Hitting The Streets - A Photographers Guide To Getting Out From Behind The Computer

So, you have looked over your website a thousand times. You have changed the order of pictures. You have updated your site with new pictures, and removed the out of date ones. You have spent hours on your Google Ads campaigns. You have perfected your Facebook game, and even placed a few ads there. You have researched your competition. Checked their website. Their pricing. You have read a million blog posts and watched a thousand YouTube videos about the best gear for wedding photographers, or whatever type of photography you do. All of these things. They are great. They will help your business in some way. But, the one thing they all have in common…they end with you spending more time behind your computer.

I was there. I was doing all of these things, and waiting for the notification or the email to come in. There was success in some ways. I booked sessions and weddings, got some likes, got some emails. But there was something missing. I needed to hit the streets. So, I thought to myself…how do I do that? At first, I thought I would just give myself photo assignments. I would just get out there and shoot. Try street photography. Shoot some landscapes. Try some macro water shot thing I saw on YouTube. But, I wasn’t looking for something that would develop my skills. I was looking for something that would develop my business.

So, what did I do? I got on my computer, and made a list of every wedding venue, coordinator, florist, and other wedding vendor in town. With their websites, contact info, and notes about each one. Yeah, the first thing I did to get myself out from behind the computer was to do more work on the computer. And, this spreadsheet took me a surprisingly long time to put together. BUT. Once I had it, I had a plan that would get me from behind the computer. I drafted an email I would send to every one of these people on the list. Making them aware of me, and asking them to meet up, and talk about the industry, and see if there was something we could do to help each other. I didn’t want every email to be the exact same, so I brought up the list, and went through one by one. I brought up their website. Looked to see what I liked about it and how I could see myself working with this person, and added in something personal.

So, how did it go? Well. Not what I expected. In a wonderful way. I didn’t hear back from as many people as I had hoped. Some people just sent a generic, “thank you for your interest” response. Others didn’t respond at all. But I did get some responses from people that were open to meeting up. Great! So now what? What am I going to talk to them about? I wasn’t sure, but I set up a bunch of meetings.

I just kept telling myself, “this is networking”. It was something I had never put much value in. Something I just thought was fluff. Didn’t really do much. But, I was ready for change. I was ready to try different things. I got together some business cards and flyers I had made up, and went out to these meetings. Not really sure what to expect. And guess what? It was great. Every single person I met with had something great to offer. Yes, I got my business cards and flyers out there. But I also got some great insight.

One vendor reviewed my pricing with me. He looked at my work, and told me I was not charging enough. And not only that, but with what I was charging, I was only going to get weddings that looked cheap. And those don’t always photograph well. Yes, I can work magic with a camera. But, why make it hard? Shooting weddings with beautiful flowers, centerpieces, lighting, and everything else is so much easier than working with nothing. Another vendor hired me on the spot to take pictures of their newly renovated venue. Another sent me a referral within a week.

Overall, it just put me in the right mindset. It was yet another commitment to my passion and my business. It created opportunities that I could continue to explore that didn’t just keep me behind a computer. As time has passed, I have seen the benefit of this process come back over and over.

Follow The Hurd!

So, this week I got the chance to go to Sam Hurd's Epic Workshop in Charleston, SC.  Saying this workshop is epic is a bit of an understatement.  I learned a whole lot.  One thing I already knew, but was re-enforced was that I need to start blogging.  SO, here we go....

I had followed Sam's work for a while, and leading up to the workshop, I had gotten several emails telling me what we would be going over and such, so I kinda knew what to expect.  I knew I would be getting an insight into the workings of a truly amazing photographer, and would be learning how he pulls of some of his magic shots.  What I didn't realize is that Sam would be such a great person and wonderful teacher.  

It was clear right from the start that Sam was a positive person.  As we settled in, and he began his presentation, it was obvious that he really cared about what he is doing.  We went over more than just some camera tricks.  Honestly, when I saw the itinerary, and saw that a lot of the techniques were later in the day, I thought I was going to be itching to get past all of the "intro" and business stuff.  Nope.  Just as honest and forthcoming as Sam is with his techniques, and style, he is with his approach to business, social media, client interaction, and much more.  

It was really refreshing to hear Sam speak honestly.  One thing that always worried me about the world of wedding photography is that every time you talk to a wedding photographer, the conversation always drifts towards the "Bridezillas" or the nightmare clients.   Sam relieved my worries here.    He explained how he vets his clients, so they really know what to expect, and hence rarely ends up in situations like that.  But beyond that, he showed that his positive attitude and approach can contribute greatly towards your success.  At some point in the workshop, Sam quoted the Walking Dead, saying "smooth seas don't make good sailors."   Well, that kinda summed up his approach toward this type of thing.  Get the job done, and you will be better for it.  He never once talked bad about his clients.  He may have poked a little fun, but it was in the way that you would with a friend....Sam had made friends with these people, not just taken their pictures, and I think that is part of why his photographs are so magical.

So, yeah...We went on to learn a lot.  We went out and shot, and watched him show off some of his techniques, which was obviously great.  Some of the things I learned...

- Sam turned down a job at NASA so he could follow his calling of becoming an amazing photographer.  

- Using live view is tremendously helpful, especially when doing some of his techniques.

- Charleston has some amazing food.  The scallop appetizer with leeks, peaches and mushrooms from The Macintosh, was the best thing I have eaten in a long time.  

- Exposing for the highlights is a wonderful thing.  All of those times that I felt like I really liked the post Lightroom product of a shot that came out of the camera "underexposed"....I should have trusted myself.  That is pretty much how Sam shoots, and the results are obviously amazing.

- Smart Previews and Standard-Sized previews in Lightroom can make a HUGE difference in my editing process.

- Sam has a lot of amazing gear, but that is not what makes Sam and his pictures awesome.  

- Traveling light can be a great thing.

- Sam is in a band.  Ironically, the name of the band is Prisms.  They just released an album today.  I look forward to checking it out.

- Sam has some great stories.  My favorite was him trying to direct George Clooney in front of the camera.

- I was all well worth it.   If you are considering attending one of his workshops, don't hesitate.   FOLLOW THE HURD!!  (Credit to Tyler MacKenzie for the catch phrase...we need to make the shirts!) 

The list goes on, but I will leave it at that, and get to some of the pictures that I took on the walk around.  I processed these using some of the Lightroom techniques that we discussed during the workshop....