Dance Photography All The Way

I’ve decided to refocus Frozen Event on latin and ballroom dancing

When I started Frozen Event, I had a vision in mind. To build an easy way for photographers at a dance competition to sell their photos after the comp. I’ve been to many comps as a photographer, and to many more as a dancer. I realised two things: As a photographer it’s really tough to show dancers the photos, while offering a high quality way of selling the images, and as a dancer I’m always annoying not being able to find any photos. Frozen Event grew out of this frustration, and was am attempt to close this gap between photographers and dancers.

I figured that if this is a problem with dance competitions, it must be a problem with many other sorts of events. What I found though was that despite success with a few other types of events (like remote control car racing), dance competition were by far the biggest success story of Frozen Event.

So I have now decided to explicitly focus on my roots. From now on Frozen Event will be purely for dance photographers and dancers. My goal is to make Frozen Event the number one site competition photos.

Please help me out and show your support by heading over to the Frozen Event Facebook Page and liking it. Thanks

Use A Facebook Page to Share Photos

We all know there after going to a dance competition, and taking several hundred awesome photos of the competitors it’s really important that the dancers get to see the photos. Facebook is an great way of doing this. Once the photos are on Facebook its super easy to tag people so they see the photos. Most of the time the dancers will tag each other,  so you don’t have to do even that bit – how cool is that? But should you upload the pictures using your regular Facebook account, or a Facebook Page?

The simple answer is that you really should be using a Page. Why?

Well, the first, and perhaps most important reason is that that is how Facebook want you to do it. That might not sound like a great reason to you, but you have to remember that with anything Facebook related, they get to make the rules. Facebook do have a history of changing the rules from time to time, and the best way to stay clear of trouble is to do things the way they want you to.

That aside, there are a few other reasons why its better to post photos as a page, rather than as your personal account:

  • You can keep friends and fans separate. By using a Page you photo fans can follow your photos without getting all your personal updates. Just because someone wants to see your photos, doesn’t mean they want updates about your holidays.
  • There is no limit on the number of fans. Facebook limits the number of friends you can have, but doesn’t place a limit on how many fans your page can have. If you post photos as your regular account there will always be a limit on how many people can see your photos.
  • You get better data. Facebook pages come with some pretty nifty “insights” on how popular your photos are. Things like how often they have been shared and how viral they are. This gives you great information on which photos are most popular. You can use that to work out which style of photos you should work on getting better at.

Creating a page is really easy. Just go to the Facebook page creator, and follow the steps. Before you know it you will have your very own page, and can start adding fans.

The new Frozen Event watermark

One of the things that was rushed in getting Frozen Event up and running was the watermarks on the photos. While it was important to have something on the photos to prevent anyone from grabbing a photo and doing what they want with it, not much thought went in to how to do it.

The first version of the watermark was so unpopular with photographers that I very quickly made the call not only to change it, but to go back and change all the existing photos. So I don’t even have an example I can show you. What I can show you is the second version of the watermark, which looks like this:

(The first version was basically the same, but with twice the number of lines)

This did the job, but thats about all I can say for it.

I recently took at look at what Getty Images have done with the Getty Watermark, and was inspired (also check out this short video).

What I really like about their watermark is the thought that’s gone into the intent. They really know what they want their watermark to achieve. So I sat down, and worked out a list for what a Frozen Event watermark should do. I even worked out the ordering of my priorities:

  1. It should look “good”, in order to present a quality, professional feel
  2. It should help the photographer build a reputation (or personal brand)
  3. It should make sure viewers are aware they are supposed to pay for the photo
  4. It should make it easy to buy the photo
  5. It should identify the event the photo came from
  6. It should promote Frozen Event as a brand

Yes, I’m explicitly putting Frozen Event branding at the bottom of the list, and the photographer’s branding at the top (well, second). Frozen Event is all about helping photographer’s establish and build a name for themselves. That is the most important thing we do, so it goes as close to the top of the list as possible.

Making sure that viewers know they are supposed to buy a photo is a bit of an experiment. We don’t have many problems (at least right now) with image theft, and when we do, it tends to take the form of someone putting the photo (with the watermarks) as their Facebook profile picture. I don’t think anyone is going to do that if they know that the watermark is telling all their friends they stole the photo. I think this is a matter of education, rather than intent.

