Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Photography Inspiration

I'm a creative creature by nature. I love looking at pretty things and making pretty things. If I don't have things to inspire me... well... I feel like my little creative flame goes out.

I think that is why Pinterest and the internet was created... to satisfy my addiction. ;)

I wanted to share a few people who inspire me the most.

These people really don't know who I am (creepy?), but I have been following their work for years. I hope that seeing their work inspires you too.

Gennine's Art Blog

The first is Geninne from Gennine's Art Blog. I know, her work isn't photography, but hear me out! My first love is drawing and painting. I do not discriminate on what pretty thing I am looking at. Nature, jewelry, graphic design, colored glass, photography... they all have inspired me in one way or another.

(Side note, she takes pictures of her work space and it makes me drool every time. I seriously want to live with her)

River Luna

The second person is RiverLuna. You may have seen her work on Etsy if you look for watercolor paintings. I actually purchased this print from her Etsy shop:

I adore her work and her style is gorgeous. Take a look at these:

PDX Photographer

One of the newest sources of inspiration is PDX Photographer. I first found her on a facebook group for photographers and fell in love.  These shots are from the Woodburn Tulip Festival:

Her Etsy shop is pretty amazing. You should go take a look at it Here!


The next person you should look at is a photographer that I recently started following. She is based out of Australia and her business is called Jinkyart.

What I love are the colors that she uses in her editing process. Its a dreamy childhood fairytale and she gives that feeling in each image. That is something I've always wanted to accomplish with my own work.

I am assuming that she also does some photoshop work adding in animals and other things that aren't actually in the shot. This can definitely be accomplished, but those dreamy colors?! I need to figure out how she does it!

Paint the Moon

The next lovely photographer that I follow is a lady based out of Oregon like me! She shoots with Nikon and does amazing things in Photoshop. She mainly sells Actions, which are photoshop presets that kind of do the editing for you. I would love to purchase these, but think I need to master making my own edits before hand. Her website is called Paint the Moon and her muses are her two adorable daughters.

Look at the pic below and what it was before she edited it! Amazing right? 

Jasmine Star

Finally, when it comes to business expertise and how to handle clients, choosing venues, growing your business and becoming a better photographer, there is no one else that I love more than Jasmine Star. She is phenomenal.

I have essentially gone through all of her tutorials on her blog to improve my own photography and improve my business as a whole. She takes great photo's but manages her clients and social media like a champ.

Who is your inspiration? What is your inspiration? Keep it close. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Client thank-you packages

I always feel like I should thank people for believing in me enough to take their family portraits, or engagement sessions, or newborn portraits. You might think why?

There are so many other qualified and highly talented photographers out there that could just as easily take great portraits for them, yet they chose me. Plus, I don't like just sending a USB in an envelope without something else in there as well!

It seems.... lonely.

I decided that normal thank-you cards were too boring. Why not get something that is a little unusual? I wanted to include a unique touch to my thank-yous as well. You'll understand why...

When I was younger, my aunt would always put confetti in all of the cards she gave me. Now, it was messy but I loved it! It was like a little gift in the card. That is what I wanted to do with my cards.... except the confetti are large cutouts compared to tiny shreds of paper (you can see them in the picture below).

I got this scrapbooking kit at Michaels and absolutely love it! Now, these are meant to be put in a scrapbook of course, but they are perfect for using as cards to clients. :)

So... what do I include in my thank you package?

  1. The card and confetti in an envleope.
  2. The USB with their images.
  3. A couple of images I had printed from mPix.com.
  4. Sometimes I include little journals or oragami or small items that are cute.

What do you think would be good to include on something like this?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I only shoot with prime lenses.

Many photographers have their own style and preference of gear and how they use that gear. There is always an ongoing debate: Nikon vs. Canon and Prime vs. Variable focal length. There is no right or wrong unfortunately, it just depends on what you want your pictures to look like. The right gear and knowing how to use it will give you your desired photograph.

