What camera should I get?

What camera should I get?

Looking for an entry-level camera, but have NO idea where to start? This guide will help you find the perfect one for you!

I'm on a PODCAST!

I'm on a PODCAST!

I’m on a podcast! Listen to the latest CINEMANIA episode “Entrepreneurship - Becoming Your Own Boss” for insight into running a full time creative business, deciding whether or not to go to college, going from zero to dozens of clients, my #1 secret to stellar customer service, and of course, BUBBLE TEA!

Grab My Instagram Success Guide

Grab My Instagram Success Guide

Creatives, this one's for you. Introducing: Lena's 5 Steps to Instagram Success Guide! Surprisingly simple yet powerful strategies to increase your engagement and build a rock solid foundation for your social media strategy.

Lena's Wedding Day Survival Kit // What's In My Bag

ROCK YOUR BIG SHOOT!

 
 

It took me seven years to write a
“What’s In My Bag” post…

But as I sat down to write it, I realized there’s a whole lot more that powers me through a wedding day than camera gear.
I crafted this list to showcase all my favorite things to help me rock a wedding day, from shoes, to hand cream, to my go-to lens.

 
 

Canon 5D Mark IV

My main body is the 5D Mark IV - with wifi, a touch screen, and unparalleled low-light noise handling, this camera purchase was way overdue. I can send a photo to my phone during dinner, edit it on my phone in VSCO and Lightroom Mobile, and post it before the wedding is over! Hello extreme sneak peek!

Canon BG-E20 Battery Grip

I have never owned a camera without a battery grip. It may make your camera a bit bigger, but it holds two batteries (which often gets me through an ENTIRE wedding day without ever even changing them). The biggest reason I use it? SIDE BUTTONS! I can shoot vertical (which I do for 7/10 photos I take) without straining my elbow to the sky. The shutter, along with focus point buttons are on the side of the grip, making your camera right-side-up regardless of vertical or horizontal shooting.

Canon 5D Mark III

My backup camera is the 5D Mark III. This was my main body for over 3 years and 230,000 shutter clicks - and still looks brand new. 

Canon 50mm f/1.2

My one true love. I could (and have) shot an entire wedding with just the 50. This incredible piece of L glass performs miles better than the 1.4 - it’s sharp, with unparalleled bokeh, great with low light, and minimal lens distortion (which you correct in Lightroom anyway). If I were to use one lens for the rest of my entire life, this would be it.

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8

Ok, sometimes we need to go wide. The 24-70mm is my favorite for the reception, because I can hold it above my head on the dance floor and shoot, shoot, shoot! Getting pullbacks of the bride getting ready, fun dance shots, and full venue shots are key with this lens.

Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB CF Card

The fastest out there. Tried and true, I have 7 of these and buy fresh ones every year.

Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB SD Card

My camera has dual card slots for CF and SD. When you shoot with both, your camera will read and write at the slowest speed (always the SD), so make sure you get a fast SD card or your camera will have a hard time writing the files while you’re on burst during the first kiss.

Canon Speedlite 580EX II

Simple, effective, and can even flash on BURST - which is why this makes this my favorite flash. The built in diffuser is so handy, and the commands are simple. It's not a battery guzzler, I go through one set of batteries on 1/4 power for a full wedding day and use fresh ones for the next shoot.

Locho Satchel Camera Bag

I love this bag! I have purchased from the Cheeky Lime family before and had that bag for 3 years (before passing it down in the family to my second shooter). This bag doubles as a messenger bag, shoulder bag, AND backpack. I love wearing two straps, but needed to find a “backpack” formal enough for weddings. This bag is large, has a nice amount of zipped pockets, and the leather is gorgeous. 

Locho Camera Strap

Still keeping it in the family, I couldn’t pass up a $9.99 camera strap from Locho as well. It’s so comfy and more padded than the original Canon strap. 

AmazonBasics AA Batteries

48 batteries for $11… *adds to cart*

They’re packaged in sets of 4, so it’s super easy to throw in 2 sealed mini packs for my flash for a wedding. I will never buy batteries at the store again!

Macro Filters

Did you miss my love letter to the $9 macro filters? Instead of spending $800 on a macro lens for a handful of ring shots, get these - $7.99 for 4 macro filters, and you can stack them, too. These ones fit the 50mm 1.2, but you can search any mm lens thread!

