Animoto Online Video Slideshow Maker User Profile

Sure, slideshows are fun and mixing still images with video clips make an even better presentation for family and friends. But, if you’re a working photographer, whether full-time or part-time, it’s important to use whatever tools possible to help your bottom line – particularly in today’s rather stressful economic climate.

Given my recent review of Animoto’s online video slideshow maker [insert link from Photo.Net review], we thought it would be useful to speak with one of the many pro photographers who use this online software application to increase their business’ sales.

Shooting professionally for about 15 years, Maria Bernal is an award-winning portrait artist (including the PPA International Photographer of the Year for 2011). Maria photographs weddings, seniors (of the high school variety), families and children and often incorporates her fashion talents into her shoots, especially with seniors – adding an extra dimension to the high school girls’ experience.

An Animoto user for several years, Maria uses the videos as a sales tool, enticing clients to purchase more prints when they visit her studio to see the final images after a shoot. While some photographers offer the videos for sale, Maria hasn’t – at least not yet. However, she is considering offering high resolution versions clients’ Animoto slideshows as part of her senior and wedding packages for 2012.

For a typical senior shooting session, Maria will enlist a team of hair and make-up artists and stylists. “Fashion is important to people whether they know it or not,” says the photographer who reports that her seniors, after being treated to special attention during the shooting session, walk away “very, very happy.”

As a small boutique shop, working out of her studio in Texas, Maria books only a single job for a “fashion day.” A senior fashion session takes about 8 hours, which allows enough time for the senior to have her hair and make-up done and be photographed in about 4 or 5 different looks. During make-up and wardrobe changes, Maria downloads the images she’s shot and picks her two favorites, a combination of ¾, full length or close-ups. “I’ll usually know which are my favorites right away,” says Maria, who places the selects in a separate folder while the senior is getting ready for the next shot.

Once the session is completed, she finishes editing the images in Adobe Photoshop, usually within 24-48 hours of the shoot, making skin corrections and maybe slight color corrections if, for example, there’s a tan line. “Images are completely finished in Photoshop before they go into Animoto,” she explains, “so [the client] sees a perfect image” – one that’s good to go when the client orders prints.

Panoramas need a little special attention, though to avoid automatic cropping in Animoto. To ensure a full view in the slideshow, she places the panorama image on an 8 × 12 or 9 × 12 black or white background in Photoshop before she adds it to the Animoto slideshow “so when Animoto does its thing, it doesn’t skimp out [crop] on the edges.” She might also add a selection of 2 or 3 second video clips captured by her team during the session.

Although Animoto offers a wide range of designs and styles, Maria prefers the Animoto Original for her client presentations. “I’m the kind of person who orders the same thing at a restaurant all the time,” she jokes, adding that “I love the original Animoto the best.”

Sometimes she’ll use Animoto’s text function to add words to the images. “If I’m looking at an image that’s more of a beauty/editorial photo, I’ll add the word ‘beauty’. Or I’ll add the word ‘happy’ – words that describe the feeling I want them to have when they see their photographs.”

She usually uses no more than 12 “super good” images for the presentation and chooses the slow speed for the slideshow (Animoto offers slow, medium and fast options and automatically adjusts the pace of transitions and music to fit). “The music is still going to sound good but it gives people the longest amount of time to stare at their images because that’s when they feel it the most,” Maria explains. With medium or fast pacing, there’s not enough time to process and absorb the photos and she wants them “sitting in that chair a little bit longer.”

When selecting a soundtrack for weddings, Maria favors “Solemn” – one of the many licensed musical tracks supplied by Animoto. The music, she says, “is very soft and I love it for weddings. It fits my photography.” For seniors, not surprisingly, she chooses songs that are a little more upbeat.

About three years ago, Maria stopped offering web viewing to her clients since she wanted them to come into the studio, which, in and of itself, increased print sales. “When people have access to photos all the time, they don’t care about buying prints” she explains. Clients are even more likely to buy additional prints, says Maria, when visiting the studio because “when they watch the Animoto video, they have more of an emotional attachment to what they see.”

Once the client comes into her studio, Maria uses a dual monitor system rather than projecting the Animoto video on a large screen. The client sits on one side of the table and she sits on the other so they can both view the video at the same time but in a more personal setting. During the presentation, she reports, “I’m talking to them and I can see their face. I can see what they like and what they don’t like very easily that way.” But, she adds, “People tend to choose what I choose. It’s very rare that someone picks out anything other than the images I’ve selected.” And that’s good for the photographer in other ways, too, because the images she presents is the type of work that she wants “out there,” and associated with her name.

When asked if she has used other presentation software applications that offer more control, Maria – who also uses Animoto to show her work when lecturing and leading workshops for other photographers – said she never even considered another application. “This [Animoto] is one way for me to have someone else to do the work. It looks great, so why change it? I don’t have to have lots of control because Animoto does a great job on its own.”

You can see more of Maria’s work on her website: www.mariabernalphotography.com

Want to try your hand at making a slideshow? The basic Animoto service is free at www.animoto.com

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