November 01, 2011

Retouching with Portrait Professional

I've been using Portraiture for a few years now and still love it. I recently heard about Portrait Professional and decided to try the free trial. Talk about WOW! Skin smoothing, face shaping and more. It's super easy to use and there isn't much of a learning cure. Whether you're looking for minor retouching or more extreme retouching to your portraits - this is the program. It only took me a day playing with the free trial to realize that I needed to buy the software. You can turn on or turn off any of the effects to turn your images into flawless portraits. Right now, version 10 of the software is on sale for $39.95 - I'm not sure how long this special price is good for. Also, you can save an additional 15% using the code XZWT-OYHW-DQVG-LACP at checkout.

If you are a portrait photographer, I suggest playing with the free trial of Portrait Professional and seeing if it suits your editing needs!

October 06, 2011

After Dark Education

After Dark Charlotte was an amazing experience. I highly recommend it to any level of photographer that is looking to improve their skill sets! Of all the seminars, workshops or conventions I’ve attending, this one is by far the best experience to date. After Dark happens four times a year in various locations across the U.S. and I will be, without a doubt, attending at least one (hopefully two) in 2012.

If you’ve never heard of After Dark, it’s quite the experience. It’s 72-hours of non-stop learning (they do let you sleep a little). With over 30 different photography mentors and 300 attendees, it’s a great teacher to student ratio for hands-on learning. There were about 10 “pods” set up for presentations, critiques and roundtables. In another area of the hotel there were 10 “bays” for studio lighting. You can stop by any pod or bay for each class, deciding which mentor you want to learn from. I went with a game plan of learning more about working with off-camera flash. Once I got to Charlotte and reviewed the class schedule, I changed my mind. My focus became more about business, posing and on-location photography. That’s the great thing about After Dark is that if you change your mind before or during a class, you don’t have to stick around, you can move freely though the various mentors’ presentations. I attended so many classes that my brain was in overload. Marketing, on-location natural light portraits, high school senior posing, creative children’s portraits and working with families and children to name just a few. Beyond the “scheduled” classes, there were also impromptu classes. A mentor would grab a model, a bay, or head outside and just start teaching! We typically were out photographing from midnight till 2 a.m., hence the name After Dark. I know other photographers were out till 4 a.m. some mornings. Not only did I learn a lot, I also got the opportunity to meet many great new friends, who are also photographers from across the U.S.

September 14, 2011

Facebook Pages SSL Deadline 10/1/11: Another Option

If you didn't hear, Facebook is going to soon require that all Facebook Fan Pages (including welcome pages) and Applications have a valid SSL Certificate. This new requirement starts on October 1, 2011. The problem - I currently have my Facebook Welcome Page hosted on the back of my website. I just plugged in the html code to get my cute graphic to show on the page. Starting 10/1, since my website doesn't have an SSL Certificate, the embedded graphic won't show. SSL Certificates can cost $50-$150.

The solution I found after a lot of searching is ShortStack. After trying a few different "free" Welcome Page Creator sites, I liked this one the best. If you have less than 2,000 fans, it's free. After 2,000 fans, there are different levels of pricing. There are a ton of options for different tabs including promotions, contact forms, coupons for fans only, etc. So if you're looking for a new way to create your Facebook Welcome Page and not have to worry about SSL Certificates, this is the way to go!

Full Disclosure: commission on sale via my link.

September 02, 2011

I've Been Featured!

My Twitter page is featured in a new Photography Social Media Handbook just released by Design Aglow. It’s an all-in-one resource to grow your photography presence in social media. So if you need help building a social media entourage, now’s your chance to learn how. Special thanks to the writer of the handbook, Zach Prez who is full of photography marketing ideas.

Here’s an excerpt featuring yours truly!

Danielle Neil uses a simple logo with sample photos and a nice color scheme to match her brand. She says:

Creating a consistent brand across social media platforms is a must. It's so much easier for my clients and potential clients to recognize my brand when they see the same design elements, fonts and logo no matter what site they visit. When I first started on Twitter and Facebook I didn't have myself branded as well as I should have. Once I created a stronger brand presence with coordinating looks across sites and linking to my most recent blog posts I saw a huge increase in my followers.”

The book launches, today, Friday, August 2 in the Design Aglow store at at a launch price of $50 ($20 off). So if you're interested, snag it now before the price goes up!

Need help with your SEO?

Scribe. SEO Made Simple.

