Nov 30, 2010

December 2010 Cover


Feature :: And, Don't Forget the Joy

by: Brooke Weidauer

Six years ago my college professor asked me a question that became my ah-ha moment. “What do you really want to do with your life, whether it be in the field of social work or not”. My reply, “I am not sure exactly what I want to do but I know this, I want to create.” Four years passed before stumbling upon photography and like many who are JSO (just starting out), I was obsessed. I think this obsession extended far beyond what’s considered healthy. I stayed up researching, googling, and critiquing my images late into the next morning. Does this sound dramatic? Because it was. It was intense. But, the world of photography brought me joy. When I began photographing clients this happiness intensified. I relished in creating a beautiful image, relished in seeing the client’s joy when they visually comprehended how deeply their family loved each other. I found joy when clients saw how beautiful they themselves truly were and I’m not talking about physical beauty alone. This brought me joy.

And then sadly this joy gradually molded into work. All work with just a pinch of joy. At times I literally prayed for rain to postpone a session or threw my camera in time-out, promising to not pick it up, ever. I had lost the joy and I knew it. I was going to go find it. I began by doing some soul-searching. I knew I was a perfectionist to my detriment. This was a good starting point. I continued to mentally note all of the things that were taking away from this joy and then I did something about it.

Here are a few things I learned along the way, beginning with my obsession with perfection.

Do not strive for other’s perception of perfection:

Pretty catchy title, eh? What is perfection anyway? It’s an insatiable concept. If we continually reach for “perfection” in our photography we will be left unsatisfied. Why’s that you ask? Because perfection is in the eye of it’s beholder, which is you of course. I believe with art, perfection is how we interpret it. Imperfections often translate as perfection. Understandably we hope others will appreciate our work but we ought to first love, nah, embrace our own work even if it’s not considered perfect by others.

Shoot just for fun and invite some friends:

When I am in a funk, a rut or simply losing the joy, I shoot for fun. I shoot for me. Whenever I photograph who, what, and where I want, I return home rejuvenated. Arrange a shoot where you are in control, where you choose the models and the props and invite some photographer friends. I promise you will feel refreshed and anew.

Don’t get too down on yourself:

I like to compare photography to a roller coaster ride. We need to expect that with the highs, we will experience lows. We can’t be too hard on ourselves; photography is a journey. Learning takes time and mistakes are our biggest ally. And after all, don’t most of us love roller coasters?

Continue to learn and try new things:

If you notice your joy in photography slipping, it may be a matter of boredom. Try OCF (off-camera flash), experiment with compositions, black and white conversions, or attend a workshop, anything to challenge and educate yourself.

Don’t neglect what matters most:

Meaning our relationships. Hours quickly pass while sitting at the computer. Discipline yourself to work x amount of hours a day and dedicate the remaining hours to your loved ones. Some may not have the luxury of limiting sessions but for those of you who can and who feel they are neglecting their relationships, do it.

Take the time to enjoy your work:

Often times we are either too busy or we simply forget to appreciate our work. Choose a time to sit back in your computer chair, rest your hands behind your head, pull up your past work and enjoy.

Remember why you started:

Like I said, for me it was about creating a beautiful image and also basking in the subject’s own joy. Think of why you became a photographer and then remind yourself of those reasons when you feel you’ve lost hold of the joy.

And now my friends if you are ready to throw in the towel, if you’re praying for rain, and your camera is sitting in time out then maybe it’s a good time to make your own mental notes and rediscover your joy.

Brooke Weidauer
Brooke Ashley Photography

Conquering Conformity and Comparison as a Photographer

by: Jessica Strom

So here I am, going into the third year of my ever-changing career as a child and family photographer and excited because 2011 will my first year with my photography being my full time focus. I've redone my blog every year, found a logo last year that stuck, and only just now, almost 3 years later, finally figured out my niche. What I love, what I don't love, what I want to say, how I want to say it and who I want to say it to. But the road to get here wasn't easy, no it was a long road full of lots of ups and downs and I learned a lot along the way. I am not setting out to be a famous photographer that people ooh and awe over like a bunch of star struck teeny boppers. I am setting out to be the best ME I can be and truly help families capture those sweet tender moments that so quickly pass us by.

