5 Money Tips for the Self Employed Side Hustle

There are two conflicting rules to live by when it comes to making money for yourself and starting your own business.

One rule is to make sure you have everything “in place” before you try to earn your first dollar. Do you have a business plan? Have you done market research? Competition research? Do you have a business license? Consulted a lawyer? An accountant? Did you get your MBA? How about a logo? Business cards? Should you incorporate or be a sole proprietor?

The other rule is to just go for it. Try to earn your first dollar as soon as you can (a paying customer is the best form of business validation) and then build, grow, and adjust from there.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

I like making some plans; getting some ducks in a row. But then I also know that you can spend a lot of time trying to make business cards for a business idea that sucks or isn't going to make you money.

So in this post, I'm going to share some money tips for starting and managing your side hustle – as a photographer, author, or anything else.

I'm going to focus on the basics – the bare minimum – to get started.

Tip $1 – Start with an exciting (and doable) Money Goal

I started my photography business cause I so BADLY wanted a new $1000 lens. And there was no way I had that kind of money in the family budget.

I had a choice – I could let go of my want or find a way to fund it.

Did I mention that I BADLY wanted this lens?

I used that desire to fuel my new business. I wondered if I could do a few family portrait sessions on the side and earn enough to pay for that lens.

I asked around on Facebook. No big marketing. Just friends and family who I knew had liked my photography in the past.

It didn't take long to book a gig. We figured out a fair price and we were off and running.

That experience soon led to weddings, more gear, a website and a whole lot more.

So why do you want to make money? Maybe it's a much-needed vacation? Or to get out of debt? Or to buy a new computer?

Write down your Money Goal on a post-it. Put that post-it on the side of your computer so you'll be reminded why you're starting or growing your business.

Find your motivation.

You'll need it.

Tip $2 – Open a separate business checking account from the start

Back in 2005, my partner at the time, got my business going by doing something awesome for my birthday.

She made me open a separate business checking account and then transferred $100 into it.

As soon as I had that second checking account, I felt legit. And I felt totally motivated to try to get some cash in it!

Remember that $1000 lens I was trying to buy? Well, I could now see that $100 in the account that made my goal seems so much closer!

I had $100. I just needed $900 more. 

I also got a separate credit card so I didn't mix my business expenses with my personal ones.

Add this tip in with the last one about using Freshbooks, and you now have a clean way to handle your business finances!

Tip $3 – Invest in good, easy to use Invoicing, Expense Tracking, and Accounting Software

You will need to pay taxes on your business income.

And you'll also want to deduct your business expenses.

This will take some work come tax time.

You can use spreadsheets to manage your accounts. Especially if you don't have a lot of transactions, clients, or invoices. I used spreadsheets when I started but soon realized it was a pain and there were better solutions that were easier to use and that I trusted would do my accounting the correct way.

The last few years I started using software called Freshbooks.freshbooks

Freshbooks is a very popular tool for freelances and independent business owners.

I can track invoices from my bank accounts.

I can set up everything I need for tax time.

This is something you should use from day 1 in your business. It'll save you money and time in the end.

Tip $4 – Don't spend all the money you make

As a business owner (even as a sole proprietor), you need to have a plan for your new revenue stream(s).

You'll likely have some business expenses. And you should track those so you can deduct them from your income tax.

But speaking of taxes, you will need to pay taxes on your side-hustle.

How much? Well, obviously that depends on where you live.

I save 30% of my revenue for tax time. I usually don't need to give that much. Which is fine, because when I do my taxes at the end of the year and see that I only need to pay, say, 15% – then I can give myself the rest of what I had saved.

Tip $5 – Gravy Money

Now, this is personal preference, but I prefer my side businesses to provide me with gravy money.

What's gravy money? It's money I don't rely on to run my household. It's not used for groceries. Or rent.

I use my side income for some frivolous spending.

Like taking my family on vacation somewhere.

Or buying a new laptop or fun gear I want to try out.

One of my favourite things to do is to use my business profits to treat the family to a fancy dinner.

What will you do with your gravy money? Take a minute to tell me in the comment section below.

I hope you have a great time building your business, and an even great time spending the money you'll make with it.

Passive Income for Photographers, the Easy Way

There are more ways to make money with photography than shooting weddings.

In this post, I'll show you the easiest way I know to create recurring, passive income that fits perfectly with your photography passion.

You read that right – recurring, passive income.

What I want to show you is something called “affiliate marketing” – which is a way of generating income by sharing, recommending and promoting another company's or person's product or service.

If the words “marketing” and “promoting” are scary to you – don't worry. This isn't a sleazy, gimmicky, gross way to make money.

Let me ask you this…as a photographer, have you ever searched Google looking for camera gear reviews? Or, as the camera nerd in your circle of friends or family, do people ask you what camera you'd recommend for their upcoming trip to Thailand?

[And I mean nerd in the nicest way – as in someone smart, passionate, caring…]


The reality is, most of us turn to knowledgeable experts before we make a purchase.

And advice is just a Google search away:Google Camera Review

I am sure there are products you LOVE in your photography bag.

Heck, maybe you LOVE your photography bag!

If a friend of yours was looking for a good photography bag, would you hide yours and not tell them about your killer bag?

Or would you open it up and show them all the hidden pockets and high-quality design?!

Of course you'd show them!

You wouldn't force it down their throats but your “show and tell” would help them make a purchasing decision.

And they would THANK you for taking the time to show it to them in detail.

If you have a passion for photography, you can DO affiliate marketing.

And if you can do affiliate marketing (and I know you can) then you can earn an income that makes you (and your bank account) feel great.

Affiliate Marketing is Amazing!

I learned about the “secret” of affiliate marketing back in 2011.

As soon as I saw how many people online were giving away great information (and using affiliate links — more on that later), the more I saw the huge potential of making money online with this system.

I'm going to show you how much I make a month from content on one of my websites, not to brag, but just to show you what is possible.

Affiliate Income

I average about $500 per month from my affiliate income.

Without quitting my day-job.

Without spending a tonne of money or adding risk to my family.

Promoting a couple of products I love.

By making online content that helps people.

What some proof that my content doesn't just “sells” but actually helps people?

Affiliate Marketing Works

If you can't read the text on that image, Cathy comment on one of my blogs,

“OMG, you have saved me. I can't tell you how many times I tried to set up my (web)site and gave up. How close I was to giving up entirely. I Googled “SmugMug” and miraculously found your tutorial…I can't thank you enough. Really. Now I feel like I know what I am doing and finally closer than ever before to having a real working site!”

She's referring to this tutorial where I help people create a photography website on the SmugMug platform. And yes, in that post I have affiliate links to SmugMug and make a commision if anyone signs up for a paid account.

SmugMug wins because they get a new customer.

Cathy wins because she gets her very own photography website – something she clearly wants.

I win because I got to help Cathy build a great site and because SmugMug gave me a commission for bringing them a new customer.

It's a win-win-win.

The Affiliate Marketing Formula is Simple

This is going to seem too simple, but it really is as easy as following these steps:

  1. Think of a product or service (that you can purchase online) that you would authentically recommend to others. It could be your camera, your camera bag, your accounting software or a great eBook on Landscape Photography.
  2. Find the Affiliate Program for that product or service.
    1. For physical products like gear and books, you can sign up for the Amazon Associates program
    2. For software and almost anything else, you can google the product name and add “affiliate program” with it. For example,
  3. Sign up for the affiliate program (for free)
  4. Get your unique affiliate link
  5. Share your affiliate link on your website, social media, or email
  6. When someone purchases through your special link, you'll earn a commission!

Now the more traffic you bring to the web page that has that link, the more income you could potentially earn.

And you can repeat the same steps for other products you use and recommend.

Create Something Once, Make Money From it Month after Month

Remember that comment I showed you early from Cathy?

That's just one of the hundreds of comments on that one blog post I wrote – back in 2013.

Every day dozens, sometimes hundreds of people Google something like “SmugMug tutorial” and find that post.

And every day people click on my affiliate links to check out SmugMug.

Now, it's not every day that someone signs up for SmugMug through my link.

But certainly every month.

So from that one thing I created YEARS ago, it's still helping people and it's still making me money….today!

Ok, that's enough about me.

Now that you see what it is I'm talking about, you'll find that many of the “big names” in photography (and little) have affiliate marketing as part of their businesses.

Photographers that “Do” Affiliate Marketing

Now that you know what affiliate marketing is, you'll notice that most/many/alot of photographers that have an online presence are using affiliate links when they talk about the products they use or recommend.

