Ask Me Anything

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... {6/7/16}

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 long does it take you to edit a Portrait Session?

A Portrait Session usually takes me about 2-3 hours to edit. This depends on how many photos I deliver from the session and how long I spent with the client. For Lifestyle sessions, I deliver a minimum of 25 edited digital images (but usually deliver more). For Engagement Session, I deliver a minimum of 50 edited digital images. It's important for me to have full creative control over which images go out to my client so I pull what I feel are the best images from the session and deliver them. I try to deliver a wide range of landscape and portrait crops, full body and headshot, details, etc. Images are delivered through a personal Pixieset gallery.

2-How do you handle a wedding in cloudy conditions?

I get this question all the time. While a cloudy day can certainly change the lighting conditions of your shoot, it is absolutely still possible to achieve gorgeous images. In fact, there are quite a few pros to shooting in cloudy conditions. First of all, the clouds act as  natural diffuser to the sun. This means you get even shadows and don't have to worry so much about which directions your subject is facing. Second, depending on the type of clouds, you can get some really dramatic shots with rolling clouds coming in, which I love!

There are definitely some things you need to be aware of when shooting in cloudy conditions though. Because you're dealing with kind of flat, diffused light, the subject's skin and shadows can feel a bit flat as well. My suggestion is to find a natural reflector to shoot near (White building, white ground, white sand, etc) or use an actual reflector to add a bit of depth to your subject or "fill light." In addition, shooting in cloudy conditions can give off sort of a grey tone to your subject's skin. I usually counteract this by adding a bit of warmth in my edit, but generally embrace the fact that the image will appear to be on the cooler side.

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3- How long did it take you to find your editing style?

Finding your editing style is so important and takes time. When I first started taking pictures, I knew the look I was striving for but couldn't quite get it there. It literally is a matter of sitting in front of your computer over a culmination of hours and hours to play with how you want your shadows and highlights to look, how saturated you want your colors and tones to be, etc. I've always gravitated toward the classic elegance of film so when I discovered Mastin Labs, I knew it was love at first site. About 90% of the time I'd say I edit with the Fuji400h preset because it allows me to maintain consistency and I just like how it looks. I then add little tweaks to shadows, highlights, colors, and sharpness. Sometimes I switch it up, if I feel a client's skin, wardrobe, or the landscape calls for a different look.

In answer to your question though, I don't know how long it took me to find my editing style because I'm still finding it. The style I currently have has taken me about two years to find, but I'm 100% sure that I won't edit the same way my entire career. That's what I love about my job...it allows me the space I need to constantly grow and evolve as an artist.

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"Ask Me Anything..." {5/31/16}

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 do you overcome a client who does not want to be there getting photos done and refuses to crack a smile or play along during a session? 

I love this question because I'm positive it's something every photographer struggles with. Helping a client to feel comfortable in front of your camera is one thing, but breaking down barriers & walls of clients who don't want to be there is another beast altogether. I've definitely had my fair share of clients, most of the time it's the husband, who don't want to be there. In most cases, a man would rather do most anything other than take the time to pose for family or engagement photos. Having your photo taken and being silly is a totally vulnerable experience and a lot of people are completely uncomfortable showing their vulnerability. Here are a few tips for overcoming a client who is hesitant about being photographed:

  1. Give lots of direction: There is nothing more awkward than being in front of a camera and not knowing what to do with your hands or body. Providing your subject with lots of clear direction allows them to feel a lot less helpless and a lot more confident. Plan to enter into all of your sessions with a clear game plan of what poses and locations you'd like to try with each client.Palm Springs Engagement Session_0332
  2. Set expectations: Start each session with what your client should expect from you for the next hour or two. For example, I always like to begin my Engagement Sessions by explaining to couples that they should try as much as possible to be playful and let go of inhibitions by encouraging them to forget I'm there. I basically say, "Okay, today is going to be really tough. I'm going to make you kiss each other for two hours straight. If you're not sure what to do with your hands you can never go wrong by placing them here, here, or here."
  3. Be relatable: I always love to start sessions by simply making conversation with my clients. I ask them questions about how they met, how the wedding planning is going, how he proposed, etc. It's amazing how much you can have in common with a person if you just take the time to ask. This ease of friendly conversation not only takes off some of the pressure, but also builds trust. A person will never open up to you unless they trust you. Finding things in common with your subjects will also help you to connect with them on a personal level, allowing for better images.Chris and Erica-6
  4. Design the moment: When you're posing a person who does not want to open up to you or play along, it's sometimes helpful to pause the session and take some time to create the moment you want. If the man, for example, is totally stiff and uncomfortable, I might ask him to stare into his fiance's eyes and think about how much he loves her in that moment. Or, as he kisses her, imagine that it's the last time. Implementing poses that involve movement also helps a lot. I love asking couples to walk, slow dance, spin, etc. Asking them to do silly things will help them to forget that they're uncomfortable and, in that split second of them bursting into laughter, you get an awesome shot of them with their guard down.Cole and Abigail Esession-4
  5. Look stupid: I don't know if this is the most professional thing in the world, but I always find that when I'm not afraid to look stupid, the client usually seems to become a lot more comfortable. I make fun of myself a lot at sessions or act really silly. It breaks up the tension and let's the client know it's okay to have fun with it.

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2-What is your favorite, most comfortable thing to wear on super hot wedding days?

Summer wedding season is upon us! As much as I love what I do, shooting weddings in the heat of the summer can be a totally miserable experience that leaves you dripping in sweat. The worst thing in the world is shooting a wedding in clothing that is uncomfortable. When I know it's going to be scorching hot on a wedding day, I make sure to choose fabrics that don't cling to my skin and are breathable. Loose fitting dresses, for examples, allow your body to breathe when you're shooting. You can also chose a loose fitting pant/skirt with a sheer, light weight top. Just make sure you feel comfortable, but also look professional.

 

3-What type and brand of camera do you recommend for a beginner?

Choosing your first camera is such an exciting thing! I actually started on a Nikon D200 that I bought used for 500 bucks. I eventually made the switch over to a Canon system for various reasons, but loved learning on my Nikon. You can get a great DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera for somewhere between $500-$1000.

Both Nikon and Canon, the two main brands in the industry, produce wonderful products so I won't push one brand over the other. No matter what you choose, make sure your camera offers the ability to shoot in Manual mode. Shooting in Manual is the key to learning how to have full control over the types of shots you want to produce. It takes practice at first but it's totally worth it to know how to balance the three main components of an image (ISO, Aperture, Shutter) to produce a proper exposure.

Another thing to consider when investing in your first DLSR is low light capabilities. A good way to judge this is by how high the camera's ISO can go. My Markiii, for example, can shoot at up to ISO 256,000 while a Canon Rebel can go to ISO 12,800. For me, that's really important since I shoot in a lot of low lit churches and reception halls. For you, however, that might not be as much of an issue.

Overall, I think the two most popular options for a person starting out with photography would be a NikonD5300 or Canon Rebel. I'd advise against purchasing the camera body with the kit lens it comes with and saving up your money for higher quality lenses.

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"Ask Me Anything..." {5/24/16}

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- If you weren't capturing people's priceless moments, what would you be doing? 

This is a great question because it's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. What will I do when, or if, I no longer feel inspired to take pictures? I feel so lucky to have discovered my passion and can't imagine doing anything else to be perfectly honest. I know though that life changes with the seasons and there will more than likely be a day when I may want to pursue a different career. Sometimes your curiosity can lead you in whole new directions.