You guys know that I'm obsessed with SEO! I heard about Scribe awhile back, but wasn't sure if I wanted to justify the monthly cost of another bill. I finally decided to try it out for a month and I'm loving it. I'm not a writer and it's pretty hard for me to come up with descent content for my blog posts. I've read time and time again that each post should have a minimum of 300 words! That's a lot for someone who isn't fond of writing. And since content is what drives SEO rankings, I figured I better have some descent content in those blog posts. Scribe doesn't write the content but it does check your content to make sure that you're using the right keywords for your target market. It also shows you options for additional keyword phrases that you may have not thought of. It's a great way to optimize your text while following SEO best practices.

There's a few options of Scribe available. A WordPress plugin and also a web version for those that aren't using WordPress. I've not only used it to optimize blog posts, but to also tweak my website pages. Since SEO can take a while to kick in once you've made changes, I haven't seen the results just yet. But I'm already loving the options it's giving me for keywords and ways to better work my blog posts.

Full Disclosure: commission on sale via my link.

July 30, 2011

New Version of Photo Cart Now Available!

I was surprised the other day to receive an email that there was a new version of Photo Cart from Pictures Pro for download. One of the great things about the investment in Photo Cart is that once you pay, you get free upgrades for life. This newest version is definitely more user friendly for both the admin and the client to use. I haven't had a lot of time to test out the newest features, but there are a lot more options to customize the look and feel of your shopping cart. You can now set a minimum order amount for each gallery, there's a new system to add packages and images to the cart, a new checkout process and a ton of other features that I haven't even touched yet.

I also decided to purchase the Design Proof add-on for my cart. I've already used it with two clients with great success. One for an album design and another for a cd case design. This new add-on allows clients to comment on the online proof with any changes they have and approve or deny the current design. The best part is you don't have to worry about emails back and forth, sending pdfs to clients and sifting through emails to double check their changes. I love this add-on and for $59, it's already done it's job for me!

If you're already a Photo Cart user, the upgrade was pretty simple. I ran into some bumps and was able to find out what my issues were with their FAQ section and the help of other users in the online support section. So if you're nervous about the upgrade, it's pretty painless. If you're not using Photo Cart, you should consider it. I've had some issues in the past with the way my collections were setup, but I've learned no shopping cart is perfect. For the most part, Photo Cart fits my needs and with a one-time fee, you can't beat that.

June 12, 2011

My New Kelly Moore Bag

I've been on the fence for months debating on getting a new camera bag. I've been eying the b-hobo bag from Kelly Moore. I finally caved last month and picked it up as a "birthday gift" to myself. WOW - I love this bag!!! I can fit my Nikon 70-200 2.8, 17-55 2.8 and my D300 with the 50mm attached!! I was nervous when I first looked at the bag that the 70-200 wouldn't fit. While with every piece of gear in there, it's full, but it all fits and zips!

I still have my Shootsac and ThinkTank bags and love them both as well. The ThinkTank is perfect for traveling and storing all my gear in the same place. I love the Shootsac for when I second shoot weddings. And the b-hobo from Kelly Moore is perfect for sessions. I can easily carry all my gear and I don't feel like I'm going to break my bag. There are also pockets for my iPhone, extra batteries, business cards and treats.

I had searched the internet prior to my purchase and was having a hard time finding someone with this combination of equipment who had tried the bag. I'm glad I took the chance to see if it would work for me because I just love it.

May 16, 2011

Blogging Success

Blogging Success

I feel like many of my blog posts lately talk about Zach Prez! But the guy does great things, so I feel the need to share! Zach first contacted me about doing a guest post on his blog about Photography Branding Tips for Facebook and Twitter. Then, a few weeks later Laura Swanson contacted me, she and Zach were working on an ebook and wanted to feature my blog in their book. Of course, being a fan of Zach's wise SEO wisdom, I said yes.

I was surprised to get an email to preview the ebook before it was released to the public. There are tons of great tips in there on what and how to blog to not only improve your search engine optimization but to also get those visitors to contact you. The other great part of the book is the show and link to many great examples from other photographers which is a fantastic way to get the ideas rolling on what you can do to make this work for your own business. I even walked away with a few ideas of some possible topics to write about to keep my blog fresh and posting more often.

Zach was generous enough to share a discount code for my readers. It's good for $9 off the ebook purchase. The code is only good from May 16th through May 31st. If you think this book might help you to be a better blogger, be sure to snag it with the discount code in the next few days using "bloglaunch". Click here to take a look at Photography Blog Success and the Photography Web Marketing Guide.

Full Disclosure: commission on sale via my link.

April 22, 2011

Making the Switch to a Non-Flash Website

Let me start by saying that I still love my former website provider Portfoliositez, but it was time for a change. I've been with them since the beginning of my business and I have raved about them on here many times, if you're looking for a Flash website template then I still highly recommend them. But with the ever-growing amount of photographers popping up in my area and the news that I was going to be laid off from my full time job, it was time to really boost my Google rankings.

