First page of Google!

Well, we were pretty excited to Google “find photographers” today and find a link to Taproll on the first page! We haven’t focused much on SEO lately, but it appears that the outstanding quality of photographers on our site combined with our simple and innovative user interface has won us some points with the folks in the Google algorithm labs. We can’t really pat ourselves on the back as much as give you members out there the credit for helping us reach this milestone – nice work, keep the great photography coming!

Increasing your search ranking on Taproll via social activity

We believe that a good indicator of the quality of interaction you’ll have with a professional on Taproll via their profile is the level of social activity that their profile generates. Social activity is roughly defined as:

  • Fan relationships
  • Testimonials
  • Comments & likes on photos

If lots of people like your profile, you’ll likely have more fans, comments, likes and testimonials – and we can accordingly guess that other people might like your profile as well.

Going along these lines, we’ve designed Taproll’s search engine to take social activity into account, and thus profiles with lots of activity on them will show up before profiles with less activity on them. The next question, of course, is then, how do I boost the level of activity on my profile? The wrong answer is to try to fake out our system by adding testimonials by yourself (you’ll be penalized for such silly things). There are a number of good ways to boost your social activity:

  • Fan other professionals (they often will fan you back) – liking and commenting works well too
  • Invite your friends & family to check out your profile and fan you (we’ve made it really easy so it just takes a second for them to do it)
  • Refer new professionals to Taproll (they’ll usually fan you as well)
  • Ensure that you have high quality photos on your profile – you’re far more likely to attract likes and comments

So have fun and be social on Taproll, and you’ll benefit with more visits and best of all, more client leads!

Welcome to Brooke Aime, Taproll’s newest Elite member!

Brooke Aime is a Freelance Creative based out of Newcastle, Australia – she’s a multi-disciplinary professional providing branding, conceptual development, graphic design, advertising, and painting services. You may already have seen her amazing work on Taproll – but she showcases a combination of illustration and photography that looks beautiful on her profile.

Brooke has a great following and network across many social networks, and has come up with some brilliant ideas for promoting her referral network on Taproll. She hosted a successful Facebook event to promote Taproll and has referred many great new creative voices to the Taproll network.

As an Elite member, Brooke will provide her insights into future product developments and help promote Taproll in her network and in her locale. She will get promotional placement and full PRO features within her account, free of charge.

Please stop by and fan Brooke on Taproll, and be sure to drop likes and comments on her works you like. You can also see her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

Taproll Elite Program: Now accepting applications

Many of you have been waiting for the rollout of our Elite program on Taproll. We’re pleased to announce that this program is finally available and open for applications. How it works:

What do Elites do?

  • Elites help grow the community by referring new members to Taproll. You may mention us when meeting with colleagues, attending events, working on a project with other professionals, or just on your blog or Facebook. In general, we’ll look for 5 referred members coming in from your profile each month as a guideline, but this is not a hard and fast rule. By being an Elite, we hope that you’ll be motivated to share the benefits of joining Taproll with people in your network.
  • Elites participate in feedback sessions, providing your opinions and insights into feature ideas and development plans for Taproll. Your voice will help direct the vision of our site.
  • Elites represent the community on Taproll. With excellent profiles of their own, Elites will be encouraged to welcome new users, help get their profiles up to standard, fan new users they like, and help flag bugs or other problems on the site back to the Taproll team.

As an Elite member, you have access to:

  • Special status, in the form of a blue Elite badge on your profile
  • Free, ongoing access to Taproll PRO features:
  • Unlimited photo uploads to your profile
  • 50 SEO keywords to target yourself to more searches
  • Higher priority / placement in searches

We’re also pleased to congratulate Taproll’s first Elite member, Otto Shulze, a well-known and respected photographer specializing in Leica photography in NYC and beyond.

How can I apply to be an Elite?

The first step to being eligible for Taproll Elite is to reach 10 referrals via your profile. Simply share your Taproll URL, and when your friends and colleagues visit your page, then create their own profile which is then approved, you’ll earn a credit for a referral. (Get more details on Referrals by logging into Taproll and clicking “Refer“)

Once you reach 10 referrals, simply send an email to elite@taproll.com, letting us know that you’d like to be considered as an Elite member. Be sure to check your profile, ensure that your photos look good, and you have complete and accurate information in your profile. We’ll review your account and provide a response, typically in 2 to 4 days.

