Setting Up a Studio for You

With the new Nikon D7100 digital camera, you would expect to be able to turn your hand to almost anything. This versatile and flexible camera is designed to excel in all areas of photography. So, once it is out of the box, many new owners will be rushing to take portraits and still-life images in studio conditions. Obviously, if you can, you should always try to shoot in natural light – particularly if you are shooting portraits. If that is not feasible, the pop up flash can usually provide the necessary fill-in, or you could use you flash gun, carefully placed and fired remotely. In most circumstances these tools will help you to get a decent result. But a time will come when you decide you need more control and at that point you will want a studio set up.

If you are setting up your studio at home, the ideal scenario is to have a room specifically put aside for your photography. It should have plenty of space, a high ceiling and be at least 5 meters long. Paint the walls a color that does not reflect too much – black is ideal, but if you have to share the room, then gray would be OK. Cover the windows with blackout material to ensure that the light can not get in and also cover the doors to prevent further contamination. Ideally you only want to have the light that is under your control to be effecting your images. You will also need a good supply of electrical sockets.

Having closed out all external light sources, you can decide what lighting you want to have in your studio. Lighting falls into two categories – continuous or strobe. Continuous also has two options, either tungsten or fluorescent. Tungsten is very popular for portraititure because it gives good skin tones. It is naturally a ‘warm’ light, both in light and temperature (this can be a problem, if you make your subject sit under them for a long time). You would also want to use tungstens if you were shooting video.

Fluorescent lights have a more sterile white light with a blueish hue. They are often used for stock shots ad still-live photography, because it is felt that the colors are more accurate. Of course, it is up to the photographer to choose which he prefers. White balance, in the D7100′s settings will be able to rectify most light settings, but, as you are in charge of your lighting, it would be better to set the lights so that the subject appears as you want to see it. Relying on in-camera correctives is just another think to try to remember and sooner or later you will be cursing your memory and catching up in Photoshop.

The one great advantage of continuous lighting is that you can actually see how the subject will appear in the picture in real-time. This means that you get the lighting right and can then confidently address other variables like content and composition. With the strobe, you are sometimes not sure if the flash fired or not. In many ways continuous lighting is a lot easier, and I would recommend that you start with this. However, when you need to photograph something or someone and give the impression of movement, or freeze them in action, you will have to use strobe lighting.

Although strokes are more difficult to set up, they give the photographer bit more flexibility. The power of the flash can be increased or reduced to suit the photographer’s needs. This means that the photographer can design his lighting around his shutter speed requirement. Obviously, if the subject is moving and you do not want blur, you will need a fairly fast shutter speed. Once mastered, strobe lights are a great way to get the images you want. However, because they operate on a burst, they sometimes take a while to recharge.

If you start off with a couple of lights, the easiest way to set them up is with the soft box at the front and the spot at the back. The soft box emits a softer more even light that is easier to meter against. The soft box should be 6 feet away from the subject, near the camera. The other light should be at least 3 feet away from the back drop so that it gives an even background. I would advise getting some barn doors for the back light, so that the light does not spread where it is not wanted. Always set your trigger up to the front light and ensure that both lights fire at the same time. Most lighting systems have slaves built into them these days.

I usually begin a shoot on a standard 1/125 at f8 with an ISO set at 200. This gives me enough flexibility to change things around gradually if I need to. Most studio lenses operate comfortably at f8 and the shutter speed will catch most fluid movement. If you find the lighting a bit flat, move the soft box out wide to get some more definition and shadow, but always be aware that more shadow can be very unflattering, particularly if the subject has an angular face or large nose. I always start by getting the standard shots done – the full length, half-length and then move in tighter for head and shoulders or portrait. By the time you want to try something more interesting your model will have relaxed and you will have become more confident in the equipment and you abilities.

How To Start Investing For Financial Independence, Part 1

Today, I am going to start a multi-part series about how to go from being a beginning investor to being "financially independent" in a steady and predictable way. At our website, we get tons of e-mails about how do I start, how do I start with little $ 's, etc., etc., etc. If you are asking this question, congratulations because you are ahead of most. All of us have been there at some point.

I must warn you …. What I am about to share here for free is what "gurus" across the nation charge thousands of dollars for in weekend seminars. The "secrets" disclosed are going to seem pretty simple because quite frankly, there are no secrets. The methods used here have been done for centuries and there is no real reason to complicate them. Let's apply these principles to see how fast someone might become financially independent without betting the farm.

Realize that everyone has wildly different starting points and different financial goals. For this series of articles, we assume that an individual has access to at least $ 15,000 liquid capital (or home equity) to start, is at least breaking even with their current income income expenses, and has decent credit to obtain financing. Note there yet? …. See the footnote below.

To start, what you need is to make your money grow while keeping your current income stream, and current expense level in place. I can not say this more plainly ….. To change your current financial path, you have to us your money and your time to grow additional income streams that increase wealth. There is many ways to do this but we are going to use investing in real estate as an example.

