"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.
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. ;)
For Chris and Erica's Engagement Session, I wanted to evoke the feeling of coziness and warmth. Erica is a talented Interior Designer, so naturally, we had to shoot some lifestyle images in their home in Santa Clarita, CA. I love the intimate feel of the images so much! There's something so beautiful about the simplicity of cuddling at home with the person you love. The two really wanted to shoot in Big Bear, CA to take advantage of the beautiful snowy landscapes. We put on our snow boots and ventured out into the wild. These two were such champs when it came to me asking them to walk into knee deep snow to get the perfect light. I think I laughed for two hours straight. Erica is just a bundle of light and I loved watching how Chris let's her shine. Chris and Erica, I had so much fun getting to know you at our shoot and I absolutely can't wait to share your big day with you!
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!
The Holiday Season is such an amazing time in my year because I get to work with so many awesome people. This year was no exception. Not only did I get a chance to capture some very special return clients, but I also had the opportunity to meet some amazing new clients as well! One of my favorite things about my job is getting to capture the growth of my clients' families through out the years. It truly amazes me how quickly time goes by! I have been shooting many of these families from Maternity to Newborn to Family Sessions. I feel like the luckiest photographer in the world to give the gift of memories to my clients.
I waited awhile to post these because I know a lot of these images were intended to be used on Holiday cards and I didn't want to spoil the surprise. As I go through them all together in one grouping, I am amazed at how truly special this time of year is. The Holiday Season is about family and togetherness and going through these images made me feel overjoyed with so much love.
Wishing all of you a very Happy Holiday season with those you love! Thank you for an amazing season of Family Sessions...can't wait to do it again next year!
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.
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.
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.
Haley and Kevan were absolutely amazing at their Engagement session! From the moment we started shooting, they were completely natural and playful with each other. It's obvious these two are best friends who love to make each other laugh. Their little doggy joined us for some shots, too. I love when couples bring their fur babies to sessions!
My favorite part of the session was when I asked them to slow dance in the field where we were shooting. At first they were a bit hesitant but quickly fell into the groove of the movement. The way Haley looked up at Kevan in that moment (with total stars in her eyes, slow dancing in a field at magic hour) is the reason I do what I do. That look. It's everything.
Congratulations to Kevan and Haley! I'm beyond excited for your wedding day!
Haley's fabulous make up by All Dolled Up Beauty Lounge