Photography tips

Ask Me Anything... {6/21/16}

image1-2"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 the Arab country you would like to visit?

Those of you who have been checking in on my posts know that I love to travel! When I read this question I literally said, "ooooOOOoooOOOOo" because I hadn't really included any Arab countries yet on my list of "places to see." I think the country that sparks my interest the most would be Morocco. There's something about this place that seems mysterious and kind of magical. From the colors in the architecture, to the never-ending sand dunes, to the busy marketplaces, I think Morocco would be an awesome adventure!

You can check out some other adventures I've been on here, here, and here.

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2- What is the number one piece of advice you would give others regarding the creative process?

Sometimes being a creative person can be really challenging. I think the one major obstacle I've been faced with the most along my journey as a creative is self doubt. Overcoming this is definitely still something that I struggle with but I'm learning how to move past this by implementing a couple of important ideas into my life.  I'm going to give you two pieces of advice, rather than one, because I'm feeling generous today.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Yes, there's a reason I just underlined that. It's one thing to be inspired by a person, but it's a completely different thing to feel lesser than because you are not "as successful, as pretty, as smart, as talented, as rich, as busy," etc and so forth. Comparing your art and your journey to someone else's will be the number one killer of, not only your creative freedom, but your confidence as well. OWN your art. OWN your place in your personal journey.

Surround yourself with people who  build you up. No, this doesn't mean "only have friends who kiss your ass." Although, that would be nice. What I mean by this is that the people you surround yourself with are crucial to the evolution of who you are. Do you have friends who aren't supportive of your personal growth? Ask yourself why you keep them in your life. Do you interact with people that are hell bent on putting you in your place? Why? Make the decision to have people in your life that are on your team. This means they celebrate WITH you during your triumphs and call you on your shit when you're messing up. Because a real friend will tell you how it is in order to see you succeed.

3- How difficult was it getting started and how long was it before you felt you "made it"?

Getting started with my business was easy in some ways and really difficult in others. Where I am in my business now was not an overnight success at all. I worked tirelessly to learn/network/improve/hustle because, ultimately, I felt compelled to make this art. It's the one thing I've ever done in my life that I've been completely sure of. As a result, working towards building my business never felt like work. It just felt like a fun challenge that included lots of baby steps towards success. If you want a technical answer, I started teaching myself photography in 2011, started shooting friends and family as a hobby in 2012, and officially started my business in 2013. I left my full time job in July of 2014 to be a professional photographer full time.

I use past tense but, really, I should be using present. Because building my business still feels like a fun challenge every single day. I don't feel like I've "made it" by any means. What does it mean to have "made it"? I suppose you can say I've accomplished many of my goals leading up to where I currently am in my journey. But, guess what, now I have a whole new set of goals to work towards.

I think if you ever feel like you've "made it" and no longer have to keep striving towards improvement, you should reevaluate what you're doing.

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"Ask Me Anything..." {6/15/16}

image1-2"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- How big do you think your portfolio should be before you can start charging clients? How should you price yourself when you start out? I've read that if you price yourself cheaply at first, it will be hard to get clients to see you as worth more later down the line. Do you agree with this?

Trying to build your business and client base when you're first starting out is a bit of a catch 22 isn't it? You can't get clients unless you have something to show and you can't have anything to show unless you have clients. The beginning of your career is the time when you have to be entirely proactive with creating what you want(Although you really should always be proactive). Clients aren't going to come to you and say, " Gee, I was hoping you would take my photo for your portfolio." From my experience, you usually don't get what you don't ask for.

I spent probably the first year of my photography journey asking friends if I could photograph their kids at birthday parties or taking pictures of people on my travels. I asked family members if they would let me practice on them and then posted those images on Facebook. Eventually, I had people approaching me and asking how much I charged. I go into depth on pricing in this previous "Ask Me Anything..." (Click here).

In answer to your questions, I think you should have a few sessions to show before your start to charge. Do I think you should have a huge portfolio of work to show off? No way! That takes time. Do I think you should charge while you're building your portfolio? Absolutely! Do you know why? Because you're an artist, and your art and your time are valuable. If you don't value yourself, no one else will.