Here are just a few photographers that are making a tonne of cash from affiliate marketing:

kenrockewell.com – Ken Rockwell earns a full-time living through affiliate links on his website. His website is all about reviewing camera gear. It's a pretty ugly site (sorry Ken), but his information and opinions on cameras and lenses are read and influence people's purchasing decisions every day. I know because I've purchased a $1000 lens based on Ken's recommendations. And I purchased it through a link on his website. And that means Amazon (or B&H photo, I can't remember which) paid Ken about $80 for bringing them that sale. Notice that Amazon paid Ken his commision. I didn't have to pay Ken anything more but got the benefit of his time and expertise to help me make my purchasing decisions. Thanks, Ken!

stuckincustoms.com – Now THIS is a gorgeous website. Trey Ratcliff is a travel photographer that specializes in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. He's self-taught but a master at his craft. He's also a master at running his art business. Similar to Rockwell, Trey recommends camera gear through his website. But Trey mostly just promotes the gear he uses – he doesn't try to test everything on the market like Ken does. Trey also promotes software through affiliate links as well. Trey has an infectious personality and writing style. His following is so large online that if he sent a single broadcast email to his email list, and simply told him of a product he was using and enjoying, he'd make thousands of dollars from commisions. Affiliate Marketing is powerful and we need to use that power for good! I believe Trey does. His recommendations pass the test – he only recommends products that are authentic and helpful. I switched to a micro four-thirds camera because of Trey's advice. Thanks, Trey!

digital-photography-school.com – Darren Rowes is now a very famous blogger. But his Digital Photography School website was where it all started for him. He's a self-proclaimed photography enthusiast. He's not a pro photographer. And yet, he created his website out of a desire to create helpful information on how folks can learn to take better photos. And guess what? Yes, he uses affiliate links in his posts whenever he talks about gear or a product that he recommends. His website has grown to be one of the most popular and longest-running blogs online about photography.

photographyontheside.com – This is my little corner of the internet. I started this blog to talk about my passion for photography – which is all “on the side” from my day job. I wanted to encourage people to cautiously turn their photography passion into a business – on the side of their day-job. Just like I did. One thing I thought all photographers need is a good website, and so I built a tutorial that shows people how to do that – step-by-step. And I added an affiliate link to the website builder company I use. That's one way that I used affiliate marketing to earn passive income on the side. And what I love most is that I've helped thousands of people figure out how to build the website they wanted. It's that win-win-win that feels so good.

That's great for those “big” guns, but what about the “little” guys?

Yes, those three websites make a tonne of cash through affiliate marketing. They are run like serious businesses. And when you look through their sites you think “Wow, there's so much information and great content. I could never do that!”

I want you to know two things right now:

  1. All those websites were started from nothing. They grew over time.
  2. You don't have to build a big website to make affiliate marketing work.

Ideas for Promoting Your Products

Are you inspired? Do you see the potential?

Then let's dive in!

Let's assume you have a website. If not you may want to check out my tutorial on How to Build a Gorgeous Photography Website in 90 Minutes. Yes, there is an affiliate link in the tutorial to the website builder I use and recommend. :)

Now on your website here are some ideas for promoting products

  1. Create a “Tools and Resources” page – this is the first thing you should do. You could also call it a “What's In My Bag” page. But list out your gear here. And software, books, and courses. Anything else you use in your photography hobby or business that you would recommend to others. Add your affiliate links (see steps above).  Make sure you add this page to your menu bar so people can find it! Now whenever someone comes to your site to see your photos, they will also see this helpful page full of your personal recommendations!
  2. Add affiliate links for your gear to your photo captions – I love when I can see the settings used to take a great photo. Thinks like aperture, exposure time, ISO. But why not add your camera body and lens to that info as well? And add affiliate links in there too.
  3. Gear review blog posts – You can apply the “Ken Rockwell” method here and write your own product review posts. Tips for writing a good review post include — being honest, being thorough, being opinionated, and being creative.
  4. Create tutorials – find out what people are searching for and help them get answers by creating text or video tutorials that solve their problems. Sometimes part of the solution will be to recommend a product that will help them out. Folks love a good recommendation when it makes their lives better!

Affiliate Programs that are a Great Fit for Photographers (Amateur or Pro)

You may be surprised at how many products and companies you use every day that have affiliate programs.

I've compiled a large (but certainly not exhaustive) list of products you could promote plus I've done some of the legwork for you to find the affiliate program link for each one, the commissions (as of February 26, 2018), and a brief description of each company in case you're interested in checking them out.

Please note that some of the links below are my own affiliate links. Which means, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I will make a commision. But you knew that already, didn't you!?


Amazon sells 398,040,250 products and 1.6 million of those are camera and photo related. One of the great things about referring people to purchase products on Amazon is that folks already trust the Amazon brand and shopping experience. And Amazon does an amazing job of making the sale!

How much can I make?

Amazon pays out 4% for cameras and photography gear. But up to 10% for some other products. The good news is that anything that someone buys on Amazon through your special link you will earn a commision for. The bad news is, for physical products the profit margin is low so your commision is low (relative to some of the other products and services listed below that can have commisions up to 40-50%). But let's say someone buys a $1000 camera through your affiliate link, you'd earn $1000 x 4% = $40. But remember the magic of this is that dozens or hundreds of people could purchase through your link once it's on your website. So it may be $40 x 100 referrals over time = $4,000. Obviously, I can't say how much or how many referrals you will have. But those numbers are certainly possible. Some folks would have that many referrals through one affiliate link per month!

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on Amazon's Associate page and login with your Amazon Account or sign up if you don't already have one.


B&H Photo and Video is the Amazon of camera gear. But these guys are great at serving photographers. One of the best things about B&H is that they have a Live Chat so you can ask them questions and get help on choosing products.

How much can I make?

B&H offers a pretty incredible 8% for each sale. They also have an affiliate manager that you can talk to about maximizing your marketing potential. They also have other marketing materials for you to use like banners and special links. But they also have stringent rules for affiliates so read the fine print! See below…

How do I sign up?

Sign up for B&H's affiliate program here. But this particular company has some rules for its affiliates. You must have a multi-page website, a fully functioning website, no broken links, and content relevant to B&H's product offerings. And you can't live in Connecticut, Louisiana, or Pennsylvania. No, seriously.

Digitial Photography School

Digital Photography School is the biggest photography blogs/website out there. The owner, Darren Rowes, has teamed up with pro photographers to create excellent training guides that are all digital – mostly eBooks and video courses. These guides are very well produced and help beginner photographers learn new skills.

How much can I make?

Digital Photography School pays their affiliates 40% per sale. Because the courses are all digital, the affiliate commisions are a lot higher compared to physical products. So if someone purchased a $19 eBook, you'd earn $7.60. And a $99 “bundle” course would earn you $39.60.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on the Digital Photography School Affiliate Program page. Note they ask for your website information and how your plans to promote them. I don't think they deny too many applicants, they just want to do some due diligence to make sure their affiliates are human beings that aren't planning on doing spammy things to make a buck and jeopardize their brand.

Stuck In Customs

Stuck In Customs is one of my favorite photography websites. Trey Ratcliff is both a fantastic photographer but also a very savvy businessman. When I grow up I want to be just like Trey! (kidding, not kidding). He specializes in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography which is a process that makes stunning images. Similar to Digital Photography School, Trey and his team have created eBooks and Lightroom Presets that teach his process for taking such stunning images. I have bought many of his eBooks and they are really well done.

How much can I make?

Stuck In Customs pays their affiliates 30% per sale. But they tell you that if you ask them nicely, they will give you a special 10% coupon that you can offer your audience. Having a discount you can offer folks really helps them click through your links. Take advantage of this great opportunity!

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on the Stuck In Customs Affiliate Program page. You don't need to give them anything more than you name and email.


SmugMug is a website builder for photographers. My photography website was built using their platform. And my first venture into affiliate marketing was a step-by-step tutorial which showed folks how to build their own photography website from scratch. One of the main reasons I promote SmugMug is that I have lots of experience using their product and I love their customer support – which I know is critical for people building their own website.

How much can I make?

SmugMug pays their affiliates 15% per sale. The advantage you get with SmugMug is that the affiliate program is managed by Adam Riemer – an affiliate manager. He provides tips and advice on his blog and is also available via email to help you promote SmugMug.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on Adam Riemer's SmugMug page on his site. Make sure you email Adam and tell him Ryan Oakley says Hi! :)

Note: There are quite a few website builders out there. Zenfolio, WP Premium Themes, Wix, Squarespace – and most of them have an affiliate program. So make sure you google the name of the company you use and add “______ affiliate program” to see if they have a way for you to promote them. Of course, only promote them if you think they are a great company. If you don't think they are that great….then why are you using them!? Switch to a company (like SmugMug) that is.


LastPass is a password management program. I use this tool to allow me to generate Str0ng(!) passwords on all my accounts, that I can access anytime through the LastPass extension in Google Chrome. No more using the “forgot password” function on your web apps. Photographers have lots of accounts and a password manager can solve the huge problem of account security for them.

How much can I make?

LastPass pays you 20% of any license sold through your affiliate link.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the stops on the LastPass affiliate program page.


FreshBooks is a bookkeeping / invoicing / accounting software service. So if you have a small business (full time or even on the side like I do), and use a tool like this to help keep your finances in order, you may want to promote this tool.

How much can I make?

Freshbooks has a unique payout system. They are not percentage based on the others so far. They pay $5 if you refer a customer and they start a free trial. And $55 when your free trial signup subscribes to any paid FreshBooks plan. That's a pretty killer commission.

How do I sign up?

“Earn like a boss, as a FreshBook affiliate”. Says so right there on their FreshBooks affiliate signup page.


