where they’re taking their first baby steps into adulthood but may not have the confidence to go out and pursue whatever they might be secretly dreaming about.” It is part of his mission to teach his employee’s important skills and traits to inspire them to eventually take a leap of their own.

It is true that in order for a business to thrive, it has to make money; It is important for any business to profit in order to flourish and grow.

LB: “But, at the end of the day, it’s not about money. It’s more about how you can influence the lives of the people you’re around in a really positive way.”

When heading out to pursue your creative aspirations, keep in mind the values that you intend to guide you on your path to success.

LB: “Somebody once told me, ‘Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you’ll get rained out, but you always suit up.’ I think in just being open and when you prepare and do everything you can, then you just open up and see what happens. It can be kind of cool.”

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5 Graphic Design Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid

5 Graphic Design Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid

graphic design portfolio

As a visual artist or graphic designer, your graphic design portfolio opens doors. A sub-par presentation of your work closes them (even if you have stunning graphic design work to show off) — and may lock them for good. But as a graphic designer how do you know what a “good” portfolio even is?

Ram Castillo literally wrote the book on getting a job as a designer, and in his CreativeLive class, Create a Knockout Design Portfolio he talks about how essential online portfolios are, and, perhaps most importantly, details exactly what you need to do to assemble a good one. Ram has seen hundreds of designer portfolios that range in work from logo design to interactive design. There are common mistakes he’s witnessed across most of them.

Ram explains that your online portfolio should be, “a refined and considered selection of your best work, customized to speak to the area of design you are applying for.” In essence, your portfolio site is “proof that you exist as a designer.”

To help you prove that you exist – and do it well – Ram assembled a compilation of common graphic design portfolio mistakes that lots of rookie designers make — and how you can avoid them. You can use this top-five list to audit your existing online portfolio or to guide you as you develop a new portfolio of your best design work.

5 Graphic Design Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Too much work.

“It’s far stronger to have five quality projects showing five design pieces within it, than 20 average projects with 10+ design pieces within them,” says Ram. For best results, definitely do not include more than 15 projects or case studies.

2. Not enough work.

“If your portfolio looks and feels bare, that’s because it is,” he explains. ” Trust your instincts. The ‘wow’ factor in your online portfolio is created through layers in your work that tell a story. Avoid putting one poster here and two logos there. Show your work as projects.”


An online portfolio is essential for attracting potential clients and launching a design career. Learn how it is done – the easy way. Learn More.


3. Contact details are hard to find.

What’s the best way to contact you — and can your potential new art director or boss find it?

“Spend 15 minutes looking through the portfolio websites of award-winning and world-renowned designers and creative directors,” Ram recommends. Not only are they full of design portfolio inspiration  — they also are probably loaded with contact information.

“Take note, you’ll begin to see the patterns in the simplicity of how they present the way to reach them.”

4. It’s not mobile responsive.

The person who’s considering hiring you is probably busy, which means there’s a very good chance that they’ll be looking at your portfolio from their iPhone.

“Make sure that the real estate for ‘tapping’ and ‘clicking’ buttons, images and links are large enough to do so with ease,” says Ram. “On a mobile, it’s all about the scrolling and finger ‘tapping’ because the screen is so small. The natural behavior of the viewer embraces these movements effortlessly. It becomes too much work when the viewer requires zooming in/out and navigating the page in all directions just to see and read your content.”

5. No captions, no context.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture coupled with some words is worth even more. Especially when it highlights any and all high-profile clients you may have worked with. Don’t be shy about including clients in your portfolio design to attract new, potential clients. This will help launch your design career.

Here are the five captions Ram suggests including (in order):

Client: Name who the work was for.

Agency: Name the company or design studio you did the work at. If it’s a piece from college or university, leave it out and mention it in the ‘Client’ caption.

Challenge: What was the primary objective? (2-3 sentences at least).

Role: Specify your role and give credit where it’s due.

Results: Articulate in a simple way what this helped the client achieve.


An online portfolio is essential for attracting potential clients and launching a design career. Learn how it is done – the easy way. Learn More.

 


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25 Common Photography Terms All Beginners Need to Know

25 Common Photography Terms All Beginners Need to Know

common photography terms and definitions for beginners

Learning digital photography seems like a tough task—especially when you’re met with all kinds of technical jargon that leave you clueless and itching for a dictionary. Or worse, leaving you trying to explain what you just learned by using phrases like “that hole you look through” or “that one button you press to take the picture.” Understanding the common photography terms, definitions, and lingo is a crucial first step towards improving your skill as a beginner photographer. Whether you’re shooting with your very first digital camera or want to learn more complex terms like chromatic aberration, f-number or image sensor, read on to see how you should change your perspective (or field of view!) when approaching digital photography or iso photography.

