Friday, September 2, 2016

The Hood Family

This week has been so stressful. We're leaving this evening for Mississippi and every day has been a crazy adventure. I cleaned the house probably 3 times, I had sessions, galleries to send out, and other business to tend to. I've been trying to finish all my work at the office so everyone's updated while I'm gone, since no one else really knows how to do enter the reports I do every week. And I was up until midnight last night packing. But it's all done. Today is my last full day at the office, and once DJ picks me up I'll get one last shower in before the trip, we'll get the truck all loaded up, we'll be off. 14 hours in the truck together. In a hurricane. Woo!

It really shouldn't be too bad while we're down there. I'm just ready to finally be down there. I have officially finished all galleries and have absolutely zero work to do while we're there, which is nice. (I will probably still be responding to emails though, so don't hesitate to shoot me one!) But anywho.

I really need to do more of these posts to show off my most recent work. I post all over Facebook and once all the hype is gone I forget about the blog. So, without further ado, here's the Hood family, along with their grandparents from yesterday evening on my property.

We were really worried it would rain, and seeing as I'm going to be gone until the 18th, and Olga's parents are leaving on the 10th for Russia, we really didn't know what to expect. But it all worked out. And the moodiness of these photos turned out pretty great too, if you ask me. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When the Internet Turns Ugly + A Change of Plans

I'm sorry it's been crickets over here for a while. I had some personal/business issues I needed to sort through.

Are you in any of those support groups for your creative specialty on Facebook or elsewhere? I am. It's where creative professionals and newbies alike go to share their struggles, success stories, or questions. Because let's face it. We're never going to know it all. And if you think you already do know it all, I feel sorry for you, my friend. There is always something new to learn.

Recently I received an email from a very angry bride. And I'm not going to sugarcoat it. She was upset. I decided to turn to a group on Facebook for some advice. And what I received in return made me change my mind about certain communities.

I've since resolved the issue and put it past me. It was scary and it hurt. A lot. But I did it without the help of that particular group, save for maybe three people who actually gave me the advice I had asked for. The others? Well, they went searching on my personal profile for reasons to have a problem with me. They told me to delete certain profile images, blog posts, and statuses. They told me I was a terrible photographer and extremely unprofessional. A few of them even called me racist after something about the Confederate flag was mentioned. (This particular conversation lasted hours and even went into the next day.)

After I cried myself to sleep like a baby, I did my research on a lot of those people. Most of them were brand new to the industry and their work showed it. I had shared with them ONE bad experience in my 12 years and even admitted it wasn't my best work. But their entire portfolios were lacking this 'experience' they'd been bragging about.

I was angry. I mean, I was outright livid. How dare these people talk to me that way? I put myself out there. I asked for help because I needed it and I was embarrassed in the process. And not just by them, but by myself. I regretted ever thinking #communityovercompetition was an actual thing to most people.

To the ones who helped me out and stood up for me, I am forever grateful. To those who felt it necessary to carry on an inappropriate conversation about racism and bash a fellow photographer, shame on you! You won't make it far with that attitude.

With that said, I've made the very serious decision to step back from weddings. I have booked 12 for this year, and have completed 6 so far. I have great relationships with the rest of these clients and have even booked one more for 2017. I have a couple of friends getting married next year, and I will gladly work for them. But I don't personally enjoy shooting weddings like I wish I did. I have more fun photographing families and kids, couples, seniors, and even pets! And lately I've really enjoyed collecting props and shooting styled mini sessions on my property.

I hope this decision doesn't offend anyone. I've had so much fun at my past weddings, and I've gained a lot of new friends and clients from them. But I can't force myself to do something I don't enjoy anymore. It's not fair to anyone involved. You deserve a photographer who will genuinely love to shoot your big day.

So what have I been enjoying doing more of lately? Graphic design.

If you need a logo, blog and/or Facebook elements, or even advertisements created, shoot me an email and let's chat! Or check out my Etsy store! Or if you need advice in photography world, please get in touch! I'd love to answer any of your questions. No negative judgement here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Confessions: I'm a Control Freak, and That's Okay

I'm a control freak. And that's okay. Why? Because it's how I get the absolute best images delivered to you.
You've done your research, I assume, before booking with me. You've looked at my work, and you've okay'd everything with your significant other prior to setting a date and putting down a deposit. (Doing this quickly allows you the date you want, or else we give it to someone else!) You clearly want me for a reason. You like my work, you like my personality, and you think we're a great fit! ...Which also means if you don't agree with any of those things, I'm not the photographer for you! And that's okay too, because I can most definitely steer you in the right direction. I have a giant list of other great photographers in the area that might be a great fit for you!

