Tag Archive for 'sales'

So You Take Great Photos, Big Deal… What are you doing with them?

Me with a framed 30x46 limited edition on traditional canvas of Doorway to Winter. Just the start of a long study in how we can better present and display images.

by Gavin Seim: A lot of photos are being made these days. Some bad, some good, some amazing. But what gets me is how little we’re doing with them. Art seems to have become something that lives on Facebook. Most the worlds photographers seem to not even be selling prints to their clients. They just hand them digital file and the cycle of images that exist in nowhere but bits goes on. A few Facebook likes and comments later, the image disappears into the mists of digital bliss.

When we do make prints they tend to be small and cheaply presented. We find the cheapest company to make a gallery wrap that can be bought at WalMart. We buy a plain print, or whatever cheap new product the labs are kicking out in bulk. We take whatever is available. Often it seems we’re not selling heirlooms, we’re selling throw-aways. Has the beautiful art of printing and presentation been lost? Is this good enough?

I say no.. Most images mean nothing until their properly hanging on the wall.

I’m not trying to slam anyone here. I just think serious photographers should think more about the potential of their images and how well their using it. On the business side this is very relevant and wall prints can make a major diffence is sales and profits. Read, Wall Portraits. Why the 8×10 Is Stealing Your Impact & Profit. This stuff matters to our craft.

Sure there are commercials jobs and stock, there are a few projects where prints are not as relevant. But most of the time that’s not really the case. In truth I think we started doing all this because it was easier. It’s a lot of work to make and sell great prints. So we’ve lowered expectations.

Printers and paper options are getting less expensive and have countless choices of presentation and creativity. I bought a Canon 8300 wide format printer last year and just making my own prints has changed the way I think. I no longer just settle for what’s easy. I study mediums, mounting and presentation. I’m getting into mounting prints myself and looking at how I can stand out with unique offerings. While I still offer digital files if needed, my focus has shifted almost entirely to making and selling prints. And it feels so good.

So what does all this mean. Not that you need to go buy your own printer right now, or take your work in an entirely new direction. But you might find you want to do both. My bottom line is that we owe it to ourselves and our clients to start thinking about how we can be better presenting images, what sizes are appropriate. About how we can make more than a digital file and start producing furnishings for walls. Very few people are making really quality wall art. It’s about the only photo market that’s not over saturated right now.

It’s not easy and it’s not cheap to make and display great prints. But so few are doing it anymore that it’s not only satisfying, it’s become a great opportunity to set yourself apart and stand out in a crowded industry. Doing it well is more than just making an 11×14 and buying a frame at Target. It takes time, study and planning. But the reward is like nothing nothing else.

I hope to post an article soon looking in detail and at the mounting and presentation options I’ve been studying and working with. But what do you think? Am I crazy, have you found presentation ideas that are unique and working for you. Share your thoughts in the comments… Gav

Finding a Style – And Why Most Photographers Don’t Have One.

By Gavin Seim, Updated 10/11

Something one often hears tossed around in this industry is the word ‘style.’ “It’s my style” or “love your style.” Sometime it can get pretty funny: “My style is, uh, everything.” Now, this is not a bash session. We’re all at different levels, and that’s OK. This is just another post to get us thinking, something to get us all to raise the bar. I think the idea of style bears consideration and refinement. So let’s start where I often start, with the word, itself.

Webster’s Dictionary – Style.
1. a distinctive manner of expression (as in writing or speech)
2. a distinctive manner or custom of behaving or conducting oneself
3. a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed.

Hunters Bridge - 2009, HDR Portrait.

SO perhaps a photography style is just what you thought it was. But look carefully. “Distinctive, distinctive, particular.” I see photographers (especially new ones) frantically trying to define their style. But they don’t. It may change from week to week and month to month. If you go to their site right now, that high contrast, over saturated look is their style. But really, it’s probably because they know nothing else or saw someone else doing it. Your style is a big part of your brand. But developing it is not quick or easy. It’s a process.