Identifying the event is tied in with another new feature I’m working on, which is grouping a collection of albums, potentially by different photographers. That’s in partial testing now, but not released yet.

So I sat down and started to work on a new design of watermark. One that would meet all of the criteria above. At the same time I decided to make the images a bit larger. If my assumption is that people are not intending to steal the photos, there is no harm it making them just a bit bigger than a postage stamp. This is what I came up with:

This then, is the new Frozen Event watermark. I expect it will change in small subtle ways over the coming months, but its launching today. Enjoy

UPDATE

A couple of photographers already contacted me concerned that the wording “legal copy” was too strong. I have since changed the wording to “To use this photo please buy a copy”

Triggertrap Mobile

For several months now I have been eagerly following the development of the Triggertrap. This awesome little devise promises to expand the options for taking a photo beyond the traditional few options of  pressing the shutter, holding the shutter down (for rapid fire), or pressing the shutter and running to get into the photo.

I’ve been particularly keen to give the TT a go at a dance competition, just imagine taking a photo whenever a dancer moves into your pre-focused well lit spot.  Once I get my hands on one (they are on the verge of shipping the first units) I will give that a go and let you know how it goes.

However, the clever people over at Triggertrap, have another trick up their sleeves. They have just announced Triggertrap Mobile. That’s right, you can now trigger your camera from your mobile! It’s a iOS app, so it can run on your iPhone/iPod/iPad, and with the help of a nifty little cable, it can trigger a real camera! How awesome is that? Just take a look at this video and see if you are excited as I am.

I was lucky enough to be one of the beta testers for this little device, which means I have had it on my phone for a while now. As I was asked to keep it a secret, I couldn’t go playing with it at any big events, but I did fall in love with the timelapse mode. This is so much fun. Just take a look at the video below I made using the TT Mobile connected to my 7d while in Spain the other week.

The starts of the video are Ryan and Ksenia – a pair of awesome dancers I was privileged to be able to work with. When I first started getting them to film this I’m pretty sure they thought I had taken leave of my senses :-)

How to start selling your photos

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Photo Credit: Charles Smith

Photography can be a very expensive hobby. Lenses, strobes, tripods, it all adds up. Like many other photographers, you are probably thinking of covering some of these costs by selling your photos. It’s simple, risk free, and can be very effective. Not only do you earn some cash, but the fact that people are parting with their hard earned money for something you created gives you a great feeling of doing something worth while.

However not everyone knows how to get started selling their photos. In this post, I’m going to explain one approach to selling your first photos. It’s by no means the only option, and I suspect I will write about other options in the future, so be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss that. In fact, if you started selling photos via another path, let me know in the comments below.

The approach I’m going to cover is how I first got started. It doesn’t require any special equipment (though that always helps*) and there is almost certainly a chance to do this in your local area: photographing amateur sporting events and then selling individual photos online.

(* for some action shots, especially indoor ones, fast lenses do make a big difference, but there are plenty of other photos you can go for)

Step 1 – Take some photos

Obviously you need to start with taking some photos to sell. Local amateur sports events make a great starting place, for several reasons:

  • They are generally public, so there are no issues with being allowed to take photos.
  • They are often uncrowded, so getting close enough to take photos is easy.
  • Most players/athletes, or the friends and family, are really keen to get good photos of themselves, so they make good customers.

I suggest you visit the local weekend league of whatever amateur sport is near you, and spend a few hours taking photos. Hopefully you are comfortable with your camera’s autofocus, and autoexposure. That means you can concentrate on trying to get well composed photos, and capture any emotion; there is normally plenty of emotion at any sporting event.  The first time you try this, expect to take something of the order of a thousand photos, and don’t worry if not many of them are good.

Do this a few times, you will find that you feel confident that you can always get a few good photos for any game you go to.

Step 2 – Talk to potential customers

After the game (or match/race/whatever) it’s quite likely that some of the players will approach you, and ask if you got any good photos. If they don’t, pick one or two of the good photos and approach the players in the photo. Don’t try and sell them the photos, just show them the camera and say “Hey, I got a good photo of you”.

Listen to what they think of the photo. It’s probably different to what you think of it. While you will be judging the photo by checking to see if it is sharp, well exposed and so on, they will be judging it based on how good they look, and if the photo shows them doing the right thing.