Here's a little about me. Up until now, I worked full time during the week at a desk job to get my husband and I through the years he's spending getting his education. I live and breathe photography and only just now have gotten to a point where I can focus on it as my primary career. I have been in love with it since I was small and so it's been a natural flow for me to discover this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. When I first made the decision that this was what I wanted, I fell victim to the Curse of Comparison. I spent hours after hours looking at the works of many different photographers. Many I admired, some more than others, and there were some I wondered to myself how they could even call themselves photographers. I asked myself time and time again "What am I going to bring to the table that defines who I am?". I practiced and practiced and would look at the photos I was producing compared to the photos I'd see online and tell myself that I wasn't very good. And I believed everything my head was telling me and ignored what my heart knew to be true. I kept on and kept on. I saw the changes in my work as I moved along and grew. Tried to do what I could without spending too much money, but in the end, you always spend some serious cash. There's so many people out there telling you that they have what you need to be better and charge you an arm and a leg for it. If you're wise, you can tell what the good TOOLS are but you know that the only thing that is ever going to make you better is YOU.

As you continue to grow and ever-evolve, trying new things, learning what works for you and what doesn't, it's a natural thing to still compare yourself with other photographers. Some people get high on themselves, some get depressed thinking they will never be like so and so. But I'm telling you, just do your thing. Learn and appreciate what you have in front of you and grow on that. I purposefully avoid many of the most popular photographers' websites and blogs because it's turned into more of a popularity issue. Yes, those top photographers produce excellent photographs. But so do you. And so do I. And remember that they only ever show their best images online, so while you see photos you’ve taken that you’re not happy with, they see theirs too and might be wondering the same thing about themselves. And there's no sense getting down over your own work because you don't have 20,000 "fans" on your Facebook page.

The other curse that strikes photographers new to the industry is the Curse of Conformity. This one just kills me. They see what the popular photographers are producing and just copy the exact same concept in their own work. If it works for them, why not for you? Or the photographers who 'specialize' in everything. Specialize in maternity, newborn, weddings, children, seniors, pets, boudoir, etc, etc, etc. Don't specialize in everything! Pick what you're passionate about and specialize in that, dabble in the rest just to mix it up! For instance, take myself. I am gearing my entire business model and plans towards specializing in the time period of pre-birth to Kindergarten and involvement with promoting adoption stories. I dabble in couples, weddings, and the only pet photography I do is of my own dog. I tried boudoir photography and didn’t like it. I don't offer senior photography and my newborn sessions are lifestyle sessions instead of the cutesy portraits. That's just me. I have no problem recommending a fellow photographer who can meet needs I can't. I'm real. I'm not going to meet every person's individual need, but I will meet the ones I can and meet them as uniquely as I can. No cookie cutter photography from me and that's why people hire me.

In a nutshell:

Avoiding Conformity:

- Just because you see a growing trend doesn't mean you have to hop on the band wagon. If you like it and want to do something similar, do it because you love it so very much and please please put your own style into it. Imitation is NOT the greatest form of flattery. You can be inspired by someone or some other photographers but don't straight up copy another's ideas and props. Mix it up and let yourself shine through.

- It's all been done before, but there's never been a YOU before. Think of ideas that just get you excited and shoot them, don't constantly be looking for someone who has done the same thing you want to do and wonder how they did it. You'll surprise yourself with how going with your natural talent might get people wondering the same thing about you.

- Try and try again. Do and do more! Never stop learning and write down your ideas, your inspirations and how you can make something your own.

Avoiding Comparison:

- It's not fair to yourself to compare your work to that of someone who has been in this industry for a long time. All it does is make you feel less about yourself when your raw natural talent is great! Trust me, they've all been where you are right now and who knows, possibly still are. You know that old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Just as the paintbrush doesn't make a masterpiece, neither does a camera make that perfect portrait. It's the time, talent, and viewpoint of whose hands it is in.

