Accept Mobile Payments Easier at Your Youth Sports Shoots with Square®

If you’re a youth sports photographer who collects money from parents the day of a shoot you’ve mostly got two options when it comes to collecting payments, cash or check.

Accepting cash is ideal for everyone, but not all parents are going to have enough cash on hand to purchase different packages or products. You could also take checks, but then you risk the chance of checks bouncing and you finding it very hard to collect the money you’re owed.

However, a third option is to collect credit card payments. While it’s not the most popular option, youth sports photographers have been collecting credit card payments at sports shoots for years.

But collecting credit card payments can present a challenge for many photographers.

Most don’t have a credit card reader they can take on site, so many have to write down numbers on pre-pay order forms.

Using this method, parents might feel uneasy about writing their credit card number down and letting a stranger walk off with it, as order forms can be left unsecured around the office for anyone to look at. Plus, this will present extra work for the photographer as they will need to key in each credit card entry by hand after the shoot.

But now, a company called Square has created a safe and easy to use device that plugs directly into your smart phone which allows you to accept credit card payments easier and on-site.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle “The technology is a boon for many fledgling entrepreneurs who found the traditional way of processing credit cards either cost prohibitive or unfeasible.”

With Square it’s easy to get started. The device itself is 100% free and the only cost associated with it is when you actually swipe the customer’s card and the fees are more than reasonable.

For every swipe, Square charges you 2.75% of the total purchase and if you were to input the credit card number manually it would cost you 3.5% of the total purchase plus $0.15 per transaction.

You’ll also need to download their app to your smart phone (it’s available for free for both the iPhone and any Android powered phone). Other than that you simply provide some basic financial information and you’re ready to go.

Also, the device doesn’t just collect payments. It can automatically sends out digital receipts to customers either via email or text message and it can also process refunds among a host of other capabilities.

But probably the best advantage to using Square is that there is greater potential for more sales than any other payment medium. The USA Today reports that the average purchase when using Square is $75. While results vary by business, our own research shows a much higher sales average from people paying with credit cards than with cash or check.

For the youth sports photographer, Square is a great option if you’re collecting money from parents the day of a shoot. With mobile payment transactions expected to double this year to $86.1 billion it also makes sense as more and more people are looking for easier ways to pay for products and services. Square alone has helped small business process $2 billion worth of transactions. How can they help you?

Great NEW Portable Power Option: Vagabond Mini Lithium Portable Battery

Recently, CCS customer Gary Limmroth made an equipment purchase to test the latest portable battery pack from the Paul C. Buff Company, manufacturer of the White Lighting/Alien Bees line of professional studio flashes.  Little did he know that his “test” would end up being a lifesaver for an outdoor event he was shooting.

What he purchased was the new Vagabond Mini Lithium portable battery for White Lightning and Alien Bee units.  The Vagabond Mini is a replacement product for the Vagabond II which is being discontinued for the smaller and lighter Mini model.  The Vagabond II weighs in at a strapping 18.6 pounds while the new Mini tips the scales at a lightweight 3.5 pounds making it exponentially more portable. Each Vagabond model works on a rechargeable battery and can power multiple studio lights.

Gary encountered a problematic, severe split-lighting situation while photographing a large outdoor group at a stadium location.  In addition, there were NO outdoor electrical outlets to plug in two White Lightning 3200 studio lights. So he was forced to supplement his multiple Metz strobe lighting with the new Vagabond Mini which requires no electricity, but relies on the rechargeable lithium battery for its power.  With 200’ of extension cords deemed worthless, the Vagabond Mini saved the day!

Finally, Gary said that it is easier to pack than extension cords, weighs less, and takes up less room when packing the unit for location events, or when traveling out of town.  Though smaller than an 8×10 print this unit packs a punch.  For more information go to: http://www.paulcbuff.com/vagabond.php .

 

Camera Comparisons – Why You Don’t Need the Most Expensive Equipment

When I was just getting started in the photography business I could not afford the newest or best camera equipment. Often times I would purchase used equipment or fabricate photography equipment from items that I had around the house.  I still produced great images and made a comfortable living.