After all, those great how-to guides and classes to improve image quality or depth of field are full of new terms and concepts. While there are hundreds of terms associated with photography, beginners should add these 25 terms to their vocabulary to get a good start on mastering the basics. Speaking of basics, you can catch our annual Fundamentals of Photography series, taught by John Greengo.

And now, on to the common photography terms and definitions all beginner photographers need to know:

Aperture

This is the first common photography term you should learn. Simply put, aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. Think of the lens as a window—large windows or wide angles let in more light, while small windows let in less light. A wide open aperture will let more light into the image for a brighter photo, while a smaller aperture lets in less light. Aperture is measured in f-stops; a small f-stop like f/1.8 is a wide opening, a large f-stop like f/22 is a very narrow one. Aperture is one of three camera settings that determine an image’s exposure, or how light or dark it is. Aperture also affects how much of the image is in focus—wide apertures result in that creamy, unfocused background while narrow apertures keep more of the image sharp.


Build A Strong Foundation For Your Photography in John Greengo’s Photography Starter Kit

 


Aspect Ratio

If you’ve ever printed images before, you’ve probably noticed that an 8 x 10 usually crops from the original image. That’s due to aspect ratio. Aspect ratio is simply the ratio of the height to width. An 8 x 10 has an equal aspect ratio to a 4 x 5, but a 4 x 7 image is a bit wider. You can change the aspect ratio in your camera if you know how you’d like to print your image, or you can crop your photo when you edit it to the right ratio.

Bokeh

Bokeh is the orbs created when lights are out of focus in an image. It’s a neat effect to have in the background of a photo, created through wide apertures. It will have an interesting effect on your image quality. Check out our ultimate guide to Creating Backgrounds With Bokeh for everything you could want to learn.

bokeh common photography terminology, photography for beginners

Burst Mode

You can take photos one at a time. Or, you can turn the burst mode on and the camera will continue snapping photos as long as you hold the button down, or until the buffer is full (which is a fancy way of saying the camera can’t process anymore). Burst speeds differ based on what camera or film camera you own, some are faster than others. Just how fast is written in “fps” or frames (pictures) per second. This will give you a wide selection of which close-up you’ll ultimately select of your dog!

Depth of Field

Depth of field is a photography term that refers to how much of the image is in focus. The camera will focus on one distance, but there’s a range of distance in front and behind that point that stays sharp—that’s depth of field. Portraits often have a soft, unfocused background—this is a shallow depth of field. Landscapes, on the other hand, often have more of the image in focus—this is a large depth of field, with a big range of distance that stays sharp.

Digital Vs. Optical

Digital and optical are important terms to understand when shopping for a new camera. Digital means the effect is achieved through software, not physical parts of the camera. Optical is always better than digital. These terms are usually used when referring to a zoom lens (on a compact camera) as well as image stabilization.


Build A Strong Foundation For Your Photography in John Greengo’s Photography Starter Kit


Exposure

Exposure is how light or dark an image is. An image is created when the camera sensor (or film strip) is exposed to light—that’s where the term originates. A dark photo is considered underexposed, or it wasn’t exposed to enough light; a light photo is overexposed or exposed to too much light. Exposure is controlled through aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation is a way to tell the camera that you’d like the exposure to be lighter or darker. Exposure compensation can be used on some automated modes and semi-automated modes like aperture priority. It’s measured in stops of light, with negative numbers resulting in a darker image and positive ones creating a brighter shot.

File Format

The file format is how your camera lens will record the image or image file. Raw files contain more information than JPGs, which makes them more suitable for photo editing in various editing software.


Build A Strong Foundation For Your Photography in John Greengo’s Photography Starter Kit


Focal Length

The focal length describes the distance in millimeters between the lens and the image it forms on the film. It informs the angle of view (how much of what is being shot will be captured) and the magnification (how large things will appear). Essentially, the focal length is how ‘zoomed in’ your images will appear. For example, a Canon (or Nikon or Olympus) 35mm lens will create images that appear more ‘zoomed in’ than a Canon 18mm.

Focus

When your eyes focus on an object that’s close to you, the objects far away will appear blurry. The common photography term “focus” has the same meaning. Something that is in focus is sharp, while an object that is out-of-focus isn’t sharp. Different focus areas determine if the camera is focusing on multiple points or one user-selected point.

focus common photography terms

Flash Sync

You probably know that the flash is a burst of light—flash sync determines when the flash fires. Normally, the flash fires at the beginning of the photo, but changing the flash sync mode adjusts when that happens. The rear curtain flash sync mode, for example, fires the flash at the end of the photo instead of the beginning.

Hot Shoe

Hot shoe is the slot at the top of a camera for adding accessories, like the aptly named hot shoe flash.