As my regular readers know, I'm mildly obsessed with SEO and with having another job, I haven't had as much time as I would like to get out and build my business. I have had to rely on website searches to get a large portion of my business. Last year I came across Zach Prez and over have purchased a few of his ebooks about not only ranking on Google, but also how to turn those leads into business. With all the changes on how users view websites I think Flash is becoming a dinosaur. I had added an iPhone and iPad version of my Portfoliositez website for those users, but I was still talking to people who had Flash sites blocked from their work computers. We all know a lot of potential clients do their searching at work and the fact that some people weren't going to be able to see my site was becoming a problem. Even though I have a blog as well, I wondered how many people I lost once they realized they were at a Flash website.

I would have loved to been able to design my site working with a web designer, but I couldn't justify the cost to do that just yet. I started researching html templates and realized there were not a lot of options out there. A web designer I am friends with suggested I do a Wordpress site and purchase a theme I liked for the right look. I found dozens of themes that worked perfectly for a photographer's portfolio site! In the end, I decided to go with a Photocrati theme for my site. Photocrati offers portfolio galleries that are protected to deter copying, allows iPhone and iPad viewing, music and multiple themes you can customize. The theme is only $79 and they even let you try it out for 30-days to make sure you like it. With that I was sold and ready to change. The next task on my list was finding new web hosting. There's tons of choices out there but I quickly decided to go with Kimtown. I've worked with Kim in the past and I knew that using her hosting would be perfect for me.

I played around with my Photocrati theme for a few weeks on the back end of my old website to figure out exactly what I wanted the site to look like when it went live. By the time I was ready to go, Kimtown switched all my files (new site, email, blog, client planner, etc.) over to their hosting and within two days I was ready to go with my new site.

I was already ranking well for certain phrases on my old website, so I can't wait to see what the changes I've implemented can do for my SEO in the upcoming months. Yes, I said months, because no matter how great your SEO is, it takes time for it to be reflected in the search engines.

The support with both Kimtown and Photocrati have been fantastic. Both companies respond quickly to any questions I had and through the whole process the only issues I had were user errors on my end. If you're looking for new hosting or a non-Flash option for your photography website, I think both these companies have great things to offer!

Full Disclosure: commission on sale via my link.

March 12, 2011

Finding Vendor Deals

I'm all about a good deal and I've found some great ways to get them, especially on canvas products. I posted in December that Picture It On Canvas (PIOC) was having a Groupon special for a 16x20 canvas for only $39. Since then, I've seen quite a few Groupons for PIOC and also Canvas On Demand. While it's taken a bit of work to find, it has helped to search Twitter vs. all the various Groupon city pages to find those deals. Sometimes the canvas deals are one day only, other times they last a few days on the Groupon site. You can purchase the deal that day and then it has to be used within a certain amount of time. I believe most of mine were 4-6 months after the purchase date, so I stocked up.

I recently did a display at my local Starbucks and the deals I collected were quickly put to use to save some money on my displays. I do want to make note that the canvas products offered for these Groupons are from the consumer sides of these companies, not the professional. For displays, this didn't bother me in the least.

I've also stumbled upon Ebates, if you shop Groupon through their site you can get an additional 3% back on what you've spent on Groupon. So on top of the Groupon savings, I'm getting an additional savings from the money I spend to purchase them. If you're planning on putting up a photographic display in a doctor's office, retail boutique, coffee shop, etc. I suggest going this route to save some money and definitely get more bang for your buck!

Full Disclosure: referral credits earned for Ebates and Groupons though my link.

February 24, 2011

I Love Me Some Moo Products!

I've heard about Moo in the past from other photographers, but was never sure how I felt about ordering business cards from them. I was glad to see they had a booth at Imaging this year and I was able to see their products in person. I absolutely fell in love with the quality of paper they use for their business cards! The matte laminate paper is amazing ~ sturdy, high quality paper with a great substance to it. I was sold! Plus there was a nice little promo in the packet I picked up to try out the Moo cards. I opted to upload 10 different images for the back of my cards with fronts that stayed the same. The one thing I must say is Moo is a little slow on shipping, but hey, if I'm on the ball then I don't need to have a rush order.

I received my cards and LOVED the photo quality, but I was slightly disappointed with the quality on the side that had printing. I figured it was user error on my end since I was in a rush to get them out and get them back. I emailed their customer service to let them know and they emailed me back within a day explaining the Moo promise. If you feel your product isn't up to par, they work with to fix the problem and replace your order! I was so excited since it was totally user error on my end not using their templates to create my piece. I didn't even expect them to reprint my cards and they were more than happy to take care of it!! I submitted new files for the text side of my card and in two weeks, I had brand new, perfectly printed business cards!!