But the #1 thing you should keep in mind is that I like to be in charge during your session for a reason. Those photos you see on my Facebook page and website? The ones you loved? The very reason behind your decision to book me in the first place? They were created by me, using 100% of my own ideas and creativity and direction.

I love when you bring your own ideas to the table. I  don't mind discussing those things prior to your session, reviewing any Pinterest boards you may have made in preparation, or discussing poses you absolutely have to have, important shots you want for family members, etc. I get it. But during the actual session, it's a bit awkward to repeatedly tell you no when you suggest things I know won't wow you later. Because my #1 priority is you. And I most definitely want to wow you.

And this doesn't go for every idea you have, because some of your ideas are really great! I'm only really talking about those awkward locations you might point out. Maybe you wanted to find a cute bench, for example, and without really thinking about the surroundings, you point one out that sits directly in front of a public restroom. 

...I don't personally want to photograph you there. Why? Because I know you won't be impressed with a photo of you and your spouse and a men's restroom sign hovering above your heads. That's just not very cute. Unless that's your thing! (Although I hope not...)

And it's awkward because when I tell you no, it makes me feel like I'm telling you your idea flat out stinks. And that's not my goal. I will take ANY ideas you throw my way. But I want you to know I have this ultimate goal of giving you beautiful photographs to keep forever. Ones that you will want to hang on the walls in your home. And I have done it a million times, so I feel confident I can do that for you.

I'm a control freak. But that's okay. Because I know you'll thank me for it later.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why It's Important to Have a Relationship With Your Photographer

It's such a weird thing to talk about. When I think about it, I feel like I'm making people think I'm forcing them to be my friend. But it's not like that at all. I just care about my work. And I care about the people I work for. I mean, you don't want a gallery of really terrible photos, right? So how do you avoid that? It's very simple.

You form a positive, understanding relationship with your photographer.

It's common sense. You've got to understand it's a lot of pressure on us to photograph your families successfully when you don't open up to us. We need to know you to photograph your truest selves. And we already know what you want before you tell us. We know you want those candid, happy, smiley photos. I mean, tell me I'm wrong. No one wants to look back and think, Man, we look miserable! Your photographer is already a natural when it comes to making you laugh. We will do/say just about anything to get that winning shot. But it's still a difficult task sometimes. So what can you and your photographer do to make it just a little easier?

Well, for starters, I love meeting in person! It makes such a difference. Seeing each other face to face kills the nerves of being photographed because you'll get to know and understand the person doing it! It's why I offer free engagement sessions with every wedding package. It's a chance for us to hang out and get comfortable before the big day! And I'm a very enthusiastic person when it comes to my work, so I want you and I to get a feel for our personalities prior to being thrown into it. But if we can't meet for whatever reason, I completely understand.

There are so many other ways to keep in touch and get to know one another. Email is my number one form of communication with my busy schedule. One thing you should know about me is that I am just as enthusiastic through email as I am in person. (I am kind of obsessed with smiley faces and exclamation points!) I want you to know I'm passionate about my work, and you. You're not just another client, you're family! One other major reason to use email? If I need to freshen up on the details of our session I can always go back to the emails and reread them.

I am also known for sharing my cell phone number for texting purposes. This way we can keep in touch, even on the day of, just in case someone gets lost or is running behind! And I can't lie, I do love getting texts from clients later on down the road, sharing photos of my work on their walls, or even to book another session!

It is important to have a relationship with your photographer because she is customizing a session just for you. Emailing, texting, calling, meeting in person, etc. The conversations you have with her aren't just to get to know you, but also to map out the perfect session.

Let's say you're planning your daughter's big 1-year milestone session. Is there a theme you want to go with? Or maybe you just want to do a cake smash on a big pink blanket with her in nothing but a diaper to show off that cute little belly she's grown. Your photographer has so many great ideas from all her years of experience! She's seen what doesn't work, and what does. She's learned a LOT. So maybe you wanted to do that cake smash in the dead of summer in a grassy yard, but your photographer has seen it become a disaster in the past with mosquitos. She won't tell you not to do it, but she'll definitely share her experience with you, which would be really helpful information to have. After all, you wouldn't want baby covered in mosquito welts!

