Photographer Spotlight + Celebrity Mentor: Jimmy Bui

We are so excited to welcome the amazingly talented Jimmy Bui to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about his amazing wedding and conceptual photography, and be sure to visit his website Jimmy Bui Photography.

The best news… Jimmy will be featured as our “Celebrity Mentor” in the Rock the Shot Forum for the entire month of July so come on over and ask him anything you like. Thank you so much Jimmy for taking the time to share your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
I’ve always been the creative type, but I didn’t really start getting serious about photography until about 4 years ago. I was an elementary school teacher for a few years but during the height of the recession in 2009 I was laid off, even though I won teacher of the year that same year. After that I felt it was a good time to change things up a bit. So I decided to change careers and try and pursue a career in photography. It was tough, and my transition into a new field wouldn’t have been possible without the love and support of my wife. She was my inspiration.

How would you describe your photography style?
There are two genres of photography that I focus on – weddings and conceptual portraits. My wedding photography style is modern and very vibrant in color with an emphasis on environment. My conceptual photography is highly processed but still maintains an organic and elemental feel with a somber or dark mood. Environment is also highly emphasized. I shoot 95% in the landscape position, so incorporating the environment in portraits is all about my style.

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I enrolled into photography school in Southern California, and after half a semester I dropped out. I didn’t feel like I was being challenged enough, plus my ADD was a real roadblock to learning in the classroom.  So instead I learned from established photographers that I admired in the field by being an assistant or second shooter. I studied the technical aspects of photography online, and I practiced new techniques everyday. I learned at my own pace and concentrated on things that mattered to me.

What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot with Canon cameras, namely the 5D Mark III and the 6D. As far as lenses go, I love Sigma, especially their Art series. My favorite lens would be, hands down, the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art. It’s the perfect lens for environmental portraits, which is my specialty.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
I’m always on location, so finding light is incredibly important. For me, I’m always looking for ambient light that I can use as a backlight, and I would use either an external flash/strobe or reflector to fill in the shadows. I like to look for light peaking through trees, bouncing off different surfaces, or penetrating through any sort of natural diffusion.

What is most challenging thing about photographing weddings and conceptual shoots?
The most challenging thing about wedding photography is how quickly a lighting scenario can change from one situation to the next. For example, I could be following the bride and groom outside in the bright sunlight into a dimly lit reception hall during their grand entrance or be shooting at an outdoor venue where there are large spots of super bright light and spots of really dark shadows. For wedding photography, knowing how to shoot in manual mode is incredibly vital because the camera’s auto settings simply cannot adapt to these fast changing lighting scenarios in a manner that you would want. So, quite simply, the way I would handle the first example I mentioned is that I would keep my aperture and iso to a fixed value and the only thing I would change is the shutter speed as I’m walking from a bright area to a dark area. Of course, I could shoot in aperture priority mode, but the camera is not going to know if I want a silhouette look or an over exposed look or whatever.

In the second example, I would expose for the highlights, and bring up the shadows later in Lightroom. For my conceptual shoots, my problems is always about budget. I have these grandiose ideas stored away in my head, but often times I have little or no budget to help these ideas come to life. So it’s forced me to think creatively on coming up with cheap solutions to create these art pieces.

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
One of the things that I learned this year about my photography business is to never underestimate the power of social media to advance your business. Marketing is incredibly important if you want your business to survive, and one of those things that you may want to incorporate in your marketing strategy is having a social media presence. I’ve gained new clients through Facebook and Instagram, and I’m building my seo using Google+. Those platforms are constantly changing, especially when it comes to organic reach, so as those evolve I’m evolving too and keeping up with the changes.

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
I would definitely encourage new photographers on becoming masters of light. When you do that, your confidence as a photographer will sky rocket. You will be able to handle any tough lighting situation and you’ll grow less dependent on what kind of camera body you have.

What do you love most about being a photographer?
Hands down, what I love most about being a photographer is the creative freedom. My clients trust me completely to give me the freedom to be as creative as possible and it has allowed me to grow as an artist and photographer. I also love the collaborative experiences that I’ve had with other artists and combine my aesthetics with someone else’s to create some really cool images.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I hope to still be a wedding photographer. I absolutely love weddings. The once-in-a-lifetime moments you can capture from a wedding is priceless and totally fulfilling when captured right. I would, however, like to shoot less weddings by that time and make more room for my conceptual work. I would love to be a creative director for a major advertising firm or be able to create movie posters for big budget films. No matter what though, I’ll still be shooting.

