Archive for January, 2008

Hey Blogosphere!

I wrote a few weeks back about the new Eye Fi memory card. We talked about some implications it could have for the photo industry. While it definitely seems marketed towards the more casual photographer, who is looking to avoid the hassle of downloading pictures, I am interested in the benefits for professional photographers: shaving off time getting an image to print, instantaneous auto-backups, and art direction. So, that’s what I’m going to be looking into today.

What you get

Here are some shitty pictures I took of the packaging with my wife’s camera.

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I am a sucker for good packaging, so I really liked this box, and the way that both sides slide out when you pull on the tab. This reveals the eye-fi card and card reader, and the instructions. The card reader is just a fancy looking vanilla SD card reader. Feel free to lose it if you have a multi-card reader like I have.


Setup

This thing is stupid simple to set up. You plug the thing in, install the software in a pretty ordinary way (drag to applications on mac, and install wizard on pc), and open up the software. You need to be connected to the internet to register yourself, set up, or make changes to the way your Eye Fi card functions. This is pretty irritating, and (in my opinion) functionally superfluous. I’d be interested to hear why they do it this way. Anyway, you’re online. The setup screens are simple and clean. Setting the card up to talk on a network and upload your pictures to a variety of sources (including smugmug, my website host!) is a breeze.

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Once you’ve got everything done, you can remove/eject the card. I shoot with a Canon 30D, which takes CFII cards. I bought this to make it work.

“Premiertek SD/MMC Card to Compact Flash Type II CF Adapter” (Premiertek)

Its ratings are not the best, but so far, so good. I haven’t had any problems. Everything plugs together thusly. Photographer see, photographer do.

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Make sure the SD card gets tightly seated!

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Once you’ve got everything put together, you can start shooting.

What it’s like

Once it’s setup, the thing just works. It only transfers jpg files (see below). If you drift out of wi-fi range, the card will wait until it sees the network again to resume transfers, even mid-file. You get a nice popup in the upper right corner of the screen on your host computer showing you uploads, too.

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As you can see, I am uploading a picture of the glass(es) of wine I’ve been drinking while writing this post.

What you can do with it

The applications for professional photographers using this product are endless. If you’ve got a laptop, a wi-fi router, and an internet connection, you can get your pictures anywhere in the world, as soon as you shoot them. That’s powerful stuff. I’ve started promoting this service to my wedding clients, as a way for distant relatives to enjoy your wedding, live on my website.

I’ve also started using it for product and fashion shoots. Instead of shooting tethered, I shoot RAW+L (which creates a high quality JPEG alongside the raw), the jpeg gets transfered, the RAW stays put. Clients can review images as I shoot, and direct and make changes as necessary. That’s a big value-add for them, and it’s gone over very well so far.

This could be big for newsies, too. With a laptop, wi-fi router, and your internet-enabled cell phone, you can become a roving live photo correspondent almost anywhere in the world.

If you upload somewhere that generates an RSS feed (like flickr or smugmug), you could be slick and get upload confirmations on your cell phone by text message.

Let’s not forget the backup ramifications as well! Maybe you’re a war correspondent, u

Hey, Eye-Fi! Here’s how to make it even more awesome

Don’t require users to go online to setup and use the card. What if we don’t have an internet connection, but still want to transfer pictures over a wi-fi network to our computer? I am also uneasy about eye fi’s website keeping tabs on everything I do with their card.

RAW Transfer. My best guess is that they were worried about large images transferring slowly and queueing up. Pros will still want RAW transfer.

More configurability. In regard to the upload services, I would really like to have some more options made available. If you upload to flickr, it does not allow you to specify any tags or groups, yet it adds an eye-fi tag. So, they have the capability. They are just denying users access to it. Nice, thanks. Specifically, I want to be able to upload to a pre-existing gallery. That way, I can send it to my customers beforehand. They can load up the gallery and watch the images appear when I start shooting.

Get the software running on a smart phone. It’d be nice to eliminate the laptop middleman, even if you do still need a wi-fi router somewhere. My dream would be to link up my camera and my internet phone,

Just hack the damn thing, guys. I can only hope that some saintly genius somewhere is going to write some open source software to run this device that will give us all the functionality we desire.

How about a pro version? Instead of bogging down your amateur consumers, how about you offer a juiced up version for pros? Faster write-speeds, faster transfer-speeds, upload configurability! Etcetera, glorious etcetera!

Q & A

So, now, I’d like to open the floor to you. Feel free to ask my anything you like about the card, and I’ll do my best to demonstrate something or get you an answer.

What happens to RAW files?

They just sit on the card as usual. As of now, only JPG files can be transfered. No CR2, no NEF, no DNG.

How fast does it transfer?

I don’t know. I will ask the company.


How fast does the card write data?

I don’t know. I will ask the company.


Does it drain the battery?

The website says: advanced power management optimizes use of camera power. I haven’t noticed a difference in battery drainage rate. I imagine that it has to be drawing more juice than a regular card would, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to affect your usage.

Do files ever get dropped?

Unless there’s a bug that shows up in a circumstance that I haven’t observed yet, no. Transfers resume mid-file, so it will pick up right where you left off.

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Hey folks,

I just wanted to say that now is the time to subscribe. Here’s what’s coming up:

Depth of Field: A series of interviews with top-level pros. We’ll learn how they got to the top, and what new photographers should do to get there, too. I’ve got some really cool shooters lined up for this!

