I am constantly preaching the power of photographing your niche, and here’s one more example of just how powerful it can be. Brad Mangin is all about baseball photography, so when Instagram popped up, he grabbed his iPhone and pointed it squarely at his niche. A six-page spread in Sports Illustrated consisting solely of images from his iPhone later turned into a book deal, and a huge amount of marketing buzz for Brad and his business.
Brad addresses the power of a niche in our free downloadable guide Growing Your Sports Photography Business. He has obviously spent a ton of time with Instagram and other photography apps, so I asked if he’d be willing to share what’s in his secret bag of tricks. He agreed, but only if I agreed not to share it with others. I said OK. I lied. :-)
When I sat down with him the other day (see the video, below), he was brave enough to show me (and now you) every stage in his iPhone photography workflow process, starting with the raw image, and then every step along the way until he reached the final published image.
Here’s an example of one:
Quite a difference, wouldn’t you say? These steps are done entirely within the iPhone, most of the time on location and within minutes of being taken.
1) Not everything looks best in color
I shoot all of my Instagrams in color, with the native iPhone camera, but sometimes the pictures look better in black and white or sepia toned. If the colors are there, like crazy reds or blues or greens I will probably leave the image in color, but many times the light is bad or the color is not very effective, so I will bring the image into the Snapseed app and convert the image to black in white.
It is amazing how much better some images look in black and white compared to color. Sometimes I cannot make up my mind and I will take my time and process the image both ways to see what I like best. There are also times when I will take the black and white image and run it through the Earlybird filter in Instagram to give the image a light sepia feel as Earlybird makes everything light, washed out, and warm.
If I want the image to have a dark and rich sepia look I will run the black and white image through the Hefe filter in Instagram. This filter pumps up the contrast and puts a warm tone on everything.
2) Put a border on it
That’s right, if you are going to send out an Instagram you might as well go all they way and put your favorite border around the image. I put a border on all of my Instagrams via the built in filters. My favorites are Lo-Fi, Earlybird, and Hefe. In my world an Instagram without a border is just a picture on my iPhone.
3) It’s all in the details
The camera in my iPhone has some amazing close-up capabilities and I like to take advantage of this by shooting fun details of different objects that might draw the attention of my followers. Most Instagram users see the images in their feed pretty small on a smart phone so putting a nicely composed detail Instagram in front of them will make them stop swiping. They will stop, take a look, and maybe give you a like!
4) Be a part of the community
Being a good Instagrammer is a two-way street. We all want to have a bunch of people following us, liking our Instagrams, and making comments. However, you also have to do your part and be a part of the community by following others, liking pictures, and engaging users in conversation by commenting on their images. This philosophy comes around full circle when people comment on your own images. When this happens you need to comment back to them and let them know that you appreciate their thoughts.
5) Find your own “ballpark”
Most of my Instagrams are shot in and around the game of major league baseball. Big league ballparks are where I do the majority of my work so having the chance to shoot with my iPhone and send out Instagrams keeps everything fun. This is photography. We all got into this because it is fun to take pictures, and are inspired to visually share with others.
Remember that Instagramming and sharing your vision with friends, colleagues, and users all over the bleeping world is an amazing and powerful feeling. The rush I get sending out a captioned Instagram from a ballgame blows my mind. This crazy technology that enables all of us to communicate uncensored in real time is mind boggling.
Find your own “ballpark,” that special place, topic, setting or niche that really inspires you and photograph the hell out of it. Your inspiration will come shining through (no filter needed.)
Don’t be afraid to have fun with it.
Ready to beef up your sports photography business once and for all? This guide will give you the tips you need to know, including insider advice from sports photography veterans like Rich Clarkson, Brad Mangin, and Director of Photography at Sports Illustrated Brad Smith.
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