NEXT let’s get one thing out of the way. Just because you do something does not make it your style. The most common “style” I see is “high contrast” or “edgy” or “bold” or “fun”. Now all those things can be a style, but they’re generally non-distinctive and used by people who don’t really know their style. Sometimes these vague styles are used by photographers who are inexperienced and use “art” or “style” as an excuse for their work. (I.e. “The high contrast look is my style” or “The flat light is my style” or “The blown out highlights are part of my style”)

NO. Those are not your style. You just don’t know what you’re doing. The first step in developing your style is to STOP trying to be something you’re not. It takes years and years to become a good craftsman. If you’re a new photographer, stop trying to fake a style that you don’t really have or convince people that that thing you do (because you don’t know any better) is your style. Don’t do it. Using style as an excuse just slows your career because it allows you to make excuses and avoid learning to things properly.

BUT can’t high contrast, blown out, journalistic, be a style? Sure. But often it’s not, because people who are comfortable, experienced, and have really found a style generally know better than to take the cliches and call them a style, because the result tends to appear like a generic copy of everyone else.

SO WHAT makes a style? Sure, it can be somewhat subjective, but let’s go back to the dictionary for the facts. A style is “distinctive.” It’s “particular.” That means it has the ability to stand out on its own. So based on that, if your style looks like 80% of the rest of the world’s photographers, it’s not much of a style. That is, not unless you call your style generic, which does not sound too appealing.

Now, I’m not saying a style can’t be inspired by the work of another photographer. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do something completely new. But there’s inspiration, and there’s outright copying. Most photographers don’t have a style because they have not yet taken enough time to refine their craft and develop that style. This can apply to a newbie as easily as to a 25 year veteran.

A STYLE is not simply taking photos. It takes something more. It requires thought, planning, and skill. But even further, a style is your brand. It can be combined with your personalty, the products you make from your photos, and the way you present them on your website. It does not mean being in a rut or always being the same or applying a particular technique to everything. It’s a process.

WHAT is my style? I’ve been making photos for over 14 years now, and in just the past few, I’ve started feeling I understand my style. It took me that long. I know what I do, and I know how to make it come out nearly every time. I feel I have a style, but I’m still improving on it.

If you were to go to my portrait or wedding site, you might see me describe my work as “A natural cinematic style inspired by the masters and tempered with modern flair.” But the text is merely the beginning. I have an visual in my mind of the kind of image I make, and while every one is different, I have a focus. Also, the way I display my final prints as carefully crafted wall portraits is a very relevant part of my style. It’s taken me about 13 years to pin myself down this much. And I’m still discovering and refining my style.

WHAT does all this this mean? Well, my goal here today is not to say you can’t have a look, or that you can’t describe your work. It’s not to make this style thing abstract and confusing. Maybe you’ve truly found your style, maybe not. But my intent is to get us all thinking. To raise the bar on our style, study, and practice, and become such proficient craftsman that we truly understand our medium and our style. Maybe you’ll be faster than I was, maybe not. But either way, it’s a process. A valuable one.

SO, STYLE is important. But it’s not something you can simply make up. Before you can really define your style, you have to know your craft well enough to understand what you’re doing with it. You have to have worked enough to find that distinctive consistency in your images. Imagine a singer. A singer does not have a style until they learn to sing and perform. It takes time. They have to work it out. Photography is no different.

WHY do most NOT have a style? Because they’ve not refined their craft . It does not mean they’re all bad photographers. But in truth a lot of photography today lacks distinction. Admittedly, it’s hard. Finding your style take more than just doing a wedding every weekend. It takes more than copying the latest trend you see your friends using.

I often see photographers who are really busy with jobs, but it’s all they can do just to keep up and get the jobs out. They’re generic. If you’re paying the bills that way then fair enough. If volume is your business approach, it may work for you. But it’s not usually distinctive. Rushing offers too little time to experiment and define your work. You probably want something more. To define a unique style, you have to take your extra time to study and refine what you’re doing until you draw out something unique about it. Until there’s a pattern. Until it becomes a style, not just the latest fad.

How to Find Your Style. A style is images, personalty, presentation, branding, and more. Really finding it takes enough experience to know what you do and how you make it unique. I think the way to find your style is to stop looking so hard. Stop trying to rush to having it all figured out, and spend more time figuring. Study your craft and be content with the fact that you’re making good images and improving. Forget about your style for a while and learn how to style better. In time, you’ll find your own unique approach. You’ll find your STYLE naturally.

