3 Keys for Photography Success: Brand • Business • Well-being

posted on: May 22, 2015

If you've been following my personal and business adventures on my blog the last 10 years, you've seen the ups and downs I've shared, but you've also seen how my last few years in business have just been absolutely amazing.  I've solved so many of the big problems that used to hold me back from being successful and now my business continues to grow so rapidly that I need extra people to help me keep up!  It wasn't always this way, and it took a lot of problem solving and overcoming failure to get here, but now that I'm here and I know what's possible on the other side of all those hurdles, I absolutely want to help other photographers reach this point too!  I finally feel like business is easy, clients are feel perfectly aligned with my work and what I love, and I have healthy habits that keep my energy high and allow me to take time out for family and friends.

In order to help other photographers reach this point in there business, I'm collaborating on a Full Day Workshop, June 17th 2015 9:30am - 5:30pm, in New York City along with Editors-Edge and The Healthy Photographer to help address the 3 Keys for Photography Success: Brand, Business, and Well-being.

Photography Brand, Photo Business, Photographer Well-being
Brand is all about knowing what makes your work unique and what work will attract your ideal clients.  Without knowing what makes you unique or who your ideal clients are, you're just throwing darts at a wall without having a target to focus on.  Once you solve that problem, your business becomes laser focused on the who and why of what you create and how you create your work.

Business is all about taking the brand you've established for yourself and applying it to the products and pricing that you offer.  Offering products or pricing that don't align with your ideal client or your unique work often creates frustration for you and your client because you're in different places about what you need to create good work together.  Once you've aligned these things with your brand, bookings become easier, negotiations are super smooth, and clients actually want to invest even more in what you have to offer.

Well-being is the capstone of success as a creative professional.  You can have a successful brand and a successful business, but still feel entirely unsuccessful in life because you haven't taken the time to establish healthy habits as a small business owner or freelancer.  In my business, I learned that no amount of six figure years in revenue made me happy until I had taken the time to work on my well-being as a creative business owner- and once I solved those problems- I was really, truly, able to feel success in all areas of my life.

You may know that I've been doing private consultations for photographers now for several years.  I've helped people privately and in group workshops with pricing, packaging, products, relocation, and workflow management as part of the Smarter Business Workshop as well as regularly sharing free tips, advice, and free webinars on PhotoLovecat over the years.  One thing that has frustrated me about most conferences and group workshops focused on business is that the people who attend generally are passive observers rather than active participants- so I wanted to create a full day experience where people can actually be actively engaged in applying information to their own businesses and lives.

The Brand • Business • Well-being: A Photographers Workshop is designed to give you a ton of personalized feedback specifically on your brand, your business, and your wellbeing as a creative professional.  This isn't about doing things just like we do them, it's about identifying what makes you and your business unique and uniquely valuable to your clients.  It's about finding what pricing and products will actually make your life easier rather than harder.  And it's about figuring out how to implement healthy changes in small and measurable ways so that you can actually take action and not just take notes.

If you've been feeling stuck in your business and the path ahead seems unclear, it's most likely time that you got some outside perspective on what you've been doing and offering.  To work with each of us individually as consultants and coaches, you'd pay up to three times the cost of this workshop, but by creating a group environment on a set date, we can combine all of our services together in order to make it much more affordable for those who need our help.  If you think that this workshop is just what you need to move into a new realm of success as a photographer and creative business owner, head over to the eventbrite link below to register, and save $50 by registering before May 31st:

NOW HIRING: Part-Time Virtual & On-Site Office Assistant (Greenwich Village / SoHo / Manhattan)