Blurb (what a name!) is a company that helps you make books – both digital and print. I've used them to create photo books for my wedding clients (that they looooove, of course). But I've also used (and recommended) them for personal photo books.

How much can I make?

Blurb pays you 15% commision for new orders plus $1 per book for any book sale.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on the Blurb affiliate program page. Blurb has an affiliate manager too which is helpful if you have issues or what any promotion ideas.


Animoto is a slideshow video maker. I love using and promoting Animoto because it appeals to folks just looking to make a great slideshow video for their family trip to Hawaii, but it also works fantastic as a video creation tool for business marketing purposes.

How much can I make?

Animoto pays 20% per sale of its annual premium member sign-ups. And 15% per sale for monthly premium member sign-ups.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Animoto's affiliate program here.

Adobe (Lightroom, Photoshop, Creative Cloud)

We all know about Lightroom and Photoshop. But even you heard about it from someone early in your photography career. Someone convinced you to purchase and use this powerful software. Perhaps your photography inspires someone to do more with their photos. So they head to your Tools and Resource page to see what editing software you use. They find your Adobe Lightroom affiliate link, click through and purchase Lightroom and fall in love. This is the win-win-win I talked about with affiliate marketing.

How much can I make?

Adobe has multiple products and offers different commisions for each. For Create Cloud (CC) they offer 85% commisions for the first month of a monthly subscription. And 85% for the first month of a yearly subscription that's paid monthly. And 8.33% for the first year of a yearly subscription. Based on their subscription fees on their website, you would make between $8.49 to $63.74.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Adobe's affiliate program here. But OMG this is the most painful affiliate program to sign up for (even though they say it's easy). I actually had to stop part way through the sign-up service to send a support email to help me figure it out. You'll need to add some code to your website so they can verify that you own the site. And the payment method (for Canadians and Americans) is through Payoneer. I had never heard of them and didn't feel like signing up for a new service. Wish they would just use PayPal for payment like most affiliate programs. Anyways…I digress…


Udemy is a massive learning marketplace. Independent course creators teach a wide range of subjects. There are a number of great photography courses. I've taken a few of them myself. As well as business courses, marketing, and even personal development. Udemy is like the Amazon of online courses.

How much can I make?

Udemy pays you 20% of any paid course signup that comes through your affiliate link.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Udemy's affiliate program here. Udemy has a pretty great Udemy Affiliate support system. They provide emails with ideas and support and extra promotional material to help you make sales. They do take a few days to review your application.


Grammarly is a popular writing app. Improve your emails or your website copy with this elegant tool. I'm using the Grammarly app right now as I write this blog post to help me fix spelling and grammar erros errors.

How much can I make?

Grammarly pays you $20 for every premium plan purchase that comes through your affiliate link. They even offer a $25 bonus (incentive) just for putting a banner on your website or writing a blog post about it. Nice!

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Grammarly's affiliate program here. They have a lot of affiliate resources that you should definitely look into.


Bluehost is an affordable web hosting company. They specialize in WordPress integration and easy setup and are one of the most popular hosting companies online. Obviously, this is a great place to register your domain names too.

How much can I make?

Bluehost provides a whopping $65 for each signup. That's a pretty ridiculously high commision. They say that they paid out over $5,000,000 to affiliate last year. Wowsers.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Bluehost's affiliate program here. It's free and they provide a number of resources to help you promote them.

Additional Companies to Look Into

I have less experience in these companies, but wanted to share links to them in case you are interested in promoting them:

Adorama – Another big camera store. Commissions of 2%+ depending on brand. Sign up for the Adorama affiliate program here.

Etsy – “Show for anything from creative people everywhere”. Commissions are not listed on their affiliate page. Sign up for the Etsy affiliate program here.

Fine Art America – Online art gallery selling art from independent artists. Commissions of 15% on printing and framing services. Sign up for the Fine Art America affiliate program here.

Lonely Planet – Everyone's favourite travel guides! Promoting Lonely Planet actually makes a lot of sense for travel photographers as you can give ideas on where the best places in the world are to shot stunning photos. Commissions are 15% for all print books and ebooks. Sign up for the Lonely Planet affiliate program here.

And of course, you can and should provide links to free tools or even paid products that don't have an affiliate program. Why? Because you're trying to be helpful to your audience! This might include Google Docs, You Need a Budget (YNAB is my favourite budgeting tool), Bullet Journal, or anything else you just LOVE to use – in your photography, online marketing, or just to help you have a better life.

Do be careful

You do need to pay attention to the rules that each company has set up for the affiliates.

Some tell you that you can't make purchases yourself through your own affiliate link. Others (like Moo) says it's fine and even encourages it.

Some have a minimum sales quota per month. But most do not.

Some want to know about your website, traffic and promotion plans before approving you as an affiliate. Most do not.

Most have a minimum payout (ex. $50) that you need to earn before you get the cash (minimizes their accounting work understandably).

These companies write the rules and they can change them (or cancel their program altogether) and there's nothing you can do about it. It's part of being in this affiliate marketing business. But don't worry – most companies treat their affiliates like gold. Some have affiliate managers you can email (and you should) and some offer training and ideas and promotional materials to help you be as successful as possible.

There's No Limit to how much Money You can Make

There really aren't a lot of people that share how much they make with affiliate marketing.

I shared with you that I make about $500 / month by promoting just a couple of photography tools I love – Animoto and SmugMug.

But when I say there is no limit…I really mean there is no limit.

If you are smart about keyword research, SEO, content creation and promotion…you can make tens of thousands of dollars a month.

That's not a promise, of course. There are a lot of variables involved in

The more helpful content you create the more potential income you'll make.

Want to Learn More About Affiliate Marketing?

Try Wealthy Affiliate

In many ways affiliate marketing is easy. Add affiliate links to your website and when someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase, you'll make a commision.

But how do you get more traffic to your website?

How do you get your website and blog posts to rank on the first page of Google (i.e. Search Engine Optimization – SEO)?

How do you write a great product review post?

Who do you ask if you have questions?

I learned how to “do” affiliate marketing from Wealthy Affiliate.

==> Read My Wealthy Affiliate Review Here

Don’t Worry About Pat Flynn

Sometimes I wander over to Pat's site – Smart Passive Income.

That Income Report tracker in the top right corner stares back at me.

That is NOT how much Pat made in a year.

That's how much Pat made in DECEMBER 2017.

One month of net profit.

*mouth drops to the floor*

Some people get motivated by these huge numbers.

It deflates me, to be honest.

I feel overwhelmed. I feel jealous. I feel it's “too late”. I feel like he's claimed all the gold on the mountain and there isn't any left in the gold rush for someone like me.

It doesn't help when I look around at his website.

It's gorgeous.

The copy is perfect.

I wonder what theme he's using and then laugh at myself – this was a custom design that probably cost a fortune.

Speaking if fortunes – let's look at Pat's monthly expenses:

Almost $40,000 a month in expenses.

This guy is running a full-on business.

He's got a team of people making SPI happen.

“I can't do this.”

That's what I say to myself when I see Pat's site.

It's too much.

I don't have the skill he has.

I don't have the time he has.

I don't have the team he has.

I don't have the connections he has.

Why bother?

Then I remember – I don't need to be Pat Flynn

This is my business.

I want to do this as a side-business (for now) which means I'm going to have to go slower and be ok with making money that comes more slowly.

I don't want a team. I want to work alone on my website for now. I don't want partners or investors or weekly team meetings. I just want to learn, apply, tweak and cash some checks.

I can do this my way.

There are people that will love the way Pat Flynn teaches and there will be people that only I can reach.

I can help people too (and make income while doing it).

That's the beauty of the internet.

It's a big pond.

And I'm ok being a little fish.

Even if I catch glimpse of a giant creature like Pat Flynn in the waters, I know I belong here too.

And so do you.

There's room in here for all of us.

So don't worry about Pat Flynn.

Just do your thing. Help your people. And don't forget to add your affiliate links.

Rinse and repeat.


– Ryan

P.S. I am really grateful to Pat for showing me the value of video with affiliate marketing. I reverse engineered his “How to Start a Blog in Less than 4 Minutes” video and made my own video tutorials that have made me over $500/mo for the last 6 years – consistently. Notice how BAD that video is? I mean – it's from 2009 – but still. It does show that Pat wasn't born an online god. He wasn't that great at the beginning too. He has just put in more time to improve then I have. :)

2018 Wealthy Affiliate Review – It Works, Here’s Why

What is Wealthy Affiliate?

Wealthy Affiliate is a training program for folks that want to make money online through something called affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is a way to help people (and make money) by selling other peoples products.

Wealthy Affiliate is a membership site where you get basic and advanced training on how to find a niche, build a website, get traffic to your website, and sell other peoples products.

Whoa. Can you Explain Affiliate Marketing Again?

You can earn a commision from products you recommend online – through your website (which Wealthy Affiliate will help you build), YouTube, an email list, and/or social media.