So when I took the dive into photography and tried to find the gear for me, I knew I had to figure out:

1) What my style was and,
2) How to achieve that style.

I knew that I LOVED all of the images that were very bright and had beautiful blurry backgrounds (bokeh) and those were the images I wanted to create. So.... I did research on how to achieve those.

  • I listed all of the photographers that I love and follow: Jasmine Star and Paint The Moon
  • I read EVERYTHING they posted about their gear, why they used it, and when they used it. 
  • I realized that they all used Prime lenses, mainly: 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm.

So, you're probably wondering what the heck a "Prime" lens is! I wondered that too. I first went to Jasmines blog post about her gear HERE and discovered why she used hers. Let me list what it does first, and then why.

Prime Lens 101:
1) Lets in more light than a standard zoom lens, so you naturally get brighter pictures. This is because its apeture (or lens opening) opens wider. 

2) It is at a fixed focal length (meaning it can only focus on something at a very specific distance away... which is determined by the mm number on the lens itself, i.e., 35mm, 50mm, etc.) which gives a beautiful blurry background to everything else that is not in focus.

(If you want a better explanation, go to this link)

Now you can see that a prime lens achieves exactly what I wanted, and matched my shooting style. So what do I use? 

The 35 mm gives a great wide angle. This is good if you want to get the landscape in with your shot. Like a really really wide landscape. 

The 50mm is my baby. I use this to shoot everything if I have nothing else. It is great for portraits and getting a little closer to my subjects. 

The 85 mm is perfect for being able to shoot something farther away. I use this when I want to stand back and let the action happen and capture the candid moments.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How to: Family Portraits

When I first thought about family portraits, I was really scared. It wasn't necessarily working with families, it was the thought that they may not like what I shot for them. I thought about what the clients must be thinking about. I worried they would think I didn't know what I was doing, but you know what? I decided to give my first 10 sessions away free!

Why? I needed practice. I wanted to make sure I could show clients what they were buying. I wanted it to be perfect.

Nothing is going to be perfect. But what happened, to my surprise, was that I got better, and through these sessions (and posting them to facebook), I had people reach out to me asking if I could do their family portraits. What a confidence boost, right?

How did I prep after the client said yes?

0) Client information: I make sure to put the client on my workflow checklist first and get their contact/mailing information. You can customize your workflow and use this template I made. 

1) Pinterest: Look for Pose ideas // Wardrobe ideas // Venue ideas // Prop ideas and make boards for your reference.

 I looked for all of the "pose" ideas I could. I don't like posing clients, but when you don't know what to do with them, its good to have ideas to refer back to. I LOVE using my iphone to open the Pinterest app and refer back to my board. It helps to show clients the pose before so they know exactly what to do.

2) Make a board for wardrobe ideas on pinterest and email it to your client.

3) Email the client other pertinent information, along with the address of the venue you chose and the date and time. Remember, lighting is always best on the golden hours of the day: 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset and this changes through the year and location of where you're shooting. I recommend googling this.

4) Day before:
  • Charge both batteries
  • Put all lenses in camera bag
  • Reformat at least 3 SD cards so they're empty and ready to use. 
  • Print all contract paperwork and put on clip-board
  • Print "Next Steps" paperwork for clients on what to expect when you're done with the session, i.e., when to expect their portraits, where to purchase re-prints, etc.

5) Day of:
  • Double check all gear is together and with you
  • Check that gear is working before you leave
  • Charge phone or tablet and have it on pinterest so you can get your board when you need it
  • Let clients know your shooting style. I typically let them know that if I'm quiet and not saying anything, its okay. They also know that means they are free to fix a stray hair, give a kiss, etc. I like to capture natural and non-posed candid moments. 
  • Ask the clients if they have any other poses or ideas before we go. Sometimes they see things on pinterest too!