We are also very experienced on what does and doesn't work wardrobe-wise. Sometimes it's hard to tell a client we don't think the outfit she picked out will be appropriate for her session. But if we don't speak up, and we know it just won't look right, we may end up with an unhappy client blaming us for her pictures not being up to par. We want you to feel beautiful. And that means picking out clothes that are appropriate for your body type. We were here to help. Use us!
We want you to pick our brains. I have had clients text me outfit photos to approve. I've had people make Pinterest boards - or let me make them! - to give them some ideas of the session they want. Once we're all on the same page, we can have an amazing session, full of laughter and memories. Photography is such an intimate thing. You are letting someone into your lives, capturing the love you share. It's so important that everything be perfect. So don't hesitate to talk to your photographer! Get to know her, let her get to know you, and you'll be on the road to beautiful photographs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What to Expect After Booking a Portrait Session

I have the most fun at my portrait sessions. Weddings are a completely different breed, so when I get to pause from the mayhem and do a portrait session, it's like a spa day... Sort of.

Most of the time, I don't have to worry much about my clients getting confused about their contract or what their session includes. They might ask about wardrobe but other than that, they trust me when I tell them what time is best, what locations work, and how long the session should be, based on the number and age of children involved, if any. But I know there are still a few people out there who may not understand the entire process; the before, the during, and the after of a session.

So you've found the perfect photographer. Now what?

Well, after a few hours - sometimes days - of talking it out, sharing important info about your family and what you're looking for exactly, your photographer will write up a contract for you to sign, as well as send you an invoice for whichever session you've chosen, from which you'll either pay a full amount or a retainer for their services. (Also, I can't stress this enough... Please sign your contract and pay your retainer as soon as you receive them! Your photographer could cancel your session if not.)

And why a retainer? Well, this secures your session on their calendar. It is most often non-refundable, just in case you cancel the session after your photographer has already turned away a number of people for your time slot. Sometimes it is a percentage, sometimes it is a set fee. And I do get a lot of confusion about this sometimes, but a retainer is completely normal. In my small business I charge a 50% retainer for portrait sessions (mine are anywhere from $110-249) with the remaining total to be paid off up to two weeks prior to the session date. Clients can choose to split remaining payments into smaller installments, or pay in full. If payment is not made in full before the session date, the session will be cancelled with all payments non-refundable. All of this is stated in my contract. Which brings me to my next point.

Please, please, please read your photographer's contract! I seriously cannot stress this enough. The information they contain is so helpful. It will let you know what happens if you need to cancel, or reschedule, what would happen if it rains, what would happen if we go over your time slot, etc. If you don't read the contract, you're not completely in the know of what you're getting out of your photographer. And especially if you sign without reading, you could get yourself into trouble if something unexpected happens.

For example, I include a clause about overtime in my contracts. You are paying for a specific time limit, and if you are late, or if you arrive unprepared, you can either lose time from your session, or you can choose to pay extra for me to stay later, but only if I have the time. If I'm doing back-to-back sessions, for example, I wouldn't be able to lengthen your session and you'd have to book another one for later. I try to be as fair as possible, but that goes both ways. No photographer truly wants to charge you extra. It makes us feel terrible, and especially when you're a big family with kids that are most likely the reason you were late or unprepared in the first place. Because we get it! Kids are a lot of work. Even photographing them is difficult sometimes. But if you show up 30 minutes late to your 30 minute session and you assume your photographer will stay another 30 minutes without charging you, she will have been there for an hour, and ultimately for half the cost. And that's not fair.

So now you've gotten all the paperwork completed and you're just waiting on your session. The next thing you should start thinking about is the overall look of your session. Mainly, what you should wear.

This question pops up in my inbox every day. And I only really have two major things to say about it:
  1. Dress for the season
  2. Dress for your body type
It's such a sensitive topic for some people. But when you wear something that doesn't flatter you, it's possible you'll hate your photos, and it's actually quite possible you'll end up blaming your photographer. And although it's not right, it's something we do have to deal with from time to time.