Lighting Setups and other Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Pet Photography

Guest post and images by Petra Mayer of PPP-Photography.

I am passionate about pet photography because I am passionate about pets. I think that shows in my images and that is what my customers see in my work. My philosophy is that I will work with whatever the pet is prepared to give me. By taking my time and working with my subject I’ve always had great image opportunities.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Shooting
I mainly shoot on location and outdoors. I have some studio style images in my portfolio but that is usually not what my customers want. They want memories of their pets, and these memories are tied to their homes or their favorite outdoor parks. That is also where the dogs and cats feel more comfortable and will relax faster.

Equipment
I mainly use my full frame camera Nikon D700 with prime lenses (50mm or 85mm, depending on the available space – Vancouver condos can be small…) for my indoor shooting. I mostly set up one speedlight with a shoot-through umbrella. I love the soft light this creates, and it is easier to follow the dog or cat as they move around the home. I have a second speedlight that I might use to bounce off the wall or ceiling, or use to create separation from the background. I usually have it on a little foot and place it on the floor or some furniture. I trigger them with my on-camera flash and manually adjust their output.

For my outdoor shoots I often switch to my Nikon D300s with the smaller sensor. I usually want the dog to show some action and so an open space is ideal. Here I mostly use my 24-120mm zoom for greater flexibility.

For my horse photography I rely on natural light or use a reflector to add some sunlight effects.

Have the pet owner participate!
The pet owner plays an important role in a successful shoot. They get the attention of the pet and help direct the gaze of the animal towards the camera. They may also act as “voice activated light stands” for a second speedlight or make noises to create funny postures. Use them to throw toys or treats. Remember, it’s important to include them as part of the fun. If they enjoy the shoot, they will enjoy the pictures even more!

Post production is also important. A bit of effort on the computer can make a world of a difference. Sometimes it’s a small matter of cleaning up teary eyes or grass on the tongue. (Tip: you can bring out the colors of the animal more by adding a soft-light layer in photoshop.) Other than that, I always try and get it right in camera.

You can see more work from Petra by visiting her Taproll profile and her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Interview with Reilly and Miranda Lievers of Blue Olive Photography, Wedding Photographers in Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Reilly and Miranda Lievers are an award winning duo capturing amazing editorial style portraits and wedding images. We love their photojournalistic style, and it’s easy to see why they’ve been voted one of the “Best Wedding Photographers in Vancouver” as well as one of the “Most Inspiring Photographers in Canada.”  We hope you’ll enjoy this week’s interview and get to know our awesome PRO Photographers.

1. Briefly introduce yourself and your photography business.

We are Reilly & Miranda Lievers, a husband and wife duo based in Vancouver, BC. We started our photography studio 9 years ago and are still madly in love with what we do. We are most well known for our wedding and engagement photography, but we also photograph lots of kids and new families (usually when our wedding clients return after having a baby!)

2. What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The tears. No, really. Happy joyful tears – mine (behind the camera on pretty much every wedding day. Ssshhhhh), the tears of joyful parents and grandparents and bridesmaids, and the tears shed when our clients view their images after the day. It’s a feeling that can’t be beat.

3. What was your very first camera?

The dusted off Pentax K1000 found in the depths of Miranda’s Mom’s basement set this ball into motion.

4. What are the keys to a great photo shoot or client engagement?

Great light. Being yourself. Real laughter.

It’s *nerve wracking* having a camera pointed in your direction, so it’s important to remember that when meeting with clients for their shoot! Lots of laughter and taking some time to get to know each other goes a long way to helping your clients relax and have fun. The best photos will always come from clients who you can help to just relax and be themselves.

5. What are some common mistakes that emerging business photographers will make? How can they be avoided?

I think it can be hard to remember that this is a business first, especially when you’re new! We spend significantly more time marketing, editing, designing, and overall business building than we do actually behind a camera. Beautiful photos are beautiful, but they don’t mean much when no one gets to see them! It’s a balance, and especially when you’re new the vast majority of your time has got to be working on the business, not being behind a camera. Of course, the quality of the work has to be there too – but that should be well established long before someone even thinks about opening up shop!