WHAT AM I GETTING AT? Stop having confidence? Stop charging for quality? Heavens, no! I’m not even saying at what point you have a style. I’m just saying slow down and think about it. Take the time to make images just for the joy of it. Explore ideas and techniques, read books, go to workshops. Do that, and your style will blossom, as will the quality of your work. Photography is not a quick journey. It’s a long one. It’s OK to be starting out. Just be honest with yourself. Keep working on your craft and always raise the bar.

Keep styling,


Midnight Seattle - 2009. 2010 PPA Loan Collection. 2011 PPA Magazine Feature.


A bit of Gavin’s work below. You can see more on his website, seimstudios.com

Continue reading ‘Finding a Style – And Why Most Photographers Don’t Have One.’

Pro Photo Podcast #79RT. Lightning Rounds.

Click To Listen>>

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Direct Podcast FeedReview in iTunesVote on Podcast Alley

Today’s Panel... Gavin Seim (G Pixel)Barry Howel (B Groover) – Rob Owens – Scott & Adina Hayne

On this weeks roundtable we talk about perspective and starting out. Then we put ourselves under the time gun as we speed through questions and answers. PS. This episode is not about storms. Though that is an awesome idea ;)


Podcast #79 forum discussion:

Notable Time Indexes:

  • 00:00 Introductions
  • 06:30 photography news
  • 25:53 LIGHTNING rounds. ZAP.
  • 1:13:20 Picks and goodies
  • 1:28:46 4×5, closing, Next LIVE show
  • 1:39:55 Short after show

Links to things we mentioned.

Gavin’s Lights & Shadows HDR workshop this Fall.

Canon Mirrorsless camera?

New pen cams. Still no finder…

Fuji X100 still looks cool, but not perfect. Spendy too.

Hoya sells Pentax to Richo.

Light field camera has infinite focus. Heres a photo session done with it.

Vuzix wrap 1200 for camera view camera like experience? Just a thought.


Barry. Bubble level….
Scott & Adina – Cinevate video gear – Atlas slider – Shoulder mount and more.
Also check out the Rode Video Mic.

Rob – RRS WPF flash bracketEpson artisan 50 printer for making disks (try it with Tayo CD/DVD). perfect for disks. Lightflow Presets.

Gavin – Epson V700 scanner for prints and filmLighted Loupe.



Wall Portraits – Why That 8×10 Is Stealing Your Career:

by Gavin Seim: Updated 04/2012:

Have you ever admired classical art hanging in a museum? Maybe Sargent, Bierstadt, Rembrandt? It’s from the painters that we inherited this profession and every photographer should take time to look closer at what they did. You owe it to yourself and your clients to start placing appropriate sized pieces on walls. Photographers have missed much of the furniture quality appeal of their craft. Part of the problem is that they think of themselves as photographers. As camera operators.

We are in a saturated industry that’s in a rut of low grade commodities. But it’s time to change that. Hemingway was not a typist, he was an author. Those that have the skill to make quality wall portraits are not camera operators. They are artisans. Anyone can take pictures, but being a master of photographics is no easier than being a master painter. The mindset we have effects the product we produce. I Am Not a Photographer (see article).

Now it’s not only the fault of digital or too many people with cameras. We’ve trained ourselves and our clients to think small. It’s something that goes back to the early days of the wet plates and small contact prints that we’ve never quite escaped. People walk through our doors thinking in 8×10’s, 5×7’s and wallets. And we encourage them. It’s helping make photography a cheap commodity and it’s time to start changing all that.

Why should an 11×14 hang on the wall? It probably shouldn’t. Chances are the wall is much larger than that. But we’ve fallen into a rut of thinking small is all people want and need. Some tell me that “people won’t want these in my area”. But I’ll be blunt.. If people aren’t buying wall art, it’s because you don’t know how to make and or sell said wall portraits. I live in small town America and have discovered for myself that people love personalized wall art. You simply need to show them the quality and value of a beautiful appropriately sized piece. But first you have to understand the value yourself. Lets look.

120×72 – Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Albert Bierstadt, 1866. Birstadt is one of my favorite Husdon River School pictorialist’s. Amazing work at stunning sizes. Click this one for a large version. It’s amazing.