After you talk to a few people, you will feel comfortable showing people, even strangers, your work. You should start to have an idea what constitutes a good photo for whatever sport you are shooting.

Step 3 – Start to distribute your photos

It won’t be long before you start getting photos that both you and the subject agree are good. At this point you can offer to send them a copy of it. There are a few different approaches here, but I am a fan of giving them a small size JPEG, with your logo discreetly in one corner. Tell them you would normally charge $10 or so (or £10 / whatever local currency works for you), but as your still experimenting you are not charging yet.They will probably use it as Facebook profile picture, and if the logo isn’t too overbearing, there is no reason for them to crop it out. This establishes you in their mind, and in the minds of everyone who sees your photos, as a photographer.

Once you have done this, you will feel comfortable describing yourself as a “real” photographer (whatever that means to you).

Step 4 – Start selling your photos

Now is the time to start making your photos available for sale. No surprise that I’m going to recommend you use FrozenEvent for this. Just set your prices, upload some photos, and they will be ready for sale.

You will need to market your photos. It’s not an evil thing to do, it’s simply a fact that no-one will buy a photo if they don’t know its for sale. Tell the players about your album, send them a link, and use the Facebook Push feature in FrozenEvent. This will get visitors coming to your album, and some of them will start to buy.

Once you get a few emails telling you that your photos are selling,  you can start thinking about what lens to buy next.

That’s it. I’ve kept each step as brief as I can, though I could go into more detail in a number of places. I’m a big fan of learning by doing. The best way for you to learn more is to try and follow these steps, and see what you learn in the process. So pick up your camera, and  get started. Then come back and let us know in the comments how it worked for you.

 

Sell photos in US Dollars, UK Pounds, and Euros

Dollars

Photo Credit: 401K

One of the great things about running a beta test for an online service, like FrozenEvent is the chance to get user Feedback. In my first push for users I reached out and made contact with quite a lot of people interested in FrozenEvent, and started a conversation with them. It soon became clear that one feature was in demand so much, that requests for it were swamping all other requests.

That feature is to do with the fact that you guys are all over the place. I mean geographically. Selling photos in UK Pounds is great for those of you who are based in the UK, but terrible for the rest of you. By far my number one request was to sell photos in US Dollars, and the number two request, was to be able to sell them in Euros.

So I set to to work getting that feature added into the code. It was a little bit harder than I would have liked, but now its working, and has been tested, and so the good news, is that as of now, you can choose to sell photos in UK Pounds, US Dollars or Euros.

So if you have been waiting for multiple currencies to sign up, now is a great time to go ahead and start selling photos.

It’s hard to explain what your startup does.

I’m surprised to discover how hard it is to explain what Frozen Event does.

I find it hard to get past my limiting belief that the idea behind Frozen Event is is not only brilliant, but obvious too. Yet when I ask my friends (who have been listening to me for months) what Frozen Event is, they think it’s something different to what I think it is. This was driven home to me recently when I sat down with a few close friends to try and work out how I can communicate the core idea better. After an hour of deep discussion, it turned out each of them heard a different thing.

A few days later I sat down with one of them, and after two hours of discussion, diagrams, lists, and pure mental effort from both of us we finally reached a point where we both had the same understanding of what Frozen Event does.

When a potential new photographer visits my home page I suspect I get about 10-15 seconds before they decide if they are going to sign up or move on. Given that two or three hours is my benchmark for explaining my idea, I’m sure most people don’t get the right idea.

How can I get the message clearer? What specific activities can I do that will improve my ability to explain the core idea?

So far I have tried a few things with various levels of success:

  • Spending hours talking to friends, family, and anyone-who-will-listen. I explain what Frozen Event does, and carefully listen to them as I go. Trying to figure out where their understanding differs from mine. This is time consuming, and emotionally expensive, but provides lots of insight.
  • Writing out a summary of WHY Frozen Event exists , and what problem it is trying to solve (in line with this TED talk). Sending this out on Twitter resulted in many questions along the line of “but HOW does it solve these problems”. This seems to get people interested, though it leads to more work, as I now need to create a clear explanation for how I solve these problems.
  • Testing various different simplified explanations when talking to people. The one that gets the most traction in peoples minds is “Frozen Event uses Facebook to connect a photographer with people they have already taken photos of, and so sell more photos“. This is such an over simplification that it makes me cringe, but maybe I have to simplify it that much to get any communication started.