Now for beginners, here is the really bad news …… As an investor, you reap rewards by placing your money in HARMS WAY. You do everything in your power to minimize your risk but bottom line is that real investors make money by taking CONTROLLED risks. As investors get better, they learn how to make fantastic investment returns doing things that all their friends and relatives thing is crazy ….. However, they know exactly what risks are small in comparison to the potential Rewards.

One reason people really like real estate investing is leaseage; Ie, you can purchase an expensive property using 0-20% of your own money while financing the rest. So if you put 10% down for example, and then the property goes up by 20%, you have made a 200% return (ignoring expenses, taxes, etc. for simplicity). Of course this works in reverse … If the property drops by 20%, you have lost not only your original investment but have to come up with another 10% as well ….. Ouch!

For someone beginning, here is what I would suggest:
1) Look for an opportunity that will return at least 150% in 2 yrs or less;

2) Be mentally and financially prepared if the investment does not work out;

3) Have VERY good reasons why you do not think you will lose money …… You may not make as much as expected but you would rather not lose money at this stage.

4) Be patient. This single result should not either make or break you but it is crucial to a longer term plan.

In our Mastermind Group, we are bringing out a land project (see related article Land Investing that appears to meet these criteria (each investor has to decide for themselves.) So let's say the purchase price is $ 150,000, with 10% down and another $ 3,500 In closing costs. With good credit, then the financing obtained would make the land payments for 2 years while waiting for growth.

Now let's say after you did your analysis, looked at what had happened in the past, looked at why you thought more and more people would want this property, etc., you decide that you think this property will average 20% / Yr escalation over The next 2 years. MORE IMPORTANTLY, you decide that barring a major meltdown in the market, you think there is little chance that you can not at least break even after 2 years.

So if you end up being right about the growth, then you might net a tidy $ 43,000 (before taxes) or so after everything is considered. After long term capital gains at 15% let's say, then you just picked up about $ 36,000 of the "market's money". That is money that if you take a loss on the next investment will not be nearly as painful as if you lost your original money. When you combine this with your original investment amount, you now have around $ 55,000 of operating capital for step 2.

Realistically, you can not predict how much you will make from the investment. When I invest, I try to establish in my mind what is reasonable. Frequently, I have been surprised to the positive and made much more than expected. Sometimes I have made less. The key being put to yourself in a low risk situation where you have a strong reason to believe the market will go in your favor.

To accomplish this first step, let's look at what you really had to do:

1) Had to be willing to put $$ in harm's way;

2) Had to educate yourself enough to evaluate the risk and the opportunity;

3) Had to find the opportunity or be in a position to have the opportunity presented to them;

4) Had to act.

I would like to comment on the education side. As a former professor, I have seen very smart people spend 1,000's of hours and 10,000's of thousands of dollars educating themselves to "earn a living"; This is a great move in many cases. On the other side, I have seen very smart people who want investing to be a major source of income but will not spend any time or any money educating themselves.

To me, this is a recipe for disaster. By the time we finish this series, you will see that with a few simple steps, implemented over time, many people can easily produce more money than their regular job. Tomorrowmore, many people will put 100's of thousands of dollars at risk but know almost nothing about what they are doing. If you chose the path of making your investment dollars grow steadily with time, I hope this does not end up describing you.

** Footnote: If you are not yet at that level, here is what I suggest. First, read Michael Masterson's book called "Automatic Wealth". This is an excellent book on how to quickly change your financial position while staying employed. Next, I would read Van Tharp's new book called "Safe Paths To Financial Freedom". Van uses a very different thought process from many and so adds a great deal of rounding. Like anything else, you will not agree with everything written in these books but they provide some great thought processes. When you have some capital and are cash flow positive, they come back and revisit this article.

Online Multi Level Marketing – How to Take Your MLM Business Online

It seems that everyone is using the internet these days to promote their products or business. Once you understand the basics of online marketing you will see just how powerful online multi level marketing can be. The internet can automate much of your recruiting efforts from initial contact, presenting your opportunity, answering questions, and following up. In this article I will show you how your existing network marketing skills can be applied on the internet.

In network marketing the first step you need to take to get someone to join your business is to contact them. Whether it is your warm market or your cold market you have to pick up the phone and make an appointment to talk to them. In the online world this initial contact is replaced with an advertising campaign – typically pay-per-click on one of the major ad networks. This allows you to target the specific people who are looking for what you have to offer. Once they click on your ad you can give them your presentation.

In online multi level marketing your presentation can consist of a video, audio, text, or a combination of these. Using these tools you present your offer to the visitor in a way that will entice them to leave their contact information. This is typically done with a short introduction that promises more information if they leave their contact details. Once they supply their information you can then give them more details about what you have to offer.

As you know, people typically have questions about what you are offering. One of the goals of your marketing information is to answer those questions before the person even thinks to ask them. This is called pre-selling. The better job you do pre-selling the more successful your online multi level marketing efforts will be. In addition to having questions most people will typically think things over before making a decision. This is why the experts always say the gold is in the follow-up.