posted on: May 11, 2015

Looking for an awesome virtual assistant and occasional in-office assistant (Greenwich Village/SoHo) for 4 - 8hrs a week at $20/hr.  If you have design or photoshop skills, I may have even more work for you at an even better rate.  My primary concerns are that you love to take care of my clients and make sure they have everything they need when they need it, and you love to make life easier for me by doing things even better than I can do them on my own.  No photography experience needed, but if you have an eye for organization, design, and constantly strive toward greater efficiency, I will go above and beyond to keep you hired and working with me.  Here are the basics of what you'll do:
  • Be punctual, keep your word, and show up when needed or make arrangements for someone else to take your place.  I realize this seems basic, but you'd be amazed how many people can't do just this one simple thing with consistency.
  • Be able to work from my Greenwich Village / SoHo office a few times a month and on your own from a great internet connection otherwise
  • Use these programs (if you don't already know them- you should be a self-learner who is comfortable learning new software on your own and have confidence that you'll figure it out from tutorials and youtube videos online without my help): 17Hats, PayPal, Pictage, Dropbox, Gmail, MacMail, iCal, Mac Address Book, Mac Remote Desktop, Lightroom, Skype, Google Hangout, iChat, Eventbrite, Facebook Pages, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger
  • Create new contracts from established templates and occasionally draft a new contract
  • Have impeccable grammatical and spelling skillz (and be annoyed by the fact I used a z and be able to point out my other faux pas)
  • Talk to me on the phone to get quote or proposal details which you clearly and beautifully compose into an email or 17Hats proposal for clients
  • Handle email and phone communications on my behalf when I'm traveling or working intensively on location and can't be in touch with clients directly
  • Email clients with project updates, links to images, billing reminders if needed
  • Schedule appointments and shoots into my calendar using my super awesome system full of functional details I can access offline in the subway when needed
  • Organize client info online based on a system I already have and be innovative about finding ways to make it even better or more streamlined
  • Maintain digital asset organization (images, videos, contracts, proposals, PDFs, client info)
  • Learn easily, aren't afraid to take charge when needed, and like to finish every project you start even if it takes extra time or means asking for help
  • Have a sense of humor, not take things personally, be flexible, and roll with the craziness while still getting things taken care of when a huge project comes in at the last minute

If this isn't you, but someone you know, I thank you for sharing this post with them!  If this is you, please send an email to info@anneruthmann.com with:
  1. 3 dates and times that you can do a Skype video interview online
  2. A link to one article I've written online and a paragraph sharing what you think about it
  3. Your resume 
  4. 3 References I can call

Photography Internship Review: Brian's Feedback

posted on: May 8, 2015

Whenever I have an intern, I give a LOT of feedback to them as we're working together about their approach, their skills, their zone of genius, their talents, and where I see them being most profitable as a photographer. I get to see how they work, where they struggle, what their walls are, what their hesitations are, and I also get to share resources that I think will help them improve. Because of all the support I provide, I also like to receive feedback on myself as a mentor, what I offered, and what I provided to make sure that the internships I offer are of the highest value.  


Brian and I had an interesting journey because when he started, my direction was aimed heavily at portraits and weddings, but shortly after taking stock of my own business as it was unfolding in NYC, I realized that my own opportunity for growth here was actually going to be in architectures & interiors, and part of the work that he was brought on to work on ended up being different than either of us had anticipated up front. He was good at going with the flow and I found ways to help him get the experiences he really needed with other people who were focusing more on Wedding work than I was. However, don't take my word for it, here's what Brian has to say about working with me as an intern:

1. What was it like to intern with Anne?
Brian: Working with Anne has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my years as a photographer.  Not only did I get to meet and be mentored by a fantastic photographer I also made a lifelong friendship and to me, that is priceless!  It was like working with my incredibly talented younger sister!  From the very start Anne was grateful for my help and made me feel like family, we joked, we teased, we cried, we laughed and most importantly ate delicious food all over Manhattan! =) 
(Anne says: I'm actually older than Brian, and being taken out for lunch around Manhattan is part of the intern "payment" plan.)

(Brian was awesome and never complained about how much gear I made him carry. ;-)

2.  How would you describe Anne as a mentor?
Brian: Her mentoring style can be summed up as Hands-on and very involved, I loved her style.  She created an expectation of "I know you can do it- so just do it!"  It was her expectations and mentoring style that made it so easy to not be afraid of beings pushed past my comfort zone.  She seemed to care about my success and photography as much as I did.  She would send me text messages at we hours of the morning telling me that I need to do this and to get this in order with my business.  I've never met anyone as involved and committed as Anne.


3. What do you feel you learned by working with Anne that you wouldn't have learned on your own?
Brian: Anne pushed me to think and go outside my comfort zone.  Within the first week she already knew where my comfort zone ended.  She made me cold call individuals and ask them specific questions about their business and to see if they could use any of my services knowing that cold calling and trying to sell my business scared the living crap out of me!  Anne pushing me to this has helped me immensely, I don't think I would have been able to push my self to do that if I was on my own.  