One thing on this I will say though, is that you should not charge your full rate for sessions you are using them for practice. People should not be paying you to practice with your camera. When it gets to a point that you're charging, I personally believe you should be shooting every day...whether it's pictures of your dog or a beautiful sunset, practice until that camera is like second nature to you. A lot of people start by charging lower rates, which can also be looked at as "Portfolio Rates." It's perfectly acceptable to offer clients lower rates because you're still building your portfolio. I totally charged cheap rates when I was starting out! Do I think people see me as less valuable now because of that? No way! As you grow as an artist and a business, your rates will also grow. That's just the nature of business.

 

2-How do you avoid getting stuck putting people in the same pose or having them do the same thing? I feel like, during sessions, I go back to doing the same thing with couples/families sometimes but don't want sessions to look the same and get boring. 

Posing is an interesting topic because there are so many different ways to approach it. I absolutely have felt like I'm doing the same things over and over again on sessions or wedding days. There's nothing like doing the same thing over and over again to kill your creativity, right? Here's the thing though, those poses you are doing over and over again are a completely new experience to your clients. And, actually, those poses your clients have seen in your portfolio are most likely the reason you were hired in the first place. If you have a formula of poses that you use as your "go to" poses, there's nothing wrong with that, because it works.

I think, when I feel this way, the best way to spark my creativity is working with another photographer, attending a workshop, or planning a styled shoot. Go to a museum, take a trip, watch a beautiful film...just engage in anything that makes you feel totally inspired to create.  These are all awesome ways to spark fresh and creative ideas that will help you avoid feeling stagnant.

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3-How do you deal with a bride/groom/family member who is stressed out the day of the wedding and is not being very cooperative?

I think the one aspect of photography I didn't anticipate when I started was just how many personalities I would have to engage with.  On a wedding day, there's a WHOLE lot of stress and personalities all in one space. If you're not good in situations like that, it can really take away from your ability to be successful on a wedding day.

I think the number one approach that has helped me tremendously is settings expectations. Communicate with your clients well in advance to work with them on what they can expect from you on their wedding day. I always work with clients on a really organized timeline of their day well in advance. I educate them on how much time I will need for each portion of the day and what time of day is best for lighting. I ask them what is most important to them on the wedding day and how they would like the day to go. That way, when the wedding day comes along clients are totally prepared and know how the schedule of the day should be going.

Sometimes though, shit happens. I don't think I've EVER had a wedding where every single thing went according to plan. That's just the nature of life. There's no point in stressing out over little things. All you can do is try your very best to be prepared and capture the day as it progresses.

Ultimately, I think the one thing that has helped the most is just letting clients and family members know that I'm there to help them. I always say my job goes beyond taking photos on a wedding day. I'm there by my couples' side offering emotional support, updating timing situations, checking up on flowers, making sure they're hydrated, etc. I truly want my clients to have the best wedding day experience they could have hoped for. I think knowing they have that support is always really helpful in mellowing out the mood. This is why I always encourage couples to hire a coordinator...but that's a whole different blog post. ;)

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"Ask Me Anything..." {5/17/16}

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's your greatest memory from high school?

High school feels like forever ago and, then again, like it was just yesterday. I have so many great memories with friends that I am still close with today. From school dances, to getting my driver's license, to first kisses...they all seem to blur into one big memory of adolescent bliss. If I had to choose one memory that I valued the most it would have to be the time I spent on my high school dance team.

I started dancing when I was eight years old. I'll never forget the first time I got to see the Saugus Dance Team perform. They were so amazing and, from that point forward, my life goal was to eventually become a Saugus dancer. I'll never forget how nervous I was going into try outs. I was sick for weeks beforehand from the nerves! Walking up to the list of dancers who had made the team to see if my name was on it was probably one of the longest walks of my life. When I saw my name, I knew I had accomplished a goal 7 years in the making and it felt pretty great.

We performed at football games, basketball games, and pep rallies. We also traveled to various cities to compete against other teams around the country. Not only did I learn how to work really, really hard (we worked our asses off at early morning practices, literally), but I also learned how to work as a team while forming close bonds with my teammates. I LOVED performing in front of an audience so being able to dance gave me the outlet and confidence I needed to eventually pursue other goals in the performing arts.