The simple steps are:

  1. Sign up for an affiliate program (example Amazon Associates – which allows you to sell any product found on Amazon)
    1. Signing up is free
    2. Signing up is easy
  2. Copy/Paste your unique url (link) on your website, YouTube, etc.
  3. Drive traffic to your content (Wealthy Affiliate has lots of great tutorials and help on how to do this)
  4. When someone clicks your link and purchases the product, you will make a commision of the sale (automatically – even while you sleep!)

Sounds too good to be true?

I'm telling you – it's amazing to make money this way. Helping people, promoting good products, and making money month after month after doing the initial work (i.e. passive income).

It's a win-win-win.

The company that owns the product you promote as an affiliate wins because they get a new customer.
You win because you got to provide helpful information and earn a commision for it.
The customer wins because they got what they wanted (remember – they found your site because they likely came to you through Google).

It's a simple enough process.

BUT…there's a lot to learn as far as building a website, finding the right products to promote, getting traffic to your website, etc.

And it takes some work. Especially at the beginning.

But the best thing about this kind of work — once you build it, you earn recurring revenue month after month without having to do anything else. And you can scale up without having to trade more of your time for more income.

The sky is the limit, as they say!

Wealthy Affiliate – The Overview & Rankings

Name: Wealthy Affiliate
Owners: Kyle and Carson
Website URL: www.wealthyaffiliate.com
 – yep, that's my affiliate link right there :)
Training Material: 4.6 / 5
Support: 4.7 / 5
Website Builder: 4.7 / 5
Price: Free Starter Account, $49/mo Premium Membership
Passive Income For Anyone Overall Rating: 4.7 / 5

I highly recommend Wealthy Affiliate for anyone that is looking to add a new passive income revenue stream to their lives.

==> Join Wealthy Affiliate For FREE, Click Here

Why Wealthy Affiliate Works

What makes Wealthy Affiliate great is all the effort they put in to designing a site and a program that really encourages you to take action. And the ONLY way to learn something new (or make a new income stream) is to take action.

Here's a list of smart features in Wealthy Affiliate that gets you productive. I'm going to put this list in order of what has helped me the most so far:

  1. Wealthy Affiliate has a huge, active, friendly, and very helpful community. Have you ever bought a product and then felt like you were completely on your own to figure it all out? Well, not at Wealthy Affiliate. They have an active live chat, ways for members to blog about their progress and lessons learned, create new tutorials so they can share their knowledge, and comment threads on every bit of training material. If you get stuck, help is seconds away. This is huge.
  2. Wealthy Affiliate is gamified. What does that mean? It means that the team put a lot of effort in helping you keep track and get excited about your progress. They have smart tech built into the system so you can know how far you've come as you both progress in the training and take actions on your new revenue stream.
  3. It's (nearly) All-In-One. Most training programs require you to purchase other software to get the full value out of their information. And that's quite fine and expected for online business courses. Businesses require some investment, after all. But it was REALLY refreshing when I found that Wealthy Affiliate had these fantastic tools that let you get your site up and running almost without leaving the platform. These tools include:
    1. SiteRubix – a WordPress management system that's built right into the Wealthy Affiliate platform. You can literally search for a new domain, do all the technical stuff to register and build your new website and add content all without leaving the Wealthy Affiliate platform. It's super smooooooth.
    2. Jaaxy – a Keyword and Niche research tool that's also built right into the Wealthy Affiliate platform. It's one thing to build a website, it's another one to do so based on keyword research to give it the best chance of ranking high in Google search results and maximizing your chances to get traffic and earn income. Jaaxy isn't the most powerful keyword research tool on the market – but the fact that it's built into Wealthy Affiliate and that you get to use it for free with your Wealthy Affiliate membership is a big bonus.

Does Wealthy Affiliate (and Affiliate Marketing) Really Work?

I want to be completely honest with you – I've only been a member of Wealthy Affiliate since February 4, 2018.

At the time of this writing – that's just 13 days.

Don't run away! I have some important information that will help you decide if Wealthy Affiliate (and affiliate marketing) is right for you.

Even though I'm new to Wealthy Affiliate, I am not new to affiliate marketing.

Here's a screen grab of my (passive) affiliate income for this month…not to show off, but just to show you that I have experience with making money online.

Before joining Wealthy Affiliate, I already knew how affiliate marketing works. So I had a critical eye on their marketing (before signing up) and then their training once I was “in”. I knew I would be able to sniff out B.S. if it was in there.

Wealthy Affiliate delivers.

Making Money Online. Really? Is This Some Kind of Scam?

Absolutely not. Yes, there are sleazy ways to make money online. And even affiliate marketing can be done in poor taste.

But that's not how this works.

First and foremost, you will be taught to build something that helps people. It could be a review like this one that helps people make a decision about purchasing a product (or not). Information like this helps people decide if a product or service is right for them.

Or you could create a tutorial to help people figure something out and the product that you promote is a part of that solution.

For example, here's another screen capture of mine that shows one of the tutorial videos that I created to help people:

Click image to enlarge

414 likes to 3 dislikes.

Dozens of comments that thank me for helping them.

Good affiliate marketing is about helping people first. But doing it in a smart way so you can make a bit of money (on the side) while you're at it.

I made that video in 2012. People still find it on YouTube and get helpful information from it.

And I still make affiliate income from it today – 6 years later!

Wealthy Affiliate (and affiliate marketing) is Highly Recommended…

  • if you want a new passive income stream
  • if you don't have a lot of time (all my online business work has been on the side)
  • if you want to help people online
  • if you are able to get out of your comfort zone and try something new

Do I need to have a website already? No, Wealthy Affiliate will help you build one from scratch. No technical background required either. If you already have a website, you will be ahead of the game, but it's ok if you don't.

Do I need to be a salesman? Absolutely not. I freakin' hate salesman. Think of this business model as a way of helping people that are asking for help. Or like a friend recommending a restaurant to another friend.

Do I need anything else to get started? Nope. It's all in the Wealthy Affiliate training. I know you can do this cause I did.

Don't Join Wealthy Affiliate if…

If you don't have some time and motivation to build a website and at least some content. You can do this on the side of your full-time job and other life commitments but it will take some time and effort. My online business has always been “on the side” and yours can too. In fact, it's a fantastic side hustle.

If you think you'll become a millionaire overnight. It's possible (I guess?) but unlikely. You will get out of this what you put into it. My video tutorials took me a few weeks to create – but they have been giving me $500 – $1000 of income every single month since I published them back in 2012. You do the math.

If you think someone else will do all the work for you. The training material is all there. There's a lot that is step-by-step. But you will need to show up and make it happen. The good news is that its creative work, very fun, and very rewarding. So is it really work? :) And the Wealthy Affiliate community is with you when you need help – every step of the way.

If you aren't willing to invest a bit of money upfront to learn and try something new. You do need to think of this as a business – even if it's a side business. Investing in web hosting, a domain name, and training/coaching is a cost of doing business. The great news is that compared to most brick-and-mortar stores – internet businesses have incredibly low overhead and incredibly high ROI (Return on Investment).

Hey! If You've Had Affiliate Marketing Success, Why did You Join Wealthy Affiliate?

That's a very good question.

Even though my online side-business has been making between $500-$1000/mo on auto-pilot for years – I'm ready to take it to the next level. I know that with the right training and help, I should be able to get double or triple that income within 6-12 months. (I'll keep you posted!)

Here's what my online business didn't have before joining Wealthy Affiliate:

  • A community to bounce ideas off of
  • A step-by-step plan for learning new skills and taking action
  • The latest and greatest tips and strategies for marketing online
  • That “spark” to help me get off my butt (I have been floundering for years in thoughts of what could be and what should I do next?)

I joined Wealthy Affiliate to fix some of that. In fact, I really just joined to get some help growing my existing business.

On the one hand I had low expectations for how much a program like Wealthy Affiliate could really help me (someone who wasn't an absolute beginner) and on the other hand, I have taken a lot of training programs and had high expectations of how much a program like this should really help me.

I love step-by-step tutorials (and Lego and Ikea furniture). It allows me to get out of my doubting brain and just take action. And once I'm moving, I tend to create wonderful things I'm proud of. (And some of those things make me a lot of money). :)

Was I skeptical of a new “make money online” program? Oh, you bet I was…

Am I Ever Pleasantly Surprised by Wealthy Affiliate!

In just a few short days this is what I've been able to do within Wealthy Affiliate account:

  • Watched and learned step-by-step video tutorials on how affiliate marketing works and how to build a website (all in the 7-day free trial training material). Even though I'm not a novice, I learned some new and valuable things.
  • I registered a new domain name and started a new website (this one!) based on my passion for passive income, side hustling, and helping people online
  • I have Interacted with dozens of Wealthy Affiliate members that answered my questions (almost instantly).
  • Read success stories and got insanely inspired to work and grow my online business.
  • Used their Jaaxy tool for keyword research to get new content ideas that I'm confident will rank well in Google
  • Helped a bunch of people with their questions in live chat – the community is big and ridiculously kind and helpful. I immediately wanted to jump in and help like everyone else was.

What do you get with the Free and Premium Memberships?

Sneaky Awesome Things Inside Wealthy Affiliate:

With any good product or business – the little things matter.