6) After sending all of the portraits to the clients: Send a thank you card, hand-written, letting them know how much you appreciate that they chose you to capture such special moments in their lives. Also, let them know that if they refer you, and you get booked by their referral, they get some kind of free album or canvas. Word of mouth is how you get clients! Your clients are the ones who really get you business.

There are many more things you can do after... posting your work to social media, sending business cards and fliers to their friends, etc. These are just the nuts and bolts that I have put together for myself. Hopefully you'll find it useful as well!

- xo

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jasmine Star: Ultimate Photographer and Resource

Every once in a while, you stumble across something so awesome that you cannot keep it to yourself. Examples being, great shopping websites, hair stylists, recipes... a supplier for free passes to the Nike employee store.. you get it. I have that one golden resource at my fingertips. I almost feel guilty because I didn't have to go out and figure out most of the things I know about the photography business myself. What is this resource I'm talking about? Jasmine Star.

She. Is. Amazing.

When I emailed her and asked if I could feature her in my blog, she emailed back saying yes, and was so so sweet, I squealed a little inside. 

When I first realized I wanted to go into photography, I wanted to do a lot of research about what makes someone successful. I mean marketing, SEO, networking, business cards, etc. are all things that other people have much more experience than I do in terms of the photography business. It's a service. You're selling yourself and your skills. That's something I am not good at naturally. So when I stumbled across her blog and saw her story, I was like, "hey, I totally get her! I get what she went through!" From that point on, I always went to her blog and found helpful advice.

Jasmine started out like me. I wasn't always in photography. She first was going to law school (and you can read her story more in depth on her blog), but at one point in her life she realized that the only thing she wanted to do with the rest of her life was be a wedding photographer. Before this happened, at her wedding she really grilled her own wedding photographer about all of his gear, etc., and was more interested in what he was doing and so in awe of his job that she became inspired to do what she's doing now (at least from my reading of her story)!

The best part about Jasmine is that she shares all of her secrets. She shares all of her knowledge and provides ways for you to be successful as well. Currently, she is gearing up for a class on Creative Live (which is one of the other resources I highly recommend). Her class is:


You can click on the image above to link to the page or click here.

It is essentially everything you'll need to know about being a wedding photographer, and guess what? Its FREE!!! You have to be online to watch it at the specific times, but it is totally going to be worth it.

I fell the need to talk about a few places on her blog and website that really helped me grow as a photographer.

1) Her ENTIRE blog is a resource. I don't think there is anything that doesn't help me. 

2) Her website is where you can look at her work and link to her store to purchase some of the resources she's made for photographers. I personally purchased her email communication packet. It is so hard for me to think of what to say to people in a professional manner that I bought what she put together to make sure my bases were covered.

So what have I learned from her that most impacted me and my photography? There are a couple things actually. 

1) Follow your passion. Jasmine didn't let anything keep her down. I see that and how successful she is now and that makes me realize I can do it too. I just have to keep going. You have to keep going.

2) Support one another. Photographers don't need to be catty to one another. We don't need to feel threatened. The client chooses us based on our style and there are many clients to go around. We should send clients to one another when we know that we cannot help the client or are booked. This helps tremendously to create a network and have constant work coming in.

3) Keep learning. Push yourself. Create. (Technically these are three things, but I think they work well together.)

Next steps? Grab your camera, laptop, and a cup of coffee and get creating!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to start your own photography business

Newberg Newberg

My story is a little different than most. The path that lead me to photography was a long windy one. I switched from art to major into business... So needless to say I have some background in both photography and business. That does not mean I am an expert! It just means that the advice I give is information that I have synthesized from the years of learning and experimenting in both fields.

Right now I'm a high school graphic design teacher with this business on the side. It feels like a crazy whirl wind, but I love it. That is the kind of thing that happens when you have too many passions.

