Last week I put out an offer for Q&A on my page. I ended up getting busy with editing and about every other god-forsaken thing that needs done in a house with 3 kids ages 5 and under, a full blown business, and that crazy thing some people do, like sleepSo I didn’t get to post it like I wanted to that same day! Better late than never I always say, so here they are. I haven’t answered every single thing, some out of respect for my business and those that have paid for my workshops (or other people’s workshops) to learn certain things. Anyways, Enjoy!
Best marketing tip? (And I’m not allowed to say Word of Mouth or I’ll get my butt kicked, she says)
Drop business cards everywhere. I started dropping them at dinner when I sign the check, in those jars at the coffee shops, even a windshield of a car with car seats in them 😉 Granted I wouldn’t do that with every single car I see, I know not everyone can afford me- so I’m more or less being aware of people that shop at higher end places, and maybe drive a nice vehicle. I don’t want to offend someone by suggesting they hire me at $850 for a session when they make $20k a year.
Best newborn action for Photoshop?
Soft & Sparkly Baby from Pure Actions for Photographers, Set 1! I love it for skin and eyes/eyelashes
Son-kissed Photography also has a great one for fixing purple limbs! As always baby safety is number one- I prefer to readjust baby and take pressure off the limb and let color return to normal. Newborns have a condition that causes poor circulation. So this is semi normal, but not completely!
How long did it take to build your business when you started out?
It took about 8 months to a year for things to really be solid and consistent for me.
Top 5 things you wish you knew when you first started?
1. Not everyone is nice. In fact, a LOT of people aren’t nice. You need to have a thick skin.
2. Just as many people are doubly amazing and will be genuinely happy for you and want you to succeed. But you need to find them.
3. Don’t ask for critique or advice unless you can handle the honest answer. People telling you that you rock (when you really don’t) are only hurting you.
4. It’s expensive as hell to be a legit photographer. Period.
5. People that get free stuff usually expect the most. You know, all for nothing kind of thing. If you are going to offer something free, try to find genuine people that will actually appreciate it and talk about you- not someone who is just going to take it and run (and complain about every little thing too).
In the beginning, how did you keep or gain confidence to keep on trying?
It really can be discouraging, but when you can sit here and compare your current work to that of even a month ago, and see where you have improved and are staying consisting in that improvement, it makes you want to keep trying.
What do you think changed that took your business from small to huge?
I’m not really sure- I think moreso my skill and confidence level. I started in a small town but everyone knows everyone- so when I worked for a handful of people my name was spread like wildfire. I always stayed faithful at posting on Facebook too. Everyone nowadays is on Facebook, so posting quality work that people enjoy causes more people to see it and come fan my page to see more. I still wouldn’t say that my business is “huge” but I do well enough to take care of my family of 5 while my husband is laid off
Good or bad idea to use a free website designer for your first website?
I did. But I think it depends probably where you are at when you are starting. Are you the “do everything” photographer or do you already know your place and what you want to specialize in and your style? I personally don’t find it beneficial to spend HUNDREDS on a custom designed site if you are going to change it again in 2 years when you finally figure out your style and your specialty. I started with hosts like Squarespace and Photobiz. I JUST went to a Showit site and am hiring someone for a custom design. Because 4 years in, I now completely know myself, my identity, my brand.
Typical camera settings when shooting a newborn?
My aperture tends to stay between 1.4 and 3.2. If i’m shooting on the higher end it’s because I have a headband on the baby and want to keep it in focus, or a foot is sticking up at me a bit, or maybe i’m shooting them in a prop which i want to keep in focus, etc. if it’s a super simple shot, 1.4 tends to be the go-to. I use a 35mm 1.4G so it’s super sharp at 1.4. For parent shots I’m usually at 3.2 or more. I do them on seamless so there really isn’t a huge DOF issue. But I want to make sure I keep baby and parents, hands etc all in focus. ISO depends on whether it’s nice out or gloomy. usually 200-800.
How did you market and find clients when you began your business?