A few miles away, a respected photographer I knew used exclusively the newest, most expensive Hassleblad cameras and lenses and was struggling to pay the bills.  This photographer had been in business for several years and had a reasonable amount of sales, but was always in financial trouble because she was constantly buying a new, expensive camera each time one was introduced.

With this being said, you only need the equipment that will do the job at hand- nothing more, nothing less. A claw hammer is a claw hammer, whether it is new or used it will still do the job that it is intended to do- hammer and pull nails.  A camera and lens are merely tools and you only need to use what will produce the best image for each situation.

 

Photographing Individuals & Small Groups

Photographing individuals does not require the same type of camera equipment as larger groups of people.  If you are photographing individuals or small groups of 30 or less, such as school portraits, graduates, or athletes, we suggest using a 10 mega pixel camera such as the Nikon D3000 or Canon XS.  Anything more is just overkill.  Below is a chart that compares a few features of these two cameras.

After comparing many cameras, the refurbished Nikon D3000 camera and the Nikon 18-70 lens are the best options because of the built in distance scale.  Candid Color Photography has successfully used, and abused, these for almost two years with no major camera malfunctions.

 

Photographing Large Groups  

For those of you photographing large groups of 100 or more, such as senior classes or bid day groups, a camera with more mega pixels is required in order to have enough detail in each face.  We suggest using a 12 or more mega pixel camera such as the Nikon D300, Nikon D300S, Canon 5D or Canon 7D.  Below is a chart of a few important features of these cameras.

After comparing many cameras, we recommend the Nikon D300.  Candid Color Photography has used these for more than two years with no major camera malfunctions. For many years I have personally used Canon cameras and must admit the Nikon D300 is more ergonomic.  I have also recently used the Canon 7D and Canon 5D on some very large senior class groups and found that the focus is not as sharp in the corners of the frame as the Nikon D300.

 

As you can see, the newest and most expensive cameras are not always better. If the lower priced cameras will do the job, go for it! They may not have all the bells and whistles, but you will probably never use those anyway. The next time you are looking at that shiny, new exotic camera in the store display (I know you will be looking!) just remember: no one really cares what camera you use.  Customers will only remember the images you produce.

 

Using a Camera Simulator to Supplement Training

Over the past 12 years with the proliferation of digital cameras, a new crop of photographers have surfaced that extensively use the “P” or “Auto” setting on their high tech, ultra cool cameras. It’s quick; it’s easy and, for the most part, will deliver acceptable images.

Today’s cameras—with their sophistication and technological advantages—do a great job at these automatic settings in most situations. But you still have to rely on your brain to execute the basics of photography; namely, lighting, ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

With Grads, Bid Days, Sports, Portraiture and other special event markets, Manual settings are the preferred shooting method.  The ability to understand and react to changing lighting conditions is critical to creating images that sell.  Your customers will not purchase underexposed or over-exposed images that appear on your website for viewing and ordering.

Training the “P/Auto” photographer to understand how each camera setting affects the others can be challenging and not altogether easy. Now, a website has surfaced that allows the newbie photographer to see how all of these critical settings interact with each other to produce properly exposed and saleable images.

CameraSim, the Online SLR Simulator available at http://camerasim.com/camera-simulator.html  is a website that allows you to see in real time how today’s DSLR cameras react and change to all of the critical settings essential to a good exposure.

The hands-on DSLR simulator allows you to change and control lighting, distance, focal length, mode, ISO, aperture and shutter speed while, at the same time, being able to observe the readings in the camera viewfinder.  Once you’ve adjusted your settings, you simply click the, “Snap Photo” button to review your photo.

Keep in mind that the camera simulator is not a replacement for a training program; far from it!  But it is a great way to see in real time how camera controls can affect the appearance of an image.  Think of CameraSim as a supplement to whatever training program you use to teach your photographers.