- Avoid Craigslist. Two things could happen here. You could get a false impression of how to monetarily value your work and talent because most photographers who list on Craigslist (and I mean no offense) aren't photographers who have truly branded themselves and their art, a lot are hobbyists or some just getting started and needing to build their portfolio. The other thing that could happen is you could see the work of someone who you might consider to be less than professional advertising themselves as professional and get a little judgmental. We've all done it, it’s no secret. But that creates a stream of unhealthy attitude from you and puts down someone who could be in your very same shoes, just trying to get their name out there. But you will find that there are a lot of ways to get your name out there that does not involve the free classifieds ads. Word of mouth is the best way to go.

- Remember that you can hear the same story many many times but every time someone else tells it, it's a little different. Photographs have different perspectives and Photographers have different visions and voices.

What's yours? Who are you and what do you want your work to say to your clients? Don't conform or compare to, break the mold, create some beautiful photographs and chase your dreams. You’ll be surprised where your heart can take you!

By Jessica Strom

Jessica Strom is a portrait and lifestyle photographer based out of Overland Park, Kansas in the greater Kansas City metro area.



Are you Undercutting the Market?

by : Amy Leavitt

The past several years have brought a large number of amateur photographers to the photography market. SLRs are more reasonably priced, and the popularity of photography has grown. Many amateur photographers don't fully understand what they're getting into when they start their own business.

Which is why many of them are undercutting the market. Let me tell you upfront, I'm one that believes undercutting hurts the photographer more than it hurts the industry.

So ask yourself -

Have you researched your market? Do you know what other photographers in your area are charging? Are you low balling them to get more clients?

If so, you may lose your business. Or you may want to quit because you can never keep up with the workload, never get a day off, never stop thinking about work. You can only stay cheap for so long before a change must be made. If you're shooting and burning portraits for $100 and in a year you're drowning, so you raise your prices, do you think those clients are going to pay $500 for the same thing? Of course not. They will find another $100 cheap photographer. It's do-able, but very difficult since you'll be starting over with a new client base.

Let's get real: Undercutting cheats both the photographer and the client, and doesn't help the industry either.

So what do I say to those who are just starting out who feel they have developed their skills, but don't have enough experience to charge clients? Simple. Do a cost of goods sold. Research your market to see what others are charging. Put away all your negative thoughts and really set a VALUE on your work. Do you value your work? Because if you don't why would a client? Once you set a price, offer an opening promotion. Call it a "portfolio building" special. It can be 20% off the session fee, 50%, whatever. But your price will be set from the start. Everyone you come in contact with will know and you won't have to make changes later. Once you feel you're experienced enough, end the promotion and go on your way.

I know because I did it. Last year I was "that" photographer. I was super busy and I could never catch up and I thought it was because I was just such a good photographer and everyone loved my work. In time, I knew I could never keep up that workload. Shooting sessions just wasn't fun anymore. My passion was dwindling and I knew I had to make a change. I did my research and raised my prices and held my breath.

And no one called.

I had no bookings for two months. But I waited. Then the inquiries started to come in and I started to have the clients I've always wanted to have. Clients who believed in the power of photography. Clients who loved my style and were willing to pay for it. Clients who valued my work because they loved it and because I valued it. These are the clients who keep coming back. I have fewer, but better clients and my income has increased this year. And I have a workload that I can keep up with.

There's always room for the cheap photographers, as soon as one quits from overload, another is there to fill the spot. So maybe the issue isn't about if you're cheating the photography market, it's about if you're cheating yourself.

Nov 29, 2010

November 2010 Cover


Cover by Camilla Binks ::

Nov 24, 2010

Thanks Giving Give-Away by The Maternal Lens!!!

Hey fellow photogs!  I just ran across this amazing give-away by The Maternal Lens and thought you'd like to check it out yourself!  Ah-mazing prizes.  :)  Go here for all the juicy details...and good luck to you!

Nov 19, 2010

My Beauty Campaign

By Mandi Nuttall

For more information regarding Mandi's Beauty Campaign kits please go here.