I'll start by talking about what I used to do before photography, or "BP" as I like to call it. I actually had a career as a Casting Director for about five years. Before that I dabbled in post production assistant work and was even a Page working at CBS. Yes, like Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock. I was that girl who wore a ridiculously outdated red blazer and directed audience members to the bathroom. There were many times I questioned what my college degree had been for. On the plus side, sometimes I got to write out the name tags on The Price is Right. I thought for a long time that I belonged in the entertainment industry in some way but I wasn't sure what outlet was best suited for my creativity. So, I stumbled through a few various internships and short lived assistant jobs. When I was hired as a Casting Director, it seemed like a great fit. I'm extremely passionate about movies and the art of acting so it was a lot of fun for awhile... until it wasn't.

The job, like most jobs in entertainment, was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I worked in a cubicle in an office with no windows. There were days when I didn't leave my desk for 10 hours. My free spirit felt like it was withering away. I know this sounds dramatic, but I was so out of alignment with how I wanted to live my life when I was at that job. On the plus side, I made some wonderful friends and memories, and learned the value of really hard work. I think my strongest lesson though, was discovering the courage in myself to walk away from a secure income to pursue a life that makes me happy.

Now, moving onto what I would be doing if I wasn't capturing priceless moments. I think, no matter what I do, it will have to allow me to express my creativity in some way. There are many things I've always wanted to pursue but didn't think I was good enough: acting, writing, singing. Perhaps at some point in my life I will have gained the courage to revisit those skills. I could also envision myself working with children in some way. Whether it be teaching or embracing my job as a mommy one day, I would love to work with kids. Perhaps I'll go back to school to learn Interior Design. Maybe I'll decide I want to be a Rocket Scientist (probably not). But, hey, isn't that the beauty in life? We can be anything we want.

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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.

San Diego Wedding Photographer_

 

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... {4/12/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117 "Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, myself, or...anything! Check back next week if you have something you're dying to ask!

1- Do you have a timeframe for when clients can expect their images back, or does it vary?

Great question! The amount of time you quote your clients for delivery really depends on what your personal work load is and how long you think it will take you to deliver a great product. I quote my clients two weeks for Portrait Sessions and six weeks for Weddings.

I think the most important thing here is to "under promise and over deliver." This means that, if you think you can get the work done in one week, tell your clients two weeks. When your clients receive their images a week earlier than expected, you have happy clients. Also,  you still give yourself some time in case something comes up with your schedule.

 

2- If you could be a boy for a day, what would be the first thing you would do? 

I think this is such a great question that I'm going to take it even further and go through what my entire day as a boy would be.

The VERY first thing I would do is stand in front of the mirror naked. Rather than critiquing every part of my body that needs improvement or isn't good enough, as most women typically do, I would marvel at my beer belly and bask in appreciation of how nicely my beard is coming in. (Yes, I would probably have a little beer belly.) I would then start getting ready for the day. "Getting ready" would consist of putting on pants, brushing my teeth, and running a comb through my hair. Five minutes well spent.

On my way out the door, my attention would be caught by something majestic in the mirror. Oh wait, that's my manly man beard. I would raise one eyebrow and suavely stroke my chin as I admired my pure man form. Ok, that's done.

I would then walk with my labrador retriever to the dog park where we would engage in some good ol' fashioned fetch. While walking there, I would spit on the ground a few times...just to see what all the fuss is about. I might even let out a small grunt while I adjust my dangly bits. Girls dig that.

When we arrived at the dog park, we would immediately start a rumpus round of fetch where I would pretend I am Tom Brady and revel in the wonder of what it feels like to give a shit about football. I would roll around in the dirt and not have to care about getting my clothes dirty or messing up my make up. I would be that kind of guy...the carefree, sandals and shorts guy.

After an afternoon of impressing the onlooking ladies with my athletic prowess, my dog and I would stroll back. I am hungry and must eat immediately before I subject the world to my hanger. ALL the tacos later, the world would feel right again.

Next I would engage in an evening of man things. I would invite my buddies over to shot gun beers while smoking cigars, shooting guns, sipping whiskey, smoking red meats, and shouting loudly in excited responses to people catching balls on tv.

Then, just for good measure, I would fix something.