Have you ever opened up a box for a new Apple product? Apple put in a tonne of time and money into making the “unboxing” experience for new customers enjoyable. Did they have to? No. But the fact that they did means that when you get a new Apple product you get a euphoric feeling when you open it up for the first time.

Amazingly – Wealthy Affiliate manages to create those similar “feel good” moments in their product.

Here's a list of little things that make me happy when I'm in Wealthy Affiliate:

  • The website builder, Site Rubix, makes the frustrating process of building a website easy
  • The content creator has “goals” for the number of words, paragraphs, and headings. Helps with motivation and staying on track.
  • They save my spot and track my progress in the courses while I'm going through the training material.
  • They “gamify” community involvement – giving you badges for various accomplishments
  • I've actually interacted with both owners of the program – Kyle and Carson. I find that remarkable considering they have hundreds of thousands of members
  • Besides purchasing domains (which is totally reasonable at like $14/yr) it really does seem to be an all-in-one program with everything you need to not only get started but to build and grow your new online business. No upsells!
  • They do their own “affiliate marketing” very well – with high commisions and a very user-friendly affiliate dashboard

What Do I Wish was Different Inside Wealthy Affiliate?

Boy, this is nitpicky – but I wish they had a tool for me to take notes and save links – directly on their web app. My workaround is to use a Google Doc to keep my thoughts and ideas and reference material. But it would be way cool to keep all of that within the Wealthy Affiliate site itself. Ah well. Not that big of a deal.

One More Thing…

I want you to know that if you do sign up for Wealthy Affiliate through any of my affiliate links in this article, the Wealthy Affiliate robots will link you and me together. I will know that you came in through me…which I think is awesome.

I will personally reach out to you and say hello. I will also offer my mentoring to you – so if you have any questions at all about the Wealthy Affiliate program or starting an Affiliate Marketing based income stream…I'll be right there with you.

I hope to see you on the inside!

To your success,



P.S. Click here to read some more Wealthy Affiliate testimonials and success stories. Hope they inspire and motivate you like they did me!

P.P.S I used my Wealthy Affiliate training and tools to build this website. And they provide tech support too. I thought I'd “test” their support out by sending them a ticket for a little problem I'm having on this page. They responded in 8 MINUTES! Wow. I'm very impressed. Sometimes we run into issues building our websites and we need support. Good to know that Wealthy Affiliate delivers. And yes, I do work early. This is my (on the side) business!

Wealthy Affiliate Support Response

Create a Gorgeous Video Slideshow with Photos, Text, and Music – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

In this post, I'm going to show you the step-by-step instructions for creating high quality, emotionally captivating slideshow video using photos, text, and music.

It'll be just like a recipe. I'm going to show you everything from start to finish.

Can you show me what you're going to help me create?


Here's a slideshow video I created for a photography client of mine…

I used this software called Animoto.

In this tutorial, I'm going to show you exactly how I made this video so you can make one for yourself.

Why would I want to make a video slideshow?

A video slideshow is great for personal events like weddings (and wedding rehearsals), funerals/celebration of life events, retirement parties, anniversaries, birthday parties, vacations, and graduations.

They also make fantastic gifts for mothers/fathers day (don't forget grandparents day!), Christmas and religious holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays.

And other practical uses such as for school projects, lectures for teachers, sales videos for businesses, social media content for businesses and bloggers.

But I suck at technology, I'm not creative, don't have much time (etc.)

I know you want to make a slideshow to have the person or people watching it feel how much you love and appreciate them.

I know you want it to be awesome.

I can tell you that I have never regretted creating and sharing slideshows for special events and for the people I love. It's quite common for people to watch these videos and cry tears of joy or to be speechless out of appreciation.

And I want YOU to feel that good. To create something beautiful, and meaningful and to share it with loved ones.

I am here to help you create the kind of slideshow that will make you look great, and your audience feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And I've made this tutorial to make sure technology, lack of creativity or bad execution will not get in your way.

You can do this!!

One. Step. At. A. Time.

With the right tool in our hands, we will build something great and have a lot of fun doing it.

That tool (and my favorite slideshow video creation software) is…


They have a FREE trial which will allow you to follow this tutorial and if you decide to sign up for a paid account, remember to enter the special coupon code Oakley15Off at checkout to get a 15% discount on a new account.

What's so good about Animoto?

I use Animoto because it's very easy to make really awesome looking videos – quickly. They have great style templates, a huge library of license-free music, and a customer support team that's ready to help you out if you need it.

I'm amazed at what I have created with Animoto – retirement videos, wedding videos, client videos for my photography business, Mothers Day and birthday videos, and even a couple of touching slideshow videos for funerals.

And I can't wait for you to be amazed at your creation too!

Now, let's build you a gorgeous slideshow video…

Step 1 – Go to Animoto's website


Go to Animoto

Remember, you can go throug this entire course and create your own slideshow video for free. You'll just have an Animoto watermark on the final video.

And if you want to get rid of that watermark at the end, remember to use my special coupon code I have for you if you want to pay for an account.

15% off coupon code: Oakley15Off

Step 2 – Click the “Getting Started” button

Right in the middle of the Animoto website is a Getting Started button. Go ahead and click on that sucker.

Step 1 - Animoto Getting Started

Step 3 – Create your new account (for free)

Enter your email address or use your Facebook profile to create your free Animoto account.

No credit card required.

Step 4 – Personalize your experience

Animoto wants to tailer it's product to your needs. They cater to pro photographers, businesses, educators….and personal use.

Let's assume you're just wanting to use Animoto for personal use to create a nice family slideshow.

So choose that and let's move on. There really is no wrong answer here.

Setup Wizard

Step 5 – Choose “Slideshow Video”

Since we are making a personal slideshow for a family event or gift, just choose “Slideshow Video”.

The Marketing Videos are awesome too. But not what we need right now. That's for another tutorial.

Animoto Slideshow

Step 5 – Choose the video style

OK. This is where it gets fun!

Animoto's designers have created many wonderful, high-quality video templates. You get to browse around and pick the one that best fits the mood for your event or gift.

One of my favorite styles is called “Rustic” and it's what I used to create the video above.

Feel free to browse around and look at the different samples. And pick the one you want to try out.

It's important to know that you can always change the style later on as you work on your slideshow project. So don't feel any pressure to get it right the first time.

And you can also create multiple copies of your slideshow using different video styles so you can play around and see what fits best.

Why not pick Rustic for now and we can move on with the tutorial.

4 - Animoto Rustic Video Style

Step 5 – Go through the “Welcome to Animoto” walkthrough (or skip it)

Animoto wants to guide you around the slideshow dashboard. You may choose “Start” to go through this tour or you can skip it.

Either way, I'll see you on the other side.

5 - Welcome to Animoto Walkthrough

Step 6 – Add your photos (and vids)

OK. We're getting to the meat and potatoes now.

Let's upload your photos.

You have options here.

You can either drag ‘n drop files from your desktop like this…

…or you can grab photos from a 3rd party source like Facebook, SmugMug (link to my tutorial on how to build a photography website with SmugMug), Instagram, DropBox, Flickr, or Lightroom like this…

6 - Add Photos from 3rd Party

Let's stop for a second and answer some questions about images.

Do I have to add photos and videos from one source?

No. You can mix and match from different sources. You can add, delete and move photos around as you please.

What resolution should my images be so they look their best?

Animoto recommends the images are sized so that the longest edge is at least 2048 pixels. Click here for more information about image size and resolution, video and audio (music) formats. You definitely don't want your images to look blurry because their resolution is too small.

Got more questions? Check out Animoto's FAQ page.

Step 7 – Add some text

This step is completely optional. But a little text can help tell the story of your video.

For this example, I'm going to add a title.

7 - Animoto Add Text

You can also add captions to some or all of the photos.

Up to you!

Step 8 – Move stuff around

Any item can be moved. Images, videos or text.

It's as simple as drag'n and drop'n!

You see I moved my “Title” slide up to the front of the slideshow, where it should be…

8 - Move things around

Step 9 – Spotlight (highlight) key photos

Another optional step, you may want to highlight your best photos. To do this you use the Spotlight feature.

Spotlight tells Animoto's algorithms to make these particular photos (or videos or text) to stand out from the rest. That could mean adding more time on that photo before transitioning away. And it could mean Animoto tries to fill the entire screen with that image.

You can spotlight as many photos, videos and/or text that you wish.

Step 10 – Change the music

“Music is emotion. It has the power to supercharge the emotion in your images.” – Roy Ashen, Founder of Triple Scoop Music.

Animoto has over 500 songs to choose from (with the personal plan and more for the pro and business plans).

And they are all license-free. So you can rest assured knowing that you have copy-write permission (through your Animoto account) to use the music and share your videos anywhere you please (Facebook, YouTube, etc.)

Great. But how do I pick the right song?

Well, there is going to be some trial and error for that. Obviously you want to pick a song that matches the mood of the slideshow and the event or occasion for the slideshow.

You don't want your funeral slideshow video song to be a punchy, up-beat pop song. Or maybe you do. I'll leave that decision to you.

