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"Ask Me Anything..." {5/10/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117 "Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions.

1- Is photography your only source of income? If so, how did you get to that point? 

Yes, I feel very lucky to say that photography is my one and only job. It hasn't always been this way, however. When I first started my business in 2013, I was working about 50 hours a week as a Casting Director then coming home after 12 hour days to edit sessions I had shot over the weekend. No matter how tired I was after work, coming home to edit and work on my art was the best part of my day.

Finally being able to make the jump to running my photography business full time took me about a year of REALLY, REALLY hard work. I would shoot anything I could on the weekends in order to build a strong portfolio and client base. I worked really hard on networking with other photographers to book 2nd shooting and assistant jobs. I also put a lot of focus into building a strong following on social media. This really helped to get my brand out there in front of more and more people. I would post a session to my Facebook page, tag my clients in the post, and BOOM...hundreds of my clients' Facebook friends are now looking at my work. At the end of the day, I'd say social media as well as word of mouth have been the most important factors in building my client base.

About a year later, I got to a point with my business where I was booked about 4 months out. I calculated my monthly expenses, how much I needed to make, and how many jobs I needed to book. I also saved up enough money to cover my expenses for 6 months as a safety net. When I was booked ahead enough to cover those things, I decided to quit my full time job in order to pursue my business full time. I would say that I absolutely took a big risk in doing so but I believed in myself and trusted more work would continue to come in. Would I recommend quitting your job before you're financially able to do so? No, absolutely not. Make sure you work hard to build your client base and book jobs in advance. Once you feel you have a consistent stream of bookings and clients, follow your heart in deciding when it feels right for you to go full time.

2- What would you be thinking of on your death bed?

Isn't it funny how we tend to get lost in the seemingly important details of life? We stress ourselves out about things that feel like mountains to climb in the moment, but when we look back we realize how insignificant those decisions were. We worry ourselves over things that don't really matter. I want to live my life avoiding this. I want to make the things that are important to me a priority, rather than putting silly concerns first.

On my death bed, I hope I'll be an old woman having lived a very full life. I want to feel confident in knowing I have lived putting the people I love first, always. I truly believe that, at the end of it all, the only thing that ever really matters, the only thing that makes us special, the only thing that will continue our legacy is the people we love...and those who have loved us. It's the relationships we've built and the connections we've made. It's how we've made a person's life a little bit better just by being in it.

I also hope to be surrounded by framed photos on the wall of all the places I've been and the faces I've loved. That would make me the happiest of all.

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"Ask Me Anything..." {5/3/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions. 1-What is your marketing strategy to reach your ideal clientele?

I'm a very lucky photographer because I truly LOVE all of my clients! Not all photographers can say this and I'll tell you why...they don't brand themselves in a way that helps them to attract their ideal client.

In order to do this, you have to have a clear and concise image of who your ideal client is. Where do they shop? Do they drink beer or wine? What kind of car do they drive? Do they like to travel?

Sit down and make a list that is as detailed as possible of what traits your ideal client would possess. This way, you will have a strong outline for what kind of content you should be creating for your social media platforms. As a very simple example, if your ideal client is a dog person, don't post cat photos. If your ideal client has an excellent fashion sense, keep your content fashion forward.

I have also attracted my ideal client, while setting myself apart in a saturated market, by choosing to remain very open about my personal life. Not a lot of photographers or business owners would agree with this approach but I have found there are a lot of benefits to this technique. First of all, choosing to remain vulnerable with what kind of content I put out helps me to remain approachable and relatable. I'm a person just like everyone else. Pretending to be perfect for the sake of upholding an image doesn't connect with my ideal client. I want my clients to feel like they know me before they work with me so we can establish an intimate exchange of trust and friendship right from the beginning. I also share personal stories and thoughts because I hope that, by doing so, my own experiences can potentially help or inspire others. I've found that, more than anything, people want to feel inspired.

Overall, as simple as this may sound, I attract my ideal client by choosing to remain authentic. I share my mistakes, my adventures, and my passions so that I may attract clients who are like minded.

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2-What are your thoughts on including digital images for your clients? I personally do not include them but allow them to be purchased separately. I know lots of photographers include a disc or digital copies with all of the pictures. Wondering which way you advise. 

Ahhh the age old question: Digital files vs. Product Sales. I'll just start by saying that I offer the digital files in my package. I explain to my clients that I will select the best images from their session or wedding day to be delivered through an online gallery called Pixieset. I do this for two reasons: 1) I am a straight forward person and I want a straight forward delivery method. Delivering images through Pixieset is simple, it looks elegant, and it's very straight forward. 2) My clients want the digital images. Yes, I could structure my packages in a way that upsells products and includes the digital files at a premium cost. Yes, I could make a lot more money by doing it this way. At the end of the day though, this approach just. isn't. right. for. me. This approach to business is not who I am as a person and it doesn't feel genuine for me. My main goal is to provide a "what you see is what you get"' exchange of services that leaves my clients feeling happy.

This is not to say offering products to your clients is taking advantage of them! Clients are coming to you because they want quality service and by offering beautiful products, you are delivering a great experience. I still offer the option for my clients to purchase products and albums, I just don't structure my packages in a way that makes the digital files more expensive.

At the end of the day, the approach with which you choose to structure your business model is a complete reflection of what feels right to you as a business person. If "In Person Sales" feels more natural to you, you should do that! If your ideal client is interested in a studio that offers premium products, then you should offer that! Stay true to what feels right.

