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Using Custom Products & Packaging to WOW Your Clients!

Custom Gift Box and USB drive for photographer's giftsWant to go a step above & beyond for your clients? Consider creating personalized custom products just for them!

My friend and Atlanta wedding photographer Julie Anne shared these photos today on Facebook of this keepsake photobox full of beautiful prints & a custom USB, and after I finished swooning over them I asked her if she would let me share them with all of you, and she graciously said yes!

As a true Southern girl at heart, Julie Anne is all about going above and beyond for everyone, as I got to experience first-hand when I visited her in Atlanta earlier this year. She is the master at finding the perfect gifts for people, so it is no surprise at all to me that she created such a perfect gift for her clients, Veronica & Joe.

Olde Pink House Wedding Photography by Julie Anne Photographer

Julie Anne started with this photograph that she captured from their wedding day, and overlaid the photograph with the design of their wedding invitation in Photoshop. She printed this on a custom Wood Box from WHCC. Next, she created a custom-designed Wooden USB Drive also from WHCC with the monogram that the couple used on a number of their other wedding day decor items. She then filled the box with prints from the wedding day to present to her clients.

Savannah Wedding Photography by Julie Anne Custom USB drive by Julie Anne Photographer in Atlanta, Georgia

Such a gorgeous way to incorporate design elements from your client’s special day in to a presentation that is truly breathtaking! Thank you again Julie Anne for allowing me to share!

How to Tell Your Client You Won’t Do Extensive Photoshop Work for Free

No Photoshop Work for Free

Your client comes to you with a Photoshop request — or maybe a long list of them. They go far beyond what you normally do in your retouching process when you send their products off to print. How do you tell them that you will have to charge an additional fee without sounding like a jerk?

(PS – We are going to assume that if your photo is blue like the one above, you’re going to work on getting better colors in camera before you even take the photo, and that you’ll fix that for free before you show your client the proofs. M’kay?)

Setting the Your Prices & Your Scope

First of all, back when you set your prices for your products, you should have taken in to consideration the time involved in creating your products as part of the price. (Haven’t done this? Get your hands on Jamie of The Modern Tog’s Pricing Guide Workbook or Joy Vertz’s videos & course on pricing!)

In that process, you have to define your scope of what retouching you will do. For example, my printing includes minor skin smoothing – blemishes, cellulite – and retouching of indentation caused by wardrobe. Sometimes I have a client do a pose that looks amazing, but it causes a minor wardrobe glitch so I’ll retouch those. For wedding photography, I would remove those annoying white strings that are on dresses to help hang them on hangers, and “arm cleavage” from strapless dresses.

I will not do complete body reshaping. Women are beautiful as they are to me, and I won’t make them something that they are not. However, maybe that is your thing? So you make sure your pricing includes time for an hour of editing per photograph. Whatever you want to do? Make sure you have defined what your normal is for your work.

Setting Client Expectations

I’ll admit that I cringe whenever I hear someone say, “Well, you can fix that in Photoshop!” It isn’t always a quick and easy fix, and I’ll be the first to confess that extensive retouching is not my thing. Not at all.

It still happens though, and I respect the fact that my clients want these photos to be amazing to them because they will be looking at them a lot longer than I will. However, I’ll have to pay my photo editor more for the work because it is outside of our agreed scope as well.

I don’t want to tell them no, but I am going to have to tell them that there will be an additional charge.

Set expectations in advance. I have conversations with my clients before their session about the level of editing that I do. It is represented by the photographs on my website. I cover it again at the end of their session, going over what’s next (we only cull & color correct before their In Person Sales Session). At the In Person Sales meeting, if there is a blemish or something else my client is concerned about, I reassure them that we will take care of it.

Ideally, the additional Photoshop requests will come up in person, but I’ve found that most of the time they don’t come up until they proof their album. While it is a rare situation for me, I have received emails before with 17 different requests of things to do, including complete body reshaping. You know, it happens. Most of my clients aren’t photographers. They don’t know what is easy, and what isn’t. I get the reason for their requests.