After a long day of man time, I would shower and clean myself up, hop into bed, and settle myself into the soft, gentle, sweet smelling embrace of my woman.

 

3- When backlighting, how do you keep your subjects sharp and not looking too hazy?

I actually covered this very important topic in my 10/6/15 "Ask Me Anything..." You can read what I said here.

Ask Me Anything... {4/5/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117  

"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about me, photography, or...anything. 

 

1- At what moment do you think the bride and groom are at their happiest moment during a wedding day?

I love this question because it's actually something I've never thought about before. On a wedding day, when there are happy moments to be seen around every corner, when does the couple look the happiest?

If I were just thinking about the Groom, I'd have to say the moment he looks the happiest is when he watches his Bride walking towards him down the aisle. This is such a huge moment of arrival. A moment a man dreams of and sees over and over in movies. He has finally found the woman he will start a family with and love for the remainder of his life and she is walking towards him looking like an angel. The expression on his face is typically priceless.

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If I were just thinking about the moment the Bride looks the happiest, I'd have to say the moment she puts her dress on. This is the moment she becomes a Bride. This is also typically the moment when tears start to flow from Bridesmaids and the MOB. This is something many women dream of from the time they are little girls. Putting on your wedding gown for the first time and looking in the mirror to see yourself as a bride is a huge moment. Palm Springs Wedding-10-2Olowalu Plantation House Wedding_0283

 

Thinking back on all the moments when the Bride AND Groom look the happiest, I'd have to say when they kiss for the first time and take their first steps down the aisle as husband and wife. There are so many nerves through out the day leading up to this moment. Knowing that the hard part is over ( standing in front of many people and reciting vows) and now it's time to celebrate, I think brings a sense of calm and relaxation to the couple after this moment. The smiles on their faces as they walk down the aisle together are 100% of the time completely genuine and beaming.

Dana and Ryan_-22- What do you wear to shoot in at summer weddings? How can I look professional but still keep cool in the hot temperatures?

      Shooting summer weddings in the heat of a California summer can be an extremely grueling process. It doesn't help that a typically professional looking color to wear is black. I try to choose fabrics that are breathable and fit loosely. Cotton based fabrics are usually preferable. I usually try to wear sleeveless tops and a knee length skirt or dress.

San Diego Wedding Photographer

When it comes to the level of dress, you really need to evaluate the venue you'll be shooting at. If you're shooting a beachside wedding in Cabo, it might be appropriate to wear nice shorts and a button up shirt or a free flowing sun dress. If you're shooting a ballroom wedding at The Ritz Carlton, you should be wearing extremely professional attire, regardless of the heat outside.

My absolute favorite pair of shoes to wear on a wedding day is Sam Edelman Felicia Ballet Flats. They are by far the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. After a 12 hour day, my feet don't hurt and I don't have blisters. I personally would never wear sandals to shoot a wedding unless I'm shooting all day in the sand.

In addition to choosing breathable fabrics to wear on a hot summer wedding day, it's also important to remember to stay hydrated. Make sure you are drinking lots of water and even electrolytes. You will sweat A LOT through out the course of the day and drinks like Gatorade or Coconut water help to keep your body fueled. Also, remember to pack plenty of sunscreen and deodorant in your bag! No one likes a stinky photographer...

3- Being in a competitive city where it's easy to get discouraged, how do you keep yourself motivated?

This is such a great question and I'm so glad you asked! Living in Los Angeles is amazing because we are all surrounded by some of the most creative and talented artists in the world. I think it's important to remember, however, that we are not each other's competition. I mean, yes, technically we are. But, I choose to stay away from the cut throat, competitive types in my industry. I do not resonate with this mentality at all. I choose to surround myself with people who celebrate when I win just I celebrate when they win. I am lucky enough to have friends who feel that my success is also their success and vice versa. The more we build up, praise, and support other talented artists in our industries, the stronger we're making ourselves and our own industry. By serving others, we are, in turn, also serving ourselves. 