 

3-What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out on the adventure of creating their own photography business? 

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You are about to embark on the biggest adventure/challenge of your life! I originally started my business with the idea of "I want to take pretty pictures for a living." But, they don't tell you about the bookkeeping, the taxes, the emails, the marketing, the blogging, the learning, the self doubt, the expenses, the interpersonal communication skills, etc and so forth.  Owning my own business has taught me so many wonderful things about myself while bringing me on some pretty amazing adventures. There hasn't been a day that I'm not grateful for discovering this passion and starting a business, but DAMN, it's hard work. Here are some tips for your journey:

1- EAT, SLEEP, and BREATHE YOUR BUSINESS.

Starting and owning any successful business will require 100% of your time, focus, and, well, life. While I fully believe in the concept of finding "balance," it can be a difficult thing to juggle building a successful business, having a family, maintaining a relationship, etc. It may get easier once your business is a bit more established, but in the beginning, my business was all I thought about. I sometimes joke that "my business is my boyfriend." With a job that requires me to work  on the weekends and edit at home alone during the week, it's hard to meet people that understand this kind of schedule, let alone finding the time to go on dates.

Owning your own business is not a 9a-5p job. This is your all day everyday life. It is also my biggest sense of pride, joy, and love and I have never once regretted the decision to start my own business.

2- BUILD YOUR TRIBE.

If you work from home and don't have any employees, like me, being a business owner can be kind of lonely sometimes. There are many times when I need encouragement, company, ideas, or just someone who understands my frustrations.  This is why it's so important to build your tribe. By "tribe" I mean, a network of like minded people (probably fellow entrepreneurs and photographers) who you can get together with to vent, talk about ideas, or just get out of the house. Yes, I have other really close friends that I can talk to but, unless they own their own business or are photographers, they just can't fully grasp what you're going through. Having a close group of friends who I feel supported by has helped me tremendously on my journey.

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3- DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.

As creatives, we strive to attain the same level of greatness as those who have inspired us. We are constantly growing, learning, and improving...while constantly  making ourselves feel like we're not good enough by comparing our journey to others. STOP IT! Just stop it right now! (Reaches through the screen to slap you).   You are an individual with rare and brilliant creative vision...why would you compare your talents to those of others? You are at a stage in your journey that is specific to only you...why would you compare your journey to someone else's?

While it's important to strive to improve, to practice your skills, and to enhance your creative eye...it's also important to truly own who you are and what your voice is as an artist. Comparing your path to someone else's is the firs step to self-destruction and the number one killer of creativity. I know this because I constantly struggle with it. Blaze your own trail and own what you have to say to the world.

4- BUILD A TEAM.

When I started my business it didn't take me long to realize that I am only as strong as the people I surround myself with. As hard as I may try, I cannot do everything nor can I be everyone. I have a designated group of vendors that I choose to work with on styled shoots and always recommend to clients. These hair and make up artists, coordinators, florists, photographers,  and graphic designers are all AMAZINGLY talented. Why wouldn't I want to surround myself with super talented people? It inspires me and, together, we create beautiful things.

5- SET YOUR INTENTIONS.

How will you know how to get somewhere if you don't know where you're going? Manifesting success into your life and making all your dreams come true is 100% a result of setting your intentions. Where do you want to be with your business in 6 months? Sit down and write out your specific goals. Maybe you want to have a website up and running by the end of the month. Write it down. Maybe you want to set your profits at 6 figures by 2017. Write it down. Now, how will you get there? Make a plan for yourself and stick to it. Write it out in big, bold letters and hang it somewhere you can look at it everyday. Setting goals for yourself is crucial to success.

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Ask Me Anything {4/26/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117 "Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions. 

 

1- What are your top 3 non-negotiable traits for a romantic partner?

Choosing a romantic partner is a really big commitment for me...as I'm sure it is for most people. I believe the people I choose to surround myself with and how they treat me is a direct reflection of how I feel about myself and my own worth. I have made many mistakes along the way to get to this point, but I no longer tolerate certain characteristics or behaviors from my romantic partners. While I think it's important to be able to compromise on fulfilling certain needs, I also believe it's equally as important to set strong boundaries for what you will and will not allow in your life.

My first non-negotiable trait for a romantic partner is drug use & smoking. I don't choose to include myself in this lifestyle and I don't want my partner to either. It's important to me for my partner to love and respect himself and his body.

My second non-negotiable trait is dependability. I want to be able to know I can depend on my partner. For me, this is a direct reflection of being able to trust in their ability to be on my team. If I can't depend on my partner, they won't make a very good teammate in life or in a relationship. Qualities in someone I can depend on include: doing what they say they're going to do, showing up for me emotionally and physically, being on time, etc.

My third non-negotiable trait in a partner is believing in marriage and family. I believe 100% in the sanctity of marriage and one day hope to start a family with someone who believes in the same values. If my partner doesn't believe in marriage or doesn't want kids we are obviously on two different paths.

 

2-How did you finalize your presets? How do you maintain consistency?

When I first started out, I struggled a lot with maintaining consistency in my editing style. I hadn't found any presets that worked with my aesthetic and edited everything by tweaking settings until the image looked the way I wanted it do. It wasn't until I started using Mastin Labs presets that I was really able to maintain consistency with my images. Mastin's presets are designed to edit your images to resemble a film scan. I love the classic and romantic look of film, however, I still make several tweaks to my images to add pops of vibrant color, lift or exaggerate shadows, etc. I'd say I use the Fuji Pro400h Neutral preset from the Fuji pack about 90% of the time. I love working with this preset and highly recommend it. (And, no, they're not paying me to sell them. I just really love their presets.)