Fortunately, Animoto helps you narrow your search down by different categories:

  • Popularity
  • Mood
  • Genre
  • Instrumental/Vocal
  • Tempo

So just dive in and sample some of the music…

10 - Pick the music

I suggest you save the ones you like so you can find it again in “My Favorites”…

10a - Save Favorite Music

For my video, I found one I really like by Ryan Huston called “This Life”.

If you want to use that song, just do a search for “This Life”. The search bar is a bit hidden. It's way down at the bottom of the filter options on the left.

What if I want to upload a song?

Yep. You can do that too. If it's music you wrote and recorded, sweet! But if it's someone else's songs, make sure you are aware of Animoto's upload terms. You must have copy-write permission to use someone else's song. And if you try to cheat that, Facebook and YouTube robots may find it and delete your video for violating their terms.

More music tips and information here and here.

Step 11 – Preview your new video

OK. At any point in this process, you can hit that preview button and have a look at what your creation looks and sounds like.

Just keep in mind that this is a low-resolution version of your slideshow and is intended to help you make decisions on style, images, text, and music before you finally hit the publish button.

11 - Preview Video

At this point you can “continue editing” and make changes to your video.

But at some point you'll be happy with your creation and you'll be read to hit that big o' PRODUCE button.

Let's do it!

Step 12 – Produce your video

When you hit the “Produce” button you'll get to a screen where you can title your video and give other information.

Pro tip: make sure you click on the 720p and/or 1080p video quality check-boxes on the right.

720p is what you want for all your online sharing of your video so that all your images are HD and sharp!

1080p is the highest quality video that you can get. And it's available to download if you want to share or view it as a file.

12 - Produce Video

Step 13 – Get rid of that watermark

With your free trial, you can make as many Animoto videos as you like. For as long as you want.

But (and of course, there's a but)…there will be an Animoto watermark on your videos.

So let's pay for a subscription and get rid of that watermark.

12 - Remove the Watermark

Which plan should I get?

It really depends. Here are some things to consider:

  • The Personal plan is fine, but a bit limited in styles and music. And all of the videos will end with Animoto's logo (but no watermark).
  • The Professional plan opens up some more options for design and music and allows you to get rid of the Animoto logo at the end of the video. (My recommendation)
  • The Business plan is for…..businesses. :) You need this one if your videos are being sold to other businesses (i.e. you're getting paid by a business to create marketing videos for them)
  • If you plan on making just this ONE video, then get a monthly subscription and remember to cancel it after a month. Whatever videos you make in that month will have the watermark removed indefinitely. But once your paid subscription lapses, any new videos you make will have the watermark on it.
  • If you think this slideshow video thing is awesome and you now want to make videos for all your vacations and special events then you should get an Annual Account – which is cheaper than going month to month.

Which plan do you have?

I started with a monthly Professional account because my first video was for a photography client. Then I canceled my account after the month was up.

But a couple of months later I wanted to make a slideshow video for a funeral of a close family friend. I again got a monthly account and then canceled.

Next came Mothers Day. By now I was seeing a trend. I loved making these videos and there were lots of occasions in my life where I wanted to make one.

And I was also thinking of making marketing videos for my business. So now I have an annual Professional account.

Step 14 – Enter this special promo code at checkout to save 15%

Be sure to use this exclusive coupon code Oakley15Off at checkout to save 15% on your annual subscription or your first monthly subscription.

13 - Enter Promo Code

Step 15 – Share your creation

I know you're excited to share your creation. So let's do it!

You can send it to any of your social media accounts, embed it on your blog, share it on YouTube, or send it via email.

14 Share your creation

Please remember to share your video project with me! Just copy/paste your link in the comment section below.

I can't wait to see it!

But, but, but….I have more questions!

That's cool.

My photos are transitioning too fast. Can I slow down the pacing?

Yes, you can generally adjust the pacing of the slideshow video by adjusting the Image Pacing under the music settings.

And if you want one particular image to last longer, remember you can use the spotlight feature which will do just that.

Learn more about pacing.

I want to do a looooong slideshow, can I add another song to keep it going?

Yes! Under your images in the dashboard click on the “Add Another Song” option.

Anything else that might be helpful?

The Animoto blog is full of inspiration and tips and I highly recommend you check it out.

They had a content for Mothers Day that inspired my daughter and me to create a Mothers Day video as her gift to her mom.

Tears? You betcha.

Animoto blog posts that may interest you…

Don't forget…

Use that special coupon code Oakley15Off at checkout to get 15% off your new account with Animoto.

Have fun making amazing slideshow videos!

Ryan Oakley

P.S. Did you enjoy this tutorial? Please let me know if the comments below, give it a “like” and share with your friends!

P.P.S Got a question for me? Ask me in the comments or send me a message on the contact page.

10 tips and tricks for doing beauty retouching with Lightroom 

The following is a guest post written by Jane Grates.

Jane manages Sleeklens.com which specializes in Lightroom workflows and Photoshop. You can connect with them on facebook, twitter orYoutube. When she is not busy managing Sleeklens, you can find her traveling around the world or enjoying long walks in nature.



With the demands of creating quality post-production work professionally, beauty retouching is no longer a basic task that anybody can do and end up with a successful product. There are certain little-known rules that make beauty retouching an entirely new category within the world of professional photography. Through this guide, we are going to review 10 essential tips and tricks that will take beauty retouching in Lightroom to the next level!

The adjustment brush tool is going to become your best friend

When we edit pictures inside Lightroom, we are very familiar with the usage of presets in order to achieve quick results without too many problems, but what about the brushes offered by many professional designers these days? Brushes are for local adjustments that can be performed regardless of the topic of the picture. You have full control over them, and if you happen to work with brush presets, you can even control the intensity of the adjustment used.


Inside your resources library, you should keep a good set of Lightroom brushes to use for different kinds of retouching:

  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Improving skin
  • Softening skin

…and much more. In general, you will not regret taking the time to produce those brushes, as they will come in handy in your workflow on countless occasions.

Split your task into areas

It is best to define areas narrowly, so you can work on each one specifically, rather than sticking to just one brush and adapting it as you change your target. Define areas on the skin as you work on producing the adjustments needed, and you will end up with a better quality result.

02_tip_beauty (1)

Areas, such as under the eyes, above the lips, or even a receding hairline require special attention, since you are not just softening for a professional result, but also wanting to keep detail, otherwise your subject won’t look realistic.

Always enhance eyes

As the phrase says, “the eyes are the windows to the soul”, which is a very true statement. There is no better image of sensuality than a close-up picture of a model with stunning eyes, carefully applied makeup, and combined with a short but powerful phrase defining the product you want to sell.


In order to get results like this, you need to mask the eyes with the Lightroom adjustment brush and adjust Exposure, Clarity and Contrast as your first attempt to create a quality result.

You can also enhance the tint of eyes by using HSL parameters, although you shouldn’t overdo this adjustment, or the result won’t look realistic.

Whiten teeth

For that “Colgate smile” result, the very first thing you need to do is to fix discolored teeth, but how can do you go about making this adjustment?

First, determine if your subject is suffering from either yellow or gray teeth. In either case, the adjustment is going to be similar.

If the subject suffers from yellow toned teeth, you need to reduce the yellow tint and increase blue values, and if the subject’s teeth look gray, you have to increase the yellow tint slightly at the Temp Slider inside the Adjustment brush tool.


Other values you will likely have to compensate are Saturation, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows. Exposure is optional, and you should avoid using Clarity, as you will bring too much attention to the teeth.

Work with tiny brush sizes and use some feather value, although not too much, otherwise you are likely to mask areas like the lips.

Sensual lips

Especially in outdoor pictures, it is absolutely necessary to emphasize the lips of your subject, otherwise the whitened teeth, you already applied are going to look unprofessional to say the least.

To give your subject a really nice-looking rose lips effect, you have to apply a warm up setup with the Adjustment Brush tool, while also reducing parameters such as Clarity and Contrast. You want the lips to be soft and sensual, but you’re not trying to increase the amount of detail on them. Increase saturation as well.

05_tip_beautyAgain, you will have to work with a variety of brush sizes as lips have a lot of detail, and please avoid using the same brush inside the mouth. If you want to give a bit more color to gums, create another brush instead. This, however, is not a very common adjustment.

Use sharpening in areas that require it

Things like eyelashes and certain skin areas also require special attention from you in order to boost their appearance. In those cases, use the Adjustment Brush to mask all the areas needed.

06_tip_beautyGeneral use of the sharpening tool or Clarity-based presets should be reserved for images with focus problems.

Always keep in mind that you won’t be able to add detail that doesn’t exist to the picture, so Sharpening will work only until a certain point… and from there on, all you’re going to add to the image is an unnecessary amount of noise.

Need to perform a quick sun tan? Use Clarity

Even if it sounds hard to believe, the Clarity slider is quite capable of simulating an intense sun tan effect without looking too orange in the process. This is because it not only enhances detail in images, but it tends to increase the amount of pigment in certain hues, while keeping the saturation under control.