I think the technique I use to keep myself motivated that has been most helpful is setting my intentions. I am a big believer in asking the Universe for what you want in this life. This is not to say that I believe I can make a wish for something and it will magically be delivered to me. I absolutely believe most things in life require hard work and dedication. However, unless we have set our goals and intentions for what it is we want to accomplish in our life, career, or even relationships, how will we know what to look for when it's right in front of us? Knowing that I am working everyday towards an end result definitely keeps me motivated. I'd highly recommend sitting down and making a list of goals or creating a vision board of what  you want to accomplish this week, this month, this year, or the next five years. Then think about how you will get there. Post it somewhere you can look at it every single day so it's always in your mind. Watch as your dreams become a reality.

At the end of last year, I sat down and wrote out a 2016 Bucket List of things I wanted do this year. I have it posted right above my computer where I can look at it everyday. I literally dreamed up trips or life events that I would like to experience and some of them are already starting to happen. The motivation I feel from the power of living with intent is so powerful. Don't ever forget that thoughts become things.

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Ask Me Anything... {3/29/16}

Los Angeles Wedding Photographer_0117 Want to know more about me? Do you have  photography or business related question? Are you curious about my shooting techniques? "Ask Me Anything..." 

 

1-Who or what inspired you to become a photographer? Who or what inspires you today?

I think I gravitated more towards portrait photography when I was first starting out because I am most inspired by human connection. My ultimate goal as a photographer is to tell a story... I strive to capture the awakening of love between my couples, the vulnerability in someone's eyes, the moments rarely shown to others. It is my goal to use my camera to tear down the walls of the person I am photographing until they trust me enough to reveal the inner most corners of their heart. The story, the love, the heartbreak, the living...This is what inspires me the most. This is what I find most beautiful.

Paso Robles Wedding

Agoura Hills Wedding Photographer

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Los Angeles Arts District Engagement Session

 

2-How do you continually grow your Instagram following?

I would say, when trying to build your Instagram following, the most important thing is CONSISTENCY. This applies not only to how often you're posting, but also to the tone, theme, and style of your images. Your feed should have a cohesive flow of colors so that it almost looks like one big painting.

It is also important to remember that the content you post to your Instagram should be one of three things: Educational, Inspiring, Entertaining. Also, everything you post should be a reflection of your brand. You may be into cooking. Is you ideal client a foodie? Post a beautiful, styled photo of a delicious meal or dessert you love. Some really great examples of Instagram accounts that follow these rules are: designlovefestamberfillerup, janawilliamsphotos_, jeshderox, changphoto, and steal_9.

3-What is the nastiest thing you have ever eaten?

I was going through a phase once where I was watching a lot of the show, "Chopped." The premise of the show is that these chefs are given super random ingredients and challenged to make something creative and delicious with them. One night, I was going through my pantry and realized it had been awhile since I'd made a trip to the grocery story and there weren't a lot of options. In my infinite laziness, I decided that, instead of just going to the store or ordering food, I would challenge myself to a "Chopped" style competition. I searched through the scraps of my fridge and pantry and pulled out a can of tuna, crackers, a left over tomato, and mustard. The ultimate result was the most depressing plate of tuna topped crackers anyone has ever seen. And it tasted a lot like dirty feet. Needless to say, I went out for dinner that night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you memorize poses/directions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you start networking with other photographers?

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask Me Anything... {11/17/15}

2015-10-06_0003 This week I answer your questions about social media and how to attract clients who want to work with you.

What are your best tips for getting couples to choose you as their wedding photographer?

Be authentic. My approach to attracting clients that want to work with me is simply talking about who I am as a person and being vulnerable and real about it. This, of course, is not something every business is comfortable with or will agree with. For me, however, I feel this works because my clients can hopefully sense that what they see is what they get with me. Not to mention, I tend to attract clients that I LOVE and feel connected with as well because of this approach. I'm not trying to sell them on choosing me, I'm not trying to trick them into spending more money...I am simply offering a priceless experience and product that my clients can value.