Hair, makeup, and wardrobe are so important to a session. If something doesn't look right, it could ultimately ruin the entire image. So we take a lot of responsibility in telling you how to dress and present yourself because we not only want you to look fabulous, love your images, AND feel confident, but we want our work to appropriately represent our brand, too. So if you ask for advice and show up in something completely opposite of what we told you would photograph well, we might not feel too proud of the end result. It's possible you will love the way they look, but we've become snobs of our own art, and it comes with the territory.

I like to tell my girls to wear clothing that shows off their best feature. I'll use me for example. I have wide hips, so I avoid large patterns and stripes. These will make you appear larger in your images. However, I love my small waist, and I'm a huge fan of the high waist with a tucked blouse. In the summer, for example, it's hot and humid in Virginia. Try a lightweight tank tucked into a high-waisted flowy skirt in a cute pattern or color. Also - no shame - add a pair of spanx underneath to help ward off unwanted sweat and chaffing.

If you still find you're unsure of what to wear, send your photographer pictures of possible outfits, or if you live somewhat close, ask her to schedule a meeting to help you hand select items!

Once you've got your wardrobe, hair, and makeup figured out, you need to match the rest of your family. Use the same advice from above, but play around with it! The family photographed in this post chose to mix and match, and it still ended up really adorable! Mix solids with patterns, and choose colors that go well together.

What about small children?

You wouldn't want them wearing anything they can easily take off or tug on. This will cause too much distraction during a session, and could lead to difficulty in photographing your family at all. Opt for simple pieces, and dresses for little girls.


Make sure they're dress appropriately for their age. Watch out for the obvious. You don't want them wearing anything too revealing or inappropriate, no matter how much they fight you. A great tip is to take them shopping. This way, you get to see everything they try on and approve of it yourself before it gets purchased, and you'll have minimal drama the day of.

Hair and makeup?

Keep it simple. Don't overdo it. It's not your wedding day, and you're probably going to sweat it right off anyway. Go for neutral tones, but put a little extra emphasis on the eyes and lips. Photographers love those features the most. The right makeup can really make them pop in your images.

As for hair, whatever you know makes you look the best overall, do that. Put it up and add a pretty headband, or clip a few strands back and leave the rest down to blow in the breeze. Whatever makes you the most comfortable. For the boys, make sure they get a decent haircut. You don't want to regret it later.

Any general wardrobe tips?

Watch out for cleavage, dresses that are too short, etc. The wrong move and you might just flash some innocent tourists, or worse, your kids. I had a client wear a low-cut shirt and a bra that didn't quite fit. She bent over once and needless to say, I saw it all. And speaking of seeing it all, don't wear something too tight unless you're comfortable in it. I get emails from clients all the time with messages like, "Oh my goodness, look at my rolls! Can you Photoshop that out?!" No! I really can't. But if you opt for a looser-fitting shirt, you won't have that problem. Otherwise, you might be unhappy with your portraits. And I seriously don't want you to be, so put some thought into your outfits!

Okay, enough about wardrobe. What's next? Well, the day has arrived. It's time to leave for your session! What do you do?

If it's just you and your significant other, get dressed and leave. Seriously, we know you've got it together [we hope]. If you have kids and/or pets involved, however, that's a completely different story. And I'd like to say there are specific times in the day when they're on their best behavior, but we've all photographed enough kids to know by now that's not true.

Your kids are all different. They take naps at different times of the day, and they wake up in different moods. While Amy's 2-year-old daughter wakes up ready for anything, Samantha's 3- and 4-year-old boys wake up ready to kill each other. While Amy's daughter can quietly finish a small box of crackers on the way to her session, Samantha's boys get lollipops and won't let them go throughout the entirety of theirs. So how do you prepare for the best session experience?

Yes to naps, yes to snacks. I always tell my parents that regardless of how grumpy a child may be directly after a nap, it's so much easier to let them wake up and have fun at a session than to try and shoot while they're sleepy and uncooperative. And snacks are just a plus. But within reason.

