Listener Q&A: Business Plans, Print Mediums, Flash Workflow, Posing Technique, and More

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff HarmonLeave a Comment

Jeff Harmon is joined by Erica Kay and Brent Bergherm at the round table to go through 6 listener questions on the topics of business plans, print mediums, flash workflow, posing technique, and more!


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Q1: Business Plans/Pricing for Profit?

Daniel Grove: What are changes to your business plan, pricing strategy etc. that you made that made your business more profitable?

Erica: One, creating a killer client experience. Two, (currently in progress) redesigning everything to focus on the appreciation of high-end services and products and setting those expectations from day 1.

Brent: Started publishing. Calendar, Book, Postcards.

Jeff: Mobile first experience.  Potential clients are almost always going to be looking for a photographer on their phone and so it is important to have a really good mobile experience on your website.

Now I say that knowing my website is on Zenfolio and their mobile experience is kind of average.  Not spectacular. However, they did a little while ago offer a native mobile application that my clients can download to view their photos that I love and it has made a big difference.  If I was going to make this a serious business, which I have no interest in doing, then I would go with something like Squarespace for my website so that I had a better mobile experience for potential customers.

Q2: Deciding on Print Medium?

Ken Martin: How to determine print medium, ie what qualities in a photo make you say that needs to be printed on metal or canvas?

Brent: Somewhat depends on your desires for the print, but also experimentation is needed to understand paper or other substrate qualities. For paper I prefer Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique. It’s a rich traditional feeling paper that works wonders for B&W photography, but also my color images feel exciting, but not overly vibrant or verbose.

When choosing canvas, It’s for when I want to go cheap. I produce all my own prints, so this is a cheap way to go big if you have your own printer. But also, when the image will work with a softer approach. I also hand paint a clear coat that gives it a brush stroke texture.

I’ve yet to do metal prints, but I’d go that route for those images that need to have a commanding presence. They tend to be vibrant and rather rich. Same for acrylic.

Erica: When my clients say they want it on a metal or canvas haha!

Jeff: I am not trying to make photography my business, I do paid portrait shoots to pay for equipment and because doing the shoots is something my wife and I really enjoy.  We have fun interacting with the families and capturing some memories for them. I really don’t enjoy the printing part of things much. I just don’t find it fun. So I don’t do it much.  Totally get that it means I leave a lot of money on the table and it is limiting my business, but I am doing it because I love it and since I don’t like the printing part I choose not do focus much on that.

My choice on printing then is 100% cost driven.  For myself and for my clients who choose the least expensive, so canvas.  Though I have to say I have some landscape shots I would love to get printed on those floating metal, acrylic covered prints.

Q3: Uses of Auto-ISO?

Rick Ohnsman: How do different cameras use Auto ISO? In what situations might it be a good thing to use? How does it work in Auto, Av, Tv, and Manual Modes?

Jeff: Before I share my thoughts on auto-ISO, wanted to add a couple of things quickly here from last week’s show:

  1. If you haven’t mastered getting that exposure right in the middle then don’t play around with ETTR.  Just focus on getting totally comfortable with getting good exposure.
  2. ETTR doesn’t always mean putting the exposure on the right side of the 0.  I regularly shoot where the light meter shows the shot as being underexposed.  -⅓, -⅔, -1

Now for auto-ISO.  Auto-ISO is telling your camera that it can use information from the light meter to determine if the ISO needs to be increased automatically in order to get a good exposure.  I think is is probably most helpful in shutter priority and manual mode.

For example, In shutter priority you will dial in your shutter speed and then your camera will change the aperture for you.  If the scene is fairly dark and the camera has already opened up that aperture as wide as it can possible go, then the camera knows it can increase the ISO in order to get a good exposure.  You can control it a little with exposure compensation. Or on some cameras you can also specify a ceiling for the auto ISO so that the camera won’t take it any higher than the value you set there.

I don’t use it and I really need to better incorporate it.  Especially because I know that both of my Canon cameras, the 80D and the 7DM2, have the ability to set a ceiling for auto-ISO.

Q4: Balancing Flash and Ambient Light?