Simulated Action Sports Shoots

Fall sports are just around the corner! Many photographers are going to be shooting sports action shots as a way to break into the sports photography market. Many photographers offer action shots in addition to their traditional team and individual sports business. Taking good action shots requires attending a practice or game with the right high-speed equipment and a little bit of luck! Many times, it is more realistic (and fun for the participants) to conduct a simulated action shoot.

When selecting simulated action shots, think a little outside of the box. Players should simulate the action of the specific position that they play. For example: A kicker on the football team may not want to “simulate” a pass in his photos. You can use drills such as dribbling down a basketball court one-at-a-time or taking a shot on a given mark to help re-create that game-day look! Use cones or tape on the floor to help organize the activities. Younger players have more posing limitations. It’s better to keep the poses simple, but offer several varieties for mom to choose from!

Candid Color Systems has a series of videos with tips and examples for posing and simulated action sports shoots.
[podcast format="video"]http://podcasts.candid.com/CCSSports03.m4v[/podcast]

Green Screen for Proms

If you are looking for a competitive edge this prom season, which will be upon us in a matter of weeks, then green screen photography may be something that you may want to explore.  Rather than opting for the traditional, prop-heavy background you may want to consider green screen as a way to offer a myriad of backgrounds from the same image(s) with a minimum of props to complete your scene.
Green or blue screen photography is a technique by which foreground elements, like high school prom couples, can be separated from the green background and then composited against a new, photographic background.  Blue or green are commonly used because there is less blue or green in human flesh tones.
If you are planning to use green screen at any of your dance events this spring, it’s important to do it right to avoid any refunds or unhappy customers.  Green screen backgrounds suitable for a full-length photograph can be purchased at B&H Photo; Calumet Photo; EBay; or at www.chroma-key.com.  A 10×20 chroma-key muslin background will cost in the vicinity of $165.
We suggest using real flooring, like carpet, with the green screen behind any props you may use.  Doing it this way eliminates the “floating couple” in a background look, where their feet don’t seem to be anchored to the floor.


As far as lighting, your objective is to minimize, or, totally remove any shadows falling onto your green screen background.  It’s crucial to use diffused lighting created by an umbrella or a soft box to control shadows. The light source should be above the camera if you are using a single light source.  Full-length shots may require the use of an additional light aimed at the background to fill in shadows if you are using a single main light.   (See diagrams below)

As far as a workflow for CCS and to achieve the most efficient results you need to follow the following:
1. Shoot the event.
2. Send green screen images to CCS via CCS Transfer software.
a. Verticals in first folder
b. Horizontals in second folder
c. Backgrounds in last folder
i. Vertical and horizontal backgrounds
3. Contact Customer Support
a. Send order numbers and rolls to be converted
b. Background(s) to use for each roll
4. Images will be converted and then reloaded to event number
a. Roll 00001 will be uploaded as 10001 for first background
b. Roll 00001 will be uploaded as 20001 for second background
c. Roll 00002 will be uploaded as 10002 for first background
d. Roll 00002 will be uploaded as 20002 for second background
5. Call Customer Support to schedule your conversions
a. We prefer at least a week’s advance notice
b. Allow time to test your process and see image results
The cost for cutting out your green screen images and placing them into your background image is $.10 per image.  If you are placing them into multiple backgrounds, it is $.10 per each background.   So, if you submitted a photograph of a couple and had them placed into three different background images the cost would be $.30.
A good source of background images is www.photobacks.com.  It’s important to note that background images with more content hide potential flaws such as wrinkles in the green screen. Also, background images are better if slightly softened and darker images are better than lighter ones.  Remember to conduct tests on your background images to make sure they look good.  Backgrounds that look good for close-ups may not work well for full-length shots.  Finally, the aspect ratio of your background image must match the camera ration.  Most cameras are 3:2, but some manufacturers have 4:3 ratios.
Green screen can add a whole new look to your prom program, but success will come in the details!