I started in a small town so I found clients easily by word of mouth referrals. Lots of people knew people which I was able to connect with and offer my services to.
What are your go-to lenses and why?
I love the width and working room my 35mm 1.4G gives me during any kind of studio work. If I have a lot of working space though I’ll slap on my 85!
Photographers you follow for inspiration? Who did you admire when you first started?
Lindsey Scholz Photography (LOVE her births!), Jessica Paxson Photography (kids!) and Caralee Case Photography (love her colorful newborns and they are so gorgeously lit). Danielle Luc Photography is amazing for kids and studio work. Emily Tesnow Photography’s eye for lifestyle (one of a kind). I also adore Cayden Lane Photography for kids and family, Lilly Photography (even though I don’t really photography couples and weddings anymore like he does I just love his work) and My 4 Hens (her kid stuff is divine). Oh and Simplicity by Angie Monson! And Jessica Drossin’s styled stuff. She’s amazing. Work of Heart Photography for children.
When I first started I admired all the wrong people. We will just leave it at that.
What software do you use to keep clients/appointments/etc organized?
I just use a desk calendar.
How much time do you take off throughout the year for family time/vacations or do you?
I try to take off December and April. My girls (3 of them!) all have birthdays in April. I also take off the week of Thanksgiving, through the end of the year. I want to ENJOY the holidays and document them, not have my nose in the computer handling someone else’s memories and missing my own. I don’t go to a 9-5 (for those saying OH must be nice to take a month off work! Poor you!). My job is 18 hours a day. I think about it every waking moment. My phone goes off all day long. Clients, mentorees, or just SOMEONE wanting free advice on something. It never quits. When you work from home, your work never leaves you. There is no leaving the office and coming home to turn work off and just do your thing. WORK IS ALWAYS THERE. The computer is ALWAYS taunting you. So my 2 months off during the year are CHERISHED. I also am trying to take weekends off. I never work Sundays unless absolutely last resort.
Best lighting tips?
Pay attention to how the light shows up on your subject’s skin. If it doesn’t look pretty to your eye, it’s not going to look pretty in your camera either. Rotate your subject/yourself to see how the light hits in different ways. And try to shoot, if you are relying on natural light, in the early morning or late evening so that the sun is lower in the sky and isn’t pounding down from directly overhead giving bright backgrounds and raccoon eyes. Soft light is nice light. Harsh mid-day light sucks. (Just being honest! haha)
Pointers for taking photos at night?
A camera with high ISO capabilities, a fast prime lens, and a tripod if you need to use a really low shutter speed to get enough light in
Who do you recommend for making watermarks?
On the Spot Studio! Tiffany is the bomb.
Do you prefer doing client photography or mentoring? If you could ONLY do one, what would it be?
Client photography. I actually plan to quit mentoring at some point. Not sure if it will be in a year or 5 years.
What was your BIGGEST obstacle in starting/advancing your business? What intimidated you the most and how did you push through?
Local competition intimidated me the most. I was told that I was a joke, that I would never be good enough. That I was the “off brand” and she was the name brand. Crap like that. Funny thing is, I am leaps and bounds above her now both in talent and success. I am NOT being cocky, just truthful. Being mean gets you NOWHERE. Don’t be that person. Because the underdog will come back up on top and kick your ass.
If you had to choose ONE photo of yours to represent you and your business, which would you choose? (Post here)
It shows how much I truly LOVE my work.
How do you cull (sort) your images after a session?
I cull in Lightroom. I love the easy to use grid view, and that I can work them while still in RAW format. I do basic WB and exposure adjustments if any, and cropping if any, then export as jpegs and finish up in Photoshop.
How did you start?
I worked for one of the hospital companies for about 8-9 months. It was a way to get out of the house and earn a bit of extra money too. I ended up LOVING it more than I thought, but needed to flex my mind and my creative muscles more. ACP was born some time after that with a D60 and a couple kit lenses. I outgrew them quickly and was constantly upgrading/replacing after that to get where I am now gear-wise.