When you walk into a furniture store are they afraid to show you the larger dining set that fits your room? Do they act like it’s a stupid to buy the Italian leather instead of the cheap import? No. The only reason clients are asking for 8×10’s is because we’ve trained them to. Try showing them a thirty inch framed canvas of their beautiful family and see how they respond. If we do it well, we’re moving towards fine furnishings.

It’s been about 5 years since I first attended Wall Portrait Conference to really learn about all this. I know it can work, because nearly every client I have purchases at least a 24 inch heirloom quality print for their wall (I charge around $600 for those). That’s my smallest wall portrait size. I’ve sold up to 70 inch pieces using these same principles. Not because I’m a hard sell, but because I’m making and showing quality pieces that myself and my clients can really be proud to show.

But rather than simply making my own case, allow history to help. Below are some classical works, listed with their original sizes. We think of these as classics now, but when made, they were often commissions meant to hang on someones wall just like our photographs. Take a few moments to really look at them, then I’ll be back. And if you want to and get inspired in print form, check out some books like Sargent’s Portraits Of The 1890’s, Frederick Church, or J.W. Waterhouse. Or for the lover of pictorials like myself, here’s a stunning book on the Hudson River School era of painting.

46×34, Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts. Rembrandt, 1631. It seems that even 300+ years ago, a wall portrait was a thing of note. Look at the quality of this work. Click for a larger version. Even the catch lights look perfect.


38″x32″ – Gather Rosebuds While Ye May by Waterhouse 1909

The Voyage Of Life, Manhood

80″x52″ The Voyage Of Life, Manhood by Thomas Cole, 1842

Continue reading ‘Wall Portraits – Why That 8×10 Is Stealing Your Career:’

19 Tips for 300 Client Inquiries:


19 Tips To Get 300 Client Inquiries: Special guest post by Matt McGraw.

Vendors, vendors, vendors. Their important. From reception caterers to cake makers. I do a pre-questionnaire for my brides and grooms. In that questionnaire I find out who I am working with, from DJs ,to Florist, to cake people, to ministers to, reception places etc. I obtain all the contact information for these vendors. After the wedding I compile a list of photos that each vendor would find interest in. I splash my logo and email them the images, then say if they would like any of the photos in high res and without my logo to let me know.

For reception sites: If it’s somewhere I have never worked I’ll send them a 20X30 print with my logo splashed all over it and 4X6s of the same photo with my contact info to pass out to potential brides. I’ll also send them a disc with images they might be interested in and tell them they can use whatever photos they would like to.

Become buddies with the vendors too. For example, I’m on a “hug basis” with the sales directors of 5 major hotels in town. Their cell numbers are in my phone. I photograph their kids. I’ll sometimes meet them for a beer or two. I never promote my photography. It’s always buddy talk. Sure we talk shop sometimes, but it’s not my goal. They feel comfortable around me.

Newsletter/blog: Start one… I use constant contact set up a page and send mine out once a month. My email list is 6300 strong. Most photographers have a webpage set up. We do not.. I’m not opposed to that but I just prefer the email newsletter.

Next question for you is how we get 6300 people on there. Anyone that emails me gets on the list.
The only people who do not get on my list are emails that are inquiring where I am not available. Also I advertise in two magazines where they provide a lead sheet. I’ll copy and paste emails of brides and grooms where I am not booked. I do this once a month right before I send out the newsletter.

Advertising: In the beginning of your career, spend most of your advertising money online as opposed to print. Print is just name recognition. They’ll see or hear your name and see an ad and say I’ve heard of this photographer.

Continue reading ’19 Tips for 300 Client Inquiries:’

The Bridal Show:

by Gavin Seim: This weekend I had a booth at the Wenatchee Bridal Show. The confession I have to make is this. While I was happy with my setup and received great feedback, I ran into my typical problem. I was not a good enough salesman.

Now those of you that listen to Pro Photo Show know that I’m not a shy person. It’s as if like I sit in my booth making weird sounds as I flick my lip with an index finger making that interesting “buh buh buh” sound. Nope, I do fine interacting with people and being professional. Until it’s time to seal the sale that is.

Continue reading ‘The Bridal Show:’