What to Avoid:
  • Lollipops - These can stain their mouths, and stick to their skin and clothes if not careful, and if they aren't finished with it before their session, you might have a screaming child if you try to take it away.
  • Bribing with candy during a session - If you think this is a good idea, you might be surprised to hear it's actually not. Most kids will milk it and nibble at their candies to avoid having to take pictures, so it backfires more often than works.
  • Chocolate - Whether you're bribing with it or letting them eat it, chocolate is overall not a good idea. Somehow, no matter what the weather's like, it can still melt quickly in the hands of a child. Thinking about chocolate all over their clothes might change your minds about bringing this treat.
What to Bring:
  • A favorite toy - This could come in handy for kids aged 5 and under, and especially 1-3. If we can squeak a toy by our cameras and catch their attention, or if it makes them feel better to get a few snuggles in while we're shooting, by all means, bring it! The more comfortable they are, the happier they are.
  • Juice + a healthy snack - These will keep them hydrated and energized, and won't pose too much of a threat to the session.
Although the main purpose is to get family portraits, we do want your children to feel as comfortable as they would be if we were at your home playing outside.

If you're bringing pets, just make sure you're bringing them to an evening session after a day of play. Trust me on this. You do not want to bring a bunch of wound-up dogs to the middle of Colonial Williamsburg with thousands of tourists if they're going to go nuts. Make sure you take them on a long walk prior to your session, play some ball in the backyard, and bring plenty of treats and maybe one favorite toy with you to your session and they should be happy enough. They're pretty much the opposite of kids. If they took a huge nap right before our session, they're going to be overly energized and incredibly naughty.

Leave enough room for traffic before your session. This time of the year yields much of it. Although we understand traffic may be crazy and it may have been difficult to find a parking spot, etc., as mentioned in the beginning, you're missing out on session time when you're late. I am usually always early because I am an absolute paranoid mess. I used to be late to everything before I started my business, and now I'm either right on time or early. And the summer is my craziest time of the year. Prepare accordingly.

Your session was successful, everyone was happy, and we got some gorgeous shots. Now what? Well, I can only tell you what I do here because it's all I know.

When I leave a session I usually tell my clients right away what to expect within the next few days, and the next few weeks. Everything is also stated in my contract if anyone forgets. The first few days after a session, you'll notice a "sneak peek" on Facebook. If you are my friend - which I encourage you to be! - I can tag you and you'll be alerted right away. If you aren't my friend, I can probably email you to let you know they're up, but your friends and family won't see them unless you tag yourself and other family members involved. But the one thing I'm noticing lately is that not everyone allows my images on their walls. And I guess that's okay, but my business runs primarily through Facebook and word of mouth, and I'd really appreciate the extra shares!

After a sneak peek - or two - I finish your gallery and send it to you through email within two weeks or so. You can email it to friends and family and even order prints directly from each image, but it expires within seven days, so make it a priority to at least download and save them all to your computer as soon as you receive the gallery, and your contract is your right to print wherever you'd like. Some photographers will charge extra if you need to reorder your gallery. Make sure to ask them. I charge $99 for each reorder, for example, while others may charge $300. It just depends.

Interested in an evening session in the garden? Contact me today to schedule one! I am currently offering 15% through June!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

What Days Off Actually Look Like [When You're a Photographer]

It's 11:31 AM as I type this and I just finished answering emails, Facebook messages, texts, and comments. I've been up for a while but have been working since 9, so that just goes to show how much time is put into just the communication part of the business. I'm having my third cup of coffee and the kitties are snoring beside me. I'll probably read my book for a few, but after that, I'm diving head-first into weddings.

I have four weddings to finish within the next few weeks. Luckily July and August are empty of weddings for me, but I still have deadlines that need to be met. One of my brides is actually becoming a friend, so she keeps telling me "Take your time!" And although it's sweet, I'm doing no such thing.

Today is my day off. And this is what it looks like.

I chose to keep my full-time job, so I could never complain about that. But it does mean my life is super busy all the time. When I'm off on a Saturday, much like today, I'm writing blog posts like this one, editing photos, posting sneak peeks, answering emails (and random texts from my fiance), traveling to any sessions scheduled for the day, and writing lesson plans for upcoming mentoring sessions, which have become SO popular lately. I feel like my brain never shuts off from work mode, but I'm okay with that for the most part. My clients are happy, and that makes me happy.

But what else does a day off for a photographer entail?