4.  What did you learn about yourself in the process of the internship?
Brian: I learned what I'm worth as a photographer which is key when you have to run your own business with a profit.  After each day I interned Anne would create a journal entry, in those entries she would write what we did, what we have planned with our next visit and what she observed in me as a photographer.  By the time the internship was over she had  broke it down for me through her observations and directed me in a more clear path of what I needed to do as a photographer.  Finding that worth was and is priceless for me!


5.  What do you wish you'd learned, but didn't?
Brian: I would have loved to see more of the wedding photography client interaction side of the business, meeting them, showing them the album options, etc.  I was however able to experience a lot of the back and forth email communication with clients which was fabulous.

6.  What do I think a intern should bring with them before they intern for Anne Ruthmann Photography?   
Brian: Have a business plan. If you go into the internship with a clear plan of where you want your business to go you will be able to implement all the information you will receive in a more efficient way.  Set goals, more specifically set goals of where you want to be in the next 6 months to a year with your photography, that will help Anne guide you to achieve those goals.  Lastly go into internship with a strong willingness to learn from such a gifted and talented photographer.


7.  Anything else you'd like to share?
Brian: This internship was so much more than I expected it to be.  Being with Anne for those 6 months was a great experience.  She gave me so much advice on what I need to know to have a healthy business as a photographer in NYC!  Its now up to me to take that advice and run with it to make my photography thrive!

Thank you Brian, for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to share them on my blog!! Follow Brian to see where he goes next!! http://www.allredstudios.com/

NOTE: I am not accepting any new interns at this time, but I'm always accepting new consulting clients over on the Smarter Business Workshop Facebook Page where you can sign up to be notified of free and paid upcoming workshops online or in your area, as well as getting regular tips, asking questions, and getting advice to help you tackle different aspects of your creative business life!  If you don't need one-on-one help, feel free to browse all of the free articles I've already written over at Photo Lovecat.

Why Do I Look Different In Photos? 3 Factors That Affect Your Portrait

posted on: April 20, 2015

Before I was a photographer, I just couldn't wrap my head around why I looked SO different in other people's photos than I thought I looked like in real life.  I felt like no matter who took photos of me, it was never the same person in the photo than who I was used to seeing in the mirror or in selfies!  If you feel this way, you're absolutely right, but it's because you actually never get to see yourself as the world sees you until you look at a photograph.  

Scene & a most unflattering portrait from Garbo Dreams by Lauren LoGiudice 

You aren't crazy, or abnormal to think you don't look like yourself in photos, but there are three important factors that can make your portrait look more or less familiar to you:

1. The Mirror Effect
Any time you look in a mirror, you're actually seeing your identical "evil" twin who fools you into thinking this is what you look like to everyone else.  This person is who you have come to think is your image, but it's actually a reversed image of what everyone else sees.  That mole is not actually on the right side of your face as it appears in the mirror, it's on the left side.  Your larger eye is not actually the left eye you see in the mirror, it's the right eye (and yes, almost everyone has a larger or smaller eye).  Since many forward-facing "selfie" cameras mimic this mirrored effect, you're always seeing your mirrored twin, rather than the person that everyone else sees when they look at you.  A photograph reflects back your actual self, as others really see you, with a few other variables to consider, as mentioned below.  You notice all of the differences because they are new to your eye versus the image your brain has imprinted as what you look like.

Lighting Tests-004.jpg

2. The Lens Effect
The human eye is equivalent to a roughly 45mm lens on a full-frame DSLR.  This means that your portrait will often appear different if the lens used to photograph you is wider than 40mm or tighter than 50mm on a full frame DSLR.  Many portrait and headshot photographers use lenses in the 70-200mm range to compress the distance between the tip of your nose and the back of your head, which can often reduce any facial features that may feel exaggerated when looking at yourself in the mirror with your 45mm lens eyeballs.  However, if a photographer uses something as wide as a 24mm lens for a portrait, it will often exaggerate any features and distances between them on the canvas of a face.  If possible, ask your photographer to use a few different lens focal lengths to help you decide which version of your face looks best to you in print.  A photographer also has the ability to see your face at a higher or lower perspective than you usually do, so when that is combined with a lens choice, it can affect which features are more or less prominent in the 2-Dimensional photo.

