Liverpool Photographer - Finn Coleman on running a photography company, Mainstone Media. Information on starting a photography business and running it well while finding clients and earning money.

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Don’t always think you’re photos are awesome. Don’t think they’re always terrible either! Be honest with yourself, don’t kid yourself, stay grounded. You’ll need people to help you with this…

Find some people that know nothing about photography or art and ask them what they think of your pictures.

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These types of people will be your future clients. It’s important as you grow as a photographer to stay grounded with what the untrained people like when it comes to photographs. They are always right! 

It’s also not a bad idea to get feedback from other photographers too, this is secondary. The lay people will tell you what is good and what’s bad but the photographers can then tell you why. For example it’s important to focus on your subjects eyes. If you get this wrong consistently you’ll be in trouble!

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You don’t want a “mothers” approach to photography, someone telling you all your photographs are the best they’ve ever seen is no good at all. You need them to be honest, someone you know well, who is confident in not insulting you. They also need to know what you are capable of and what you have taken before.

In my last post, here, we talk about using friends as models, this is another area where they can help.

Use Flickr for other photographers feedback, you’ll struggle with this if you’re looking for any personal feedback. Flickr is vast and most people will not leave comments. Don’t get bogged down with this, try not to look how many people are looking at your pictures, make sure you title them though. Look here for more info. Enter competitions on the web for pictures you think are really good. DPreview hosts competitions every day so there’s somewhere to start off.

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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I’m away this weekend so I’m going to put a few posts up before then so you have some reading material!

"Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on." - Baz Luhrmann

This doesn’t really need explaining but I’ll add a few thoughts on for good measure.

Taking pictures of people is great and when you’re learning there tends to be precious few around. Your friends are a great source to work with but you have to treat them right. Posing for an up-an-coming photographer isn’t a lot of fun… So make it fun! You need to inject the energy in that you want to get out. So be excited, show them what your taking, involve them, explain what you’re doing and don’t make them uncomfortable.

The chances are they don’t stand to get much out of it so suggest they use the best picture as a Facebook profile picture. You could put a watermark on it linking it to your Flickr account… 

Take them out for a coffee after or even take them out somewhere and take pictures there. Maybe if you can afford it offer to print them some of the pictures, quite possibly they might not want them but if they’re interested in giving modelling a go then you’re on to a winner!

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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Buy a Tripod… Don’t skimp!

Tripods are great to have and it’s a good idea to buy one early. Manfrotto is a good company to go with. You’re really looking for something heavy, you could go carbon fibre but they’re mega expensive for what you get. Don’t get a cheap one, they’re not worth it and you’ll regret it as soon as you use it. Buying tripods second hand is a great idea!

Tripods are used for all sorts of things but for me it’s really a good idea to get one and use it often because it forces you to really think about the photograph you’re about to take. Tripods slow you down which is usually a bad thing, but if you’re learning this is a great thing. It will stop you making mistakes!

I most often use a tripod for night time work and long exposures but there are all sorts of other reasons. At a festival we photographed last summer in Liverpool, called The Mathew Street Festival some of the photos that were published wouldn’t have been had it not have been for my tripod. Have a look at them here, here, here and you’ll see why!

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There are also two other types of photo you can’t really get with out the use of a tripod.

  1. A “smoky” looking river, taken on a dull overcast day with a small aperture and very long shutter speed.
  2. Blurred people walking down the street in the evening.

I like these two kinds of photos and it’s a shame if you don’t have the tools to get them. If you’re serious about photography, which you are (since you’re reading this), then you need to plan buying more gear when you can afford it. I would suggest you buy it in the order of this blog… Learn from my mistakes of buying the wrong stuff at the wrong time!

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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Read this, grab your camera gear, then go take some pictures!

Mainstone Media Photo Walk

Learning photography is all about practice, experimentation and knowledge. The first two no one can really help you with, you’ve got to go out and get busy! There is vast amounts of knowledge to be learnt from the internet, blogs, flickr, books and there are thousands of people happy to give their time to help you become passionate about photography.

This post is about getting out and learning for yourself. Making mistakes is all part of the learning process. You will make mistakes, learn from them!

Push yourself, there’s no point always taking photos you’re comfortable with. Do something different, if it doesn’t work then no worries, if it does then that’s awesome!

Becoming a photographer stems from building your portfolio, that will end up being a promise to your clients, that you have delivered before so you will deliver for them. This brings me on to working for free… but that’s a topic for a whole different post!

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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It’s my birthday so you special people get 2 posts in one day, I’ve 20 drafts that need polishing before they’re sent out so really I need to shift some content!

Photographers learn to do this naturally but it is something you do need to think about before it becomes second nature.

While you are living your life, remember the world is beautiful and REALLY look at it.

A very famous photographer once said:

"there’s at least 10 amazing pictures where you are right now"  - Chase Jarvis (22.09.09)

You could be anywhere right now, you’re here reading this, but you could be anywhere and when you’re there make sure you have a camera. Moments in life happen all the time and the best ones we have no record of because we were living the moment. I’m not telling you to take pictures every second, or ruin a moment by spending it composing a perfect image. I’m saying practice makes perfect and there is a happy medium to be had, recording moments and living them.