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3-How does one register as a photographer? Also, what is the difference between freelancing and owning a business? 

Have you ever been paid to take photographs of someone? Congratulations, you're considered a professional photographer. Becoming a photographer isn't necessarily something you need to "register" for. When I first started taking pictures, I called myself a "photographer" even though I wasn't necessarily comfortable with it. I didn't feel that I was deserving of that title quite yet but decided I would "fake it till I make it."

Starting a business can be a pretty daunting task. There are several steps you have to go through to be qualified as an official "business." In order to break things down a bit, I'll go over what I did to legalize my business as "Taylor Kinzie Photography." Some of the choices I made when starting my business were right for me at the time, but you may choose to go a different direction. This is a matter of preference.

First, I knew I would need a large sum of money to invest in the equipment I needed to start shooting weddings on a regular basis. I knew that if I waited until I had enough money saved up it would take me many years to be able to afford the gear. For this reason, I decided to seek out a small business loan. For me, it was important to be able to invest in the gear sooner than later since I knew this was what I wanted to do NOW. In order to receive the funds for my loan I had to do the following:

1) apply for the loan

2) provide a detailed business plan breaking down the vision for my business, how I plan to profit in a saturated market, my branding, and my financial goals

3) apply for a business license

5) Register a DBA or "Doing Business As" name

4) open a business checking account

5) seek out business insurance coverage for myself and my equipment

6) provide a copy of my Fictitious Business Name Statement

7) you'll  also need to be registered with the state to obtain a tax ID number dedicated to your business so you can pay taxes (yay!)

In answer to your question, "freelancing" and "owning a business" are kind of the same. If I work under the umbrella of another photographer I am considered a  "1099 Employee." This means the person paying me is treating me as a self-employed worker and any profits I make from working for them will be put into my own business profits. This would be an example of a "freelance" job.

"Owning a business" would be a job that I booked under my own business name that will be providing profits directly from my own client.

There are several organizations under which you can "register" as a photographer. Most of these organizations are designed to protect your rights as a photographer or offer exclusive membership rights. Some examples include: American Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, and American Photographic Artists. I am not a member of any of these organizations as the niche market I'm in (wedding photography) doesn't necessarily require this. If I were more heavily involved in commercial photography, I might consider something like this.

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Janae {Lifestyle Editorial Session}

For Janae's shoot I wanted to capture something that was feminine and kind of whimsical. I felt that wardrobe from Free People would be able to provide that soft, flowy look I wanted. Janae actually did her own make up for this shoot. Not only is Janae a stunning beauty, but she is also an extremely talented make up artist and half owner of DoubleTake MakeUp Artistry along with her twin sister. Yes! She's a twin!

We had a great time exploring out in the woods and finding pretty light. Enjoy! Los Angeles Wedding Photography-14 Los Angeles Wedding PhotographyLos Angeles Wedding Photography-2Los Angeles Wedding Photography-2-2Los Angeles Wedding Photography-7Los Angeles Wedding Photography-8Los Angeles Wedding Photography-6Los Angeles Wedding Photography-5Los Angeles Wedding Photography-9Los Angeles Wedding Photography-10Los Angeles Wedding Photography-13Los Angeles Wedding Photography-12

An Education in Fire {Alaska Trip 2015}

We were tired after a long day of playing like children in the infinite Alaskan winter and the bite of the crisp air was beginning to wear on us. We quickly retreated to the cabin, seeking shelter and a place to thaw our souls.  It's warm window lights beckoned us inside with the promise of hot chocolate and lazy naps.  Ripping our snow boots off as we stomped through the doors, we hastily made our way to the loving embrace of the couches...falling into them like the arms of an old lover. Christine, covered head to toe in her striped onesie, melted off the couch and made her way to the stove. Her face wore a stubborn determination as she furrowed her brow and began to pick up logs of wood to place them in the stove. She was going to start a fire.

Mark and I looked on as she searched for a match, undoubtedly questioning if we were going to freeze to death that night. Finally, after a long period of watching Christine poke at the fireplace, Mark began boasting his prior experience as a Cub Scout and stepped in for assistance. She resisted him as he continued to voice his suggestions.

"You have to blow on it to give the fire oxygen," Mark urged. "This is an education in fire for you."

She turned and gave him an evil glare. I laughed at them from my little corner of the room. They were like siblings bickering in their pjs. Both stubborn. Both pushing one another to be better in their own way.

"An education in fire," I thought. "Beautiful."

After a bit of coaxing, the fire finally ignited with a brilliant glow. "Take that Mark Groves!" Christine shouted. She was satisfied with herself and walked away with a proud smirk.

It was New Year's Eve and we had yet to spot the Northern Lights. There was a lot of talk of a recent solar storm making for powerful Auroras but, so far, we had just seen a lot of cloud coverage. It was the reason we had come to Fairbanks and with the end of the trip drawing near, we began to fear we may not be able to check "See Northern Lights" off our Bucket List.