Jeff Mesko: Methods and techniques for balancing flash with ambient light in portraits. I’m thinking when the flash is too hot or the background is too dark, do you start with changing aperture, shutter, or ISO? Which one first and why?When and how to balance those settings with the flash exposure compensation in the Canon menu? Or do you change the flash power setting manually? With all these factors and settings, what is a good logical workflow of changing settings to get to a good balanced flash with ambient exposure? I’m thinking on-site outdoor stuff when you need to move quickly and the environment is changing as opposed to studio where you can dial it it beforehand and it doesn’t change.

Erica: Shutter speed is the setting that controls the ambient light. The lower your shutter speed, the more ambient light you’ll let in. Start by setting your camera exposure to that which gives you your preferred exposure for the background, then manually adjust your flash power to that which give you your preferred exposure for the subject. Typical reception photos: 70-200mm, SS 100, f/2.8, ISO 400-600, flash 1/64

Jeff: Make sure you know the sync speed of your camera.  You can only take the shutter speed up so far before you start getting black bars on your photos because the curtain is partially covering the sensor when the flash pops.  About the absolute fastest shutter speed is 1/250 of second, many cameras are slower than that. A safe max setting is 1/160 of a second but it would be good to look in your camera manual and find the max sync speed for your camera.

Q5: TTL Flash and Test Exposure?

Matt Morrison: How does a ttl flash look at the test exposure and decide at what power to fire for the final shot?

Brent: What is happening with TTL is the camera and the flash work together to try and figure out what the flash power should be automatically.  To do this the camera has the flash fire off at a low power and then based on the impact that pop of flash has it will tell the flash to go to a specific power setting.  You still put a power setting on the flash, but it is kind of a relative value, sort of like how exposure compensation works on your camera.

Jeff: So really when you take that test shot the thing you are looking at is not so much how does the flash look because your camera and flash are trying to set that for you, it is the ambient light you should look at.  Decide to change your exposure settings on your camera because you don’t like the way the ambient light looks in the shot.

That said, I personally think TTL flash is much harder to use than manual flash.  Just like I love shooting in manual mode so that I can have full control over the exposure, I love having setting the power levels on my flash manually.  I don’t want to have the camera decide because of the way I have composed the shot to change the flash power. It is just more consistent and I think it makes it easier.

By the way, manual doesn’t mean having to walk over the the flash to change the power level.  I use a flash controller that goes in the hotshoe on top of the camera to wirelessly change the power levels of the flash.  Don’t have to do anything more than take the camera down from my eye and push a button to change the power level and then take the shot again.  Takes a couple of test shots to dial things in to be just how I want them and then so long as the lighting doesn’t change dramatically I will get consistent results and not have to worry about the flash to just focus on the model.

Q6: Posing Techniques?

Dustin Graffa: Posing, getting good expressions out of our subjects/clients, composition – building the shot, photography exercises to stay fresh and get better….ANYTHING BUT GEAR, SETTINGS, SPECS…Even photoshop tips and tricks (they’re just hard to do without visuals). Please. Especially tips for posing, or more importantly, how do you get great, natural expressions and build a good flowing interaction between subjects and the guy/gal behind the camera.

Erica: Listen to Portrait Session and come to my presentations at the Retreat 😉 But seriously, we could have a whole podcast dedicated just to these things. Natural client expressions – get to know them, know how to direct them, focus on photographing 2 people instead of 3 (you + them), tell jokes or stories, give them good cues, my posing course on IP+ and my doodad

Jeff: Talk to the parents before a family photo shoot and let them know their job is to look at the camera and smile.  Explain that their turning their head to the side to tell a child to look up and smile ruins the shot more than the child’s expression.  Then call out mom or dad during the shoot for not doing their job, the kids think it is funny.


Jeff:  I just fixed my first iPhone screen this week.  Even though I have done a ton of computer repair and built many computers over the years, I had never worked on an Apple device and I was scared to death. had the tools for a very reasonable price along with incredible instruction on how to do it and it was great. I have had numerous listeners ask about upgrading their Apple computers, which for most things aren’t nearly as easy to work on as the PCs I use but iFixit provides a lot of help there.

Erica: Justin & Mary Art of Authentic Posing Course (currently on sale for $279)

Brent: Canson Infinity papers. They’re my go-to paper for printing, usually.


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