Sports Photography Part Three

View video from the CCS Summer Workshops last July. Brian Allan is presenting Outdoor Sports Photography. From posed shots to simulated action, camera and lighting setups, and tips and tricks for marketing to customers. There is a lot of information in his presentation so we have broken it up into three parts.

Topics covered in part three: Demonstration photo shoots, understanding motion, optimizing team photography, crowd control and recap.
[podcast format="video"]http://podcasts.candid.com/CCSSports03.m4v[/podcast]

Sports Photography Part Two

View video from the CCS Summer Workshops last July. Brian Allan is presenting Outdoor Sports Photography. From posed shots to simulated action, camera and lighting setups, and tips and tricks for marketing to customers. There is a lot of information in his presentation so we have broken it up into three parts.

Topics covered in part two: basic and action posing, camera capture settings, camera positioning and lenses.
[podcast format="video"]http://podcasts.candid.com/CCSSports02.m4v[/podcast]

Sports Photography Part One

View video from the CCS Summer Workshops last July. Brian Allan is presenting Outdoor Sports Photography. From posed shots to simulated action, camera and lighting setups, and tips and tricks for marketing to customers. There is a lot of information in his presentation so we have broken it up into three parts.

Part 1: Topics covered: Event and booth setup, showcasing print samples, banners, traffic flow managing kids and parents. Equipment transportation considerations.

[podcast format="video"]http://podcasts.candid.com/CCSSports01.m4v[/podcast]

Eyes N Hart Photography Perfects the Level Two Experience

Successful photography is about creating an experience for the customer, and Andrew Isenhart of Eyes N Hart Photography in Vancouver, WA, took this idea to the next level.Andrew shot 50 students at a local Martial Arts School over a two day period.He did not shoot the entire school, only those who were interested.The sales experience was personal, and Andrew walked away with an average per student shot of $80.76.Andrew organized each step of the shoot weeks in advance and all of his planning paid off and opened more doors.

The Photography Experience

Level Two gave Isenhart an edge over his competition and provided an opportunity to pose the students in unique poses other photographers would not be able to duplicate.Andrew made sure he was able to take his time with each student and give them plenty of personal attention, shooting 15 – 20 frames.Using a background with studio lights and playing music, Andrew had the Instructor hold the students in poses they would not be able to do on their own.This gives the student the feeling of being a star.Music is playing creating energy, studio lights give the feeling of being important, and with the instructor posing them each student looked like a master martial artist.Andrew shot this knowing that we would cut out the instructor and leave the student for the Level Two products.

Production

After each student Andrew passed on the memory card to an assistant who loaded the images and made a copy of each image.Next, the assistant rotated the copied images using Compu Pics.Once the images are rotated the Student, along with their parents, are ready to view and order.

The Sales Experience

Before the student was shot they filled out a contact form with their information.After the shoot this form was given to a Sales Representative.Andrew had two sales stations, each consisted of a computer with an internet connection and a set of Martial Art samples.

The Sales Representative sat down with the parents and went through each image.The Representative wrote down each frame number that the parents liked.Next, the sales process began.The parents looked at the samples and decided what product they wanted for each favorite image.The Sales Representative filled out the order form with the parents encouraging them to purchase higher end products.

Finally, the parents paid for their order with cash, check, or credit card.Each sales station had an internet connection, allowing credit cards to be run on the spot using a Virtual Terminal, such as Pay Pal.This only cost Andrew 3% of his sales, and since 75% of his sales were paid with credit card, it was well worth it!

The Result

By focusing on the importance of the sales experience Andrew had an average dollar sale of $98.49.Many of these orders consisted of 2 or 3 different Level Two Styles in several sizes, as well as, regular prints.Andrew capitalized on the impulse to buy, and provided viewing stations with a trained Sales Representative. Level Two products helped set him apart from his competition.This along with creating an exciting experience for the students encouraged sales.

Andrew has already been asked to come back and shoot the rest of the students at the school, and they will be referring him to another school in the area.Martial Arts is an overlooked sport, and Eyes N Hart Photography has proven this is a lucrative sport to pursue.

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