Christine had brought a list of questions to help us reflect on our experiences in 2015 and to set our intentions for 2016. We sat around the kitchen table in our pajamas, sipping on moonshine and beer and opening our hearts to each other. I felt vulnerable and safe at the same time. We talked about the things we were most grateful for. We discovered that, sometimes, the things you are most grateful for in the end can be the very thing you feared would destroy you in the beginning. We talked about the people who had influenced us most over the course of the year and my heart felt overwhelmed. As I sat there with two of the most inspiring people in my life, it all suddenly made sense to me that my hurt was a gift.

We took a short break from our goal setting to peer out the window for a light check. THEY WERE OUT! We jolted up from our chair and threw our snow boots on, grabbing our cameras and scrambling outside in our pajamas. The cold could not pierce the excitement we felt in that moment.  We set up our cameras and began to take pictures. It was all happening, just as we'd imagined...only better.

"5-4-3-2-1! Happy New Year!" The clock struck midnight and a rush of fireworks filled the sky beside the Auroras. We popped our champagne and began to pass the bottle around, each taking a celebratory gulp. I stood there below the dancing curtain of neon mist and felt myself become part of something bigger. I could feel my face fill with wonder and all I could seem to whisper was "it's just too much." It was suddenly so clear to me that life can be this good. That living your life with passion can bring you to beautiful people. That life is meant to lead us to moments that make our hearts ignite.

This was my education in fire.

I put together a little video from our trip. Watch until the end for some funny outtakes of us being dorks. Song: "How Much Light" by Ryan Adams.

All photos are by me, Christine Chang, and/or Mark Groves.

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2015 {A Year in Pictures}

This year, what a year. 2015. You started off pretty rocky and showed me again and again the power of surrendering to what will be. You taught me that surrendering control of what I thought my life would be can only lead me to places I never had the courage to imagine for myself. You taught me that sometimes, even when things don't make sense, they always seem to come together in the beautiful tapestry of life's mystery. My 2015 was the year of "surrender." Over and over again, I surrendered. In that letting go, I was found. Looking back on the flurry of the last 12 months, I am filled with unbelievable gratitude for the gifts I've been given. I've had the opportunity to see the world doing what I love while also establishing some very cherished friendships along the way. This year has proven to me, more than anything, that the most important things in this life are the memories you create and the people you choose to surround yourself with. That, given a little time, everything works out the way it's supposed to. That this life is as grand, as wild, and as filled with wander as you can imagine. You are the architect of your own life. Build it big.

In March, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to second shoot a wedding with my dear friend, Christine. Intimate Destination Weddings are my favorite. Check out the blog post here.

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I met some awesome adventure buddies. I was lucky enough to travel to Maui to shoot a wedding in April. I still dream of the crystal waters and can't wait to return. I worked with some pretty cool people and hopefully got them excited about my passion, too. I was lucky enough to travel to Yosemite for a beautiful wedding nestled in the trees. Click here to see all the pretty.  Here I am in Joshua Tree shooting Scott and Hayley's wedding.

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Probably one of the most significant parts of my year was becoming a dog mom. This small furry creature is the love of my life. I can't image my life without her. 

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Finishing the year off with an Alaskan adventure. Life is magic.                                                                                                                                                                 Where to next 2016?

Ask Me Anything... {12/8/15}

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Do you have any advice for someone who will be working as a photographer's assistant?

When you're first starting and trying to learn the art and business of photography I highly recommend seeking out assistant opportunities. Even if you're just carrying bags, you can make the most of being able to observe a professional photographer's workflow and techniques on a shoot. Every photographer works differently so I'd recommend working with several photographers to gather ideas and inspiration for what you can incorporate into your own workflow.

Since my focus is Wedding Photography I'll give you a couple tips for ways to maintain professionalism and represent the photographer you're working for in a positive light:

-Don't pass out your own card to wedding guests or promote your business in any way. Yes, this happens. It is important to remember that, when you are working for another photographer, you are there to represent their business. It may even be a good idea to ask the photographer for some of their cards to hand out in case guests ask for one. On the same note, make sure to go over the photographer's terms for sharing images you take at their shoot on social media or in your portfolio. Breaking these rules is a really quick way to not be asked back with them.

-Dress professionally. Ask the photographer you're working for what they prefer you wear on a wedding day. Do they wear all black? Do they want you to look business professional? Everyone has their own preference. Again, you're there representing their business and you want to look your best.

-Be proactive. A wedding day can be kind of hectic and learning when you can be helpful without being asked is a big thing. Offer to get water for the bride and groom or for the photographer. Try to anticipate where you can be helpful.

- Be on time. Showing up on time is a direct reflection of respect for another person's time. If you have trouble with being on time, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.

- Observe. Take your job as an assistant as an opportunity to soak in knowledge and observe the photographer's process. This is basically like free school.

Do you memorize poses/directions?

Yes, absolutely. I spend a lot of time looking through wedding blogs, books, and tutorials to learn great poses and techniques that help achieve a natural look and feel to an image. There's absolutely no shame in having a group of "go to" poses to use on a shoot. Being able to role quickly from pose to pose with your clients helps them to feel comfortable and makes the shoot go by smoother. The more confident you are with giving direction to your clients, the more confident your clients will be in you and your process.

Sometimes I find it helpful to save images of poses I like on my phone or even take pictures of poses I like on my camera. This way I can refer to them quickly on a shoot in case I'm hurting for ideas or inspiration.

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Did you create your own logo or did you hire a graphic designer?