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A great way to practice this, although the idea of it seems a little forced, is to go on a photography walk, even better drag your boyfriend, girlfriend, friend or model and some other photographers. Go somewhere nice, go to a park or the beach, have a night out, throw a party, go to a festival, do anything but bring your camera and some company! Aim to try something new to get some pictures you don’t have already. That way you’ll slowly build up a portfolio of work which you can use later to get jobs and clients.

Most people spend their life busy to get things done that they don’t take a second to actually look around them. When you’re working as a photographer you’ll need to be doing this for hours and days at a time. Practice is necessary!

(next post is on photo walks)

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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This is just a quick post but it is a mistake I made when starting out and a fellow photographer steered me right back on track. You can find her work here.

Do not border your photographs for viewing on screen or the internet.

Bordering pictures is what photographers do when they are framed after printing or when they are bound in a book. If you are viewing pictures on the internet then the computer screen is your border. If you think your photograph or image looks better with a border then the photograph is lacking somewhere.

This is by no means a rule, very good photographers do sometimes border their work on the internet, but very rarely, and it’s not good to start doing it early.

After I was back on the right track I haven’t bordered a picture on the internet since and the closest I’ve come is here.

It’s a small bit of advice. All this blog is really, if you are convinced it’s the way to go then that’s grand, leave a comment and let me know how you get on.

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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Digital photography is so much easier than film but there are just a few things we have to do to keep our pictures safe. Creating a solid, consistent custom file name when you import you’re pictures is important. We’ve mentioned here that taking loads of pictures is a must. So…

Name your imported files using a convention.

Lightroom is the program we use for our file naming. It has a great Import feature which will back your pictures up to a different location, change your file names, perform basic retouching from presets, add tags for on-line sharing and keyword pictures for easy finding.

We suggest you use the same but there are loads of programs out there which will do the same job. The important thing is that you make sure every picture you ever take will definitely have a different name. The easiest way of doing this is to include the date somewhere in the file name i.e.

YYYYMMDD_coffee_shoot_D3s.NEF

Also keeping your pictures in date specific folders is a good idea for easy finding since you’ll usually know when certain photos were taken. Another good idea is to make catalogues of similar photos for easy finding.

Lightroom has an awesome feature where you can search photos using the EXIF Data stored within your picture files. EXIF Data is where the camera stores info like weather the flash fired, what shutter was used, aperture, camera make and model, location some times (if you use a GPS equipped camera like an iPhone), focal length amongst loads of other stuff.

This makes searching for photos taken at f1.4 for example very easy regardless of when they were taken and which camera.

When you export photographs it is also important to rename them. If they are for clients then make the file names specific to their job. If they are for the internet then the file name is very important for search rankings. Google, Bing, Yahoo and all the others look at picture file names on the internet so they can form relevant search results.

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©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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"the dirtiest secret in photography is you gotta take a lot of pictures" - Chase Jarvis (22.09.09)

SD cards, CF cards and HDD’s are cheaper now then they’ve ever been, use them!

Data storage keeps getting cheaper and as I’ve mentioned in this blog post the risk of not capturing moments because of a lack of memory is just not worth it. Always have twice the amount of memory cards and batteries that you think you’ll need. The down side to this is that you’ll end up with a lot of images that you’ll need to go through later, so that you can pick the best.

You’ll also need to be very organised with your files to make sure you never loose them and can find them easily. When you import your pictures on your computer you’ll need to change the names of the files. (the next post is on file names, it’s boring but necessary).

©2011 Mainstone Mediainfo@mainstonemedia.com

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Editing pictures, organising your files, publishing your work and sharing it with the photographic community are all vital parts of learning photography. The program we use to help with this is Adobe Lightroom. Posts on all the above can be found on their respective links.

Buy Lightroom, learn how to use it, get creative and share your work.

Lightroom is a vast program but can be approached from any level, unlike Photoshop almost no training is required to get up and running. I’m not going to explain how to use the program from start to finish,

1.    because that’ll take me hours to write

2.    because Lightroom is a program that you can learn while using.

3.    because Tyler Stalman explains it nicely here.

The purpose of this is to explain WHY we use it and what it will offer you.

First off in this post we mention in a slightly long winded way that photographers shoot RAW files and when you do this you need

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If you imagine a camera as a piece of scientific equipment, which is what they really are, then you as a photographer need to form some relationship between the science and art.

Get used to editing, immerse yourself in it, learn from others and grow as a photographer. 

The combination of these two opposing forces, science and art, varies with each photographer but both are important. Sometimes the Content is the most important aspect of a picture (editorial, paparazzi) and the skill involved really stems from being in the right place at the right time or having a good idea. Other times Technique is more important than the pure content which could quite easily be something else. Most of the time however there needs to be

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