I know the struggle is real for people who want to start a photography business and I think I would have benefited from someone synthesizing all of the knowledge about photography business for me early on. Like with no b.s. and with nothing held back. So that's what I'm going to do for you. :)

The reason I had this idea was because one of my students said that he wanted to become a wedding photographer. He knew after being in my class and watching his family friends wedding that he was more interested in taking pictures than anything else. He asked me how to start his own business... That opened a huge can of worms. Like I seriously unloaded my brain on this unsuspecting kid. Not sure if he took anything away from the conversation but he had extensive notes I have him.

The first thing I said is that he didn't have to have a degree to do it, but If college was the route he was following, he needed to major in photography with a minor in business or vice versa. Major in whichever doesn't come most natural to you because that's what you'll need the most help with. 

Now if you're going to take the "I just decided I wanted to be a photographer instead of what I've been doing for ten years but don't have time for school," route, then you'll want to read the rest of this blog. ;)

There are two main areas that you need to focus on and be good at: 

  1. Photography // improving your skill and craft.

  2. Business and Marketing. 

Sounds simple? Well there is a lot that goes into all of that. Lets talk about number 1 first: Photography and improving your skill and craft. 

Practice: You're selling a product/service so you need to get better at what you do constantly. People choose you based on what your images look like. Your work needs to be fresh and stay with the trends. Right now "Lifestyle Photography" is in. No one likes the posed family pictures anymore. They want more candid and natural portraits. 

  • Plan how you are going to capture those. 
  • Practice with friends and their families. (That's how I started. I gave free packages to family and friends in exchange to have them be my models). 
  • People wont start to hire you unless you have a great portfolio of past work to show, so practice and get that together! 
  • Use the rules of design: The rule of thirds, color, contrast, depth of field (I'll go in more depth in later blog posts). 

Know your camera: You will never, I repeat: NEVER get better unless you know the fundamentals of your camera and photography. You must master how to use these three parts of your camera: 

  1. ISO: sensitivity of your camera's sensor to light. 
  2. Shutter speed: How fast your shutter closes. This determines how much light goes into the camera and hits the sensor. 
  3. F-stop: this is the depth of field that your camera captures. Rule of thumb: The smaller the f-stop number, the shorter the depth of field your capturing (meaning your capturing something up close with a blurry background). Increase your f-stop to capture things farther away. 

Combined, these three parts will allow you to achieve the best images possible.

2. Business and Marketing: You must have a business liscense and EIN (tax id number). I organized my business as a LLC which stands for Limited Liability Corporation. This means that I have limited liability if something happens legally. I can not have my personal property seized, etc., but that the business is the only entity that is liable (God forbid anything crazy from happening). You have to figure out how you want to form your business but the most basic is an LLC. 

  • Start to form a plan around: How you'll get paid, how to track your revenue and expenses for taxes and personal reasons, how to market on social media, what packages to provide clients, how to prep for a shoot, what to do after a shoot, how to contact clients in a professional manner. I will post about all of these later, but it's good to start thinking about!
  • Create a free website or blog. This should be where you direct all of your clients to look at pricing and your previous work. It should include content about you and how to get ahold of you. My website holds all of this information. Take a look here.

  • Get organized on your workflow. A workflow is just the things you must do in order to go from start to finish with a client, starting at the first email or meeting with the client, and ending with a thank you note or package.You can see mine below:

If you like my workflow feel free to download the document to help you out. Its free! :D

Click Here for the workflow doc.
  • Form a business and get a business license (all in one step) on your states website. Usually $100 for two years with renewals every two years after that.
  • Apply for an EIN. This is for tax purposes. You must report all taxable income for your taxes and your EIN is the way that the IRS identifies your business.

     These are the most basic building blocks but are essential to your business. The rest will come...


    Marketing is another can of worms... The best thing to do when you start is to do some work for free and get word via word of mouth. That is how I pretty much booked my summer. My next blog post is on marketing yourself. This is a huge component of what a photographer does. Its hard because it is just you doing all of the work, so you have quite a bit to think about. The first thing to start thinking about is creating a list of all the photographers you admire and want to imitate, and why. This can help you define your style and describe it to clients.

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