ISO

The ISO determines how sensitive the camera is to light. For example, an ISO of 100 means the camera isn’t very sensitive—great for shooting in the daylight. An ISO 3200 means the camera is very sensitive to light, so you can use that higher ISO for getting shots in low light. The trade off is that images at high ISOs appear to be grainy and have less detail. ISO is balanced with aperture and shutter speed to get a proper exposure.

Long Exposure

long exposure is an image that has been exposed for a long time or uses a long shutter speed. This technique is useful for shooting still objects in low light (used often by landscape photographers), or rendering moving objects into an artistic blur.

star trail photography common photography term

Manual

Manual mode allows the photographer to set the exposure instead of having the camera do it automatically. In manual, you choose the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and those choices affect how light or dark the image is. Semi-manual modes include aperture priority (where you only choose the aperture), shutter priority (where you only choose the shutter speed) and programed auto (where you choose a combination of aperture and shutter speed together instead of setting them individually). Manual can also refer to manual focus, or focusing yourself instead of using the autofocus.

Metering

Using manual mode isn’t all guesswork—a light meter built into the camera helps guide those decisions, indicating if the camera thinks the image is over or under exposed. Metering is actually based on a middle gray, so having lighter or darker objects in the image can throw the metering off a little bit. Metering modes indicate how the meter is reading the light. Matrix metering means the camera is reading the light from the entire scene. Center-weighted metering considers only what’s at the center of the frame and spot metering measures the light based on where your focus point is.


Now that you have the photography terms mastered, learn the fundamentals of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

Learn common photography terms and more with John Greeno today


Noise

Noise is simply little flecks in an image, also sometimes called grain. Images taken at high ISOs have a lot of noise, so it’s best to use the lowest ISO you can for the amount of light in the scene.

RAW or Raw Files

RAW is a file type that gives the photographer more control over photo editing. RAW is considered a digital negative, where the default JPEG file type has already been processed a bit. RAW requires special software to open, however, while JPEG is more universal. Typically, it’s better to shoot in RAW because the image retains more quality making it better for editing.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is the part of the camera that opens and closes to let light in and take a picture. The shutter speed is how long that shutter stays open, written in seconds or fractions of a second, like 1/200 s. or 1”, with the “ symbol often used to designate an entire second. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light that is let in. But, anything that moves while the shutter is open will become a blur, and if the entire camera moves while the shutter is open the whole image will be blurry—that’s why tripods are necessary for longer shutter speeds.

Shutter Release

That’s the button (or shutter button) you press to take the picture. It allows you to point-and-shoot.

Single Lens Reflex

A single lens reflex camera has a single lens that forms an image which is reflected to the viewfinder. Digital single lens reflex cameras or DSLR cameras are the most versatile of the digital cameras.

Time Lapse

A time-lapse is a video created from stitching several photos together taken of the same thing at different times. Don’t confuse a time lapse with a long exposure, which is a single image with a long shutter speed.

Viewfinder

That’s the hole you look through to take the picture. Some digital cameras don’t have one and just use the screen, but all DSLRs and most mirrorless cameras use them.

White Balance

Your eyes automatically adjust to different light sources, but a camera can’t do that—that’s why sometimes you take an image and it looks very blue or very yellow. Using the right white balance setting will make what’s white in real life actually appear white in the photo. There’s an auto white balance setting, but like any automatic setting, it’s not always accurate. You can use a preset based on what light you are shooting in like sun or tungsten light bulbs, or you can take a picture of a white object and manually set the white balance.


Now that you have the photography terms mastered, learn the fundamentals of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

Learn common photography terms and more with John Greeno today


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8 Things You Can Do to Successfully Build a Brand

8 Things You Can Do to Successfully Build a Brand


Making it in the business world is no easy feat when you don’t successfully build a brand.

Statistically, about 50 percent of small businesses fail during their first four years of operation, and roughly nine percent of American businesses shutter their doors every year.

One of the reasons half of businesses do succeed is because they build a brand. They stand out, are more distinguished than their competitors and are known and loved by consumers.

If you get your branding right, you can stay at the forefront of customers’ minds and capture your share of the market. You can also succeed in business for years to come.

The following are the steps you should take to successfully build a brand from the start.

You have researched your competitors

If you want to differentiate your brand, you first have to know what’s out there already. You need to understand your competitors’ branding, industry regulations, and market dynamics. After you have outlined the brand situation and the existing business environment, you can determine your message.

You have a clear business idea

You need to establish a clear picture of your business and what it will offer, as well as a well-defined place in the market. Determine what makes you different and what people will get out of being your customer. Once you come up with a clear idea of what your business will be and what it can provide for your customers, you can then communicate your product or service’s superior benefits.

You demonstrate your superior benefits

You decided to start a business because you knew you could do one thing better than everybody else. This needs to be demonstrated in your branding. Show what makes your product or service better than your competitors’. The more unique your product or service is, the more customers you will attract. Keep in mind that the benefits do not only have to be about how your product or service functions. They can be stylistic, emotional, or aesthetic, too.

