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…

Animoto

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.


 

Header_tip_beauty

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.

01_tip_beauty

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.

03_tip_beauty

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.

04_tip_beauty

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.

08_tip_beauty

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.

09_tip_beauty

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.

10_tip_beauty

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.

I Don’t Feel Like Writing this Blog Post Right Now

But I also don't give a shit about how I feel about it.

The problem the last two years with this blog (or rather, with me and blogging) is I tend to write when I feel like it.  Which, apparently, isn't very often.

But that's going to change – starting now.

Starting now, I'm going to publish a new blog post every Monday – whether I feel like it or not.

Why?

Cause that's the kind of habitual commitment successful creators do. And I want to be a successful creator too.

The opposite of writing or taking pictures or working out or being generally productive when you feel like it – is to do those things out of habit.

Habits get stuff done when the feeling of inspiration gets distracted by Facebook and other shiny objects.

One of the greatest gems about utilizing the power of habit is that it quiets the voices in your head that say things like “You're not good enough….you're not ready….this can wait until tomorrow.”

The habit gets you started. And once you've started it's so much easier to finish.

So there. I've started.

It's time to do the work.

See you next week.

 

1000 Humans

Inspiration doesn't usually come from thin-air. At least, it rarely does for me.

My latest photography adventure/challenge is coming directly from one of my new “mentors”, Brandon Stanton, the creator of the very popular Street Photography blog Humans of New York.

When a friend of mine emailed me a link to the HONY site, within minutes I was in love. And within minutes after that, I had registered the domain www.humansofnelsonbc.ca.

Self-portrait. First shot I took before I asked my first stranger the vulnerable question, “May I take your photograph?”

And on my lunch break, that very same day, I grabbed my EM-5 and headed out the door with my heart pounding in my chest thinking about what I was about to do – ask a complete stranger, “May I take your photo?”

The first person said, “No thanks.”

Ouch.

But I didn't give up. The project was just too appealing for me to head back to the cave of safety.

The next person said “Sure.”

This is the first person that said “yes, you can take my photo.” I wonder if he had said no, if I wouldn't have had the guts to ask the next person…

Now I was hooked.

Then I asked this lady to take her photo through the shop window…

This young mom reluctantly agreed to have her photo taken through the shop window. I'm glad she did.

A few minutes later I asked this gentleman…

I've always admired this gentleman's style.

Jump ahead a month or so and I have 71 portraits. And I have started to get up the nerve to talk to people and get their story – which is sometimes used as a caption to the image.

“How long have you two been friends?”
“Well…it's been umpteen years.”
“What's kept your friendship strong for umpteen years?”
“Oh, I don't know. She's just so special to me.”

“What's the best thing about having a kid?”
“I get to see life through her eyes. It keeps me young.”
“What's the hardest part?”
“None of my friends have kids.”

We talked for nearly an hour. He told me many things, but I wrote down nothing. There was just no pause that would allow it. Plus, I wouldn't have wanted the difficult task of deciding which story to write – and which ones to leave out.

“I went to New York once. I was looking forward to seeing all the whacky people. We all hear how different the folks are out there. So I thought, ‘Bring on the crazy!'. And sure I saw this guy in a skirt playing the harp. But I see that kind of stuff at home on Baker Street too.”

Seen in Nelson BC

“Someone from worked dropped him off at my door. The guy didn't want him, and told me to drop him off at the SPCA if I didn't want him. I thought the dog was ugly at first, with his goggly eyes and crooked tail. And he was a little shit. He crapped on my bed!”
“So why did you keep him?'
“He makes me laugh everyday. I've had him for 5 years now. He's awesome.”

“I've seen a lot of communities ruined by progress.”
“What's the answer?”
“I don't know. But I think it has to start with affordable housing.”

“The end is nigh. Don't be afraid. The Spirit will carry us home.”

Me: “How long have you two been homeless?”
Left: “We're not homeless! We're travellers. We both left when we were 15 years old. She's 17 and I'm 21.”
Me: “What's been one of your best moments since you left?”
Right: “When we got close enough to the mountains that I knew we were just about to make our new home in the wilderness. I just became overwhelmed with joy. I rolled down the window and yelled ‘I'M FUCKING FREE!'”
Me: “What kinds of reactions do you get from other people – being so young and by yourselves, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.”
Left: “We made a choice to live this lifestyle. So many people we meet and see in the cities are slaves. Slaves to their jobs, slaves to their debt, slaves to their stuff. We are free of all that. People say they are inspired by us, that they wish they could have what we have.”
Right: “And we know some people pity us or look down on us. But that's silly. The travelling community is pretty big – and most of us are good people living life this way by choice. Unfortunately there are bad travellers out there too – and they give our lifestyle a bad name.”
Me: “What's the worst part about travelling.”
Left: “It was freezing last night.”

And every day I upload these photos to my SmugMug site, and onto the Humans of Nelson BC Facebook page – where I have a growing audience that seems to be enjoying the photos and stories as much as I am.

The plan (right now) is to take 1000 portraits of strangers in my small, eclectic town in rural British Columbia.

Through this work I'm learning a lot about street photography, portrait photography, humanity, and mostly about myself – and I hope to share some of my insights with you through this blog.

Enjoy.

SmugMug Website Examples – Submit and Vote on Your Favorites

If you're new to SmugMug, be sure to use this link to save 20% on your first year with SmugMug.

SmugMug

The following is a list of beautifully designed SmugMug sites created and used by real photographers.

Use this list to get inspiration and ideas for your SmugMug site.

And feel free to:

  1. vote on your favorites
  2. leave a comment
  3. add your own SmugMug site to the list

If you need help creating your site, check out my step-by-step SmugMug customization tutorial.

9 Tips to Great Photo Slideshows

A well-made slideshow video can bring your audience to tears.

A poorly-made one can bore them to tears.

I'm guessing you want to make a great slideshow that people will love.

It might be a personal event like a wedding, a funeral, or a birthday!

Or maybe you need something for your business – a function, a sales page, your social media marketing campaign.

Either way, by following these simple tips, you can really wow your audience. And have fun in the process!

Let's get started, shall we?

Use the following 9 tips to help you bring emotional power to your slideshow video.  And have a look at the example video I made below to give you some inspiration.

1. Start with the end in mind

Do you know how, exactly, you'll be presenting your slideshow to your audience? You don't want to get to the wedding reception only to find out there is no wi-fi and you can't stream your slideshow video!

Thinking ahead will help you make the right decision on which slideshow software tool to use and what you'll need to show off your slideshow without any problems.

Bonus Tip: Don't settle for anything less than HD. Make sure your software can export at least at HD 720p. Extra points if you get HD 1080p.
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