August Photo Challenge:

Photo Credit: Melanie Weyer Photography – winner of our Water Challenge 2014

Summer is in full swing, what better way to COOL OFF with our August Photo Challenge theme “WATER“.  This month, get creative, think outside the box and enter your favorite image of “WATER”. Interpret the theme in any way you wish: rain, beaches, rivers, oceans, pools, water reflections – it’s totally up to you – the only requirement is that water is somehow incorporated into your photo.  Everyone is invited to participate!

Special thanks to our very generous sponsors for the AMAZING prizes for this months challenge!

Here are the prizes you can win:

1st Place PRIZE: Pixellu SmartAlbums Design Software {$299 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Pixellu SmartAlbums is professional album design software for photographers that makes album design fast, simple, and even fun. It was developed by Pixellu, a software company that is passionate about creating beautiful tools for photographers that are intuitive, reliable, and easy to use.

Try SmartAlbums free for 30 days. The risk-free, fully functional trial allows you to design and proof your album in under 20 minutes! Download your trial here.
2nd Place PRIZE: ImagePops from Simply Color Lab {up to $289 Value}

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

When you want a simple ‘pop’ of creativity to add something special to an image.   Select one area of your image to ‘pop’ out in your display.  Like our Art Walls, you upload an image and we send you a proof of the layout for approval.  Available in Canvas, Fine Art Mounts or Metal Prints.   Prices start at just $69.

Feel free to give us your thoughts on what you would like “popped” from your image and we will create the perfect Image Pop for you.  What a great way to show your creativity and stand out.

Even if you aren’t a winner you can still get an amazing deal on this product.  Use code PopOne to get 30% off any order of an Image Pop. Sale ends August 31st, 2015. 

3rd Place PRIZE: $150 Gift Certificate to Hazy Skies Designs

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Hazy Skies Designs offers photography backdrops and templates, designed to help photographers present an image of professionalism and style that will impress potential clients and bring business through the door!

Here are the details for entering your submission:

1. Create a post on your blog and include ONE photo submission for the challenge. If you like, include some fun facts about the photo, and any tips or tricks you might like to share about how you captured and/or processed your image.  For this month’s submission, the only requirement is that your image contains WATER.  There are no other requirements – you may interpret the theme in any way you wish.
2. Include the Rock the Shot Button and type the link www.rocktheshotforum.com in your post. DO NOT include http://
3. You can also link your submission from public Facebook pages, Flickr, Pinterest, etc. Just be sure to include the link www.rocktheshotforum.com within your post. If you are having trouble with this method, check out our step-by-step video tutorial HERE 
4. Submit the link to your post using the InLinkz button below. You must submit the actual post link (permalink), not just your website URL. NOTE: do not include http:// in your link
5. You may submit your photo at any time during the challenge – the deadline for this month’s submission is Monday, August 31, at 11:59pm CST.
6. The winners will be announced on Friday, September 4th, 2015.

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.

By submitting your photo, you grant Rock the Shot permission to re-post your photo on our blog and/or Facebook page.

Photographer Spotlight: Jean Photography

We are so excited to welcome the amazingly talented Jackie Jean to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her incredible child photography, and be sure to visit her website Jean Photography. Thank you so much Jackie for taking the time to share your work with us today! Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
When I was about 10 years old, I had my 110 film camera and I took pictures of everything. I never stopped loving photography after that and it only increased after taking a photography course in high school. How would you describe your photography style?
Creative, Fun, Emotive. I love the creative aspect of photography as I am able to capture what I envision in my head. I say fun because I work towards my clients having a fun experience and I genuinely love to laugh and love laughter, so I like capturing those silly candids. Emotive because I like to capture love and beauty whether it is a connection in a relationship or a simple portrait.  Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I began learning the techs in my high school photography course and then continued to learn by reading books and trial and error. I am a hands on learned so most of what I have learned has been self taught.  What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot with a Nikon D800. My favorite lens is the 135mm, though I do love the 85mm as it is simple and light. Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
Pay close attention to your subject and how the light falls on them. So many times, if a subject was just angled slightly different, the whole dynamic of the image would change.  What is your favorite subject to photograph and why?
Families and kids. I love to capture connection within the family and kids are just simply awesome. They are just themselves and I like bringing their personalities out in camera.  What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
There is only one me and I am learning to be just that. It is easy to get swept up in what everybody else is doing, but there is no fulfillment in doing what everyone else is doing.  If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
Be true to yourself. What do you love most about being a photographer?
Two things. I love being able to express myself through photography and secondly, I love, LOVE all the people I meet. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Continuing to take pictures, travel, teaching, and most of all, loving on my family. 

About the Artist: Hello there! My name is Jackie Jean. I am a mama of five, (yes, five) amazing kids. I am a natural light, children and family portrait photographer. I love coffee shops, chatting with people, the outdoors, music; l also love so much teaching and encouraging others in their passions.