Favorite music to edit to?
I don’t really edit to music surprisingly! It’s usually quiet. Or if anything, the TV is on in the other room. Usually with Disney. I swear it’s broken. That’s all it plays.
What is your favorite inexpensive lens for portraits and landscape? Sharp
INEXPENSIVE- 50mm 1.4
Are you self taught or did you take classes?
I am self taught except for taking a newborn workshop in early 2011 with Rachel Vanoven. I had utilized it to brush up on some things I didn’t have perfected or wanted to learn differently than the way I did them for better effect.
Favorite video game?
The Sims 3. God, please don’t let me start playing the Sims again. I won’t stop. Ever.
How do you store your newborn background fabrics?
I use totes for right now and fold them up and store by color so I know where to find something quickly. I’m moving into a personal studio (on my property I mean) this month so I plan on keeping them out and viewable on shelves, still sorted by color.
How do you get your silhouettes to look so amazing? What is the best time to take them? Camera settings? Tips?
I lay on the ground, for one. The more of my subject I can place against the lighter sky, the better. It’s also pretty crucial that you actually have backlighting. Sun. When all you have is a plain sky where the sun is pretty much gone, it’s extremely hard to get a rockin’ silhouette. you NEED to have that separation of dark and light (dark subject, light background) to make them pop out. Another reason I say to lay on the ground. Otherwise you risk them blending in with the water, or the ground, whatever you are shooting by. Which will turn dark and with your subject being dark, they will blend in. They are best done in the morning or evening when the sun is low so it can come from BEHIND your subject. I use spot metering and expose for the sky behind my subject. This pulls the sky exposure down which pulls the dimly lit subject’s exposure down too, making them dark and a shadow basicallymy ISO is always at it’s lowest.
Do you procrastinate on anything? if so, what?
Everything. Was this a serious question? LOL
Favorite settings on your camera when shooting outside and what lens?
ISO 200-500 depending on if it’s the beginning of a session or into the evening when it’s getting a bit darker out. 35mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4 depends on what I’m shooting. They both have very lovely depth of field and are VERY sharp.
Do you sell digital files? if so how and do you require so much spent before that’s a choice, or is that a choice from the start?
They are included in my pricing. $850 which includes them and some products. Follow-up clients can get the session and files for $550.
What’s the first setting you set on your camera when shooting indoors?
Aperture depending on my type of imagery. Then ISO based on the darkness of the room I’m in. It’s become second nature really so I can walk into a given room/lighting situation and usually set the ISO pretty accurately right away to start with based on experience.
What program do you recommend for beginner editing?
Probably Photoshop Elements. I’ve never used it but I know that CS is a bit more complex.
Could you recommend a macro lens for beginners? Have you used different once during your career?
I used the 60mm 2.8G and the 105mm 2.8G (Nikon). Both are fantastic. The 60 is great for a lower budget and still is amazing quality. I love the 105 and think it’s a tad sharper and it has nicer bokeh since it’s longer.
Is it better to give a client a photo you aren’t 100% pleased with or just give less photos?
Here’s my take. I am compulsively a perfectionist and always hate something about an image. But I’m also realistic and know that sometimes I’m being too hard on myself. If the photo has a MAJOR flaw that’s one thing. I’m not giving a client an out of focus image. I am a professional and will distribute professional work. On the other hand, sometimes something minor like a baby having slightly curled fingers in a shot is not a huge deal to the client- and I may choose to give them that image if AFTER snapping it, I wasn’t able to get the baby in a more relax hand position. This might occur more with difficult babies that have resisted a lot of posing and haven’t slept well despite my preparations of them. In the end the work I give a client will always be great- but I won’t throw out a good image because it isn’t flawless if it’s a matter of having that pose (if it’s important) and not having it at all. I believe whole heartedly in quality over quantity but am also not going to nitpick to the point of only giving my client 10 photos when I usually give 25-30 for a newborn session for example. SO to answer, if I’m at least 85% pleased, they may get the image if it’s necessaryI don’t give duplicates of the same image/pose etc. I always give variety. So newborn sessions are 25-30 images if it’s just baby, and upward of 50 if they include sibling and parent shots and if i do macro. Kid sessions usually 35-40 and family sessions usually 45-50+
Any advice for an aspiring photographer to get started?