About the Artist: After a successful career as an elementary school teacher, Jimmy Bui switched careers to pursue his passion in photography. He specializes in weddings and conceptual portrait photography in the Southern California area. His inspiration is drawn from his wife and daughter, and when he’s not shooting he’s spending time with his family and showering them with as much ice cream and trips to Disneyland as they want. His office is located wherever a shoot is happening, and if he’s not editing at home, you may find him editing at a local Starbucks with empty coffee cups strewn around him.

Visit Jimmy at his WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER pages

And don’t forget, you can ask Jimmy anything you like in the Rock the Shot Celebrity Mentor Forum for the entire month of July!!

New “Members Only” FREEBIE Packet {V49}

YOWZA!!!  The newest “Members Only” FREEBIE Packet {Volume #49} is now available for download in the forum!!  This month’s packet is filled with the most FABULOUS goodies from our amazing vendors!  We want to extend a HUGE thank you for their generosity and support. Special thanks to Eleo B Paints, Maria B Paints and Pink Honey Design for this month’s contributions to Rock the Shot Forum members!

You can find the download link in [the Forum] under “Freebie Packets”. New members, don’t forget to download the other available issues of our “Members Only” Subscriber Packets as well! You’ll get HUNDREDS of dollars in FREE photography products.  Hurry, these packets are only available for a limited time!

Not a member of our forum yet?? JOIN TODAYand get exclusive access to all our FANTASTIC FREEBIES!

And now….on to the goodies! You will receive the following freebies:

Sweet Rhombus Senior Album Template from Eleo B {$32 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Eleo B. is a lovely Photoshop Templates Shop for Photographers. You can find easy-to-use and high quality designs for your business: cards, albums, studio mags, forms & much more! I design my products trying different techniques, focusing on geometric patterns, fresh ideas and nature inspiration. Hope you will enjoy this lovely freebie in collaboration with Rock The Shot.

Senior Template Bundle from Maria B Paints {$55 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Maria B. Paints creates custom, hand painted, watercolor logo designs and templates. Stand out of the crowd with an elegant design that’s all you!

Set of Four Newborn Announcement Templates from Pink Honey Design {$32 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

We’re so excited to extend our online e-commerce site into etsy! Our small business was founded online in 2010, and after 5 years, we’ve decided to bring these amazing products to you on etsy. We work out of our offices in Chicago, Montana and Oregon. Our passion is creating products that will save you time and also allow you to have some fun, too. All of our products are INSTANT downloads. So, as soon as they’re purchased, they’re yours to start playing with. We offer incredible support here on etsy as well if you should have any questions. We’re inspired by the talent we’re surrounded by, and hope you’ll come back often to share your work, and see our latest releases at Pink Honey Design!

Not a member of Rock the Shot Photography Forum yet? Come on over and JOIN our fun and friendly community TODAY! 

And… don’t forget to stop by these wonderful vendors websites and Facebook pages and check out all the FANTASTIC products they have to offer. Remember to download all of our currently available packets in the forum. Here is a list of all the fantastic freebies available for download.  Hurry, these packets are only available for a limited time!!

Volume 48:

  • Modern Diamond Pricing Template from Charlie Lou Designs {$15 Value}
  • Senior Template Bundle from Lucky Star Templates {$32 Value}
  • The Big Day Wedding Magazine Template from Sweet Sawyer Designs {$24 Value}

Volume 47:

  • Set of Basic Photography Forms from Click Chicks Design {$15 Value}
  • Summer Mini Session Marketing Set from Fotovella {$32 Value}
  • Lovely Studio Marketing Set from Laurie Cosgrove Designs {$55 Value}

Volume 46: (Expires on July 3, 2015)

  • Set of FOUR Birth Announcement Cards from Lovely Days Creative {$20 Value}
  • Photography Marketing Brochure from Posy Prints Design {$74.99 Value}
  • Six Blog Board Templates from Tiramisu Design {$15.99 Value}

Featured Vendor + Giveaway: Shootproof

We are thrilled to welcome our friends at ShootProof back to the Rock the Shot blog. Check out all they offer, and don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a 1 year free to their 15,000 Photo Plan ($300 value). About Shootproof
Here at ShootProof, we empower photographers to focus on what matters most. As a small team of photographers, developers, engineers, perfectionists, and customer service fanatics, we work to give our photographers a beautiful platform with which to share and sell their work. Our belief is that photographers’ sales are the result of their hard work, so we allow them to set their own prices and keep 100% of their profits: we’ve never charged a commission-fee and are proud to say we never will.