I am beyond thrilled with the amazing customer service and beautiful product that Moo offers! I've officially found a new vendor to work with for my business card needs. I've got it on my list to also pickup some Moo stickers and mini cards in my future as well!

Use this link to purchase your Moo products today and receive 10% off your first order. There will be a code on the webpage you're directed to once you click on the link. Use the code at checkout to get the discount!!

Full Disclosure: commission on sale via my link.

February 17, 2011

Framing from Hardwood Frames

Let me start this post by saying framing scares me. I don't offer custom framing to my clients because, I'm going to be honest, when it comes to putting stuff together with my hands, I'll screw it up. With that said, I just received a great opportunity to put a large display up in a coffee shop. While I would love to put up all canvas pieces, I knew I had to showcase some prints as well. I searched and searched through all the framing companies I could find and the best option I found was to have a lab print them, ship them to the framing company and then ship to me. I needed to get the display done asap and didn't want to mess around with all the waiting. Then I remembered hearing about Hardwood Frames.

Hardwood Frames is a new division of CPQ Professional Imaging. Hardwood offers frames in three different price points: promotional, designer and whimsical. Most of their frames come with open backs and clips to hold your image in place. That sounded MUCH easier than attempting to do more traditional framing. I ordered 4 frames and they arrived in about a week. They were so easy to use that I ordered another 6 frames last week. So far I've tried both the promotional and designer frames and they're all great. I have in the past ordered the whimsical frames from CPQ and those were great as well. Currently, I don't believe that any of their frames come with glass or backings, but that may change. The frames without glass were perfect for what I needed for my display!

If you're in search of a framing company, I really like the options with Hardwood Frames. You'll need to contact them to setup an account to access pricing. Before I ordered I had a few questions and Sharon was more than happy to help me out both by phone an email.

February 12, 2011

Imaging USA Roundup

Last month I had the opportunity to attend PPA's Imaging USA convention and expo. I'm so glad I went! This was the first large conference I had attended and compared to the small state conventions I've been to, wow, this was overwhelming! I will say that not all the classes I picked were what I had wished they would be, but I'm sure you'll have that with any convention. Overall, the classes and instructors were great and the expo was amazing. I picked a lot of different classes, business, portrait, spotlight and wedding and learned a little something if not a lot from each instructor. It's great to hear how others got started in this business and what they've done to grow their business. I also was able to meet a few photographers who I frequently correspond with that I have yet to meet in person. That was great as well!

The expo was so overwhelming! I finally got the chance to meet some of the vendors in person that I work with and find some great new products to offer this year. Right now I'm in the process of ordering sample canvas wraps from a few different companies. I've already received two and the difference in quality is a bit more than I expected! I'll follow-up in a few weeks with who the lab is that is going to win my canvas business. But back to the expo, I fell in LOVE with the VisionArt books. I'm slightly obsessed with paper and I'll blame that on the fact that I'm a graphic designer as well. These books are just stunning! I stopped at their booth on two different days to look at them. Previously I had stopped offering coffee table albums to my clients, but now that I'm smitten with VisionArt, they're back on my product list for 2011. I'm currently working on layouts for the samples I plan to order and can't wait to finish them up and get them back!

If you haven't been to a large convention like Imaging or WPPI, I highly suggest it. I came home motivated and really excited to try some new ideas, new products and change things around for this season. I also walked away with a lot of great promotions to try out new labs and products and believe me, I've been ordering away. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting any great finds that I've come across from these new vendors that I love, so be sure to check back!

January 21, 2011

I Caved ...

I think all my readers know I love the ProPhoto blog theme. I've been using version 2 for awhile now and finally caved to get version 3. I'm so glad I did! There are a lot of new customizable features available in this version to make your wordpress blog standout from the rest! It took a few hours of tweaking, but I love the minor changes I've made on the blog. I wasn't looking to revamp the whole look, just add some little changes to spice things up. So for those of you who are on the fence about upgrading, I personally think it's totally worth it! If you don't use the ProPhoto them and you're looking for one (you must have a wordpress blog to use it), I highly suggest it. Big photos with lots of impact and a lot of options for the look and feel of your blog.

If you do purchase, use discount code DANNE232B for an additional $10 off your purchase.

I just returned from ImagingUSA and I'm overwhelmed from the education and the fun new products I saw. I'll be writing up my thoughts on the event in the next few weeks. I've got a lot on my "to do" list now that I'm back to continue to grow my business!!

Full Disclosure: commission on ProPhoto Themes sold via coupon code.