What I’m moving towards is a redesign of the Home page. The major success criteria for the new home page is going to be to communicate as fast as possible what Frozen Event does. I suspect that an explainer video is going to be involved, meaning my next step is going to be to write a script.

Have you had problems explaining your startup idea to people, or do you have a suggestions for how I can explain Frozen Event better? If so let me know in the comments below.

 

What is the best price for a photo?

I just saw this post over on Pixiq about how much should you charge for a photograph. Naturally this is a really relevant topic here at Frozen Event.

While we let photographers choose their own prices, a number of our photographers have asked for advice on this exact question. They are asking for something more specific to their situation than “Your photo is worth only as much as someone is prepared to pay for it”. While that is the right answer the question – it does tend to lead the follow on question “what is someone prepared to pay for your photo?”

So I thought it might be useful to see examples of photos for sale, and what photographers are charging for those photos on Frozen Event.

The first type of event we started selling photos for was student dance competitions. You can see some examples here, here, and here. For this photos the target market consists of university students who don’t have much disposable income. After some trial and error with a few photographers, we discovered that the ideal price for small and large digital images is 99p and £1.79 respectively (that’s about $1.50 and $3). Not a huge amount, but when you consider there can be up to a thousand students at a single competition, it doesn’t work out too bad for the photographer.

As a second example, this album is selling photos for a theatre production. Here the photographer charged the same prices, and sold photos, but the small number of people interested in buying photos (basically just the cast) means it wasn’t so feasible. Next time I would suggest a higher price, to find out if they still sell.

Finally, this set of photos was taken for a dance show held the London Erotica Festival (NSFW). The prices were higher this time, at £2 and £3 for small and large photos (about $2.15 and $4.75), and again they sold. This time I personally thought the prices were way too low, and they would have sold just as well at a higher price.

This is just a sample of the prices we have tried here, and we are a long way from yet being able to answer the question of what people are prepared to pay for a photo. To my mind, the answer is that people are probably willing to pay more than you think.

Do you have an opinion on photo pricing? Let me know in the comments!

Are Free Photos Becoming the Norm?

Photo by Ludovic Bertron

You can’t deny the fact that the Internet has changed the landscape of the photography businesses. While cameras have changed a lot, it’s nothing compared with how the business of being a photographer has changed. The marginal costs, that is the cost of taking or selling one additional photo, are approaching free. Once you have a camera, you can take as many photos as you like, and as long as you ignore the wear and tear on the camera it costs nothing. Similarly, once you have a way of selling your digital files, it costs you no time or effort to sell the same photo to a second customer. Unsurprisingly, this has caused an explosion in the number of “professional” photographers out there.

In the first wave of changes to the photography world, we saw microstock sites spring up. The cost of buying a photo tracked the cost of taking a photo, and while they didn’t quite reach free, they were very cheap. This has opened up a whole new market. Blog authors now pay for photos to illustrate their articles.

Along side this, many photographers who made a living selling photos to magazines started to suffer. When a magazine needs photos for an article, it can do the same thing bloggers do. They can log on to a microstock site, and buy their photos super cheap. Even getting a cover photo from a stock photo site is not unheard of. True, some articles require specially commissioned photography, but, unsurprisingly the competition for these jobs is fierce, and only a few elite photographers can play this game.

The second wave of this change is now bringing free stock photography to the Internet. Flickr has for a long time now, allowed photographers to mark their photos with a creative commons licence. Setting this licence on a photo grants permission for other people to use your photo, even commercially in some cases, for free. But trying to find good quality photos on Flickr for a specific theme can take forever. A problem that is now partially solved by Compfight.

What I am starting to see now, are sites like FreeDigitalPhotos.net. They do exactly what they say on the tin: Free Photos! FDP is a microstock library that gives away its photos for free – but only a small sized copy. Great if you want to use it for a blog post, but no good for a magazine or other uses (though you can pay for a larger version).

The clever thing is that when you use one of their free photos you have to include a link back to FDP. It’s a great way for them to spread the word about their site, and one that Google particularly thinks is pretty cool. This trick has allowed them to get to the front page on Google for searches like “Free stock photos”. Take a look and see.