Visit Jackie at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOOGLE+ pages

How to Begin In Person Sales

by Guest Contributor Kristen Carter

About 3 years into my business, I faced burnout. I was shooting sessions all weekend long from sun up to sun down, staying up until 2am to get edits done and images burned to discs, fielding calls and emails as soon as they came in, but most of all, I was missing my life. Didn’t I start this business to be my own boss? Then why was my calendar out of control, my time gone and there no money to show for all of my hard work? The breaking point came when I asked a returning client at her son’s cake smash session how much she loved his newborn photos. Her response, “Oh yeh, I still haven’t gotten around to printing them. They’re in my desk drawer.” I was heartbroken. I spent HOURS editing her baby’s session to perfection and they’d never been printed or enjoyed? There had to be a better way. How could I make my family happy and serve my clients better?

In researching successful businesses, I discovered that the physical print is not dead, clients will absolutely hire a photographer who sells products AND the photography studios who offer these services in person make far more money than I could ever do on a shoot & burn or online gallery business plan. If you are at the same point (or see it in your future) I’d love to demystify some of the questions surrounding an In Person Sales (IPS) photography business model….


What is In Person Sales (IPS)?

In Person Sales is exactly what it sounds like. An in person meeting between photographer and client where the client is shown their images and then selects the prints, wall art or albums for an order. All communication is done face to face and the order is placed (and paid for) at the time of the sale.

Why should I do IPS?
1) It benefits your clients. Meeting with clients in person creates a deeper emotional connection to the images that you’ve created with them. You are also able to assist in print size selection including wall art design and guiding your clients through the ordering process. Most clients want to print and hang their photos, that’s why they had photos taken. But, they don’t know what to so after they have the digital files. Discs will sit in a drawer, waiting “until I have time”. 6 months, a year goes by, it’s time for another session and still no prints from the first one. In person sales removes the uncertainty they feel when making decisions regarding their art and offers them an expert (you) to help them.
2) it benefits your business. You can generate higher income by offering prints and products to your clients than by simply shooting and handing over digital files. Math time. Assuming a Session + CD= $250, you’ll have to schedule 200 sessions to generate $50,000 (that’s just gross income, no taxes or business expenses covered). In order to generate $100,000, you’ll either have to shoot 400 sessions in one year (and risk burnout) at $250 or 100 sessions at $1000. Which sounds better? It’s all about working smarter, not harder.

Who does IPS work for?
IPS has traditionally worked well for portrait & wedding/event photographers. Remember, that 25 years ago, there was no shoot & share or online galleries. All photographic sales orders were conducted in person. Due to their digital nature, commercial, fashion or business headshots are not encouraged to follow the IPS model.

Where do I conduct an IPS Session?
If you don’t have a studio, you have a few options. You can meet at a public space such as a coffee shop or high end cafe. You can rent a space or studio specifically for your meetings. You can travel to your clients’ homes and have the ability to show them the art possibilities on their walls. As long as you have a quiet space to chat with your clients and present their images, any venue is acceptable.

How should I show clients the photos? On a television? An iPad?
For those with dedicated sales spaces, a large television screen or projector is used. You also have the option of a portable screen and projector if you travel to your clients and want to project images true to size on their walls. Some photographers prefer to use an iPad loaded with a proofing/selling app or a laptop loaded with viewing software.

Should I own samples? What kind of samples?
When you’re first starting out, you don’t need a sample of everything you want to sell, but you do need a few samples to show quality and allow your clients to experience products in person. One sample album, one sample canvas, and some gift prints are a good way to start. If you plan to offer specialty or unique items, such as accordion albums, having them on hand is a good idea.

How do I price my products?
Pricing is a tricky subject and there are a ton of articles and resources available to assist in the creation of a price menu and packages or collections. But it starts with knowing your costs of doing business (CODB). You can’t just ask a vendor for the print price and then arbitrarily decide to mark it up x3 to sell. You also can’t judge your pricing off the photographer down the street. Everyone’s business costs are different and therefore their pricing will be different.

How do I figure out my CODB?
If you haven’t done so already, your codb is calculated by taking into account all of your business expenses (gear, insurance, taxes, props, vehicle, office supplies, marketing, salaries, etc) and then figuring out your daily and hourly minimum for not only staying in business but also turning a profit eventually. A great calculator is HERE. What are good professional labs to look for products? There are many to choose from, including Simply Color Lab, Bay Photo, Millers, ProDPI, WHCC, Artsy Couture, Blackriver Imaging and American Color Imaging. Take a look at their product line, their shipping time, and then set up an account. Many labs will offer you sample images to help you calibrate your monitor to their printer.

How many images should I present?
This is really up to you as the photographer and what your goals are with your clients. You can remove the difficult decisions and present a limited number (25-40) to allow the clients to select wall art and gift prints. Or show them a lot (100+) and overwhelm them so they want them all and are likely to buy an album or full collection. Only you can decide which way works best for your personality and business plan.