A) When it's not a wedding day, I'm usually in sweatpants with messy hair. I have a cat on either side of me as I work, and there isn't a sound aside from my typing and the buzz of the air conditioner in the kitchen. I will spend the entire morning on the couch, tending to inquisitive clients regarding their photos, what to wear for their sessions, and maybe joke about their kids and/or husbands. Most of my clients build a friendly relationship with me, and that's the way I like it. What I do is just so intimate. I get to spend time with complete strangers and capture their personalities. I get to know them and their children. So to become friends before I even do that means you'll have a positive experience with me, and you can trust that I'll get the photos you want of the kids you just knew would be terrible the whole time (everyone says that, anyway). Most importantly, you'll be comfortable with me. So these days spent at home chatting with you really mean a lot to me.

B) On days off, there's a lot of coffee. I mean, a lot. I don't stop drinking the stuff until my hands are so shaky I can't type anymore. Everyone keeps telling me to quit. I'm going to have a heart attack one day, blah blah blah. But I haven't yet. I'm still alive. So bring it on.

C) I take a few breaks in between, just to take pictures of my cats. ...Because cats.

D) I will turn on Netflix occasionally. I actually do that a lot while editing. I like it on in the background, you know? Sometimes that silence is deadly and I'll lose my crap after too long.

E) If I do end up having a session or two - like today, I have one at 6 PM - I'll load up my equipment and head out, come back, and immediately post sneak peeks to Facebook. Lately, I've been coming home and nearly finishing a clients gallery right then. I'm crazy.

F) I'll do a little cleaning, fix myself some lunch, or work out. You have no idea how I sit on this couch all day when I'm working. My back is all twisted, my legs are sprawled out. I move in a dozen of these weird positions all day long. So getting up and moving around truly saves.

G) I set editing goals for myself so I can feel somewhat productive by the end of the day. For weddings, this often means a couple hundred photos per day. And I often get asked by new photographers and even my clients, "Just how are you doing that much at once?" with eyes wide. Well, I use CameraRaw to mass edit in Photoshop. No, I don't understand Lightroom, and I really don't care to right now. Maybe one day, but for right now, I'm good with CR. I am not a huge editor. A little tweaking and I'm happy. The photos you see on my Facebook page and website are SOOC (straight out of camera) for the most part.

H) I will have the occasional friend over. I don't get to see people a lot due to my busy schedule. It feels funny to me to say that right now, as this past week was SO slow for some reason. I feel like it was needed, but usually, I do have to schedule to see my own friends.

Especially when I have my students over, they have this goal in mind that they'll one day be an amazing photographer and get to stay home every day instead of going in for a 9-5. And I want to say sure! You can definitely have that one day. But the truth is, it's not always sitting around at home in a comfortable pair of yoga pants with a cup of coffee. It's a lot of organization, scheduling, driving to and from random sessions - and sometimes you'll even be gone for 16 hours for a wedding a few hours away! It's not a consistent job. You are not promised work. You have to push and push and push until you get where you want to be. And even then, you still have to put yourself out there every day to gain new clients.

I try to change people's minds every day from that mindset that they can simply run out, buy a camera, and make a fortune. It just doesn't work that way. And however glamorous most photographer's lives look, they still have a not-so-pretty side at home. The messy hair and dusty laptop, the overbearing animals who don't care that you're busy and don't have time to pet them - because there's always time to pet. The children who require your attention while your husband is at work himself. There's always something.

If you have any questions regarding photography or business shoot me an email and I'll feature your question on my blog!

Dixon Wedding
May 14th, 2016
Nags Head, NC

Friday, June 17, 2016

The 5 Things You Need to do Every Day to Become Successful

If you are here because of yesterday's post regarding What to Expect When Starting a Photography Business, then YAY! I'm so glad. While writing that post all kinds of new ideas popped into my head, and I knew I had to keep going with it, so I'm excited to bring to you another business-related post today!

Also, before I continue, I do want to remind my local photogs that my mentoring classes are booking quickly and will increase in price come September, so get yours now while they're just $175! And don't forget, you can book with a friend for 10% off! These are one-on-one and so very helpful if you're just starting out, but they're also great for the semi-professionals out there who need a little push in the right direction for branding, website design, social media and blog content, etc. I live for this stuff. So come over, have a glass of wine, and let me share with you everything I've learned in my 12 years!
What I'd really like to talk about today is the stuff we can do as photographers to improve our craft, our business, and our day-to-day routines. You see, we are extremely blessed to live in such a high-tech world. We have access to pretty much anything we can think of. Articles, podcasts, videos, webinars, and so much more. I am told often by my students that they just can't "afford" to learn more about photography, or about how to design their own logo, or blah blah blah. But I want you to know something... You don't have to pay a dime for most of it.

