More Than an Image Photography »

I frequently get asked questions by up and coming photographers… or photographers who have been in this business who just want to get a different perspective etc… (And I am a firm believer… we can ALL learn something from each other… no matter how much you know …or… don’t know!) ;)  So I have collected some of these questions and answered them here in this Frequently Asked Questions post!

My answers are by no means the right answers… You are welcome to disagree/agree… My answers are based on what I have personally learned in this business over the last 6 years!  I hope this is helpful to at least ONE of you!;)Side note: We are ALL still learning… I appreciate your questions and I appreciate your patience while I answered them!! I know you have been PATIENTLY waiting for this post and I won’t keep you waiting any longer!:)

1. I would love to know if you talk to your brides about doing first look sessions and how much time do you allow for that!
The short answer: (Because I can be a little too detail oriented … ha!)
Absolutely!  About 15-20 minutes… This also includes some time for creative bride/groom shots!

Long answer: ;)  I *love* first looks… however if the couple has their heart set on the tradition of him not seeing her until she walks down the aisle… I don’t force it.  I truly want them to make the decision that will make them happy but I do share with them why I think it’s a good idea.  Your day flies by & your time is so incredibly divided… you hardly have time to eat/drink/use the bathroom! Ha! But during a first look… You have a solid 15 or so minutes to have each other to yourselves… to really soak it in and embrace that THIS is YOUR day.  It’s HERE!Having documented several “first looks”… I can honestly say it is usually one of the sweetest, most intimate times of that day.  He waits… anxiously for his bride to walk up to him… he turns around and see’s her for the first time…. and it is just a “WOW” moment!  Emotion-filled… Intimate… Sweet… Tears… Smiles… Laughing… Hugging… “Can I kiss her?”… “I can’t wait to kiss you!!”… And guess what… You’ll remember that moment… and you may not remember the rest of your day.  Of course you’ll relive it through photo’s… but for that moment… time ticks a little bit slower… and its just you… and the love of your life… and guess what else? You get to see the look on his face when he see’s you for the first time!  Most church aisle’s are so long you may not even see your groom’s face when he see’s you for the first time… Many people don’t think about that…

The other benefit to a “first look” is that all of the portraits can be taken BEFORE the ceremony… most importantly… the bride and groom pictures… The time allotted for pictures is so limited and you know your couple wants creative bride/groom portraits…  but you have to fit formal portraits in there too and sometimes things get a little rushed… not to mention if they want outdoor portraits and the sun is setting…Unfortunately we can’t control that part!;)

2. How do you light receptions? On camera-bouncing works best for me…  If you bounce creatively-your reception is well lit and your pictures won’t look flat.  Pay careful attention to your surroundings… the walls, the color of the walls, the ceiling… etc If you need to bounce your flash backward rather than on the ceiling to create a good even glow… do it!  Do what works for you! :)  Many photographers use off-camera flash… and they station one light at one corner of the room…and one at another corner… and they use pocket wizzards/radio poppers etc. to communicate with their on camera flash… They both work…it just boils down to preference! :)  (You really have to experiment with ISO/Shutter/Aperture combination’s to find what works best for you in your event.)

3. Do you discuss time-line’s for your weddings? Most definitely.  I draw it out… Here is an example if your wedding starts at 6 and if I’m arriving at 3:30:
3:30-4:15 – Girls Preparation (Hair/makeup is usually done by this point) & Detail shots
4:15-4:45 – Guys Prep & Details
4:45-5:15 – Pre Ceremony formal shots
5:15-6 – Everyone clears out of the Venue & people to begin arriving/ More detail shots are taken at this time/candid pictures of people arriving

(It’s always good to leave some breathing room in there… inevitably… someone…or everyone will be running late at one point or another! I promise!)