How to Handle the Additional Work & Fees

First and foremost, I consider their request. I’ll talk with my photo editor and get an idea from her how long it will take. If it is something she says she can do in 10 minutes? They just spent thousands of dollars with me, I’m not going to ask them to pay for an extra 10 minutes of work.

Sometimes, what they want will take hours. Or it has to be done on 30 images. Whatever the case may be, sometimes? I have to ask them to pay more. Here is the core of what I send to them in response – feel free to save a copy of this in case you ever need it in the future!

My retouching of photos includes (list out here – mine is skin smoothing, and minor liquifying if wardrobe causes skin indents). I am happy to do this additional work as per your request. Retouching like this is more extensive, and there is an additional charge of $75/hour for the editing. This will also delay the delivery of your product by (amount of time).

I estimate it will take (however many hours); this is just an estimate and it may take longer. Please let me know if you would like me to proceed with list of edits that you sent and that you agree to the additional cost.

I sandwich that with pleasantries about how it is great to hear from them. I over estimate on the time, just in case. After all, if I tell them 3 hours and it takes 2? Awesome! If I tell them 2 hours and it takes 5? They probably won’t be so happy about that.

Once you send the email off, wait to hear back from them. They might decide that the edits aren’t worth it to them, or they may change the list.

(If you hate composing emails in tough situations with clients, Jamie of The Moderntog can help you out with that as well with her her Go To Guide for Client Emails.)

I Suck at Photoshop and Can’t Do the Edits They Requested

Aww… I fell your pain! Photoshop? Not my thing. You have a few options here:

  • Learn more about how to retouch. Take a class, get out there & practice. Many learning options are available, including an awesome one from my friend Nino Batista! All the details are at the end of this post.
  • Outsource it. For me? This was the best option. I don’t want to learn more about how to do it because it cuts in to my personal time, which is pretty valuable to me.
  • Tell your client you don’t offer retouching like that. It is ok to say no – but be nice about it!

What Do You Do?

Have you had this request come up before? How did you handle it? Did it work well for you, or do you wish you had done it differently?

PS – In perfect timing, my friend Nino Batista has kicked off Private Retouch Training! I’ve heard nothing but amazing things from friends that have attended his Masterclass workshop around the country, and it is an amazing deal! He is now scheduling for Summer/Fall 2014. Private, live, one on one retouching training in Photoshop via Google+ or Skype, approximately 2 hours of one on one time dedicated to advancing your retouching skills. This is one of his most popular services, and scheduling is limited due to his work, events & travel schedule. So get with him ASAP to book ASAP! A few July, several August & September dates are currently available. Contact him directly to book at 832-458-8954 or via email at ninobatista@gmail.com — even if your style of photography is completely different, Nino is a retouching master!

Nino Batista Private Retouching Training

Photo Credit – Top of Post, Retouching Example: benoitchampagnephoto via Creative Commons license.

Inspire 2014 and the Ripple Effect

Looking back, I have realized that walking away from being so deep in my boudoir business was absolutely the right thing to do last year. I knew I needed to stretch more. Most importantly, I knew it was time to acknowledge my BIG DREAM that involved helping people dig in, get vulnerable about who they truly are, and then take that and make it the core of their business.

Once your business is about you? No one can compete with that.

2013 was focused on finding a way to help women to feel amazing as hell about themselves; after all I am the Avenger of Sexiness. I just want to do so much more than I could ever do with a camera in my hand. Through photography I could reach 80-100 women a year. I want to reach 10,000 a year – and that is just the start.

So I drove, and I drove, and I drove. I thought a lot. Working through big changes like this in my business, a shift in how I accomplish my mission (but not a change in the mission itself) is very hard for me.

In the middle of my trip, I went to Stephanie’s house in Calgary. The dream we had been talking about for well over 9 months became a reality on her dining room table. It was time to create a Business Coaching program.

We created Vivid & Brave. We built the foundation of our Life+ Group Coaching program, with a pile of post-it notes, three sheets of posterboard, and a lot of big dreams. We poured our hearts in to it. We launched it immediately.

