Monthly Archives: June 2012

How I Was Able to Sell Prints Internationally

“A New Day” Sunrise illuminates Laurel Mountain reflected in the still waters of Convict Lake.

I was honestly a little surprised to be selling my work so soon after launching my new website. Then, after a couple of weeks, I received my first international print order. Wow, I thought; this is amazing! Little did I know of the horror that was to follow.

A few days after the order was placed, I picked up the finished print from my local photo lab. As usual, the lab did a great job and I was so excited to ship the print to my new customer. I arrived at the UPS Store, and proudly requested that they package and ship the print to my new customer in Sydney, Australia. “No problem” the clerk replied, “that will be $143.00.” Well, I was shocked, and at this point realized I was also just a little naive to think that the cost to ship a print this way would have been any less expensive.

Firstly; I did get to sell that particular print, even if it was at a slightly discounted cost. Secondly; I now needed to come up with a solution to complete this sale, and any future print sales that would need to be delivered to potential overseas customers.

After some thought, the solution was quite easy, and maybe obvious to many other photographers. I simply spent adequate time surfing the internet, until I was satisfied that I had found a quality and reliable photo lab as close as possible to the location where the print order was placed. The photo lab also had to agree that they would have the print packaged and picked up for delivery by a major shipping carrier of their choice. I would also request an email containing shipping information, including the package tracking number. This extra service did come at a cost; however I thought it was very reasonable and well worth it to resolve what I first believed to be something I was not even going to achieve.

In the case of the Australia sale, I did not even have to pick up the telephone. Everything was processed using email, including confirmation of a satisfied new customer. Since that first sale, I have successfully processed and shipped prints to Switzerland, Finland and the UK. The first print sold was the image pictured above; “A New Day.”

My Recommendations:

1. When deciding which photo lab to use, first read all their print service information to ensure that they can thoroughly complete the print request. Search for any reviews online about each photo lab you are considering working with. How other photographers rate each labs work, will go a long way in determining which international photo lab you ultimately decide to work with.

2. Make sure their print prices and any extra services needed, such as packaging and shipping are in-line with your sale costs and required profit.

3. Make contact, whether by email or phone if necessary, with an employee at the lab.

4. Communicate your shipping method with the customer.

5. Let the photo lab know that you need to be copied on all shipping information.

6. Follow up with the customer to make sure that they have received the print by the time stated on the tracking information, and that they are totally satisfied with the print quality. I do this with ALL customers, regardless of location.

7. Most importantly; don’t take your print to a shipping store with the attitude that you have done everything perfectly, only to do a complete U-turn, walking out the store almost in tears…Guess who?

Alternative:

Even though I have not tried them, I believe that there are website building programs which offer packaging and shipping, as an option available in their list of services. I decided not to use one of those services, so I can maximize my websites profit potential.

I do however, believe it is very wise to look at as many options as possible before investing in a new business. This has now become more than just a hobby to you, so thoroughly research each possibility, and you will be much more comfortable with the services you choose.

Suggestion:

Try weighing up the pros and cons of both the two website building options listed below. I personally use Photodeck, and have been very satisfied with the results so far. There are also many other website companies and options to choose from.

http://www.photodeck.com/  

http://www.smugmug.com/

Bolinas Ridge Sunset

How to Capture a High Contrast Scene:

I did not originally intend to shoot this scene to include the sun. However, upon arriving to this view, I realized that I was about 2 to 4 weeks late to capture the pleasing light green vivid spring grasses, that are part of the scene. Therefore, I decided to improvise. I chose to wait until the sun was low enough so it could be framed nicely into the image, as well as including rays from the sun. To be able to capture this scene with moderate success, usually requires one of two methods.  One method of pulling this off, would be in post-processing. This is where high dynamic range software or HDR, really shines. However, after using HDR to process several images, I find that the results can be unnatural. This method is still a viable option, and one that is widely used.

My preference for capturing this image, is with the use of on-camera filters. The filters I used to properly expose this image are called neutral density graduated filters. There are many companies that make these filters; however the most popular brands with the pros are Singh-Ray and Lee. My preference is the former, which are attached to the front of my lenses using the Cokin Filter System.

Very rarely do I attach two filters to my lens at the same time; however the high contrast of this particular scene required that I use two filters in this instance. My go-to filter is the Singh-Ray 3-stop soft edge filter. Soft edge refers to how sharply the dark part of the filter transitions to light, while 3-stop refers to how much loss of light there will be, and how much the exposure will need to be increased.

While my go-to filter was used to balance out the normal contrast between the sky and foreground, I also used a Daryl Benson 3-stop reverse grad, which is also part of the Singh-Ray catalog of filters. This filter was required to keep the area of sky where the sun was setting from being over-exposed. This filter can also require practice to line correctly in the Cokin holder. It was necessary for me to adjust the position of this filter several times before I obtained a satisfactory result.

When it comes to either using software or on-camera filters to correctly expose and process your images, my best advise is to not be intimidated. Just get out there and shoot. Practice, practice, practice…Sooner or lately, you will be glad you did.

Technical Information:

  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5 at 45mm
  • 0.3 Seconds
  • f/16
  • ISO 125
  • Singh-Ray ND Grad
  • Daryl Benson Reverse ND Grad

Helpful Links:

http://singh-ray.com/grndgrads.html

http://www.2filter.com/cokin/cokin.html

http://www.hdrsoft.com/