My Beauty Book: I am entering the fashion and beauty photography business, and I’m going to show you how I do it. I will show you where I find models and what to look for. I will show you how to put together a large-scale shooting project, scheduling models, makeup artists, hair stylists and wardrobe stylists. I will post about the shoots themselves, and dissect the post-processing. Lastly, I will assemble the images into my final beauty portfolio and begin marketing it in the summer. At the end, you’ll have a step-by-step guide to assembling your own fashion portfolio!

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Historical Portraits Book: This is my personal project. I am assembling a series of “Time Magazine” portraits of famous historical figures, using actors, models and historical enthusiasts. The idea is to take a ‘modern’ look at significant people through history. I’m going to get authors and historians to write essays about the characters, and put the whole package together into a book! In the meantime, the images are interesting portraits that will provide fodder for my marketing campaign.

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So stay tuned. This blog is going to get pretty awesome. I am going to show you that new photographers like you and me can make it. With creativity, a good business plan, legal smarts, and a little bit of what the French call les boules, we can become successful without going broke.

Wedding photographers should sell based on value, not price. Getting business by undercutting everyone else is the fast way to the bottom. Bargain hunters don’t have any loyalty, and there’s always going to be someone even more desperate than you are.

What other choices are there for the new photographer, who can’t afford to attend bridal shows, or send out bulk mailers? First, you need a hook, otherwise known as a Unique Selling Proposition (UPS for short). Anything you do that is uniquely yours and adds value can be a hook. The trick is finding something that you can offer that costs little, but creates value for the client. It’s just like investment: buy low, sell high.

Let’s talk today about guarantees, a great way to create extra value from services you already offer, or can offer for little to no cost. First, think about what you do and pick out something that could be turned into something interesting. Do you always get your images processed and uploaded to your website (or wherever) in 2 weeks? That can be a guarantee. Next, pad that time (just in case) a little bit.

Your guarantee is now “Your images uploaded in 20 days or…”

Fill in that ‘or else’ statement with something that raises your client’s eyebrows and you got it. How about “or your wedding album is free.” That’s pretty good! However, it’s good to make this personal. A guarantee is an offer to trust you, so you should make it come from you. If a big corporation has a spokesperson, that person is the one who makes the guarantee. You go to Wendy’s, and you get a guarantee not from Corporate Wendys, but from Dave, their calming, grandfatherly (now dead, but that’s not stopping him) spokesman. Personal guarantees hit on an emotional level, not an intellectual one (Emotion trumps logic every time), and that’s good.

Anyway, to make it personal, we go from “Your images uploaded in 20 days or I buy your wedding album for you!” That sounds pretty good! And it doesn’t cost you a dime as long as you hit that mark. The best thing about guarantees is that if you always hit your mark, you get all the psychological benefit of your ‘or else’ statement without having to lay out any actual money or effort. You’ve just added value, and your wallet is still firmly entrenched in your wallet.

Here’s my UPS and where it came from:

I was on my way to a shoot the other day, and I saw a billboard for a used car sales place. The billboard said “We will beat ANY advertised price, or we’ll give you the car for FREE!” Well that’s catchy! AND bullshit! Think about it: How much variance in price will there be amongst themselves and their competition? Probably not much. It’s all based on local economics and that particular car’s Blue Book value. At what point would it be better to give away a (let’s say) $12,000 car, rather than take a (let’s say) $1500 loss to beat an advertised price?

Never. This got me thinking: what guarantees can I offer that don’t cost much (or anything), but generate a lot of value?

Here’s what I’ve come up with: All my bridal clients get free christmas pictures for the first 5 years! That’s pretty cool, and it doesn’t cost me a darn thing. After all, how much do you spend on your portrait sittings? You’ve got shooting time, processing time, batteries, gas and reminder emails or mailers. And what do I get from this? I get clients eager to come back to me, regularly. I become a pattern and a off-the-top-of-the-head referral. That’s good!

This is new for me. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sure to keep you posted! Next, I’m going to talk about my kick-ass personal project!

Recent Photo Shoots

Whoops! Looks like it’s been a week since I’ve posted. Wife and I took a roadtrip up to NC to visit some old friends, I’ve re-organized my online portfolio, and added some new stuff, too. I have a couple posts up my sleeve, so stay tuned. I am working on getting a few days ahead of myself. I would get into a regular posting schedule, so my personal lapses don’t make themselves apparent on the site. I’ve got a real humdinger lined up about how I developed my Unique Selling Proposition.

Today, I am going to highlight some talented models I’ve worked with and show off their great images. Makeup for all shots is by Katie Jones.

Ali Rijo

Ali Rijo was lit with a Nikon SB-26 firing into a white shoot-through umbrella overhead and camera right. You can also see the fill camera left from a silver reflector I made from foamboard and aluminum foil. Ali was quiet, with her own sense of grace. I love the beauty mark!

Amy Dianne

Amy Dianne was lit with my homemade fluorescent ring light, and a Nikon SB-26 back and to the left of her. Getting that light’s output low enough was a challenge. The color of her eyes really carries this shot, though.

Lauren Widmaier

Lauren Widmaier was lit with JTL Versalight firing into a Photek Softlighter II. This was her first photo shoot, and almost every frame was perfect. She’s a natural and it was an honor working with her.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. Check back later today for a must-read post on my Unique Selling Proposition!