Nov 1, 2010

5 Ways To Stand Out As A Photographer

There I was. Sitting at my computer staring at every wedding photographer's website that I could find. It was 2006 and I was a teller at a check cashing store. I worked at a slower paced store so I would use my down time to sit and stare at all of these beautiful wedding pictures. I began to realize that I was a bit obsessed with weddings and beautiful photography and started to think, if I like this so much then why am I not pursuing this? I've always believed, partially thanks to Oprah, that this world would be a better place if we all were brave enough to go out there and do the things that we love for a living, not just the things that we think will bring us the most money or prestige. So I decided to be brave and sat my husband down to tell him how I was going to spend a big chunk of our hard earned savings to buy a new camera and a couple of lenses. He was supportive so I bought a camera, two lenses and started studying and by studying I mean some serious serious studying. I read pretty much every article the world wide web had to offer. I read my camera's manual from cover to cover multiple times and THEN I started shooting. I practiced and then practiced some more. I mean seriously, there was some relentless studying and practicing going on, but I knew that I had a unique eye and could not give up on this no matter how hard it was. So I pushed on and after a while I realized that I didn't have to think about camera settings or what power level to set my flash to. I just did it. It was second nature. This is when I knew I was ready.

So, how did I start to stand out from every other person out there with an SLR that thinks they are a photographer?

1-I learned to shoot in manual. Not just how to shoot in manual, but I knew every little detail about my camera and my lenses. I knew when I wanted to use my 24-70mm and when I wanted to use my 200mm, and it wasn't just because I wanted to stand closer or farther away. Changing a lens can change so much in an image. I could stand back, look at my client and the background and know exactly what the finished product would look like with each different lens before I ever took the shot. I learned what every single button on my camera did and could change every setting without looking at my camera. I could guess what my settings should be and be pretty close to dead on every time without having to adjust. This is so important! It seems like everyone has an SLR in this day and age, but most people think that they are going to take amazing images just because their camera was expensive. They aren't willing to take the time to learn everything about their cameras.

2- I found my niche and stuck with it. How often do we visit a photographers site and see something similar to this: "Specializing in weddings, families, seniors, pet, commercial and sport photography". How can you possibly specialize in all of these things? I realized that although I love children and can photograph them well, I just can't photograph them as well as I do adults, nor do I like to. I would rather photograph weddings and stylized portrait sessions...period. These are the things that make me the most happy and that I can do the very best. So, although I am good at shooting families and children, I no longer offer those services. I would say, if you are just starting out and absolutely need the money then okay, take any job that comes your way, BUT don't post those pictures on your blog or advertise them in any way otherwise you'll never have people hire you for the types of shoots that you actually want, meaning you won't be as happy or as successful as you could be. Only let people see what you want them to eventually hire you to do. Period.

3- I branded. I have always known that my style of photography is passionate, sexy, dark and moody, however, my first website was vibrant and sassy. Mistake. I course corrected as quickly as I could and created a new site and blog that matched my personality as well as the personality of my images. My site is now black and leather textured. It's moody and sexy just the way I like it. And I continue that trend with everything I put my name on. My business cards, stationary, even CD cases are all uniformly branded. This has made a huge difference for me.

4- I use Facebook and Twitter to promote my business. I know a lot of photographers that do not have fan pages or even link to their site on their facebook accounts. Why? Facebook is free advertising and I can honestly say that atleast 50% of my business comes from Facebook in one way or another. I enable my clients images to be viewable by all of their friends with their permission. Their friends comment, which makes my clients super happy and sure that they hired the right photographer, and it shows all of their friends the kinds of images that they can get if they hire me. Facebook is HUGE! Make sure that you are using it to it's full potential.

5- I shoot for myself. This ties back with finding your niche. I personally love stylized shoots so I make sure that at least once a quarter, if not more, I style a shoot the way that I want to, get a model and shoot for fun. Not only does it keep my creative juices flowing but it shows my clients what I am capable of. A lot of times clients don't know what they want until they see it. They will see what you love and begin to ask for it. I can honestly say that by doing these 5 things my business has taken flight. I couldn't be happier!