girl boss

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..." {5/10/16}

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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