Naturally FDP are not the only guys with this idea. One look at the google search results page shows you a huge number of sites offering free stock photos. One of the big players, Dreamstime, are also starting to offer free stock photos. I can’t image that is will be long before you can get “professionally” taken free stock photos for just about any subject.

With so many photos available for free, there is a big question facing anyone who wants to earn money as a photographer: Who will pay for your photos?

7 Tips For Better Photos at Events

Image: Tony Dowson

It might sound like turning up to an event with your camera, and snapping away some photos will be easy. But that is no reason to avoid spending a few minutes thinking about how to improve your yield. By “your yield” I mean the number of photos from your day’s shooting that are usable, and potentially sellable. Increasing your yield is one of the best ways to improve the profit you make from a days shooting.

While it is very nerdy to think about percentages, the fact is if you want to sell more photos, you have to. Let me illustrate with an example. Snappy Steve, and Thoughtful Tara both go to a JetSki competition, and shoot 1000 photos. Snappy Steve has a low yield, and gets 50 good photos, Thoughtful Tara on the other hand, got 300 good photos. Which one do you think is going to be able to sell more photos?

So now my (admittedly contrived) example has convinced you that you should be aiming for a higher yield, here are my top 7 tips:

1 Work out the best angels at the venue

No matter what sort of event it is, there will be good and bad places to photograph from. Get to the venue early, and walk about for 20 minutes with your camera, looking for the spots where you can see the action, and have a good background too. It can be a nice background, a good viewpoint where you can see the best action or somewhere where you won’t get people wondering back and forth in front or your shot. If you are in a rush to start taking photos you won’t be able to think about it, so get there early, and claim the perfect location.

2 Look for the spots with good lighting

Every event will have a variety of lighting conditions. It could be lit by daylight, normal indoor lighting, or even special event lighting. The trick here is to remember that the lights won’t have been set up with photographers in mind. Most photographers don’t think much about this when at an event, so you can give yourself an advantage. Look for a nice spotlight, or pool of light and set yourself up so that you can take photos of anything interesting happening in that light. As photographers we all know that good lighting is one of the key elements of a great photo, so don’t leave it to chance, and know where the good light is.

3 Know the important moments throughout the day

Some moments at the event will be more important, and more memorable than others. The exact moments to look out for will depend on what sort of event it is, so you need to know about your event and you need to have done your research. Whatever the key moments are, when they approach you need to make sure you have had your tea break, have the right lens on your camera, and have it already pointed at the spot where the action will take place.

4 Check your camera is on the right settings

This sounds really simple, and really obvious, but seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I checked my photos in a break and realised I have been shooting on the wrong ISO, or on the shutter priority setting for the practice photos I was taking the day before. So decide in advance when you are going to set up your camera, either when you get to the venue, or after you find your perfect shooting location, and then make sure you take that moment to look at your settings, and get them right.

5 Wait for the photo to happen

Don’t keep moving your camera about, looking for the magic photo, and trying to grab it. What will happen is you will end up with lots of misses, and only a few hits. That translates to more time in front of the computer trying to make your selection. Instead it’s better to get into the perfect spot (tip 1) and then point the camera at the spot with good lighting (tip 2) make sure your camera is on the right setting (tip 4) and then wait for something interesting to happen in one of your magic lighting spots. You will be ready and waiting for it, so it will be easy to press the shutter and *click*, you will have a keeper in the bag. Easy!

6 Keep your gear arranged in your bag

I use a variety of different lenses and accessories (but only the ones I know how to use – I practice with my gear beforehand). In order to do get the best advantage from my kit, I need to make sure that I can reach into my bag and grab exactly what I’m looking for. Otherwise I’m going to miss the good shots while I’m fumbling about in my bag. So I simply make sure I know exactly what section each bit of kit is in, and what bit of kit should be in each section. That makes it really fast to put away one toy and grab another. It also makes it really easy to make sure I pack everything away again at the end of the day. Because I know what should be in each section, a quick look to see if there are any empty sections in my bag is enough to check that everything is back in the bag, and what’s missing (if anything).

7 Food and drink

Once you get into the flow of taking photos it’s really easy to forget about eating, or drinking. For short events that doesn’t matter too much, but if you are in it for the long haul, it can really affect the quality of photos you take by the end of the day. So pack some bottles of water, and some snacks into your bag. I think this is one of the few times when snacking on chocolate bars is not only acceptable, but essential! :-)