4. How do you choose equipment? When I bought my first DSLR in 2001… I bought a canon.  I remember playing with both Nikon and Canon and since I didn’t know ANYTHING about camera’s at that time (And I mean…I. Knew. Nothing. Except I liked taking pictures… on Auto.) ;), I simply chose the one that felt the best in my hands….and looked the best through the viewfinder.  The Nikon made everything look foggy and orange tinted to me… I’m sure it was because I was looking at their lower-end (Hello! I was in my first year of college and had no $) ha! But the lower-end Canon that I COULD afford looked really clear to me… I chose based on that.  They are both GREAT cameras with pro’s and con’s… They will always be competitive and comparable!  Either would be a great investment!  In the beginning… I also could not afford those fancy lenses… the ones that cost as much as the camera… or… in my case back then, cost twice as much as my camera! God bless my little Canon Rebel… Not the Xsi or Xti…I’m talking the very first rebel 35mm camera! I wasn’t even digital yet!  When I upgraded to my Rebel Digital SLR… It was a little over $1,000 and I paid for it with grant money I got for A&M! (Sorry Dad!) He told me not to… I was kinda sorta disobedient… But what can I say…I’m a risk-taker! (Which by the way… I think we all should be risk-takers… Life is so much more interesting that way!  And we only have one life… why play i safe?)  Man… I really ramble! Sorry! Back to the topic… If you can’t afford lenses… and if you are in your first year… or 2 or 3… you may need to RENT them! At Borrowlenses.com they are reasonable…and they ship them to you!  You can work the cost of renting them into the price of your shoot and fore-go the expense of a $2000 lens!

5. When you first started out… how did you generate new business? In college I printed simple Kinko’s business cards & handed them out to everyone… and I always found a way to incorporate photography into a conversation… Not in an annoying way… just in a way that it related to the conversation being had.  Networking/word of mouth was so important… considering I didn’t have any money for marketing!  I gradually started charging for shoots… and word of mouth started to spread… That was probably around 2002… by 2005 I had enough business via word of mouth that I was able to go full time about 6 months after college!  Read the pedicure story here… It will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about!;)

6. What is your lens of choice? The lens you would never leave home without! 50 1.2 or 1.4!  But this is what I use each lens for…

100mm Macro f2.8 – Close up very detailed shots!
16-35 f2.8 – Wide angle shots
50 f1.2 or f1.4 – Portraits, Group shots, Couples, Ceremony, Reception etc… (If you are starting out- You’ll want the 50 1.4 for $350 vs the 50 1.2 for $1,400 (Both are great lenses!)
24-70 f2.8 - Formal Group shots (4 or more people)
70-200mm f2/8L IS II USM Ceremony mostly… Portraits (1-4 people), Some reception shots

580 EX II Flash

Here are great places to shop if you aren’t familiar! BH Photo, Adorama or Calumet.

7. Info about getting into photography…? This is a pretty generic question…but there are several things you can do:
a) Research the business part of photography… It really is about 30% photography and 70% business.
b) Learn your camera/equipment.
c) Figure out who you want to target… weddings, families, seniors etc.. and study!
d) Study from other photographers… forums… books…
e) PRACTICE- learn hands on!  Do as much as you have time for… You will learn MORE from experience…than anyone could ever teach you! I promise!
f) When you are ready to invest… Find a couple of workshops that you think would be truly beneficial for you to invest in…and attend them… (There are a ton of photographers holding workshops now… so really research this and make sure it will be worth your time/investment).

Keep in mind… there isn’t a right LIST of things you should or should not do… These are just a few I would do…if I were starting out now!:)

8. How do you pose your clients or get them to act and look so casual?
I truly believe this has everything to do with your personality as the photographer and how comfortable you make them feel around you… The more transparent you are… the more open they will feel to be who they are.:)

9. How do you get your pics to look SO clear and vivid is this attributed to your equipment? It has to do mostly with your lenses and your post processing.  You have to have something good to work with when post processing…  you can’t take a terrible photo and make it look fantastic with photoshop! I only use photoshop to “polish” an image!  With that being said, when you start with a clear picture… a little “pop” in photoshop…maybe a little sharpening will really polish that image and make it ready for final print/post!

10. I spend SSOO much time editing.  Are there tips on how can I reduce the time spent sitting at the computer editing???? The first thing I had to learn was I could not be a perfectionist and actually have a life… Let’s face it.  Most photographers ARE perfectionists… There is nothing wrong with wanting your work to be perfect… but when you consider the price you’re paying for that perfection.. You’ll learn to give it up!  It doesn’t mean your work has to suffer… it just means you need to choose WHAT you want to spend that time on.  Find a workflow that works for you… My workflow is this:
Cull images after upload
Perform a general edit using bridge (or lightroom if you prefer) on all images…
Label favorites for editing/blog
Convert RAW images to JPG & edit the favorites I previously labeled for the blog…
While the images are uploading to the www.collages.net event site I am preparing the blog post.
Portrait Session post processing time is about an hour… and 30 minutes preparing the blog post.
Wedding post processing time is about 4 hours… and 30-60 minutes preparing the blog post.