Then, when we were all done and thanks to the encouragement of Sarah Austin Lehberger, we applied to speak at Inspire Photo Retreat, 2014. I was still in Calgary when we got the news that we had been selected. We were ecstatic beyond words, and so honored. I’m pretty sure there were tears involved.

Our dream was coming true. It was time to start speaking.

Bonnie shares her Manifesto, created at our workshopTo prepare for our 3 hour workshop at Inspire, Stephanie & I got together in January at my house in Houston, Texas. (A lovely break for her from a very harsh Calgary winter this year!) We built our slides, hashed things out at 2am, had an argument or two that involved us going to our separate corners, and in the end – built a workshop. We then recruited Houston photographers to join us for a trial run so we could work the kinks out. So glad that they came out for us, as it really helped us make it an even stronger presentation!

Finally, February arrived. Stephanie & I headed off to the Inspire Photo Retreat.

For the record, I’ve been to countless workshops over the years, conferences ranging from small to large, both in the blogging world and the photography world — and NOTHING was like this experience. NOTHING. HANDS DOWN. It was simply the MOST amazing experience EVER.

Stephanie had some travel delays getting there; the road to your dreams isn’t always easy. That meant that I arrived Sunday night without her. For a fleeting moment, I felt like an outsider, as the majority of attendees are from the Massachusetts & Connecticut area and it seemed like they all knew one another already. That feeling quickly faded away, as I was immediately welcomed by everyone I met. Sunday night was spent in the Gazebo Graveyard laughing & talking until the wee hours of the morning, and I was hooked.

Teaching with Stephanie at Inspire 2014

Stephanie & I gave our workshop on Monday, and it still fills me up with butterflies thinking about how amazing it was to see everyone really digging in, giving it their all. Opening up and sharing with us. Posting online. Sharing their declarations. Creating their manifestos. Dreaming of personal projects to come.

Thomas Flint at the Vivid & Brave Inspire 2014 Workshop

We had no idea just how much it was going to impact people though until dinner that night. Over and over, we had people come up to us and tell us that they had heard about our workshop, and they wished that they had been there.

Somewhere around 1am, we asked one of the Inspire staff members if we could do it again. There was a gap of time and an empty room, and we posted a sign and invited people to join us. And they did.

Graham Scobey at a workshop I taught at Inspire, 2014

I’m still a bit speechless just thinking about it.

Want to know the most interesting observation? I never once asked someone what type of photographer they were. For so long, I’ve identified myself as “photographer” – and at Inspire? It never came up for me. Instead we talked about our passions, our hopes, our fears, our plans and our dreams. Sure, there was business thrown in there as well. Yet I never asked anyone what type of photography they did. It just didn’t matter. In the past 7 years, I’ve never seen that happen.

So many of my friends, both new & old, summed up the Inspire experience so well – you should go check out the posts that Patricia Miller, Sarah Lehberger, Jen Lightful and Sharon of Bittersweet Books have shared.

It has only been two weeks since we left, and yet I can’t wait to return in 2015 when it moves to Portland, Maine! (I hope there is still late night karaoke & dancing on the schedule next year!)

Singing and Dancing at Inspire 2014

I left Inspire a very different person than I was when I arrived.

To my Inspire friends, I owe that to ALL OF YOU. Every last one. You made my dream a reality. You touched me, you listened to me, but most of all? You revealed yourselves to me. You shared your heart & your soul. You were Vivid & Brave with us. I adore you all SO MUCH and the only thing that sucks is that I’m 1500 miles away …

Inspire Photo Retreat 2014

Thank you, with more gratitude than I can even put in to words. Inspire 2014 changed my life. This will go down as one of those big pivotal moments, and I know when I look back a year from now, it will be even more obvious that that was the moment when everything turned.

So What’s NEXT??? WPPI 2014!!!