Of course, you don’t want to overuse this slider, or the image will look like a HDR rather than a beauty retouching, but also keep in mind that this will bring detail, so it will reverse the skin softening effect.07_tip_beauty

Fixing under-eye bags

For hiding those annoying under-eye shadows we might encounter during portrait photography, we can simply correct it by using the Spot Removal tool and sampling a soft, bright area like the forehead. Remember to sample large areas rather than tiny spots, going over the area you need to correct evenly in order to blend in the sampled texture applied to the area.


Hiding unwanted elements

When shooting the picture, there are times where we overlook unwanted details, such as sections of wires, scratches, tree bark, etc. that may look distracting in certain areas of our image. Without having to use Photoshop, we can fix these elements by using the Spot Removal tool in Clone mode.

All you need to do is sampling an area with tint fairly similar to the area we want to mask. Bring Opacity to 100% in order to completely hide the element or reduce it to around 80%, if you want the object to blend in with the cloned texture.


Use presets to create mystic effects

Presets can be incredibly useful in beauty photography, as they allow us to perform many levels of retouching with just one simple step – just one click. Be sure you choose quality presets meant for portrait retouching, as presets covering other topics won’t improve your image to a high standard (unless your intent is to apply special effects to your image, in which case you can use Cyanotype or Cross Processing presets).

Quickly turn your image from a colorful shot to a stunning Black and White image. In just seconds, you can have up to 2-4 possible variations of your images, as long as you happen to work with the right resources.


As you can see, Lightroom provides everything needed in order to apply professional retouching to our images, all without requiring extra software like Adobe Photoshop or something similar. Keep practicing in order to improve your skills, and soon you will realize that most retouching will take mere seconds, because you will develop the skill to spot problem areas on your image off-hand. In general, the idea is to have as much fun while doing the post-production work, as you do while taking pictures.

Good luck and keep editing!

SmugMug Review: Protect Your Photos, Create a Customized Website and Make Some Money

smugmug_bannerSmugMug is a premium photo and video hosting service for people that want a website they can customize, that will protect their photos, and where they can easily sell prints to clients and fans.

And when I say “premium”, I mean – it ain't free.

And like any purchase, you must ask yourself, “Is this a good product for me? And is it worth it?”

Well, that depends, of course. But I hope that this review will help you decide if SmugMug is the right solution for you.

Basically if you're a pro photographer, aspiring pro photographer, or avid amateur photographer – SmugMug is a fantastic service that can help you sleep at night (security and privacy features), show off your portfolio (gorgeous and flexible customization), and make you money (slick e-commerce tools).

Here's my simple, but effective photography website – powered by SmugMug – www.ryanoakleyphotography.ca

If all this sounds great and you want to cut to the chase – click here to save 20% on your new SmugMug account (which includes a 14-day free trial).

And if you want more details – keep reading…

The Main Features and Benefits of SmugMug

Security is one of the main reasons pros and regular people alike choose SmugMug to host their images online.

Security is one of the main reasons pros and regular people alike choose SmugMug to host their images online.

Safety and Security – It's not sexy, but it's pretty important to us photographers. We take pride in our craft and we want to protect our images. And this might include password protecting client galleries, un-listing or hiding away photos of our kids, or watermarking and right-click protecting our award winning shots. SmugMug has a great suite of tools to lock your photos down, or unleash them to the world.

After Hurricane Katrina hit, thousands of people sadly lost their homes (and their computers). Which means many of them lost all their files and photos that were on their local hard-drives. But I remember hearing stories of people emailing SmugMug saying how grateful they were that they had all their important photos on SmugMug – safe and sound, backed up in the cloud.

Our photos are priceless – and SmugMug helps you organize and keep them safe.

SmugMug DesignsFlexible and Powerful Drag-and-Drop Customization – Photographers are striving to create and express. Why should it be any different with our websites? The new SmugMug, released in the summer of 2013 opened up the world of web customization to everyone – not just coders and designers.

SmugMug has dozens of designs that you can choose to use right off the bat. But they are fully customizable with colours, fonts, content blocks and the like. Even the hard-core web designers can have fun with CSS and HTML to really make their sites unique and personal.

It's drag-and-drop easy but if you need some help, you can check out my SmugMug Customization Tutorial.

Making Money – For folks with Portfolio and Business SmugMug accounts, you can set your own prices on everything from prints, merchandise, and even digital downloads.

Making money by selling photos helps off-set the cost of SmugMug

Making money by selling photos helps off-set the cost of SmugMug

After the cost of producing the good(s), the photographer takes home 85% while SmugMug takes 15%. Some people have criticized this split, saying 15% is too much for SmugMug to take. But I disagree. For the 15%, SmugMug takes care of payment processing, order fulfillment, and even takes care of the 100% guarantee and customer service.  Even if I had employees to do this work for me, it would cost me and my business way more.  So yeah, 15% of my profit is just fine with me.

SmugMug has also done a lot of great work for the SmugMug Pro users – adding features like coupon codes, boutique packaging, global currency, and making partnerships with other services like Moo Cards, Animoto, and Blurb to name a few.

Yeah - SmugMug takes their Customer Support "Heroes" thing quit seriously.

Yeah – SmugMug takes their Customer Support “Heroes” thing quit seriously.

Customer Service – They call their team of customer service staff “Support Heroes”.  They even make them wear face paint (hopefully not every day!). But really, I have found their customer support to be one of the best for any company I deal with – not just in photography. Though they are a family-owned intimate business, they have the staff to properly service their customers. When I send a question in to their help email, I usually get a response within an hour. That makes my life easier.

On top of that, SmugMug has been around for a long time – and I don't see them going away (or being acquired by Yahoo) anytime soon. So that gives me confidence that my photos are in the right hands and I don't have to worry about a critical change that could disrupt my business or my life.

It's Not Perfect

The biggest issue with SmugMug is that it's not free – or even cheap. As I mentioned at the top of this post, SmugMug is a premium service. So you need to decide for yourself if the service and benefits that you receive is worth the cost.

I'd say that for anyone selling photos or doing photography as a full or part-time business, it's an easy choice.  Even their top-end package at $300 per year is a steal when you consider how much pro photographers will pay monthly to rent studio space.

Personally, even with my part-time business, I've been able to sell enough prints every year to easily cover the cost of my SmugMug site.

If you have zero interest in selling prints, the choice is a bit more difficult. I'd suggest you look at the free alternatives that are out there, and ask yourself if there is something missing that you really really want. Maybe it's the security features, or the ability to customize and personalize your own site. Maybe you want to make sure your photos are viewed at their very best – not next to some ugly ads.

SmugMug isn't for everybody. But with their 14-day free trial it's easy to sign-up, give it a spin, kick the tires and see if it's a good fit for you.

14 Day Free Trial + 20% Off Coupon

True story.

Equipment Matters – A Camera Buying Guide For Sane People

It always irks me when I hear people say that camera equipment doesn't matter. That “good” artists can use any disposable camera to shoot a great wedding or take their next masterpiece.

Then why don't we ever see that?! Pros always use the best equipment they can get their hands on.

Another one is that upgrading cameras won't magically make a “bad” photographer produce good images.

Guess what? YES IT WILL!

I guarantee you that if I put a Nikon D810, loaded with a 50 mm f/1.4 lens, in the hands of nearly anyone and told them to just point it at someones head and press the shutter button – they would take one of the best portraits of their lives. And that photo would be better than any image posted by their friends on Facebook that day.

Camera gear matters.

Which is why so many of us photographers spend our days dreaming of the latest and greatest, the biggest and most expensive.

I took on my first wedding gig because I desperately wanted the highly coveted Nikon 18-200 VR when if first came out – and I couldn't afford to spend $1000 from my family budget.

Gear envy and lack of spending discipline has a serious dark side. It's easy to lose yourself in the shiny new toys that are flashed before our eyes – everywhere we look. At best, we can never feel satisfied with what we have – and at worst, we spend and spend until we drown in debt or drain our checking accounts.

I want you to buy new gear. But we need to be sane to make good choices with our limited resources.

So with this in mind, I present:

A Camera Buying Guide for Sane People

Step 1: Determine how much money you have to spend

You don't want to start shopping without knowing how much you want to spend.

It's easy to overspend – and the consequences suck (buyers remorse and debt) so this first step is critical to making a sane purchase.

And if you're thinking about buying a dSLR or Micro Four-Thirds system – you'll want to keep in mind the cost of accessories – like lenses, bags, memory cards, and maybe even software.

Step 2: Go as expensive as you can afford

With your budget figured out, I can safely tell you to shop around for the most expensive camera (and/or lenses) you can afford.

Generally, with camera gear, you get what you pay for. So when you fork over more cash, you'll get a better camera. And, as I mentioned at the start of this post, a better camera will make you a better photographer.

Step 3: Compare options with reviews and recommendations – ignore spec sheets

There are countless sites dedicated to (over) analyzing the image quality of each camera and lens on the market. It's easy to get lost in the data – and it's easy to feel like any decision on a camera will not be the PERFECT choice.

There is no perfect camera. Let's get that out of the way now.

The best thing to do when comparing cameras is to use the power of the crowd to help you find one that won't disappoint you.