If you spend SO much time being a perfectionist… you will begin to miss out on the quality of life… and you will lose BALANCE.  Trust me… it is so easy to lose balance in this business… and get wrapped up in work work work!! The sooner that you understand that it is not necessary to sacrifice your happiness and quality of life… for your clients happiness… the better off you will be.  Set your clients expectations beforehand… and allow room for YOU to live life in between your work!   You both will be happy!

Here’s a short story for you… A couple of years ago… I had been spending nearly every hour I was awake… behind my screen… POST PROCESSING!  Now listen… You might love your job… but that doesn’t mean it is the only thing you CAN love… If my job was a surfer… and I did nothing other than SURF day in and day out… I think I’d need a break… another outlet! Don’t you?  It goes for ANY job!  Anyway… I thought my vision was getting worse so I went to the eye doctor and had a check up… She told me my vision was fine but my eyes were not focusing due to staring at a computer screen… HELLO! I was seeing triple! of EVERYTHING! Words, people, stop lights… everything.  THAT is when I drew the line… My body was saying… This is not healthy! No matter how much I loved my job… it wasn’t worth that! Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of what I’m doing?  That forced me to re-organize my workflow so that I was extremely efficient in my post processing… It was taking me 1-2 weeks to edit a wedding…and 3-5 days to edit a portrait shoot… I relinquished the control of being a perfectionist… and began my consistent new workflow… I was done with portrait sessions in a couple of hours…and weddings?  I was done in a day!   **Important Note -  Just because you can be done in one day… does not mean you need to tell your clients that they will see their pictures the day after their wedding.  WHILE THAT MAY BE THE CASE…. What if you had 4 sessions that weekend? Or 4 weddings back to back and 5 shoots each week for 4 weeks… You are going to HAVE to have some breathing room in there too!  You can’t work day in and day out and have zero “you” time…and love your job.  It is not possible.  You will burn out.  Guaranteed.  Give a time frame… “You can view your pictures in 2 weeks at this site…” etc.  If you get them up in 3 days… GREAT!  They will be SO excited!  But if you say “You can see your pictures tomorrow”… You work like a dog to get them up… while you are answering phone calls, emails, processing reprint orders etc… and if they aren’t up… they are disappointed and you are stressed! I’d much rather exceed a clients expectations… than fail them.  (So much for a short story…)**

And because a post is always better with a photo… I’ll leave you with this picture I took in Vernazza, Italy…  It seems as though everyone in Italy understands the value of time.  It’s the culture… work when necessary but always play!  ;)  It’s simple… really…  Time goes by way too fast… It is necessary to stop and savor it… The man on the right is Mario… He and his friend were working… when they saw me pass by.  I stopped to watch them work… From the looks of it they were fishermen preparing their lines… Mario looked up at me, smiled… held up an empty wine glass, raised his eyebrow and nodded his head… and before I could answer he poured me a glass of homemade wine!  Lori was with me…  she can attest to this… That wine was so good… She tried to buy a bottle! ;)  Mario and his friend shared wine… and a very valuable lesson with me… That day I learned… the value of one single… sweet moment.  Life should never be so busy… that we don’t have time to share a proverbial glass of wine with a new friend… It is necessary to stop what we’re doing and savor!  (And yes… I am speaking to myself…)

Here is Vernazza… Go Visit!:)

If I didn’t answer your question… please leave one in the comment box below and I’ll answer it in my next FAQ!

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  • Carie Magee - You are so very sweet to share all of your life lessons in photography! I love your stories behind it all and have some similar. My first good digital camera (Nikon) was bought by my husband, who went to get paper towels at the grocery store and came back with a camera, 2 lenses, and software. I had no idea what I was doing for a very long time, but now I just can’t get enough knowledge about it and there is so much to learn! My business has grown so much. I also love the life lesson of taking time for “ME” and am learning that the hard way since my business has boomed suddenly! My kids will never be 8, 6, and 1 again and frequently remind myself of that, but I appreciate you putting in this post as a reminder! I can’t wait to have 2 weeks off to play with my kiddos and document it all with MY camera on MY time! Thank you so much over and over again!