What do I do about digital files?
So, this is the tough question that everyone making the leap struggles with. Again, depends on your business plan but a few valid options are:

  1. don’t sell them at all, remove them from your vocabulary and focus solely on printed art
  2. sell them at a premium price to encourage print sales and discourage file sales (I.e. Your 11×14 print is $75, a digital file is $150, making the print a more attractive option)
  3. offer them in collections only with a minimum purchase amount (Collection B includes 1 16×20, 2 8x10s and 5 digital files)
  4. include a matching digital negative with a print/pose purchase. (Order an 8×10, receive the digital file & print release for an 8×10 size)

No matter what you decide, for the most part with in person sales, they are sold, not included as part of a package. (When digital images are included in with the session fee, a client has no incentive to order professional prints. In their mind, they can go to a big box store and print the files, and most won’t care about the difference in quality.) You also have the option of offering a digital app or web-ready digital images as incentives or add-on sales to clients.

There are photographers having success with a hybrid model of including digital files and setting up the sales appointment, but they are primarily well-established studios with a proven workflow and sales system. But no studio with yearly million dollar sales offers digital files in their collections. That, to me, speaks volumes.

What if I lose all of my clients?
In making the change to products and in person sales you will lose clients. Especially if this is the time that you also calculate your codb and realize that you are losing money handing over those digital files to clients. It hurts, it sucks, but there are other clients out there. Ones who are willing to invest higher amounts in their sessions, ones who want to have your art hanging on their walls, ones who will return to you and refer their friends. The market is different, you will likely be changing demographics so don’t be fooled into thinking you can make the change to an IPS photographer and do the same marketing tactics you did as a shoot & burn photographer. It won’t work. That’s like Neiman Marcus trying to win over WalMart customers. However, when you do find those clients, remember earlier where I said $1000 sales? Yes, those clients will allow you to shoot fewer sessions and make more money while providing them a finished service. Winning all around.

About Kristen: Kristen Carter is a maternity, newborn & family photographer residing in Gilbert, AZ. She specializes in fun custom on-location sessions capturing her client’s personality and creating beautiful wall art & albums with their photographs.

Visit Kristen at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK pages

Photographer Spotlight: Joanna Polling

We are so excited to welcome the wonderfully talented Joanna Polling to the Rock the Shot Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful lifestyle photography, and be sure to visit her website Joanna Polling Photography. Thank you so much Joanna for taking the time to share your work with us today! Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
My inspiration for photography began when I had my twins 8 years ago. I’ve always loved photography, but it wasn’t until I had children that I really saw the rewards from capturing everyday life. How would you describe your photography style?
My style is more photo journalistic. I love capturing real, authentic moments. Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I did not study photography in school. However, I have an art degree from Arizona State University and prior to starting photography I was a a graphic designer. What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
I shoot with the Canon 5dmkii and the 24-70L and 135 2.0. The 24-70L is hands down my favorite lens. I have rented every lens on the market, but always come back to the 24-70. I really think it’s the best lens Canon makes. Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
My tips for finding light is to always look for a window and photograph near that. I don’t like to pose people, but I do like to strategically place them near a window and let it unfold from there. Also, the golden hour is called that for a reason :). What is most challenging thing about photographing children?
I can’t really think of the most challenging thing about photographing children. They are such a fun subject to photograph – such real emotion. Even when they are upset or unhappy, it still makes for a good photo because it’s real. They are my favorite subject to photograph (paired with dogs – even better!). What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
A good lesson I have learned in photography this year is to learn to say no. You can’t photograph everything and some people are better in certain areas – so it’s okay to stick to what you enjoy and say no to the ones that don’t fuel your passion. But also at the same time, don’t be afraid to try something new. If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
My encouragement to a new photographer would be to not stop photographing what you love. Even when you think your pictures are awful and you’re completely frustrated. Keep going. You will get better, I promise! What do you love most about being a photographer?
What I love most about being a photographer is that I have documented my children’s lives while fulfilling my love of the art. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I hope to be using my photography in more of a story telling setting. I would love to find projects that I am passionate about and devote 6 months, a year, two years (or more) photographing that story to help bring it to life for the world to see.

About the Artist: I live in Peoria, Arizona with my husband, three kids and two dogs. I consider myself a story-telling photographer, with my main subjects being children. I am passionate about any photograph that tells a story. I love art in all forms and am so incredibly blessed to do what I love.

Visit Joanna at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM pages

June Photo Challenge Winners

We are so thrilled today to announce the WINNING photos for our June Photo Challenge.  Our theme last month was “Summer Fun”, and the images were absolutely fabulous!  We want to thank all of our readers who submitted entries for the challenge, and a HUGE THANK YOU to our fabulous sponsors Galler.ee, Simply Color Lab, and Handcrafted Crowns for their generous prize donations to the challenge this month.

Here are our winners for the “Summer Fun” photo challenge:

1st Prize: #5 by Veselina Alexandrova Photography 2nd Prize: #12 by Olivia Loo Photography 3rd Prize: #20 by Tanya Karaman Honorable mention 1 #9 by Karen Bailey Honorable mention 2: #16 by Laura Penley If you’re one of our top five, proudly display the button “Top 5 Photo” button on your blog and Facebook pages. This button can be found HERE.

Winners, please contact Kathy at kathy@rocktheshotforum.com

Thanks to everyone who entered, stay tuned for our next photo challenge…

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