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2-What does photography mean to you?

This is such a huge question that I'm not sure I can answer in just one little post. Obviously, discovering my love for photography changed my life. Apart from dancing, I've never done anything that makes me feel like I can escape my mind so completely. When you get into the flow of things while you're taking pictures, it's a high I can't really explain. Without trying to sound dramatic, it's like this heightened sense of self. Tapping into your creative being can be a very spiritual experience.

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I'd have to say though, that the reason I love taking pictures is actually very selfish. I strive to capture these moments in people's lives because I hope that, when they look at their photos years from now, they'll see a little piece of me in them. I guess I hope that by showing the world my perspective, by capturing the way I see things on paper, a little piece of me will continue on through my art. Maybe it's an ego thing, or maybe it's just my way of wanting to be remembered when I go.

3-I feel like the quality of my work is poor quality, bland lighting, and dull highlights. What are your top tips for getting photos that are crisp and sharp while still looking natural?

It definitely takes time to get to a point with your editing style that feels like a reflection of how you imagine it will look in your head. Finding your style and your voice as an artist takes time! When I was first starting out, I found a few photographers whose style I really admired and tried to emulate it. I think it's important to really study the work of those you admire to perfect your own eye when it comes to editing. This is not to say you are "copying" their work. Your work will never look exactly like someone else's because you have your own unique vision as an artist. What I'm saying is, really look at the images you love and think about why you are drawn to them. Do you love the dark shadows? Do you love the soft skin tones? What about the vibrant colors? I currently have images of Jose Villa's work hanging above my desk as a constant reminder of what I'm striving for in my editing and career.

Feeling like your images are poor could be a result of a lot of things. Perhaps you are comparing your work to those you admire and don't feel it measures up? Perhaps you are still in the stage of your career as a photographer where you need to work on honing your eye when you edit? Here are a few tips that work really well for me when I'm shooting/ editing:

  • I usually shoot at f1.6 or f2.o on my 50mm 1.2L lens. I'm drawn to that dreamy depth of field and shooting at this setting helps me to emulate the film look I love so much. This takes practice though as it can be really difficult to get sharp images at this aperture. I still struggle with it!
  • Your focal point should always be on the eye. If the eyes in my images aren't sharp, I usually don't use the photo. For me, the eyes are the most important part.
  • In Lightroom, the very first thing I do is slide the "Sharpness" and "Noise" bars in the "Detail" module to the right a little. Be careful not to overdue this though, as you can make your images look too soft which gives a fake look that I don't love. Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.55.23 AM
  • I typically overexpose in camera by about 1-stop. I do this because I'm usually backlighting my subject when I shoot. You have to expose for shadows and then overexpose a bit to compete with the strong light from the sun. This way your subject isn't in silhouette.
  • I almost always lift my exposure and bring down highlights and shadows in Lightroom when I'm editing. I edit with Mastin Presets so I usually just apply the preset and make a few tweaks until I'm happy with the way it looks.
  • Maintain sharpness in camera by making sure you're at an appropriate shutter speed. Anything below 1/250s is probably going to be a bit blurry if you're photographing a moving subject.
  • I hate to say this because I'm a firm believer that the camera doesn't make the artist, but the lack of crispness in your images could be a result of the camera you're using or your lenses. You can have the best camera and lenses in the world and still take crappy pictures, but if you know what you're doing, having quality gear can really make a difference. When investing in lenses, it's important that you choose one that can shoot at wide apertures. I'd say it's best to strive for a lens that can get at least as wide as 2.8. Having quality glass can help you to create images with vivid colors and sharpness straight out of camera.About me photo

"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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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... {10/6/15}

2015-10-06_0003 This week I answer your questions about shooting in overcast weather, my workflow after a wedding day, and shooting backlit images. Have photography related questions? I take questions on Instagram and Facebook every Monday and answer them on the blog every Tuesday. Check back next week!

Can you still capture good lighting on a cloudy day? Is it harder to shoot in overcast weather?