A wedding day is a very emotional experience and a bride & groom are going to choose you because they connect with you and the way you tell their story. Think about the things you love, the activities you do, the moments that define your life...talk about those aspects of who you are so your future clients can feel connected with you.

In your opinion, what do you think is the most successful form of marketing for your business? Social Media? Word of mouth?

I would honestly have to say both. Both of these forms of marketing have been crucial to the growth of my business and I'll tell you why.

Word of mouth helps my business to grow because a potential client will trust the recommendation of someone they know has had a great experience rather than taking a leap with a stranger they found online. For this reason, I focus on providing my clients with a personal and positive experience every time. If one client tells someone about you, it will only grow from there.

Social media has been so great because it allows me to connect with potential clients on an interactive level. I also use social media as a means of promoting brand recognition. I try to be as consistent as possible with posting so as to remain fresh in my followers' minds. You never know when someone will ask them if they know of a good photographer, you happened to post something they saw five minutes prior..and BOOM, word of mouth recommendation. So, you see, the two kind of work together.

What are your best tips for increasing your social media presence?

Here are three very important tips for reinforcing social media presence and creating content followers will want to see. Your social media content should be ENTERTAINING, INSPIRING, and/or EDUCATIONAL. If your Instagram post, blog, or Facebook status doesn't fall within these guidelines, don't post it.

People want to be entertained. Post something funny or beautiful. People want to be inspired. Talk about an emotional event that happened behind the scenes on a wedding day. People want to educate themselves. Serve others by teaching them about something they may not have known before. I generally try to use social media as place to promote positivity and beauty.

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Ask Me Anything... {11/10/15}

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On this week's "Ask Me Anything..." I talk about the three most important elements to shooting in Manual mode, give tips on capturing movement, and tell you about how I became a photographer. 

What setting do you mainly use? Aperture, Shutter, ISO?

If you're new to photography and just learning how to operate your camera, I can't stress enough how important it is to start learning by shooting in manual mode. Yes, it takes longer at first. Yes, you have to think about your settings before you take a photo. Yes, it's difficult. Until you learn the basics of how to operate your camera in manual mode, you will never have full control of your camera and the images you're producing. Eventually, after lots and lots of practice, adjusting the settings will be like second nature to your hand and you won't need to think about it anymore.

In order to start shooting in Manual mode, you first need to know the basics of Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture. These are your three most important elements when operating your camera as they all determine how much light enters the exposure. Learning how to balance all three settings to maintain a proper exposure is the key to taking a good photograph. Here are the basics in layman's terms.

First, your aperture, or f-stop, controls how much of that blurry background you want. The blurry background I speak of is also called "bokeh." If you shoot at an open aperture, like 2.8, a smaller amount of the image will be in focus with the rest blurred out. Shooting at f2.8 will let more light in than if you were to shoot at say f11. Shooting at f11 would be appropriate for a larger group photo to ensure you get all your subjects in focus, but the result of this would be that you aren't letting as much light in. So, for example, if you have to shoot at an aperture like f11 that doesn't let as much light in you would adjust your shutter speed and ISO accordingly to let more light in.

Your ISO is going to control how sensitive your image sensor is to light. The lower the number (let's say you're at ISO100) the less sensitive it is to light. The higher the number (let's say you're at ISO 3200) the more sensitive it will be to light. If you're in a low light situation, you're going to raise your ISO to a higher number to let in more light. The only downside to this is that the quality of your image will suffer with added grain the higher your ISO. When shooting outdoors during the day, I keep my ISO anywhere between 100-400 and adjust aperture and shutter speed accordingly.

Shutter speed is how fast your shutter opens and closes. If your shutter closes quickly, it will not let in as much light. You will also be able to capture a moving object better with a fast shutter speed. If you're shooting with a slow shutter speed, the shutter will stay open longer, therefore letting in more light. Shooting at a slow shutter speed can also create a blurry affect. Go practice taking pictures of moving water with a fast and slow shutter speed and see the difference.