Because we listen to our photographers and strive to build long-lasting relationships, our services go well beyond client proofing and print sales; we provide invoicing, contact management, and mobile apps, and we deliver top-notch customer service. We believe in simple, intuitive design and freedom of choice for photographers. Tens of thousands of photographers in over 30 countries are now sharing and selling millions of photos with ShootProof. We continue to strive to be the most supportive service available for our clients and the online hub for photography businesses around the world.

Visit ShootProof.com to learn more and sign up for a 30 Day Free Trial. Also, you can reach our team via 866.516.5130 or support@shootproof.com with any questions. We look forward to supporting your business!

About the Team: These are the friendly faces of the ShootProof loyalty builders. Chris, Tracey, Parker, Katie and Michael are the folks who are here to answer phones and questions for our awesome clients. They also love knock knock jokes and prank calls (just kidding. they really don’t.)

Visit Shootproof at their WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST | GOOGLE+ pages

Enter the Giveaway for a chance to win 1 year free to their 15,000 Photo Plan ($300 value)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry! Giveaway ends on Tuesday, June 30th.  Winners will be announced on Saturday, July 4th.

LEGAL STUFF: This promotion is in NO WAY sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You will NOT be notified publicly via Facebook if you are a winner. You MUST be 18 to participate. By entering this giveaway, you are providing information to Rock the Shot and NOT to Facebook. Prizes do not have cash value. There will be no returns/exchanges on any of the items. Giveaway is open to US/CA residents only.

Photographer Spotlight: Kristina Varaksina

We are so excited to welcome the wonderfully talented Kristina Varaksina to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful and evocative photography, and be sure to visit her website Kristina Varaksina Photography. Thank you so much Kristina for taking the time to share your work with us today! Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
Inspiration for my pictures comes from many different kind of sources. I can be watching a film or reading a book, and something in it would make me think of a photograph. It’s not necessarily a direct interpretation of what I saw or read, but it it triggers something in me, something that maybe has been in the back of my mind for a while. I get my ideas from life around me, when I talk to people or see someone. Something I see makes me think of a certain subject and then I start thinking of how to visualize it. How would you describe your photography style?
I would describe my approach to photography as emotional portraiture. I like taking my subjects out of an ordinary world and show their emotions that come out in a set up reality, or a situation. Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I went to Academy of Art University to get my MFA degree in photography. I believe in a school environment to help a young artist grow and find themself, but it doesn’t really matter what kind of art school it is. What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
My camera is Canon 5D Mark III in combination with my absolute favorite lens Canon 85mm f/1.2. Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
Light is the god of photography, in my opinion. It depends on what and where you photograph, so I can’t really talk about light sources, but it can be straight on and flat, it can be hard and directional, or soft and diffused. As long as you are aware of what the light does to your subject and your image in general, you can use any source and and any position/direction of light. You can think what kind of mood the light types described above create, and then decide what tells a better story in application to your subject. What is your favorite subject to photograph?
People. Women of all ages, children and teenagers in particular.  What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
Best lesson I learned this year about photography business was to never forget how important social media is. I feel that today, about 98% of clients, customers, and people interested in your photography come from social media. If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
If I were to encourage a young photographer I’d suggest experimenting with mixing different media. Photo + illustration, photo + graphic design, photo + video, photo + painting, photo + 3D. And please don’t forget about collaborations! What do you love most about being a photographer?
Through my photography, I make realities that don’t exist. They look surreal, but still believable, so I can live through those moments I create in my pictures. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I want to see where my life takes me and what inspirations I’m going to get along the way. I will be absorbing the information, processing it and creating new art projects. 

About the Artist: Born and raised in Russia, Kristina Varaksina moved to the United States to get her MFA in Photography. Based in San Francisco, she splits her time between California and New York.

Kristina works in both, fine art and commercial photography fields. She has received multiple prestigious awards in photography, from such respected magazines and organizations as APA, PDN, Communication Arts, CMYK, Digital Photo Pro, Creatives Quarterly, and more. Her work is represented by galleries in San Francisco, Nashville, Germany, Paris. Coming from a painting and graphic design background Kristina pays a lot of attention to shot design, color and light. Through her photography Kristina shares her views on life. Like still shots from movies, her images show carefully constructed realities and aim to ignite the viewer’s imagination.