Lighting Tests-009.jpg

3. The Lighting Effect
Most of us view ourselves in overhead lighting, whether it's in the bathroom with the lights centered above our face, in a general indoor setting where there are skylights or overhead lights, or outside where we have sunlight almost always at an angle higher than our physical maximum height in relation to the horizon of the earth.  All of this means that when we see an unusual lighting pattern on our face other than what is natural and familiar to us, it highlights features of our face that we aren't used to seeing highlighted, or creates shadows that don't seem flattering because we haven't adjusted to their appearance over the many years we've come to accept the naturally occurring shadows on our face.  This is why a dramatic or creative portrait may be more flattering to the overall concept of the image, rather than what an individual might find flattering for their own personal use or interpretation.  A skilled photographer can use light to enhance or minimize certain features of your face, but you most definitely pay more for someone with that level of technical expertise and experience, versus someone who hasn't yet figured out how to manipulate light to your best benefit.

I hope this helps you understand why it is that you appear to look different in photos every single time you see them.  It's not you.. it's your brain that has been trained to see you in a certain way almost your entire life... and it's been seeing you differently than everyone else sees you all along!

Parrot Bebop Drone Image Quality Review

posted on: March 23, 2015

As an architectural photographer, I occasionally get requests for aerial views of properties.  The only problem is that most of these requests are coming from individual property owners or small businesses who can't afford the highest quality imagery that comes from a helicopter or cherry picker option.  In some cases, even if they could afford it, certain tightly constructed urban areas make it very difficult to get a specific elevation with either of these methods.  Enter: drone photography.  Depending on the model, drone photography becomes a more affordable, albeit slightly lower quality option for aerial photography when in the hands of a skilled drone operator.  For the purposes of this post, my tests fall under recreational usage on family private property.

In order to see if drone photography would be a solid option in my service offerings, I decided to pick up the Parrot Bebop Drone while browsing the Apple Store.  The salesperson was actually pretty knowledgable in drone options, which helped me decide to give it a try at what I would consider to be a very inexpensive investment of $499 for this particular model, which is also a great price point if you're a tech geek and want to play with something until breaks, but not feel too bad about it.

The quadricopter craft is surprisingly lightweight, mostly made of light plastics and styrofoam, with the heaviest components being the battery and camera elements.  At first it feels a little flimsy, but after you've used it a few times, you realize how robust and durable it actually is.  The construction alone feels like an inexpensive build, but when you consider the materials science that must have gone into finding the right plastic, testing of different materials for durability, and various trials needed to achieve this design, it's worth so much more than that.

Huge praise to Parrot for including 2 batteries in the box.  Each one has about 11 minutes of flight + image capture time.  They knew the limited scope of the battery life and didn't force you to buy a second battery after you've exhausted your first 11 minutes of learning how to fly.  They also created a battery charger that can do a fast charge of around 1 hour until full, with international adapters already included.  The lithium-ion batteries are very durable and powerful and should last at least 1-2 years with this fast-charge cycle.  The element for plugging in the battery to the craft is a little tricky and took about 10 minutes to line up properly, but once I gained more confidence with just pulling the plug out from the nose with a little embedded nylon string, it became much easier to switch out batteries.

I started with just using the iPhone App for controls.  It provides a live view of what the camera sees during flight, with the option to move the image capture around quite a bit within the fisheye lens view.  The live view and controls are all done over a Wi-Fi network established by the Drone itself.  This also means that the range of controls is limited by the Wi-Fi range and any interference that your smart phone or iPad would pick up on.  Obviously, a wide open farm field or park is going to give you much more control than an urban area where any number of interferences can occur.  This interface is actually really robust and advance (not that I have much to compare to at this point), but I was impressed with the quality of controls.  I would probably prefer to use an iPad so that the accelerometer wouldn't be so sensitive, but thankfully, the app has built in controls that allow you to mitigate the speed of the lift, turns, and directional movements, which helps make it easier to control with something small like an iPhone.  The YouTube Parrot Bebop instructional videos were very informative on how the controls work for more info on what all these buttons mean.

This is probably the most impressive feature of this craft.  It has AMAZING stability for its lightness and controls.  I shook that thing a lot and the video imagery refused to budge on the horizontal plane.  Where it suffers a little is the left to right stability which can more easily be affected by wind or changes with operator controls.  The stabilization differences are less noticeable when the craft is flying forward,  backward, or panning to the side, but much more noticeable when hovering the craft in one spot.  View one of my test videos posted on Instagram to see an example of this:

Image Quality:
My biggest concern as a photographer is image quality.  As a professional photographer, I have a VERY high image quality standard that is based on over a decade of looking at images in great detail and depth.  That being said, I allow for concessions regarding imagery depending on use- for example, I'm extremely satisfied with the quality of imagery from my iPhone cameras since the 4s model, considering how small, lightweight, and easy they are to use.  Unfortunately, what the Parrot Bepop gains in all other areas of drone technology, it still has a way to go in image quality considering the entire design is for image capture.