Respect the industry and don’t treat it like a hobby that can earn you money. It’s a legitimate career. Educate yourself on using your camera, seeing light, and of course most importantly, the business aspects of it including pricing.
How do you even start with newborn photography? I want to shoot newborns but have no experience whatsoever.
Being properly educated is really important. It’s one thing if you are going to take just snapshots of a baby. It’s another if you are going to attempt many poses you see that are popular in the industry. You need to know how to properly handle the baby, what to do with a child that had a birth injury, (broken collarbone for example) and how to pose a baby for sweet images but without hurting them. Too many people jump into it thinking “how hard can a newborn baby be” only to have all of the images look awkward, unsafe, and just tasteless because they don’t have a clue. Let me give you an honest clue- newborn photography is NOT enjoyable if you dont know how to properly handle the babies for a successful session- when they squirm, cry and look awkward the entire time. There’s a great pride in doing the job right and having a happy content baby because you know what to do to keep them happy and content. And safe. And comfy.
Have you ever been bullied in the photography business?
BIG time when I started. Still am sometimes. People are jerks. Shake them off
If you were only able to use 1 lens, 1 prop and 1 background for newborn photography what would they be?
A simple cream knit throw, 35mm 1.4G and my wooden puzzle bowl. Can I have a neutral flokati rug too?
Can you live without newborn photography?
What are the absolute NEEDS for newborn photos?
Posing beanbag (proper, not a tiny walmart one that isn’t going to stay firm and safe), heated space, good light, space heater, white noise, baby wipes, a few blankets for backdrops and a great prime lens. 35mm or a 50mm. Bare bones.
When taking shots from above, where do you place the baby in relation to the light?
So that the light comes from a 90 degree side angle.
How do you always achieve the look that the newborn is laying on a big upward slope?
Proper angle (me), *some* padding under the blanket, and tilting the camera
Have you ever used Expodisk for white balance?
I hate them. But I’m probably not using it rightI just use a grey card or set it with Kelvin.
How much impact does IS or VR (on a big lens, 70-200 for example) have? Hints on taking pictures in an indoor pool?
A lot! There’s a reason those lenses cost so much. I definitely have an easier time getting stable images with my 70-200 than my 180mm prime (before I sold it) because of the VR. And it’s twice as heavy!
Things to say/talk about to get natural looking poses in outdoor family photos? What kind of direction so it doesn’t look forced?
I just ask people to play with their kids, ask the kids to run at me, tell them I’m going to tickle them, etc. I gauge kids individually and obviously don’t just assume everything will work with everyone. I always converse with parents like friends (but professionally of course!) and earn their trust
With kids you have to really be excited to get them excited. Like “Okay when I count to 3, I want you to run and tickle mom until she pees okay? You have to get her REAL good! Are you ready??????”
Sometimes joking about the trials of parenthood make parents giggle and you get that “oh it’s so true” laugh out of them which is pretty genuine. Because although it’s true, they love those kids so much it hurts their gut. So it ends up being a content, genuine smile/laugh as they gaze adoringly at their kids.
Favorite newborn shoot story? Like a blooper
Pretty much any shoot where a parent gets pooped on. I’m sorry but that makes my day!
DREAM session? Think big.
A perfect newborn session in my new studio. Yep, I’m thinking big alright. Hey what can you expect from a girl that is stuck shooting in her dining room (although very well lit!)?
How often do you color your hair pink? I love it but I’m a chicken. Is it hard to cover up?
It fades out pretty quickly. I actually just went dark so I probably won’t do it anymore for a whileBlue is much harder to cover up and fade out. It really sticks!
When is baby #4 due????
Um, not for a while