Now Stephanie and I are focused on doing everything we can to get the Vivid & Brave message out there. We are heading to Las Vegas next week, and we realized — why not do it again? So we are! We are offering up the same workshop on Tuesday, March 4th or Wednesday, March 5th at the MGM. Want to join us for the Rediscover You Workshop? We would LOVE to have you there! Join Stephanie & myself, and go home with new insights into yourself, your voice and your passions.

Dancing at Inspire, 2014

You Need to Run Away from Your Business

You need to run away from your business

Did you realize you need to run away from your business? That it could be one of the best things you ever did for it?

My blog post today for Inspire Photo Retreats is all about the things I learned when I did this myself last year.

Last year, I left home for what ended up being a 4 month, 19,000+ mile road trip. It wasn’t planned to be that long when I left, but as work found me along the way, I kept going. We left home originally so I could attend the World Domination Summit in Portland, visit family there, and then head to Seattle to see Mike’s brother and his family. After that, Mike was going to fly home, I’d drive back to Denver, park my car to fly to speak at BlogHer in Chicago, fly back to Denver to coach at the Team-X Fight Club, and then drive home.

When Fight Club ended was when it all began. I needed … something. I needed to get away. To unplug. To quiet the noise.

It is incredibly hard to admit that I completely neglected my business for those two weeks. As I reflect back on it, I realize it was one of the smartest moves I’ve made recently.

Go read the post there to learn more about the lessons I learned.

The biggest thing that came out of getting back to work? I went on to Calgary and met up with Stephanie and we created our Life + Business Coaching Program, Vivid & Brave.

It may be hard to admit, but I have no regrets.

When was the last time you took a vacation from your business? Have you ever completely cut yourself off and allowed yourself to recharge?

Have Your Online Galleries Been Hacked?

Are Your Boudoir Clients Photographs Safe and Secure Online?

Today in one of the boudoir forums that I frequent, a member posted about her discovery that there was a forum for voyeurs who were hacking their way in to boudoir galleries online. They weren’t stopping at boudoir galleries though — they were logging in to family galleries, and I’m sure other session galleries.

These people weren’t using the usual hacking methods though, at least not at first. They were actually just finding the path to the gallery and from there guessing the password.

Oh, and they started the thread in 2012. [Corrected. This post originally said November, 2013.]

It just took us until 2014 to find out about it.

More recent posts on the thread talked about using extortion to get money from the women in the galleries that they had found. Yes, threatening to post photos to Facebook unless they were paid off.

Then there were the threads about how they had figured out that they could potentially “scrape” all of the galleries from Red Cart, gaining EVERY PHOTO POSTED there. Boudoir or not. Boudoir was what they were after though.

Voyeur Forum RedCart Scraping of Boudoir Photographs

They weren’t just going after online proofing sites (SmugMug, ZenFolio, and RedCart were all mentioned in their thread), but they were also going after online album proofing sites.

Voyeur Forum Suggests Hacking Album Company Site

Voyeur Forum RedCart Scraping of Boudoir Photographs

Now you might think that your online gallery software or your album proofing company should be doing something to protect you from this hacking. The thing is, if you read their Terms of Service? Every single one of them has an “out” written in to their contract. It is your responsibility to make sure your passwords are secure. Beyond that, if someone gets in to them? Not their fault. (*I could argue that RedCart has a bigger issue on their hands if they were figuring out how to pull down every image on their site. Right now isn’t the time for arguing. Right now is the time to FIX THIS situation.*)

Here is SmugMug’s Terms of Service and here is ZenFolio’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

SmugMug's Very Standard Security Information

SmugMug’s Terms are pretty much the industry standard for ANY hosting service. Their responsibility is limited. It is your responsibility to keep your client’s photos safe.

UPDATE: If you are a Zenfolio user, a photographer started a feature suggestion that people can only guess a password 3 times before being locked out of a gallery. If any of you would vote for it, please go here.

The forum has now moved the post to their “Member’s Only” section, so we can’t see what they have added to it at this point. At the time that the post was moved, the thread was 121 pages long.

Thing is, this may be the one forum that we know about, but I promise you – it is NOT the only forum out there with information like this.