No, I did not create my own logo. Why? Because I know nothing about graphic design. It is my firm belief that, if you are not good at something, outsource it to someone who is. Build a good team of people you trust and admire so you can form strong creative collaborations. I worked with my graphic designer, Jory Hyman, by sitting down and explaining to him what I envisioned for my brand. I chose to work with him because he's very talented and has a precise vision, he's trustworthy, and he always seems to understand my nonsensical explanations of what's in my head. He, in fact, did my entire website rebuild as well as logo design and marketing kit. Needless to say, he's great.

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My logo has had a lotus flower in it from the beginning because the lotus symbolizes rebirth. I have always felt the discovery of my love for photography was a tremendous rebirth for my life's direction. I explained to him how I see my brand and the style of my images and we collaborated on creating a logo that was cohesive with all those things.

Ask Me Anything... {12/1/15}

2015-10-06_0003 I am recently starting photography and had a question about social media! How do you feel about having separate personal and professional accounts? Do you recommend it? Thanks!

This is a great question and definitely something I thought about when I started my business. Ultimately, I decided to maintain one Instagram account and I'll tell you why. I came to the realization that I AM my business. My business literally has my name in it and is made up of ME. This means that who I am as a person is a direct reflection of how I choose to brand myself. So, while most of the images I post are used to feature my work, I also post images that might help my followers learn a bit about me on a personal level. At the end of the day, the biggest thing that will set you apart from other photographers is if your clients like who you are as a person. Do you both like beer? Do you both have a love for travel? Do you and your clients have a similar sense of humor? I don't think it's a coincidence that I tend to attract clients that have very similar interests to mine. I brand myself to attract my ideal client and sometimes that means being open and a bit personal on social media.

 

I have a crop sensor camera. Should I get the 35mm or the 50mm 1.2L?I already own the 50mm 1.4, is there a huge difference between the 1.4 and 1.2 lens?

This is kind of a two parter question. Both related but kind of different topics. First, we'll start with your question about crop sensor cameras. There are full frame camera and crop sensor cameras. In simple terms, a crop sensor camera is going to crop part of the image in camera and will affect the look you get from different lenses. If you have a crop sensor camera and are thinking about getting a new lens you should take something called the "crop factor" into consideration. The "crop factor" is the ratio of the sensor size to 35mm. So, let's say you bought a 50mm lens with a camera that has a 1.5 crop factor. This lens would actually make images look more like 75mm. If you go for a 35mm lens and have a crop sensor camera with a crop factor of 1.5, your images will look more like they were shot at 52.5mm.

In answer to your question, the difference between the 50mm 1.2L and 1.4L is the amount of light it lets in. A 50mm 1.2L will be able to perform better in low light situations and shoot wider than a 1.4L series lens. I personally LOVE my 1.2L lens but I also haven't shot on a 1.4L. Sometimes there can be differences in how well the lens focuses, too. If you're torn and looking to make an investment, I'd recommend renting both lenses and testing them out. Do a side by side comparison and see which lens works best for what you're using it for.

 

How did you price your photography as you were starting out?

Pricing your photography when you're starting out can be really difficult because it's hard to sit down with yourself and decide how much you're worth. As creatives we have a tendency to doubt ourselves and it can take awhile before we feel confident enough to stand by what we're charging. I think the first step in learning how to price myself was to learn standard rates in the industry, or knowing my market. I spent a long time studying what others were charging and what my ideal client was willing to spend while also taking into consideration what my demand was. I started out charging something like 75 bucks for a session just to have work in portfolio. As my business has grown, I'm lucky enough to say my demand has also grown. As my demand grows I am able to increase my rate. The way you price yourself will be an ever evolving process. As you grow in skill and popularity, your rates should be growing as well.

You also have to ask yourself how you want to mold your business. Do you want to charge less and work more? Meaning more people are hiring you because you don't charge as much as others in your industry? Do you want to charge more and work less? This means you charge a competitive rate and don't get hired as often because you're in a higher price range. Both business models will result in equal profits. What works best for you and your lifestyle? What works best for the way you want to run your business?

Don't forget the value you're offering your clients is WORTH something. Your perspective as an artist, the time you've put into improving at your craft, the investments you've made towards working with quality equipment...these are all well worth charging for the service you're providing. Sit down and ask yourself, "What am I worth?" Now own it.

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Ask Me Anything... {11/24/15}

2015-10-06_0003 What is your favorite Mastin Labs preset? What was the hardest part about perfecting  Mastin Lab's presets?

I've talked a lot about how I use Mastin Labs presets for my editing process. These presets have been the first to offer me consistency in my editing while also delivering the classic, film look I love. Using these presets isn't just the click of a button for me though. It took me some time to get into the groove of  how I can make these presets work for me. I have both the Fuji Pro and Portra Packs and use them for different environments. The preset I use about 90% of the time, however, is Fuji Pro 400H Neutral.

One of the issues I had most often when I first started using these presets was skin tone. Skin tones can sometimes seem a bit undersaturated with this preset so I typically increase the vibrance and up the warmth. I also have to be careful sometimes to avoid blowing out the highlights in my images. I usually bring highlights down a bit after applying the preset.

I don't know that I could choose just one of the packs. I think the Portra Pack and the Fuji pack are both amazing and have their place for different settings and tones. Someone just mentioned they're having a 50% sale for Black Friday! I swear I'm not getting paid to promote them. I just really love these presets and hope they can make someone else as happy as they've made me.