  • Sandy - Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with us. It really does help those of us just starting out or in my case giving up 20 years of unhappy jobs to do what makes me smile all day.

  • Maria - Thank you so much for sharing what you’ve learned and how you do things! It really is HARD starting out, and when you get to hear about, what you do to make things work for you, and sharing your knowledge..it helps out A LOT! Especially coming from an amazing photographer like yourself. Truly an inspiration!! Thank you ! :)

  • admin - Carie – You are so right! Your kids won’t be 8,6 and 1 ever again! And we won’t be able to relive yesterday.. it is gone forever! Sounds so dramatic! Ha! But… its true! I need to remind myself OFTEN! (I think this is my second “savor life” post in a couple of weeks!) haha! I’m so glad he surprised you with all of your equipment! No better way to get started…than to jump in with both feet and swim your way to the top! :D (Thats my life motto by the way!) ;) Thank you so much for sharing your story with me!

  • admin - Sandy- BRAVO! Don’t waste one minute of your life doing what you don’t love! I made a promise to myself in College that I would never do that! So YAY for being a risk taker! You won’t regret it!! :D

  • admin - Maria… You are too sweet! Really.. and you are right. it is HARD starting out… the hardest part for me was the “not knowing whether this was going to work or not” part… I had another job for YEARS before I went full time… Granted… it was a part time job but I was still in college! Stick with it!! So glad you’re doing what you love! :)

  • Lori the wineo - Ah, the things a sardine fisherman (who moonlights as a wine-maker) can teach you about life! What a trip that was. So glad I bought that dress and made you go with me ;) And I offered that guy some crazy amount for that wine. I wanted some rememberance from the trip to save for a special occasion. I did buy that other delicious bottle, which I saved and saved and finally cracked open the first time Jeremy told me he loved me.

  • Jenna - Hi Lacy, First, you’re amazing! I have watched your work grow and it has been so nice to see. I know the first time we spoke I was not really interested in actually taking your advice, unfortunately, but that was then. This post was really inspiring and I have appreciated your tip about lighting for shoots ever since then! As my work has grown I attribute that and say thank you! I realized I don’t know the first thing about being a professional photographer and right now thats great because I’m still focused on my college career but I do know that seeing your work has inspired me and I will continue to take inspiration from you :) One day when I am finally able to become one I look forward to hopefully taking some time out and learning all of the specifics, until then, thank you for your work!

  • Maria - Thank you for your comment about me sticking with it! I have given up a few times (due to money) and not feeling like I’m good enough to be doing this…BUT I LOVE photography! I too have a baby Rebel. I can’t invest in 50d quite at this moment..but I did invest in the 50mm. 1.4 and I LOVE IT! I will get there one day (is what I tell myself), but your work as well as others give me inspiration! It really get’s me all excited about it again when I see your pictures, that’s for sure! This is what I love to do, and I’m a stay at home mom; so for me to be able to do this full time would be amazing in itself! I’m having to research and learn as I go, and I still need to purchase photoshop(lol)..that MIGHT come in handy just a little bit huh? Thank you again for sharing what you do, and how you do it! Btw..your Italy picture is now my default screen saver (with your logo of course) on my computer! It’s a dream and will become a reality for me and my husband to go there on our ten year anniversary! :)

Kirbi & Jeremy… What a treasure it was to photograph your sweet little family again!!   Kensi is getting so big!! It’s hard to believe we did her newborn portraits 7 months ago!  Where does the time go!! And how in the world is she so tall already!!  Kensi is so curious…  She reminds me of myself!  I see shiny things and I get distracted! haha!  It was so fun to watch her look around and just take everything in! She is SUCH a sweet baby!!:)Kirbi & Jeremy… as always… you two are amazing! When is our next shoot? haha!;)Here are my favorites!

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  • Lacy Blackburn - I love love love the baby pictures you take. They are so precious! …makes me want another…and that’s really saying’ somethin’!!!

It seems like yesterday I was photographing Casey & Mike’s wedding… I really do not know how I am blessed with such genuinely sweet people! It is beyond me!! Casey recently emailed me to ask if I would shoot their family session for Christmas…and needless to say… it was my pleasure to be around this fabulous group again!! You guys are SO sweet!! Here are a handful of favorites!

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  • casey - thanks for making our photo shoot so enjoyable! you made this crazy bunch look FABULOUS!!! :)

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