Your branding is consistent

Star brands, like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Beats by Dre, are consistent in their branding. They use the same colors in their logos, products, and stores, have a similar marketing message in all of their campaigns, and are easily recognizable to consumers. When people see the same branding over and over again, they are going to remember it. After all, it’s been found that color boosts brand recognition by up to 80 percent, which is why it is crucial to use consistent colors.

You know your target audience

Your product or service won’t be appealing to every single customer on the market. Instead, you have to pinpoint your niche audience and exclusively target them with your branding. If you use language, colors, and images that are attractive to your target audience, you are going to stick out in their minds.

You explore what marketing and sales tactics work with customers

Once you figure out what branding will appeal to your target demographic, you need to continue doing your research and see what marketing and sales tactics are attractive to them. From the start, you can test your product or service with customers and create a marketing activity system. You can also run experimental campaigns. For instance, you might post a promo code on your Facebook page to see if it drives sales. If you know what works, you can use it in the future for branding and marketing campaigns.

You communicate your larger vision

“Just do it,” “Think different,” and “Imagination at Work.” What do these slogans from Nike, Apple, and GE have in common? They communicate bigger ideals than simply, “Buy our shoes,” “We sell computers,” and “We know electric.” Ideals will set you apart from your competitors and guide all of your branding. It will also help you find and solidify relationships with customers who believe in your messaging. In your slogan and your marketing, communicate what your ideals are and how you are bringing something different and good to the world.

You constantly learn new things

The best brands around are always looking forward. They are learning new things every day and striving to be even more innovative. Business leaders don’t look at what’s out there and see how they can make it marginally better; they see how they can make it 10 times better. They learn more and learn faster than the competitor to determine what they can create that will be new and different. When you’re building your brand, think about what you can learn from your past and how you can adapt to changes in the future.

Building a memorable brand does not happen overnight. It takes years of research and refining to determine exactly what works for your business. But once you take the above steps, you will be that much closer to defining your place in the market and succeeding in all of your business ventures.

Want to learn more about creating a brand that will stick out in customers’ minds? Enroll in Carolina Rogoll’s How to Build a Memorable Brand class on CreativeLive.

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What Equipment Do You Need to Start a Photography Business?

What Equipment Do You Need to Start a Photography Business?

Even after all this, I cannot stress how important backup is. How are you going to keep your clients’ files safe? At a bare minimum, I recommend two physical copies. Keeping one of these in an off-site location is a great idea. On top of that, it may be prudent to look into cloud backup. There are plenty of services out there, so find one that’s right for your Camera

There’s a lot of debate in online forums as to whether a professional can use this camera or that camera. Cameras are cameras. Whether you have an Olympus, Sony or Panasonic, they will all record images. When thinking about the equipment required to start your When I first started my business, I had the Nikon equivalent of this kit; one body, two batteries, two When choosing the best camera and camera gear for you, decide on your needs and the needs of your ideal launching a Learn more


Lenses

Most likely, you started this look into new camera lenses and make sure you’re buying the right ones. Camera lenses are expensive, but they are also the pieces of equipment that will stay with you. I recommend choosing them carefully and renting them before you buy if that is an option. This way you can test different types, like wide angle, before making a financial commitment on the 

Sorting your lens use in When thinking about which lenses to invest in first for your Another way to look into camera lenses is to first decide the types of images you want to make. Then you can reverse engineer them and decide roughly what focal lengths you might need. Perhaps you only want to shoot tight portraits like headshots. You might want to invest in either an 85mm prime lens or a 70-200mm zoom lens. Maybe you’re looking to shoot more dramatic portraits like Lighting

Light is our raw material, and thus should certainly be included in your list of photography equipment for starting your invest in a speed light, light stand or a reflector. Unless you’ve been doing this for some time already, I do not recommend investing heavily into lighting right away. Rent it and grab in store pickup wherever possible until you know exactly the level of quality and power you will require. Those Profoto B1s are excellent lights, but you may not need three of them just yet.


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Accessories

There are so many camera accessories that we need as photographers and they can quickly add up. As you are starting your Memory, for example, is what gets your images home safely. Investing in Small things like cleaning supplies, straps, a tripod, and extra batteries can often be overlooked. It’s always good to make sure you have plenty of these things to keep your camera gear in good working order.

Need vs. Want

When starting your business, something that needs to be taken quite seriously is whether you need the equipment you’re looking at or want it. I have scattered that idea through this article to make sure that we’re on the same page with this. A 50mm f/1.0 is an incredible camera lens to work with but for most people, a 50mm f/1.8 will be a more effective lens. Later in your career, investing in the more exotic equipment on your wishlist can give you an edge in the industry but it is most likely not a good investment for you or your When starting your launching a photography business. Learn more.


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