How did you start networking with other photographers?

I love this question because I think networking is a very important skill to have in any industry. Having a strong network of peers in your field is vital to building a supportive team that you can trust and depend on.

I think the most important tip I can give would be to participate. Participate in workshops, seminars, classes, conventions, and parties. Go out to events and be social. Attending events like WPPI has been one of the best things I've done for my business and I can't wait to go again next year. Surrounding yourself with people who are just as passionate about what they do as you are helps to ignite and inspire you.

These will be the places you meet other passionate photographers. You can swap tips and tricks, offer your services if they need an assistant, etc. I would try to avoid coming across like you want something though. A person can sense when you're using them for your own agenda. Be generally open and interested in what people have to say. Show that you're eager to learn and can be a team player. At the end of the day, we're all just looking to work with someone we can rely on to work hard while having a little fun, too.

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Do you travel for weddings? I would love to hear more about you and your style! 

YES! YES! And more YES! My love for travel is a huge part of the reason I decided to pursue a career in wedding photography. In 2015, I was lucky enough to shoot weddings in Maui, Yosemite, Costa Rica, and Joshua Tree among many others. I love when I get to meet with couples who love to travel, too. Destination weddings are my favorite because they're typically a little more intimate and can be stretched out to be more of a week long experience as opposed to one day.  Next year I'm setting my intentions to book more weddings internationally... maybe a Bali wedding? Perhaps a whimsical wedding in Ireland? Mama needs some more stamps on her passport!

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Ask Me Anything... {11/3/15}

2015-10-06_0003 Every Monday I take your questions from Facebook and Instagram. I'll choose three of my favorite questions to answer on every Tuesday's "Ask Me Anything..." This week I answer your questions about tips for shooting a wedding, how to get clients to feel comfortable in front of a camera, and my opinion on value. 

How do you help people to not feel awkward? To break the "I feel stupid" feeling? What are some tips for helping your clients feel comfortable and "themselves" in front of the camera?

This is a great question that I get all the time from photographers and clients alike. Putting a person in front of a camera is a funny thing. Someone who is naturally vibrant and open in everyday life can immediately clam up and become totally shy as soon as they are confronted with a camera. It can feel as if every insecurity you have is suddenly vulnerable to what the lens sees and your naked to trusting the direction of the photographer. Not only is it difficult to trust sometimes, it can also be challenging to be confident and open about who you are in front of a camera. Understanding the perspective of the client is crucial to being able to capture natural and candid moments. I call it "capturing the essence" of my clients. By "essence" I mean the beauty of their spirit and the free flow of their soul into your camera. When a person gives this to you, it is the ultimate gift.

I achieve natural shots in two ways. One, I'm a sneaky ninja that gets the shot before they see me coming and think to guard themselves. To master this technique you have to know how to anticipate the shot. At a wedding, for example, when speeches are taking place...are you  focused on the person giving the speech? Or are you anticipating the tears from the mother of the bride off in the corner? The second technique is to give constant direction. A good photographer should be able to confidently flow through directing their client's movements and angles. Also, giving constant reassurance is so crucial. I've seen people blossom in front of my camera after shouting out a  "YES!" or "Stunning!" or "You're a tiger!"

Sometimes, however, we have clients who can be very stiff in front of the camera no matter what we do. They're thinking too much. Get them out of their head by asking them to move! Learning poses that invoke movement can also create the appearance of a natural moment. I love having couples run, spin, slow dance, sway, etc. It's not during the moment that I'm waiting for...the truly candid shots happen after the pose when they think I'm done shooting.

I think the thing that has helped me the most in helping my clients to feel comfortable is the fact that I'm a huge dork. I'm really goofy and silly when I'm shooting and shout out lots of lame jokes...and the occasional animal noise. I dance and shout and run all over the place. I think, to some regard, making myself look stupid tends to make my clients feel less stupid. And, that's fine by me.

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What tips would you give for shooting weddings?

This is a pretty loaded question because there are so many elements that go into successfully shooting a wedding. So, in an attempt to narrow it down, I'll give 5 of what I feel are the most important tips.

1) Have a Timeline: Working together with my couples to build a strong timeline for the wedding day is SO important for me. I want to make sure my couples don't feel rushed or stressed to fit pictures into the day. I want them to have a balanced amount of time to actually enjoy their wedding day as opposed to taking photos all day. Educating your clients about how long each portion of the photographs will take and what time of day you need them will help you to be successful in getting beautiful images for them. For example, "Sunset on your wedding day is happening at 6pm. I would love to set aside 30-60 minutes at magic hour for Bride and Groom portraits. How can we make this work with your ceremony time? When will dinner be served?" It's all about communicating before the wedding so, come the actual day, everything goes smoothly and you are able to get the shots you  need to deliver an amazing product to your client.

2) Have Back Ups: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS bring back up gear with you. I never shoot a wedding without a back up camera body in case something happens to my main Mark iii camera body. Have back up batteries, memory cards, hard drive storage, etc. A wedding day only happens once. You can't go back or delay the day because your equipment messed up. Be prepared for every possible thing to go wrong. This doesn't have to be stressful though. If you're prepared and organized, you are ready for anything that comes your way.