One of the best features of online multi level marketing is that follow-up can be done in an automated fashion. If you've struggled before trying to make the recommended five to seven follow-up contacts you will appreciate just how easy it gets online. Using an auto-responder you can create a sequence of emails that are automatically sent at predetermined intervals. This will keep your opportunity fresh in your prospects mind while they think over your offer.

As you can see, using the internet to help with your MLM business can save you a lot of time while increasing your effectiveness. One of the advantages of implementing an online multi level marketing system is that there are known techniques and principles that can be followed and the system as a whole can be tweaked to improve its effectiveness. If you already have experience in network marketing then you can see how the process translates online allowing you to focus on working with your top earners.

Your "Must Know" Ecommerce Metrics

Web Analytics can be an amazing technology, but also a highly under-utilized one. Complex deployments and integrations frequently leave business users befuddled. Without dedicated staff to analyze, analytics packages more often than not collect dust.

This brief is focused on outlining the 7 most important web metrics to monitor within your eCommerce business and what to look for as it relates to your website’s performance.

Bounce rate

First on our list is the most important metric you will encounter: bounce rate. Think of bounce rate as a first impression. The definition of bounce rate is the percentage of users that leave your website after only viewing the initial page that was presented.

Bounce rate is so vital because it provides details into how you initially message your value proposition to the customer or prospect. It provides a cue to also help you identify performance issues with your site that may be causing the inflation the metric.

Bounce rates vary by industry, but eCommerce businesses should focus on getting the metric below 30%. Especially important within paid search campaigns, bounce rate will provide valuable cues into which product assortments and promotions at the category and sub-category levels of your taxonomy are doing well. This knowledge can be leveraged across the business in other categories and implemented via multi-variate testing deployments.

Email Capture Ratio

The next metric you want to track is your email capture ratio. As an online business, you probably sell some type of tangible product or service in which you monitor orders or completed information forms. Most businesses monitor their standard conversion rate, but few businesses frequently monitor their email capture rate and take a proactive approach to increasing.

With eCommerce conversion rates yet to eclipse an average of 3%, 97% of users who come to your store are leaving without buying something. Just because they are leaving however does not mean they are not interested in communicating on some level with your business. By gaining an initial step of trust through the capture of an email address, you are not only increasing the size of your house list for future marketing but you are also building a relationship with your customer and can win their business by providing them solutions to their lives.

Strive for a 7-10% email capture rate and place the sign up tool prominent in the header. Too many businesses bury their sign up tool and do not leverage rich applications that can use browser technologies such as ajax to expand a capture field over standard text in an overlay fashion.

Number of non-branded organic keywords

Make sure you look at number of monthly non-branded organic search keywords. When monitoring SEO performance, you need to first strip out the branded terms that correlate with your business. Thats traffic that you would have received without effective SEO. Then look to the number of remaining keywords that were utilized to make up the balance of the remaining natural search visits.

Why is this important? Because SEO is driven from the long tail. Sure, core SEO terms are nice but you need to capture the 4 and 5 word queries that make up the majority of Google queries each day. Long tail placements are achieved through proper site architecture and quality targeted content. Simply put, the more terms that people are using to find you, the better your site is doing in content development. Aim for a 5% to 10% increase each month within non-branded search keywords as you structure your SEO campaigns.

Shopping Cart to Checkout “Step 1″ Progression Rate

Our next metric directly correlates to the transactional process. Make sure you monitor your direct progression percentage from the shopping cart to checkout step 1. See how many of your users are bailing for price shopping and/or they see a promo code box on your site and they are going hunting for one. This type of behavior dramatically impacts your conversion rate and overall profits and steps should be taken to measure and reduce.

Consider adding the promo box at the end of the transaction for non-affiliate sessions in order to reduce leakage. Use a cookie from an affiliate or potentially a URL to trigger two versions of the cart page. By incorporating checkout abandonment tools that re-market via email, and aggressive banners both internally and externally to try and re-capture the lost transaction, eCommerce businesses can pull prospects back in the sales funnel.

Browser and Resolution Percentages

Dont forget about looking at Browser/Resolution percentages (types and sizes) when scaling your eCommerce business. Lace face it, when you sell online you are in the “looks professional…is professional” world and goo design can make even the smallest retailer seem large. If your build your site and it breaks in Safari (Mac’s browser), or the navigation breaks on Firefox 3.5 on a PC, you essentially shoot yourself in the foot.

Look at the varied browsers and resolutions that are being used to view your website. Conduct full cross-browser testing, on varied platforms, to fully notice any potential usability problems that arrive.

Average number of cross/up sells added per visit

If you are an eCommerce business, you already know that intelligent merchandising is a crucial key to success. A primary metric to help you understand performance within online merchandising is that of average cross/up sells added per visit.

This datapoint associates to your cross sell tools that integrate at the product and the cart level and measures the average number of cross-sells added to the cart per visit. The number will provide details into the effectiveness of your product recommendations and if the recommended products are actively engaging and persuading customers.

It is tough to provide a benchmark statistic for this metric since products can vary so greatly in terms of pricepoint. But look at your historical performance and consider automating this component through algorithmic third party solutions.