Absolutely! Shooting in overcast weather is actually a bit easier, in my opinion, since I don't have to be as concerned about harsh shadows on my subject's face. The cloud coverage acts like a natural diffuser of light, casting even light over skin. I've been grateful for overcast weather on a few wedding days when portraits were scheduled in the afternoon with no available shade...this is when the sun is usually the highest and shadows are the harshest. Unfortunately, if the sun isn't out, it does make it difficult for me to capture those glowing, backlit images I love so much. However, cloudy days can make for some very dramatic shots as well.

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How do you retain the sharpness in your backlit photos? I often lose focus because of the sun.

Backlighting can be kind of tricky when it comes to shooting directly into sunlight and maintaining the sharpness of your images. There's a couple of techniques I use when backlighting my subject. First of all, I'm going to place my subject directly in front of the sun's rays. I know I've found the "sweet spot" of light when my subject has a beautiful halo of light around their hair. I use the subject as a human shield to literally block the sun from my lens. I then expose for the shadows on my subject's face (typically focusing by pressing the shutter release button halfway and placing my focal point over the eye), then I overexpose by about 1 stop, recompose my image, and push the shutter release button again to capture. The main trick here is to meter the exposure of your subject and then overexpose a bit so the subject isn't in silhouette. You're basically overexposing to compensate for the overpowering light behind the subject.

You may also want to try using a lens hood or a scrim over the subject's head to shield the excess light entering your lens. Angles are also important here. It can be helpful to angle just slightly to the left or right of the sun so your lens doesn't have trouble focusing and there isn't too much light flooding the exposure. I usually increase the sharpness in Lightroom (using the "sharpness" slider) to give the image the final touch.

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When it comes to your workflow after shooting a wedding, how many images do you deliver to your clients for a full day wedding on average? How long does it take you to complete post processing and how do you improve this time?

Post Wedding workflow can vary a lot based on the personal preferences of the photographer. This is what works for ME. What works for you may be entirely different. Here is what my workflow is after a wedding day:

The first thing I do when I get home from a wedding is import the images into Lightroom and BACK UP the images onto two separate external hard drives. Backing up a wedding to multiple sources is crucial! I then "cull" through the images marking what I feel are the best images from the day. "Culling" is simply a term used for going through your shots and picking the ones you like the best. Culling can be difficult and time consuming because, as photographers, we grow an emotional attachment to photos and tend to want to keep too many. In my opinion, quality is always better than quantity. Choose the images that tell the story in a beautiful, yet concise way. Your client doesn't need 20 images of the same exact pose or moment.

As I'm culling through images I filter them by color. For example, all images with a "red" filter could be "Getting Ready" shots I chose to deliver to the client. All images with a "blue" filter might be "Details." Once all the filters have been applied to the all the images I decided to keep, I'll go back in and start editing the wedding by filter. Once an image has been edited and is ready for delivery I will flag it as well. This process enables me to organize images from the day in a way that makes sense to the client for final delivery.

Editing a full wedding can take me anywhere from 15-20 hours. A lot of photographers use "batch" editing techniques to improve this time but I haven't found that this works for me. Batch editing is a technique of applying certain edits (presets, color corrections, etc) to every single image all at once. I physically go through each and every individual image and edit it until it looks exactly right. I'm a bit anal when it comes to my edits. Another way to cut down your editing and culling time is by shooting tight. This means you carefully think about each image you take (composing and waiting for moments) rather than "machine gun shooting" which is taking photos of anything that moves....mindlessly clicking. Sometimes this works if you're trying to capture a candid moment, but, for me, it just makes more work later. Getting exposures and compositions right "in camera" is also helpful in cutting down editing time.

Lastly, I will import images to Pixieset to deliver an online viewing gallery of web sized, watermarked images to the client. They can share this gallery with friends and family, giving them the option to order prints if they'd like. I love Pixieset because my clients and their guests can view the images in a clean and beautiful platform that is easy to use and share. I also send the client a custom, keepsake USB drive of their high resolution digital image files. I typically tell clients to expect about 75-100 images per hour of coverage. This amount can vary greatly depending on the number of guests, details, formalities, etc. Ultimately, you should deliver enough images to accurately and completely tell the story of their day. I don't believe in trying to meet a quota of images. Delivery is promised within 6 weeks of the wedding day.

Oh! I also drink a lot of red wine when I'm finished. :)

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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