3) Bring snacks: This may seem kind of silly to be listed as one of my tips but, once you've shot a 10 hour wedding in 100 degree weather, you'll get why I think this is so crucial. A wedding day is kind of like running a marathon. You are literally on your feet the entire day. Not to mention, your mind is running a million miles an hour in an attempt to remember scheduling, names, directions...all the while trying to be creative. Wedding days can be completely hectic and, many times, you don't get to eat until dinner at the end of the day. Even then it's a very quick bite. Pack high energy snacks like Cliff bars, almonds, and bananas that will keep your energy and focus up all day. Don't forget to drink lots and lots of water!

4) Have a great 2nd Photographer: I pretty much only work with a small group of 2nd photographers. This is because I trust them. They know how I work on a wedding day and are not only there to get different angles from the day, but also to serve as support. It may sound trivial, but having someone to get you water, carry bags, make you laugh, and throw out creative ideas is reflection of my success on a wedding day. I am only as strong as the people around me and those who I choose to be part of my team.

5) Get there early: I always plan to arrive to venues early to scope out lighting scenarios, choose locations for "first look", "wedding party portraits", "romantics", etc. As I walk through the venue I allow myself to become inspired by the textures on the walls, the landscapes, and the structures. I envision my shots ahead of time so I can be prepared when the moment comes and avoid wasting time on not knowing where I want to shoot.

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Why are pictures so expensive?

Someone asked me this question as a joke but I actually think this is a really important question. Why do I charge what I charge? I'm going to be very transparent in answering this.

It makes me sad when I get an inquiry from a prospective couple saying they love my work but I'm over their budget. I believe everyone deserves beautiful photos and I honestly wish I could work with everyone's budgets to make this happen. I believe what I do is a gift and always feel completely honored when a couple feels connected to my art enough to ask me to tell their love story. That being said, I place tremendous value on what I do. I decided a long time ago to stand by this. I am a business, and just as any other business would refuse, I will not give my work away. At the end of the day, value comes down to perspective. How much do you value your wedding photography as an intimate reflection of your day? How much do you value the art of the person you hire?

When I first started my business, it was honestly really difficult for me to know what I was worth. I almost felt guilty charging people for something I loved doing so much I would have done it for free. It wasn't until I remembered that, first and foremost, I am a business that I truly began to grow in success. I realized the components of my value as a photographer...the amount of time I spend educating myself on my craft, the money I invest in high quality equipment, the personal attention I give to my clients, the product I deliver that only my perspective can produce. Don't get me wrong, I don't run my business in a way that is "salesy" or trying to empty pockets by any means. I like to believe I'm pretty straight forward when it comes to this. I put my life, my heart, my soul into giving my clients beautiful images they'll have as heirlooms for the rest of their lives. I think that's worth a lot.

You have to remember that photography is not a right. We are not entitled to beautiful photographs. Photography is a luxury. I feel that if you value something enough you are willing to make the investment. It's just a matter of perspective.

Ask Me Anything... {9/29/15}

2015-09-14_0009 Every Tuesday I answer your photography related questions. This week I'm talking about tips for posing clients, composition vs. subject, and my biggest fear.

What tips do you have for posing families and kids to get candid shots that don't look posed?

When I first started shooting portrait sessions with clients I found that one of the most difficult things for me was being able to direct my subject to get the kind of photo I wanted. It can be really challenging to think about how you want your subject to move and interact all while deciding what settings your camera should be at and how you want to compose the image. Here are a few tips I have for achieving this candid style:

1) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

The more you go out and practice with you camera, the easier it will be not to think about where your settings are on your camera. Form a relationship with the settings and control buttons on your camera where you feel like changing settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture) is like second nature to you. You should get to a point where you don't have to think about the controls on your camera so you can focus 100% on directing the client. I feel like my camera is an extension of my own hand now and this helps me to act quickly to get those candid images.

2) Learn to anticipate a moment

Often times I'll put a family or couple together in a pose and then ask them to hold it for a few shots. After taking a few of those images I'll tell them I'm done shooting that certain pose and then I may blurt out a silly joke or do something awkward only for the purpose of making the subject laugh, then...click, click, click. THIS moment is what I'm actually trying to set up and THIS moment is when I'll get the best and most natural images. The moment when the client thinks you're no longer shooting is when they'll let their guard down and give you a natural expression. I'm a sneaky ninja.

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3) Build trust

When working with kids the very first thing I do is get down to their height and just talk to them. I don't take pictures for the first few minutes. I just start a conversation so they feel comfortable with me. Then I may take a photo of them and show them the photo I took. Sometimes I even let them take a photo with my camera if they're old enough. If THAT doesn't work, I often resort to lies and tell them their favorite cartoon character or Disney princess is hiding in my camera and they have to look really close and be still if they want to see it. Unethical? Maybe. Do I get great shots of them? Always.

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4) Have a formula of poses that work for you

It's so important to study poses that appeal to you and your style and to use those poses during your sessions. I like to start with a simple walking towards me pose as a warm up, then I may move into another few sets of poses that I like. Having a formula helps the session to go smoothly and also makes the client feel at ease because you're constantly directing them so they don't ever feel awkward in front of the camera.

5) Make it fun

I always try to make the tone of a shoot feel carefree and fun. People typically feel uneasy in front of a camera so having the ability to help your subject feel comfortable can be very important. Play music, dance around, run, jump, play...these are all great techniques for getting fun and candid shots.

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If you had the chance to capture the "perfect" photo, would you rather have a more meaningful subject or an interesting and visually correct composition?