6. What social media strategies or channels have worked best for you in expanding your photography business?

A large part of our success had to do with the fact that we’ve been blogging since 2005 – long before many people even knew what blogs were! Now, blogs are required to even be in the game. Social media can be a time waster, so a solid plan upfront is key. We stay up to date on what’s up and coming, but we don’t jump in until we know it makes business sense (rather than just because something is new). Different social media channels are also great for different things – we use Facebook to keep in touch with clients, but twitter to keep in touch with colleagues for example.

7. Any last thoughts, comments and/or suggestions for our photographers and clients?

As photographers we are very lucky to be able to spend our days creating art for people – images that will be cherished by our clients, their children and their grandchildren for decades. It’s an incredible honour. As long as you keep that in mind and business decisions and choices are made based on that (everything from how trendy your editing should be to just how many layers of backups you think those photos should have fall into this category), I think you’re heading in the right direction.

You can see more amazing work from Reilly and Miranda by visiting their Taproll profile and on their website. You can also connect with them on Facebook.

Bay Images in London UK: Winner of this week’s Stunning Photo contest!

Congratulations to Bay Images for winning last week’s Most Stunning Photo contest, with this gorgeous shot of Herne Bay Pier near Auckland, New Zealand:

You’ve been featured as one of the top professionals to appear on Taproll’s homepage this week, and you’ve been given a free upgrade to our PRO level service. Great job on this shot, and thanks for participating in the contest.

Please submit your new entries for this week’s contest on our Facebook page.

Interview with Mike Sumsion, specializing in portraiture photography

Mike Sumsion is a professional photographer based out of Davis County, Utah, specializing in portraiture. We’ve always been stunned and impressed by the expressiveness and color he captures in people’s eyes. Meet Mike and learn a little more about him in today’s Meet the Pros interview series.

1. Briefly introduce yourself and your photography business.

I am a native of Davis County, Utah. I specialize in portraiture, paying special attention to the eyes of my subjects. For portraits I mainly shoot with the Canon 5D MII and various lenses.

I also love landscape photography, and spend time roaming the areas surrounding The Great Salt Lake.

2. What was it that first got you into photography?

It was the developing process that first piqued my interest in photography. I was in high school and simply wanted to know the processes to get film to paper. I spent the last two years of high school in the darkroom.

3. What are the keys to a great client engagement or photo shoot, or conversely what are some of the biggest challenges?

One of the biggest challenges I have with photo shoots is the attitude of the subject. It isn’t very often that I shoot someone who doesn’t say “I’m not photogenic” or make a comment about needing to lose weight, look better, etc. My goal is to help each person understand that they are photogenic, and they will end up liking what they see. If I can do that, the client seems to relax and have a much better session. In addition, and a large part of having a great client shoot, is simply getting to know the client and helping them understand that it’s my job to make them look good.

4. It seems that most photographers struggle with pricing. Do you have any tips or advice on how to develop a pricing strategy?

Don’t under-price yourself. If you are good at what you do, charge for it – and stick to your pricing. My suggestion is to not simply copy what others are doing. If you’re creating your brand and style of photography, which you should be doing, then charge for your brand and style. Again, stick to your pricing.

5. What are some common mistakes that emerging business photographers will make? How can they be avoided?

As with any business, rushing into it can be the biggest mistake. Just because you know how to take pictures and use a camera doesn’t mean that people will want to hire you. Do your research, talk to others who have done it, and find your niche.

6. What marketing and advertisement channels have worked best for you in expanding your photography business?

Word-of-mouth is always the best. Local online classifieds work well in my area also. Recently I’ve found that Instagram has been a good channel, even though it’s not local.

7. Any last thoughts, comments and/or suggestions for our photographers?

Be you. Find your style. Create images that people can see and know are yours.

8. Nikon or Canon?

I recently sold my Nikon gear and use a Canon 5D MkII with various glass. My 50mm 1.2 is my favorite for portraits, and the 12mm-24mm Sigma works great for landscapes.

You can see more of Mike’s amazing work on his Taproll profile and on his website. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

How to Achieve a Wider Field of View without a Wider Lens

Photo by Michael Baxter of Michael Baxter LLC

Photographing interiors presents a compositional challenge; how to capture a wide field of view without using an extreme wide angle lens. Although acceptable for real estate sales, overly-exaggerated depth is not so popular among the design community, who want the image to resemble the actual space. 24mm is generally regarded as the longest usable focal length for capturing wide interior views. While there is certainly spatial distortion, it strikes the balance between seeing enough of the space while retaining detail. The problem is that it is often still not wide enough, which is why manufacturers have developed lenses as wide as 12mm for full-frame sensors. These lenses provide a field of view that is close to the peripheral vision of the human eye, but at the expense of deepening the space to the point that it looks rather “cavernous”.

