Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Around The House

I haven't been taking many pictures lately. This move has really been hard on me. I feel so unsettled. We're living at my in-laws. I don't like it here. I don't feel comfortable. I can't wait to get out. I'm beginning to think trying to start a business in the middle of all this wasn't such a good idea. I might have to extend my goal. I wanted to give myself a year, but it might take more time. Ugh! And I think I'm going to have to cancel my workshop in June. If we want to get out of this house, we need to save money and pay off debt. Spending hundreds of dollars to travel to Texas is not smart right now. I am so bummed!

I did get my camera out yesterday to take some pictures around the house here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Interview: Paige B. Photography

I am always interested in how other photographers got started so I asked Paige from Paige B. Photography to answer some questions about her business. You might recognize her as a contributor on Shutter Sisters.

1. What made you take the leap from photography as a hobby to photography as a business?

I studied art in college and ended up with a degree in graphic design, which is what I currently do to pay the bills. I have always loved visual arts and been interested in photography, so when I got my first dSLR about a year ago I fell in love and started practicing with it like crazy. In addition to loving art I also love kids and babies. So I started doing little informal “sessions” for friends with kids. And from there I started thinking, “Hey, I really like this and might be able to turn it into something more.” And since then I have just been slowly learning more and more about the business side of photography.

2. What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Practice like crazy. I don’t have kids yet so it is difficult for me to practice on kids. But I just talked to our friends with kids and asked if I could do a little photo session for them. And then they would pass the word to their friends. I didn’t charge them anything so I felt like I could really practice without a ton of pressure to be perfect. I did about seven portfolio building sessions in a few months time. But since you have kids definitely use them!

Also, poke around online for articles or helpful forums. Flickr has a lot of great groups to help inspire and to learn from. I don’t have any photography books but I did go to Borders several times and flip through them.

Oh, and don’t get discouraged when you feel like you’re not good enough! You will feel that way some days, but try to remember that everyone started somewhere. When I look back at my photos from a year ago I am amazed at how much I have improved and learned. So I have to remind myself that next year I will be that much better, and so on and so on.

3. If you could only have one lens, what would it be?

Actually, I do only have one lens! Well, technically I have two because I bought my camera with the kit lens, but I think I’ve only used it once or twice. The one I always use is the amazing Canon 50mm 2.5 compact macro. It is really great for close up portraits because you can get some amazing depth of field. I am ready for another lens though, so I can have more options. The 50mm is a fixed lens so I think it might be nice to have a zoom next.

4. How do you decide where to shoot on location?

This is especially tough for me because I moved to Omaha from Chicago right around the time I started portfolio building (in August). My husband is from Omaha though so he was able to show me some spots he thought I’d like. There was a nice big park where I did two different sessions. I liked it because there were a lot of different elements to choose from, like a stone staircase and a water feature as well as wide open grassy areas and areas with open shade under big trees. But for a couple of the other sessions I just went to people’s houses. This can be hit or miss because you have no idea what you are going to find when you get there. You might find a yard that isn't great for photography, in which case I would suggest moving it to a park. I learned that the hard way. I am assuming that once I start charging full prices the yards and houses with be fairly well kept though..

But to answer the question, I typically take into consideration where the people live and the ages of the children, as well as any requests from the clients.

5. How will you decide what to charge your clients?

This is probably the most difficult thing I’ve done so far. First, I would decide where you are going to order prints from. I’ve found that the two most popular companies are ACI and WHCC. Then you will know what your actual cost of prints will be. Then from there I looked up as many of my local competitors as possible and compiled all of their price lists. Next, I came up with a sort of a weird rating system to determine if their style and skill level are equal to mine. Then I chose the three photographers that were closest to my style and where I hope to be talent-wise in about a year. Then I kind of averaged their prices and made mine about 20% less (since I am just starting out). Confused yet!? In the end, I just picked numbers that seemed to look competitive while still giving me a profit. I am trying to remember that I can always change them whenever I want, if something isn’t working.