Visit Krisstina at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM |BEHANCE pages

A Strategy for Quality Leads for Photographers

by Guest Contributor Scott Wyden Kivowitz

There are many ways to go about increasing a business for photographers. You could do outbound marketing like creating drop cards to mail, or getting a booth at local events. Each of those methods is powerful and effective in their own right. But I am a web guy, so today I want to share a different type of effective method.

Inbound vs Outbound

Before I get into the strategy, you need to understand the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.

The descriptions here are not the official definitions, but rather my way of simplifying it for you.

  • Outbound: The act of outreach to perspective customers. Examples include mailers, phone calls and public events.
  • Inbound: The act of attracting perspective customers to you. Examples include blogging, having a website (yes it’s true) and social media.

The inbound marketing strategy you are going to learn about is a proven method of converting website visitors in quality leads (someone who has interest in your service) and eventually into paying customers. The important keyword in that last sentence is “quality” because any website can attract leads, but a quality lead has a much grater chance of converting into a customer.

In fact, you could even say that you should spend more time nurturing a quality lead rather than a general lead.

Quality Leads

To determine if a lead is quality vs. general, think about how they got in touch with you.

  • What actions did they take on your website?
  • Did they browse your portfolio first?
  • Did they read your blog content?
  • Did they land on your site and contact you within a minute?

The Strategy

By now you may be confused because I have yet to talk about the strategy.  So here is the point where I will tie the strategy into what you have already learned.

I am going to use portrait photographers as an example, but please keep in mind that the same strategy can and does work for other photography niches.

One of the best ways to attract quality leads on your photography website is to create a document, or guide, which is offered for free to site visitors.

This guide should describe everything that the lead needs to know to plan their session or event, but you also want to make sure it’s local. For example:

Title: New Jersey Family Portrait Guide

Contents:

  1. Outfit recommendations
  2. Venue recommendations
  3. Prop recommendations
  4. Stylist recommendations
  5. Florist recommendations

The list can go on, and as mentioned it would be specific to whatever your photography niche is.

If you’re a wedding photographer then it might be tux rentals, dress shops, etc.

Include your branding and photo examples. Think of it as a mini portfolio, so make sure it’s your best work.

So if you create a very informative PDF guide, offer it free on your website, and make it obvious that it’s available then you are likely to convert visitors into quality leads.

Go the extra mile and make a search engine optimized landing page for the free guide. Get it ranking in the top 3 (ideally 1st spot) on Google and you will see those quality leads pour in faster than you can Tweet “Thank you @scottwyden”.

Step It Up A Notch

There are 2 ways to step up this strategy to a whole new level of awesome.

  1. Partner with the local vendors that you are recommending. Tell them what you are doing and why. Explain it in details. Get them excited for the referrals. Then ask them to help promote it too. Why? Because each downloads helps you and it helps them. So it’s the obvious thing for those partners to do.
  2. Connect the leads list to an email marketing campaign. I personally prefer Mailchimp, but Aweber is also a great service. Set up an automated lead nurturing campaign with further education for those leads. Don’t sell yourself right away. Let them love the education for a bit before you throw the sales pitch at them. Get those leads asking you questions and get then get them to have a phone conversation. Then sell.

Gary Vaynerchuk says it well in “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” when he says to Give Give Give and then Ask.

Quality?

Remember earlier when I mentioned how to determine if a lead is quality or not? Here is the key to the puzzle on determining that.

Make sure that your sign up form has conversion tracking for Google Analytics.  That way you can simply log into Google Analytics when a lead arrives in your inbox, and trace that users entire list of actions that they performed on your website.

This is a manual process unless you are using CRM (customer relationship management) software that tracks it for you. If you are using WordPress then be sure to search the plugins directory for lead capturing software that also automatically tracks the data for you.

Remember that quality is the main keyword here.

Try it!

Now that I have detailed this strategy, in the simplest way I can, I would love to see you put it into action.  Set it up and let it roll, then come back here and comment with how it’s doing.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

About the Author: Scott Wyden Kivowitz is a photographer, blogger, author and educator. He is also the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati, the WordPress development company creating products for photographers including the flagship Photocrati Theme and NextGEN Gallery plugin.

Visit Scott at his WEBSITE | INSTAGRAMGOOGLE+ | FACEBOOK  pages

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