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What's the best way to get movement shots?

This question kind of goes along with the last one so I'll elaborate. Getting movement shots all depends on your shutter speed. Like I said above, the slower  your shutter speed, the blurrier a moving object will be. The faster the shutter speed, the sharper a moving object will be. A helpful tip to ensure your shutter speed is fast enough to get your subject in focus is to double your lens range. For example, if you're shooting on a 50mm lens, you'll want to shoot at at least 1/100s. The "s" stands for "second," meaning this is the fraction of a second. The higher that bottom number is, like 1/1000s, the faster the shutter speed and the less light being let in. The lower that bottom number is, like 1/25s, the slower the shutter speed and the more light being let in. I usually don't shoot anything slower than 1/125s when photographing a still object though. If you're shooting at a very slow shutter speed, you can try techniques like "light dragging"  or capturing flowing water. A tripod may be need for this to keep your camera extra still.

Shooting a moving object, depending on how fast the object is moving, I usually shoot at any shutter speed that's 1/250s or higher. This of course, also depends on your lighting situation and where your ISO and aperture are set.

 

How did you become a photographer? What was your first paid gig?

I became a photographer by calling myself a photographer...even before I was one. I believe that people see you the way you see yourself. If you don't see yourself as a photographer, how will other people think of you as one? I started taking picture because I was curious. I had always admired talented photographers and wanted to learn how to get what was in my head onto an image. So I bought a camera. I then did every kind of research I could on the internet so I could learn how to use it. I took picture of salt and pepper shakers first. Then I took pictures of family members. Then I started posting pictures on social media. Then people started asking me to photograph their families, too. My first paying gig was a Family shoot for $75. I was thrilled. I was obsessed with learning everything I could and offering to assist other photographers also helped me to learn a great deal.

My journey as a photographer has been a series of baby steps that have led to accomplishing a bigger dream. What are your goals? Set your intentions for what you'd like to accomplish as a photographer and give yourself a timeline. Watch in amazement as it unfolds for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What tips would you give for shooting weddings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why are pictures so expensive?

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

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

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

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

Ask Me Anything... {10/20/2015}

2015-10-06_0003 What's the best way to handle white balance? In camera? Or do you tweak more in post? 

There are a lot of techniques for handling white balance and what I do isn't necessarily the right way...it's just what works best for me and my workflow. I choose to set my camera to Auto White Balance so that my camera is worrying about this and I don't have to. Sometimes I find it's easier to make your camera do some of the work for you. When I take the image into post production, I typically use the "white balance selector" in Lightroom, which is the icon that looks like a little eye drop under the "Basic" module. I will find a part of the image that is as close to white or light grey as possible and click on that part of the image. This usually does a pretty good job unless your under really intense halogen lighting or something. If I don't have anything white the image to go off of I will adjust the temperature and tint sliders until I like the way the image looks. Depending on if your style has more blue tones or warm tones, this can vary greatly. One thing that can really affect getting your white balance right in camera is shooting near green grass, which reflects green tones onto the subject's skin. In this case I will typically bring up my magenta tones to balance out the green.

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You can also use an Expodisc to customize your White Balance on shoots or custom adjust your Kelvin Scale in camera based on the color temperature of your location. Again, the way I do it isn't necessarily how you should do it. It's what works best for me and how I work.

 

 

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What are your tips for shooting in harsh lighting conditions?

As much as I'd love to be able to shoot exclusively at magic hour all day, every day...this simply isn't realistic. Sometimes a wedding timeline doesn't permit for magic hour portraits. Sometimes a client is only available to shoot in the middle of the day. While it's difficult to replicate the warm, magic light that happens just before sunset, it's still possible to get beautiful images.