Also, here is a link that might help:

6. How do you or how will you market your business?

I think I do have an advantage when it comes to marketing because I am a graphic designer and have been working in the advertising/marketing world for about 4 years. But, I think the most important thing to have is a nice, professional looking website. I just purchased a Blu Domain website and have been working on getting it up and running before I start telling people about the business. If you tell people you have a business, the first thing they will ask is “What’s the website?”. This is especially important for a photographer because potential clients need to see examples. I also designed a logo and business cards. As soon as I have business cards, I plan on having tons of them with me at all times. There are websites that print quality business cards for a good price. And just make sure your web address is on the cards!!!

7. How does your family feel about you starting your own business?

Luckily my husband is very supportive. He is intrigued by the idea of owning a small business, so I think he is living vicariously through me. We talk about it quite a bit and agree that it would be a great thing for me to do. I will probably be part time graphic designer, part time photographer for a while. Also, we are hoping to have kids very soon, so it will be the perfect thing for me to do while being a mom.

The rest of my family is also supportive but I don’t know if they really “get it” yet. I think once things start picking up and they realize that this is not just some crazy idea I have, they’ll understand a little better.

8. What has surprised you most about the process of starting a business?

I was surprised by how much there is to learn. I truly know nothing about running a business. But over time as I read and observe, it starts to feel do-able. In the future, I hope to be surprised by how successful I am!

Thanks so much Paige!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

So Cute

How adorable are these diaper covers from RuffleButts?

I think I'm going to purchase a few for future shoots. In the meantime, Little J can be my model!

I also want these sweet leg warmers. Too stinkin' cute!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Broadway Bound

On Saturday, my mom, my sister, my little girl, and I went to see "The Little Mermaid," on Broadway. It was fabulous. We loved it!

Big J sat through the whole thing mesmerized. She got somewhat fidgety towards the end, but all in all, she behaved beautifully.

I didn't get to take a lot of pictures because my camera battery went dead but I did manage to snap a couple of pictures of my sweetie on the street and catching the subway.

This is my best shot for Monday. Doesn't she look so grown up?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring Has Sprung

The theme at Stacy's this week is Spring. How appropriate! We've been having wonderful weather here in good ol' NJ.

Not many flowers in my yard yet. Instead we've got glorious blue skies!

Check out all the other great shots at the Land of K.A.

Still Learning

I finally loaded some actions into Photoshop yesterday (#5 on my list). I bought one called Eye Sparkle Action from Holly at Pink Ink Studios. I want to purchase her Photographer's Assistant set too, but I need to save up some dough first. The Eye Sparkle one is cool. You have to paint it on so a little goes a long way.

I also downloaded Pioneer Woman's free actions which totally rock. I got a chance to play around last night and here are the results. Pretty cool, huh?

This one was edited in Lightroom 2 using the Aged preset.

This one was edited in Photoshop with Holly's Eye Sparkle, PW's Define and Sharpen, and PW's Vintage action. I didn't crop though so it could be even better. I just wanted to see the difference and I love it!

Which one do you like better?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My To-Do List

I decided to put together a photography to-do list to get myself organized. Here's how it looks ...

1. Register business name with the county.
2. Create business cards.
3. Create new blog header.
4. Create price list.
5. Purchase some new actions and Lightroom presets.
6. Find someone to help me with the PT4P products I purchased.
7. Figure out what I need for an at home studio during the cold winter months.
8. Organize possible props.
9. Rent a zoom lens from Borrow Lenses
10. Figure out how to use off-camera flash.
11. Create a list of potential clients and then e-mail them about any upcoming events they might need photographed.
12. Purchase Noiseware software.
13. Possibly buy a UV Haze filter. (Anyone have one? Thoughts?)

I think that's it for now. Oh and take pictures. Practice makes perfect, right?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Figuring Out Flash

For the longest time I've been shooting without flash. Everything I've read says that on-camera flash is the devil so I crank up my ISO to 1600 when I'm inside and shoot away. The only problem is all my pictures seem to come out soooo grainy and fuzzy.

Yesterday, my neice took my camera at a birthday party and started shooting with the flash. I just finished editing the pictures and hers came out so much better than mine. So if I'm not supposed to be using flash, what should I be doing?

Check it out ...

With flash:

Without flash:

In other totally awesome news, I got myself a logo. Awwww yeah! I was checking out a photography forum and found a fabulous lady who is just starting out in the design field. She wanted to practice so I e-mailed her and told her what I wanted.