Wide angle photography inherently makes a room appear larger and deeper, but there are alternatives to achieving a wider field of view without the need for an extreme wide angle lens. The combination of a shift lens and multi-photo stitching provide an excellent solution. The down side is that it requires an investment in time and money, making it an option for the quality minded photographer. In this example, the interior was captured by stacking (stitching) three horizontal images in a vertical format. By pairing a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Pentax 645 (Medium Format) 35mm lens via the Zork PSA (Panoramic Shift Adapter), I was able to capture the field of view of a 21mm lens (35mm equivalent) while minimizing exaggerated depth. As a bonus the image resolution was substantially increased, allowing for a high resolution vignette shot to be cropped from the wide. Due to space limitations, my only other option would have been to capture a single image using a 21mm wide lens in vertical orientation, which would have significantly distorted the apparent depth of the space.

Because all spaces are not designed equally, I have often found that the standard 35mm aspect ratio does not allow me to capture enough of the space vertically, even if the width of the composition is satisfactory. In this example, the space limitations were such that I chose to use my Canon 24mm shift lens. In addition to it’s primary purpose (correcting perspective), the added benefit of a shift lens is the ability to cover a wider field of view than a standard lens. In this case, I shifted vertically in both directions to capture more of the space. The overlay shows how the images would have been cropped had I not been able to shift the element. Again, a wider lens would have been required to capture this amount of detail.

In the next example, I used my Canon 24mm shift lens to capture more field of view horizontally, rather than using a wider lens which would add excessive sky and ground that would then need to be cropped off, at the expense of pixels. This also prevented any further depth exaggeration. The image benefits from a wide field of view while retaining detail. With a 21 megapixels sensor, does it really matter if some of the resolution gets cropped? It all depends on your final output. If it’s for web then it won’t be missed, but if it’s for a large print then the extra pixels count.

In this final example, I needed more resolution than my camera provided, because this image was to be used as a 9x40ft banner running the length of an exercise room, in a luxury condo development. By using a combination of a shift lens (for perspective control) and a panoramic stitching head, I was able to capture an extremely wide field of view, with minimal distortion. The resulting image provided sufficient resolution for a detailed large-format print.

The process of stitching multiple images together is nothing new. It’s been done for scenics, interiors, virtual reality applications, etc. for years. Many architectural photographers use these methods to improve their photography. I use it to create high resolution images that capture the essence of the architecture and design I’m photographing. It’s not for everyone, but those who truly enjoy the creative and technical process of digital photography.

If you’d like to see more great photographers or network with other creative professionals please visit our website Taproll | http://www.taproll.com

Stunning Shot of the Week Contest: Win PRO Level service and be Featured on Taproll’s Homepage!

Calling all Photographers!

We’re kicking off a new weekly photo contest. Starting each Monday (yes, right now!) simply post your best, most stunning shot of the week here on our Facebook Fan page and rally likes and comments. The photo with the most likes by Sunday wins, and we’ll feature your profile on the Taproll homepage (you’ll show up as one of the top photographers) for a week! You’ll also be featured on our blog. Details below.

Photo by Trevor Dayley Photography of Phoenix, AZ

HOW TO ENTER:
1. Choose an image that has the “wow!” factor and share with our international audience.
2. Head on over to our Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/taproll and post your image to our wall.
3. Rally likes and comments by tagging your friends in the photo and sharing it with others through social media tools like facebook and twitter.

THE WINNER WILL:
1. Make the front page of Taproll! For an entire week you’ll be one of the first images and profiles people see when they first visit Taproll. Sign up with us today for your FREE profile if you haven’t already!
2. Get a Blog Feature. We’ll post your winning image and put your name up in lights :) .
3. Be placed in our Winner’s Gallery on Flickr. Be the first ever to adorn these hallowed walls.
4. Earn 1 FREE month of PRO level service. Benefits include unlimited high-resolution showcase photos, 60 keywords to boost your SEO rankings, and highest priority in search results.

Contest ends Monday, August 29th.

If you have any questions and/or comments please email me at david@taproll.com