Chicago Smug Meeting Featuring Levi Sim and Scott Bourne

The August Chicago Smug Mug meeting was held at the Double Tree in Oak Brook on August 5th. It was a two part workshop, held right before the kick off of Skip’s Summer School. Once again the entire day was completely free and packed with valuable information. The first half was hosted by Levi Sim, Utah-based photographer, who put on a lighting workshop and photo shoot. The second half was hosted by Levi Sim and Scott Bourne, world renowned photographer and instructor, who discussed networking and social media.

We started the day with a trip outside. It was a beautiful sunny day. We had four ladies that volunteered to be our models and numerous reflectors to help control the light. We first gathered in front of a large willow tree to listen to Levi and get some pointers on how to use our 5 in 1 reflectors.

After getting our tips, we were set off on our own. Each model was sent to a different location around the hotel and we were to move around, setting up the reflectors and taking our pictures. The group I joined, decided to hang out by the willow tree a little longer. Levi moved on with another group, but we were joined by Clay Blackmore, world renown portrait photographer (you can read more about Clay Blackmore in a previous post). He had us move out of the direct light and under the willow tree. He explained that by doing this, he has even more control of his light. We were unsure how we were going to light the subject under the tree. Clay then quoted his mentor, Monte Zucker, “The light traveled 93 million miles to get here, we can make it go another 20 feet”. So that’s exactly what he did. He had someone stand outside the shade of the tree, with the reflector and bounce light into the tree shade.

Even though we did not have a dark background, the end result was a pretty shot. It was great to see Clay Blackmore at work. I learned so much about using reflectors. Now it’s just a matter of finding one to two other people to go on photo shoots with me, to hold the reflectors.

After the tree, we moved on to an overhang at the side entrance to the hotel. Not the most scenic of spots, but with proper placement of our reflectors we were able to create some pleasing light. We tried to recreate the same set-up as Levi had shown us, with some of Clay’s tips thrown in.

The morning was capped off with a meeting back at the willow tree, with a few words from our guest speaker, Levi Sim. I learned more in two hours with this hands-on workshop, then I would have reading a book or listening to a lecture on lighting. It is truly the best way to learn. Get out and do it!

We reconvened after lunch to hear Scott Bourne discuss the importance of social media. He touched upon the big three, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Here are the highlights:

* When using Twitter, you can search using zip codes. This will allow you to keep up with the trends and happenings in your area.

* When creating your profile on any of the social media formats, include your city, genre, and the word “photography”. For example I should have my profile reading as “Chicago-based Portrait and Wedding Photographer”. This will help create a higher ranking when being searched on-line.

* Segment your marketing. Be an expert in various categories, without trying to market all those categories at the same time. “Don’t be unbelievable, be profitable”, as Scott Bourne pointed out.

* A Google+ profile can be a very good tool for increasing your page ranking.

* Your “About” page should be about your clients and not about you. “People do not buy what you do, but buy why you do it.” Tell your clients why you are a photographer and not necessarily how wonderful you are.

The last 30 minutes of the workshop was a discussion by Levi Slim, about networking. Levi’s comments reiterated what I already knew about networking with other photographers. It is very important and critical to a successful career. He even touched upon the apprehension of some photographers to share ideas with others, in fear that there creativity will somehow be stolen. His reply to that concern was a quote by Thomas Jefferson.

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening mine.”

Words to live by!

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