I am 100% self-taught, and I feel so blessed to be able to say that, but if you want the honest truth, I wish I had gotten just a little help when I was first starting out. I reached out to so many photographers. Being as busy as I am now makes me realize how annoying I may have been, but I just needed a little push, and I felt like most of them wanted nothing to do with me. I am finally at this point in my career where I have more of a need to help others than myself, and it feels so good. But I offer the help because I knew I could have used more of it back then. And I strive to not be like those other photographers who shooed me away when I pushed too hard. I was told I could sign up for their $800 class - with 40 other girls. But that didn't appeal to me. Quite honestly, it intimidated me. And, like my students, and probably you, too... I couldn't afford it. Hence my one-on-ones. I like them like that. They're inexpensive, and they're personal. And I love the feeling I get when my girls leave, knowing they have a friend in this industry.

But what about when you can't afford to sign up for a class, or you can't invest in that fancy lens you really want? Here are the 5 things you should be doing every day to become more successful, regardless of the equipment you already own.

1. Research anything and everything you have questions about.

You can literally type in any questions you have in Google and be provided with a wealth of information. I can't tell you how many times I've done it myself in the past. I always advise my newbies to research camera brands and models before buying one and then camera settings to learn how to shoot manually. For my more seasoned photogs, I typically send them searching for contract info so they can start taking their business more seriously. You can literally find anything on the internet. Use it.

2. Use Pinterest to your advantage.

This sort of extends from point #1. Pinterest is a great tool for photographers, and not just in viewing pretty pictures to store away for inspiration later. You can find useful charts and articles there to help you learn everything you need to know. Most are actually even written by photographers themselves, which also ends up leading you straight to their website for more fun info! Even if you're a professional and feel confident in your abilities, browsing Pinterest at least once per week will also keep you in the loop on updated techniques or poses. The worst thing you can do as a photographer is fail to evolve.

3. Invest in a book collection.

This has always been my favorite way to learn. I have books about the specific camera models I own (I advise every photographer to have one to flip through every now and then), about posing, about business, and even books about the history of photography in general. Anything and everything about photography can be found at the library and/or the bookstore. I buy most of mine online, as the bookstore doesn't carry a lot of them, but I find myself repeatedly opening them back up, so they never have a chance to collect dust. Whatever you can get your hands on, read every single chance you get.


4. Network with other photographers.

This is so incredibly important. You cannot be successful unless you network with people in your industry. I can't lie and say everyone is great to work with out there, but if you find a few people you enjoy talking to or shooting with, make it a habit to get coffee together once a week - or month - just to chat about the business, or any concerns you may have. We are all at different levels in our careers, so sharing what we know with others can help dramatically. Never compare yourself to [or judge] them, but instead, learn from them. For example, I am always changing my contracts due to whatever issues have arisen in the past through troublesome clients - I'm talking about the ones who find any ridiculous excuse to demand their money back, or ones I naively did work for without payment. A fellow photographer and I sat down together one day and reviewed our contracts, compared notes, and borrowed ideas from one another to improve our wording and what was covered within them so future issues could be settled more easily. It truly pays off to have a friend who understands. Make a point to find one and help each other out!

5. Follow some kind of routine.

Maybe you want to put on a sale every month. Or you want to finish galleries in a week or less. Or maybe you just want to write a blog post every day. Making a routine and sticking with it can really help you out, and it will also eliminate any stress that may be caused from running behind or being just a little disorganized. I've gotten to the point where I can get a gallery done in a few days for a small session and spend most of my free time focusing on wedding galleries instead - which end up getting finished in 1-2 months. Also keep in mind I work 45 hours per week during the day at another job altogether, so scheduling and setting a routine is extremely helpful for me. Whatever is important to you in your business needs to be placed somewhere on your schedule, whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly, in order for you to successfully accomplish what you want.

I hope this helps a few of you out there. Whether you're new to this business or going on five years of it, these five tips will keep you constantly up to date and organized to run a successful business! 

Have questions for me? Send them here and I'll feature them on my blog!