The lens is actually not that bad for a small fisheye lens, it's more that the sensor quality and depth is much more limited than mobile phone cameras- the quality is similar to what you'd see in a ten year old point and shoot camera.  To the untrained eye, this isn't that much of a problem, but to an imaging professional, I can see the image limitations.  The biggest limitation is the exposure depth.  The color quality is actually really decent, but the highlight to lowlight range shows a strong preference for detail in shadow, which is fine as most people don't care about detail in whites, but it is limiting if you're photographing a white home or white roof, which I did during my tests.  If I had reduced exposure to favor highlights, I would have lost most of my shadow detail, so it's most likely a restriction of the compression to JPEG or DNG from the original capture.

Here are a couple more examples I shared on Instagram of the image quality in both a still image and in video mode:

In this video I'm testing the Parrot Bebop metering response, auto white balance response, autofocus, indoor exposure, and video image detail. The drone isn't in flight-mode for this test- all of the movements are from me holding it in my hand- but again, you can see that it holds the up down movements very steady despite my manipulation of the craft. The first few seconds demonstrate how long it takes to transition exposure from outdoor sunlight to indoor lighting, and how much of the scene needs to be of similar exposure for the metering to catch on and make adjustments. At 50% of the scene, the camera held to the first exposure, and it only transitioned exposure when about 70% of the scene had changed exposure levels. The first few seconds also demonstrate that you have great detail and clarity in a sunlight exposure whether the subject is 3ft or 300ft away as observed by the detail in the lace curtain as well as the detail on the building outside. In the second half of this video, I'm looking for white balance adjustments between sunlight and tungsten light, as well as indoor lighting detail. You can see a very slight white balance adjustment as @alexruthmann's white shirt enters the frame. It seems to compensate a little too blue for my tastes, but the scene with wallpaper and wood is a heavy yellow tone rather than a neutral white tone, so it's doing fine for this test. I did prefer to set the white balance in advance when I had a specific still image in mind. In the white shirt you can see the white clipping happening- which is much more difficult to control in video than a still shot. Most people don't care that much about white detail if it needs to be sacrificed for a better overall scene detail, but it would probably appear slightly less obvious if there were a few more chromatic-abhorration corrections built into the image compression. At the very end of the video, you see me bring the camera very close to the stack of books to see how detailed the short focal range is indoors. There's definitely some focal detail sacrificed in lower-lighting conditions, however, the fisheye lens has great detail even inches away.
A video posted by Anne Ruthmann (@anneruthmann) on

An example of the highest resolution still image possible with the Parrot BeBop. Without distortion correction applied, the image is around 3000px, after the image is corrected for perspective, max image size is around 1800px. Because this camera is almost entirely automatic exposure, the best image quality is in daylight. The metering appears to be full frame metering, so it's easy to blow highlights and lose shadows depending on the image. There's minor exposure compensation controls, but because the output is either DNG or JPG, they are compressed and processed files straight out of this camera. I had to customize a lot of the default settings in order to take this image successfully, but I found them quick and easy to find and manipulate after watching the YouTube help video tutorials. It took at least 20minutes of practice navigation time to figure out how to get it at the height I wanted and positioned with the camera angle I wanted, while avoiding things like trees and power lines. Still not sure if I'm sold on this particular model, though I do think it's a really solid investment at its price point for everything it can offer. With enough experience, you'd be able to customize it's controls to suit your needs and help you get the imagery you need within the limited battery life and wifi control range. The images still wouldn't be much use beyond web-usage and I still need to view them much larger on my laptop for a true quality comparison. I do give high praise for the app development team who created a very robust control, capture, and documentation system with this particular drone. It would be great for anyone who needs to cover specific plots of land with documentation mapped out of that coverage. #anneruthmannphotography #testpilot #aerialphotography
A photo posted by Anne Ruthmann (@anneruthmann) on

*This review is completely independent and I have not received any compensation or product to provide this review... though, if you feel like sending me more drones to try in exchange for a review, I'm all for it since I'm still looking for the right model to use professionally.

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