Amazon is the obvious choice for this information. Rely on the thousands of consumers that have bought and tried every camera on the market and use their reviews and ratings to help the good products rise to the top.

Also, have a look at what your favourite photographers are using – knowing they may have demands similar to yours and have done their own extensive homework.

Trey Ratcliff's post on the death of dSLR's greatly impacted my decision to move to a micro four-thirds camera system.

Step 4: Consider special features

The tilt LCD screen feature is a must have for me. Helps me get these "on the ground" images.

The tilt LCD screen feature is a must have for me. Helps me get these “on the ground” images.

I love me a good tilt LCD screen. Helps me get shots at odd angles that others don't often think off. So when I'm considering a new camera, this comes into play for me.

And when I bought my last camera, I went with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 because I was sick and tired of carrying around my big Nikon dSLR. I also wanted to start shooting street photography – and the sleek EM-5 is nice and discrete.

I treat the camera like a nice looking accessory. Even if I don't plan on shooting, I want it around my neck when I head out of my house.

Other considerations:

  • fixed lenses vs. interchangeable lenses
  • size and weight
  • brand name (this matters to some)
  • water resistance and shock resistance
  • colour
  • external flash
  • video capabilities (like HD)
  • external microphone
  • Built-in GPS or wi-fi

Keep in mind it's nearly impossible to find a camera that will have everything you want. You may need to prioritize your desires.

Cnet.com is a great resource for filtering out features.

Step 5: Try before you buy

There's a good chance the search for your next camera will come down to 2 or more very good options.

It's time to go to a local camera store and get your hands on these cameras. The one that feels best in your hands is the one you should go with.

It's as simple as that.

My recommendations

I am in love with the iPhone camera. I am so amazed at the technology that allows us to shoot relatively remarkable photos with our freakin' phones!

It really is true that the best camera is the one you have on you.

Sure, there are limitations – like low-light, high noise, lack of zoom, etc. but for documenting most of our daily lives, the iPhone is as perfect as you get.

But when you want more…

My love affair with my Olympus OM-D EM-5

A photo of my favourite camera, the Olympus OM-D EM-5 (with battery grip) taken with my second favourite camera, the iPhone.

A photo of my favourite camera, the Olympus OM-D EM-5 (with battery grip) taken with my second favourite camera, the iPhone.

I have to recommend the camera I currently shoot with, don't I? :)

When my Nikon D90 smashed to a million pieces (true story) I went on the hunt for a new camera.

It would have made perfect sense for me to stay with the Nikon system – so I could use all my existing lenses, batteries, etc.

But I knew I needed a change. I wanted to go smaller and sleeker. I wanted a camera I was attracted to.

With the Olympus OM-D EM-5 it was love at first sight.  Retro silver, small, tilt-screen, high-quality lenses, great reviews from experts and customers alike…..ahhhh…..be still my beating heart.

With my street photography – it's nearly perfect.

I was concerned that the camera would feel too small in my hands. And it was. But this was easily rectified with the additional battery grip – which adds just the right amount of space for my fingers.

Happy Shopping!

I hope that this guide helps ease your anxiety about buying the “perfect” camera. We all work hard for our money and we should spend it wisely.

I want you to unwrap something you're excited about – but doesn't give you buyers remorse cause it was more than you could afford.

Lastly, be grateful for living in a time when access to amazing technology (like the iPhone) is available to nearly all of us.

The Sh*t Sandwich, and Other Tips to Giving Feedback that Doesn’t Suck

Feedback is a key ingredient to growth.

Or, as the author of the One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard puts it – “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” (Yeah – I thought it was Wheaties too.)

When I was a member of Toastmasters I found out that it's not just feedback that's needed for self-growth – but good feedback.

So let's look at a few ways to give good feedback and why it works.

Listen with Intent

When you know you're going to be giving someone feedback, you need to tune your mind and your attention into a deep focus. You need to pay attention to details. For as you'll see in a moment, details are important.

Obviously sometimes the feedback isn't for something like a speech…perhaps someone has asked you to give your thoughts on a photo, or a website. In that case, you still need to crank up your focus.

Edit Your Feedback

When someone sends me their SmugMug website and asks me for my thoughts – I don't just write a bunch of bullets in an email and press “send”. I do write a bunch of bullets – things that I like and things that I would like to see improved -but before I send the email, I will be very selective of what things I want to say in my evaluation. This way, I can make sure I incorporate the rest of the points in this post.

For example, I will edit my feedback so it motivates and encourages…

Motivate and Encourage

In Toastmasters, we acknowledge that much of the fear of public speaking is the idea that our audience will judge us harshly. That we'll be boo'ed off the podium.  The same can be true with our fears to put any of our work out into the world – our travel photographs, our new business idea, or our blog posts.

So a good evaluator will recognize this fear and will structure the feedback and use words that motivate and encourage the speaker (or the creator) to continue to give speeches, take photos, write, etc.

The best way that I know to give feedback that motivates and encourages is to use the Sh*t Sandwich technique.

The Sh*t Sandwich

So lets say you're evaluating a photo someone wants critiqued in a forum. You jot down 6 things you see that could be improved on – and 4 things that you liked about the image.

By using the Sh*t Sandwich technique – you lead off your evaluation with something positive and you finish the evaluation with something positive. This helps the person receiving the feedback to feel unthreatened and motivated to improve.

What do you put in-between the positive beginning and end? That's right – the sh*t. The “negative” stuff. The “room for improvement” information.

For example, here's a tiny sh*t sandwich for evaluating a speech:

  • I really enjoyed the pace of your speech. You were easy to listen to and I heard every word. (something positive)
  • You decided to read your speech from your notes. I think that's fine, but I wish you could have given me and the audience more eye-contact. Perhaps you could practice your speech a bit more and try not to use the notes as much. (room for improvement)
  • You were really funny. I loved the joke you made at then end – that even cracked you up. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful speech. Well done! (something positive)

There you have it – the Sh*t Sandwich.

Give Your Opinion

You'll notice in the example above that I spoke from my own experience of the speech. When I am giving an evaluation – it's just my opinion. I don't speak on behalf of the entire audience. It's important that the person requesting feedback understands that.

Be Specific

Now that I've given and received dozens of well-crafted evaluations through Toastmasters, I cringe when I hear someone say “It's good” when someone else requests feedback.

“It's good.” tells me nothing – except you either didn't pay attention, don't care, or don't know how to give good feedback.

If an employee asks for an evaluation, get specific.

If a friend wants you to read a resume or cover page, do them a favour and get specific.

Don't Criticize

Criticism is a relationship killer. If you're asked to give your opinion or feedback, realize that someone is putting themselves out there. And there is great responsibility to be respectful of that person and their work.

Words can lift people up, or they can bring them down. Choose your words carefully.

Your Turn

Do you have a photo, a website, a blog post, or a business idea you'd like to receive some feedback on?

Leave a comment below – add a link to your “thing” (if you have one) – and I'll give you some feedback that hopefully motivates, encourages, and helps you grow.

How to Steal Your Next Big Idea (Without Feeling Guilty)

“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.” 
― Austin KleonSteal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire investor, gives credit to his mentor Benjamin Graham for developing the concept of value investing. A concept Buffett used to make a fortune as a Wall Street investor.

Perhaps Buffett might never have gotten out from behind the counter at his grandfather's grocery store, if Graham hadn't done the hard work before Buffett came along.

Not only that, what if Graham kept his knowledge to himself and never taught a course on it at Columbia University in NYC – where Buffett attended?

Who knows.

The point is: It is easy to become brilliant at what you do when you stand on the shoulders of a giant – the trick is picking the right giant(s).

Find Who You Want to Steal From

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

I believe that we are – or we become – the type of person we surround ourselves with. And that if you want to change who you are – then change the people around you.

One of the greatest gifts of the internet age is that we have the ability to connect with and learn from people all over the world. We can go beyond our family, our churches, even our friends – to find people that we admire and that we can aspire to be.

When a friend of mine at work sent me a link to the Humans of New York (HONY) website, I was immediately captivated by Brandon Stanton's project. It was so powerful, and moving, and I wanted more and more of it.

Later that night, I was thinking about all the portraits and the stories I'd seen on the HONY site, and I had the idea that maybe I could do a similar project in my small town in British Columbia. But I dismissed the thought – thinking that I would be stealing and that I wouldn't be an “original.”

But I couldn't shake the idea. It seemed to fit exactly the type of project I was ready for in my photography.

So I did some googling – and found out that not only were there MANY different “Humans of…” spin-offs, but Brandon had said in an interview that he thought it was wonderful that other photographers were bringing the HONY concept to their own cities.

With this blessing, of sorts, I registered the Humans of Nelson Facebook page and hit the streets with my camera.

5,211 page likes and 192 portraits later, and I couldn't be more pleased to steal Brandons idea.

I Want You to Steal From Me

I spend my evenings and weekends writing blog posts, putting together tutorials, telling my story — to help you to achieve your dreams, transform yourself into who you want to be, and to do all that in a way that makes your life easier and more fulfilling.

So don't be ashamed for taking the good parts of stuff you love.

In fact, I encourage it.