Protecting Your Clients

Ok, now that we are all sufficiently panicked about this, let’s talk about what we can DO about it.

1. Never post your client’s images online, ANYWHERE. Realistically, that is the only safe & secure method to use. I went that route a few years ago when we caught someone trying to hack (truly hack, not just guess at passwords) their way in to my online gallery software that I hosted on my own server. I don’t post my boudoir client’s images online. We meet in person to view the images. (I’ve talked before about my whole In Person Viewing process in these posts: overcoming your fear of in person sales sessions, boudoir photography workflow – preparing for in person sales and the magic of in person sales sessions.)

I do however use an online album proofing company and an online slideshow option. I am considering discontinuing both of those services after today.

But I HAVE to do Online Proofing! (Insert reason here.)

Ok, so option #1 isn’t an option for you, for whatever reason. You simply must post your photos online for them to see them.

2. Use a SECURE password. Using your client’s name? Not a secure password. Using “boudoir”? Not a secure password. Using “sexy”? Not a secure password. These and many more obviously easy to guess passwords were being passed around in this forum. An entire boudoir photographer’s gallery was linked, and every single session used the first name as the password. Yes, they worked. No, that is NOT secure. WORDS, no matter how unique they are to your client, are not secure.

(Want to learn more than you ever wanted to know about password security? Wired Magazine – Secure Passwords Keep You Safer and the scary story of how Mat Honan’s entire world was hacked, Wired Magazine – Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore.)

3. Have a clause in your contract limiting your liability if your galleries are accessed. Do you want your clients coming after you if someone got in to your galleries and took their photos and posted them all over Facebook? No? Then you need to talk with your lawyer to make sure you are protected in case this happens to you. (Yes, just like SmugMug, ZenFolio, and RedCart have in their Terms of Use.) Make sure that your clients understand that no password is EVER completely safe.

Make sure you understand that too. No password is ever completely safe. It is not a matter of if you will be hacked, it is a matter of when. You need to put photos online with that understanding.

From now on, if I ever have to put a gallery online for any reason, I will require my clients to sign a special release for the gallery going online. This is something you should consider not just for boudoir sessions, but for any client. Make sure your client is aware that the photographs could be compromised. For example, some parents do not want their children’s photos viewed by anyone.

4. Be obscure about where your galleries are located at. “One of the best security measures in the online world is “obscurity” otherwise known as “security through obscurity”.

Basically if you have online galleries that you want protected, don’t add them to your main gallery list or your site’s navigation. At Fotomerchant we call them “ghost” pages and only people you give the unique URL to will even know the page exists.

Also, make sure the pages are NOT listed in your sitmap.xml and that your robots.txt does not allow full site crawling and then Google will never know they exist either… Unless you post a link to the gallery somewhere public!

Obscurity is one of the only measures that requires human knowledge in order to crack it” — Derek Clapham, co-founder of FotoMerchant, in response to a private forum post I made about this situation this afternoon.

However, private, hidden, unsearchable galleries were on that list that we discovered. Just making it obscure wasn’t enough for them when they were determined. In some cases, “they were able to find these hidden pages due to the nature of their URL design. It was predictable and based on a number sequence”, said Derek.

5. Pull expired galleries offline. When possible, use FTP to make sure the images are completely removed. If you let the gallery expire and it is still online, the photographs are still stored on a server somewhere. Servers can be hacked, your files can be accessed. Remove them from the server completely when you are done with the gallery or album proof.

Once something goes online, it is never completely safe

Even if you do all of the things listed above, are your client’s photos still secure?

No.

No, they are not.

Hidden, not listed, not linked, unsearchable galleries? ALL were in that post discovered today.

Once these people found the easy to target galleries, they pushed on to find the harder to discover ones. They figured out how to move up and down the gallery structure of the software. How to change the string text to get to a gallery. They kept looking. For almost two years they have been looking. Some in the thread mentioned “let me check my documents of the ones I’ve gotten in to” — so even if this thread disappears, there are others out there, and private files that people keep.

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via cc

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