One of the most important things I learned when I first started shooting was to place the subject facing away from the sun. When the sun is at its highest point it will cast very harsh shadows on the face that are really unflattering and often cause your subject to squint. By simply turning your subject around so the sun is behind them, you have placed even light on their face. Another tip is to find a patch of shade somewhere nearby. When in full sun, shooting in the shade can be a life saver. If you have buildings nearby, try to find a building with a white wall to use as a natural reflector for fill light. You can also bring a reflector. ;)

What's your favorite thing to photograph?

Love, of course. I spent a long time trying to figure out what kind of photography inspired me the most. I experimented with fashion, food, landscapes, etc. All of these types of photography are beautiful and inspiring in their own right...it's just that, I've never felt I would get out of bed at 5am to shoot at sunrise for a beautiful landscape image. I've never felt totally fired up spending hours stylizing a food shot. I would, however, wake up at 5am to photograph a couple in love and spend hours stylizing their wardrobe and location. Because it sets my heart on fire. It lights up my soul. The thing that lights me up when I'm shooting is human connection. When I get a shot that captures the subtleties of love's exchange, I feel in my heart I've done something right. I feel I've taken a little piece of how I see the world and can now share it with everyone else.

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Ask Me Anything... {10/13/15}

2015-10-06_0003 This week I give tips on getting your subject in sharp focus when shooting with a wide aperture, I reveal some images from my not so distant past, and I give my take on the 70-200mm 2.8 vs the 24-70mm 2.8 lens. Check back next Monday when I'll be taking more questions! Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated!

How do you get multiple people in sharp focus with wide apertures? Where do you put the focus point? Do you leave it in the center and recompose or move it with your controller?

Achieving a sharp focus on multiple subjects in an image when using a wide aperture can be very tricky. A "wide aperture" is referring to an aperture setting like 1.2 or 2.8. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture. This was so confusing to me when I first started! Shooting wide open can create really beautiful results with a dreamy blurred background, or "bokeh." The only downside is that it can be hard to get all your subjects in focus. A technique for posing that I have found to be really helpful is placing all my subjects on an even plain. The images below are all examples of when I posed subjects on an even plain, but shot at a very wide aperture. I typically place my focal point on the eye of the subject in the middle, focus, and recompose for the shot. I actually don't mind when all subjects aren't in sharp focus. Sometimes I think this technique can have a nostalgic, almost film look that I really love.

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Do you ever look back at your old photos and hate the way you edited them or took them?

I LOVE this question because I think that, as artists, we tend to compare ourselves to those who have been doing this for a long time and end up feeling discouraged. For this question, I went way back into my archives for some of my work from the VERY beginning. As embarrassing as it is for me to show these, I think it's so important for people to know that getting good at your craft takes time, practice, and passion.

At the time, I thought these images were AWESOME! In fact, people paid me to take some of these images. I will be forever grateful to those who believed in me before I believed in myself. Below are some before and afters of my old work alongside my current work. When I look back at my old work I totally cringe...the over saturation, the poor composition, bad angles, etc. Like I said though, at the time I was totally passionate about just creating a photograph I was excited about... and I think that's what is most important. I'm absolutely positive that  5 years from now, a year from now, even a month from now I'll look back on my current editing style and hate how the images look. As artists we grow and evolve as our skill improves and trends change, and I think that's such a beautiful thing.

 

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Do you like shooting weddings with the 24-70mm 2.8 or the 70-200mm 2.8 better? I'm definitely going to be getting these eventually but I'm currently on a budget.

If I really had to choose between either of these lenses I'd definitely go with the 70-200mm 2.8L lens. This lens is a MUST for shooting a wedding ceremony. During the ceremony, you want to be able to capture emotion without being too invasive or blocking the guest's view. This lens is perfect for getting up close and personal from a distance. Plus, it creates a fantastic depth of field when it's at 200mm and wide open. It's my sneaky, ninja lens.

You definitely can't shoot an entire wedding on this lens though! If I had to buy only ONE lens right now, I'd buy a 50mm 1.2 or 1.4 lens. If I really had to, I could shoot an entire wedding on this.

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