So here's my best shot for Monday (again, it's not mine, but I'm so excited). What do you think?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Customer Service

Sometimes working at a studio can be exhausting. Not because of the work that I do. It's the customers that can be tiresome.

I was closing the other night and I photographed an adorable 7 month old. The session went well and I got a lot of really cute pictures. When the mom came back to view the pictures, she loved them. She was picked for a weekly drawing we have that gives new customers a free session and a free 8x10, but she wanted a few more shots so she asked about publishing them to the internet. Unfortunately, in our studio we have a policy that you have to purchase a minimum package in order to get your pictures published to the web. This upset her and she let me know it.

I apoligized and said that's the company's policy. I felt bad so I printed out a paper copy of all the images she saw during the slideshow. We're not supposed to do this, but I'm a sucker.

Therein lies the problem. I am the worst salesperson in the world. I feel bad for people. I have no backbone. And I think people can sense that. I'm a pushover. So how do I deal with this?

Starting my own business means dealing with customers all the time. I am selling myself essentially. How do I build up my confidence so that people don't walk all over me? What's the best way to deal with customers who want everything for free?

Any ideas?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Building My Portfolio

I added some new pictures to my portfolio set on Flickr yesterday. I took Julianna to my sister-in-laws house and naturally I brought my camera. I wanted to practice outside with the natural light. Here are a few of my faves.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Girl After My Own Heart

I stopped at the food store this morning after dropping Little J off at preschool just to get a few necessities. When I walked in the house and put thebags down on the table, Little J started whining. I couldn't figure out what she wanted until she started pointing to the bags.

"You want something in there sweetie?" I asked her.

I put the bags on the floor so that she could show me what it was that was making her crazy. Digging through the plastic with her chubby little fingers she pulled out a box of Brownie Bites.

What can I say. the girl loves her chocolate!

Monday, April 7, 2008

For Tiny Shutterbugs

I saw the cutest toy camera on photographer Angela Calderon's blog. Go check it out.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How to Fix Photo Imperfections

Stacy wrote a great post explaining different ways to fix imperfections in your pictures using Photoshop. I don't think children need a lot of retouching, if any at all, but there are times I'd like to use it to remove a scratch or maybe crumbs leftover from a yummy meal.

I'm still learning how to use all the tools she talks about so the tips she gives are really helpful. Check out her archives too for more great tutorials. I've also got a growing list of tips on the sidebar too!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Playing Outside

The weather was finally warm enough to go outside and play today. The baby was napping in her crib so Julianna and I went in the backyard. Unfortunately, our yard is really ugly so I hate taking pictures out there, but I need the practice.

Great Tip for Achieving Natural Skin Tones

This tip comes from fabulous photographer Melissa Jill.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Great Lightroom Tips and Tricks

I've been online for the last two hours getting lost in the sea of information out there on Adobe Lightroom. I just downloaded a free version of Lightroom 2.0 and have been reading as much as I can about it. I thought I'd share a few cool websites with you.

There's a great post that explains all the upgrades to this new version of Lightroom
Lightroom Learning Center
Lightroom Killer Tips

I also just discovered Scott Kelby. I've seen his name before on other photography blogs but never checked out his books. Well, I found his blog and then made my way over to this site. It's got tons of online classes taught by some of the best in the business. You can join for $19.99 a month or pay $199 for an entire year of access. I really wish I had the money to spend because some of the classes sounds fantastic.

Alas I'm left trolling the web for free advice.

My First Workshop

I put down a deposit on my first workshop. I'm going to Texas, baby!

I chose The Mamarazzi School because I love Sarah Q's style of photography. It's bright and fun and modern. If you haven't checked out her blog, you should get yourself over there now. They just set up a forum too!

I'm doing a one-on-one workshop so that I can soak up all of miss Sarah's knowledge about running a photography business. She uses Lightroom so I hope to get a little practice with that too. Mostly, I want someone to help me feel comfortable with my camera. I'm getting there but it can't hurt to have a professional give me the push I need, right.

I scheduled it for June 30th so I'll be sure to post my review and hopefully some fantastic images.

Oh and in case you haven't noticed, I listed a ton of really cool tips and tricks on the sidebar over there. Go check 'em out!