While I think good composition in an image is very important, I would definitely say I am more attracted to images of interesting subjects. There's something about a person's face that attracts me to an image. The story behind their eyes, the lines on their face, their body language, their smile...these are all things that inspire me and light me up. Photographing a beautifully composed landscape or architectural image is also awesome but it doesn't speak to me in the same way people do. My main goal, however, and something I always strive for in my images is to merge the two. When I can take a well composed photo of an interesting subject I know I have done my job right.

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What is your biggest fear?

My fellow photogs really know how to ask the hard hitting questions! Fear is such a huge and important topic, not only for me, but also for other creatives. Fear is something we all struggle with and must learn to make peace with as it is always going to be part of the creative process. We're afraid we're not good enough, we're afraid we'll never be as good as those we admire, we're afraid we're not worth success, we're afraid we are. Whatever your reason for feeling fear, it is so important to know that it is not real. Fear is a made up thing in your mind and we do not have to let it control our lives. Fear is self doubt, it is an excuse for not being vulnerable, and it can hold us back from living our truth. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, talks a lot about fear in her new book Big Magic. I haven't personally read it yet but I've listened to a lot of her talks on the subject. Like this one.

On a professional level, I'd have to say my biggest fear is losing my passion for photography. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel immense gratitude for this gift. Photography is what drives me, it's what I live for, wake up for...it's who I am. I am afraid that one day I will no longer feel excited about it anymore. It's very possible this may happen in my lifetime. As I continue to grow and evolve as a person, my personal interests and passion may also grow and evolve. When this love of mine starts to feel like "work" I'll know it's time to follow my curiosity to new adventures beyond, new challenges, and new possibilities. Until then, I'm savoring every moment I have and continuing to challenge myself and find inspiration.

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Ask Me Anything... {9/15/15}

2015-09-14_0009 Hey friends! Today is an exciting day because it is my first post for "Ask me Anything..." a new recurring blog post I'll be doing every week! I'll take photography related questions every Monday and answer my three favorite questions every Tuesday. Hopefully my answers will offer some helpful tips to my fellow photography lovers!

"What's in your bag?"

That's a really awesome question! I technically have two "bags" for shooting. For on site sessions such as Newborn, Engagement, Maternity I put my gear in my Kelly Boy bag by Kelly Moore. I love this bag because, not only does it fit my camera body and most of my lenses, but it's also really cute and super durable. When I'm working a wedding I'll transport my gear with my Think Tank Roller Derby case. I absolutely LOVE this case! When I travel through airports with this baby, it glides easily on all four wheels through the crowded terminal and fits as a carry on so I can be sure to have all my gear with me at all times. Nothing is scarier than  having to check your camera gear on your way to a wedding! The best part is I don't have to carry all my heavy equipment on my back! Here is a list of the gear I have in my bag:

EOS 5D Markiii Camera Body

50mm 1.2L series lens

24-70mm 2.8L series lens

70-200mm 2.8L IS II lens

Canon Speedlite 600 EX

Canon EF25 Extension Tube (for macro shots)

Black Rapid Double Camera Strap

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What are some tips for shooting indoors in low light situations?

Shooting in low light situations can be really tricky! I'm often shooting in dark hotel rooms and have to make use of the lighting I am given...which sometimes isn't very good. A good photographer has to be resourceful and make the best of the situation. I always try to make use of any type of natural light resources I can find. My two favorite techniques are posing my subjects near window light and open doorways. The beautiful softness of light that comes through a window can offer some dramatic shadows and, most importantly, casts very even light. A doorway is very similar in that the light flowing in acts sort of like a softbox and casts evenly diffused light across the face. If I don't have either of these resources available to me I will open my aperture to let in as much light as possible, raise my ISO (I can usually get up to 1600 ISO without suffering from grain), or shoot at a slower shutter speed (on my 50mm 1.2 I'm comfortable shooting at 1/125 and remaining confident the image will be sharp).

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What would be your most important advice when shooting flowers? 

I absolutely love shooting flowers at weddings! The beautiful pops of color, the fragrant smell...images of flowers should help the viewer feel like they can see and smell the flowers themselves. Photographing the photo in a way that enhances the vibrant colors is crucial to a floral image. One of my favorite techniques when shooting bouquets is to place the arrangement against a surface that helps the colors to pop and offers juxtaposition of textures. I also typically shoot bouquets with a very wide open aperture such as 1.4 or 2.8. This gives the image a beautiful bokeh, or blurry background, and a really dreamy feel.

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Styled Outdoor Boudoir Shoot {Bridal Boudoir}

Sexy is when a woman shines from within herself. This glow can come from  being comfortable in her skin, that brief moment of burning eye contact, the delicate way she brushes her hair away from her face. For this styled shoot, I wanted to capture the moment when innocence meets sex appeal. The raw organic nature of the landscape and the golden light served as the perfect accessory to compliment Taylor's skin. I styled her in a simple pale pink combo with a beautiful floral crown provided by White Fig Designs. Her make up, created by Double Take Make up Artistry, was delicate and dewy. I wanted a minimalist look to enhance her naturally beautiful features. "A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you've been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. She can make you feel high full of the single greatest commodity known to man - promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a beautiful girl. In her smile, in her soul, the way she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it's going to be okay. The supermodels, Willy? That's all they are. Bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope dancing in stiletto heels." - Beautiful Girls

 

Model: Taylor Saxelby

Make Up: Double Take Make Up Aristry

Floral Crown: White Fig Designs

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