Zazzle Business Cards

I've printed with Moo and Vistaprint, but my favorite is Zazzle. These extra thick, glossy business cards are sophisticated and simple. You can upload your own designs or customize pre-existing designs (and boy are they snazzy). Zazzle is constantly running sales - wait until you can get 40-50% off packs of 100, so you'll pay around $15 for them!

Kate Spade Business Card Holder

For so long, I didn't keep cards on me because of how dirty they would get in my purse. Then, I'd have an embarrassing exchange where I would write my info on the back of a receipt. I got this as a gift and I can't stop showing it off! Card problem solved!

Safety & Bobby Pins

Take a trip to the dollar store and grab some packs of safety pins and bobby pins to keep in your bag - you never know when they'll come in handy.

Command Hook

Just in case there isn't a convenient place to hang and photograph the dress, bring a command hook with you. They hold up to 5 pounds and you can stick them anywhere for perfect hanging.

Bride Hanger

I keep this wooden custom bride hanger from Etsy in my car in case the dress is on a plastic generic hanger - mine says "Bride" on dark wood with a white bow.

AmazonBasics iPhone 5/6/7 Cable

6 feet cables smoke the 3 footers. I’ve had two for over a year and they still work perfectly.

Lush Honey Trap Lip Balm

For the creamiest lip balm out there made with honey, a hint of mint, almond oil, shea butter, and white chocolate. 

Lush Charity Pot Hand Lotion

I keep a mini 1.7oz container of this in my purse at all times - it’s self preserving, which means there are a lot of cocoa butter, olive oil, jojoba oil, aloe, and more. Plus, 100% of the price goes to small grassroots organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights.

Lush Dirty Solid Perfume

Just in case it’s a really hot wedding day… I keep solid perfume, which is the exact same size as my lip balm tin, in my purse to rub on my wrists or neck in case I need to refresh.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade

For eyebrows that don’t melt on a wedding day or get smudged pushing your camera up against your face all day… this stuff changed my life. A container lasts me about 5-6 months! Smudge free, waterproof, LIFE. SAVER.

Tom's Natural Moroccan Crochet

For breathable, comfy shoes on a summer day, definitely wear Toms. I can’t wear heels while working a wedding, so I spend the past two years wearing these - they’re simple and cute, however they do not provide arch support.


 
  Photo by Mei Lin Barral
 

These are the tools that help me rock a wedding day!

Do you have any products or rituals you swear by to have the best wedding day?

Share in the comments!

XO, Lena

Bet You Can't Guess My Best Sales Strategy!

 
 

Clients want - and NEED - to trust their vendors. Nothing can turn a relationship sour like one party feeling like they've been taken advantage of.

This is why my personal sales strategy is honesty. When I meet with prospective clients, I aim to be totally transparent and treat them like PEOPLE, not dollar signs - because if you value dollar signs more than you adore your couples, then the wedding industry is probably not the best fit for you.

Listen to your clients' needs, and craft your services around them.

 

Couple A's timeline is teetering between cutting 30 min off dancing and upgrading their package to the tune of $500, I will always suggest trimming the time a bit. If I stay an extra few minutes, that's fine! But if I know in my heart my clients really don't NEED to purchase extra time, I'm not going to suggest it.

Couple B is paying for the wedding themselves, and really liked that I include a print release and album company recommendations in all my packages, because they didn't budget for a professional album. Am I missing out on an album sale? Sure, but I'd much rather my clients be secure with their decision then stressing out because they blew their budget on something I pushed.

Couple C is having a small wedding and getting ready in the same hotel - they definitely do NOT need a second shooter, and I'll be the first one to tell them that!

Don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon when someone orders an a la carte album or an additional hour. Still, you never want a client to doubt your integrity or advice for any reason. Just go back to the golden rule - treat others as you want to be treated!

 
 

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Are You Making These Website Mistakes? Especially #3...

Are you guilty of any of these website mistakes? Here's how to fix those problems TODAY!

1) Have your contact info instantly accessible

Everyone has a contact page. BUT, you need to have your email address, phone number, and social links on your HOMEPAGE or even better, the FOOTER of your entire website so that someone can connect with you and your social channels in less than 5 seconds.

If your contact form has mandatory wedding questions on it, be sure to separately list your email address. Nothing is more irritating then trying to send an album of wedding photos to a florist, and I can't contact them without inputting my "wedding date" and "venue". Don't ignore the other people trying to contact you - press, fans, photographers, and people trying to do you favors or give you MONEY!

2) Write an about page that makes you proud

If you could substitute your name on your about page and the copy could apply to someone else, you're missing something HUGE. Speak in the first person, not third, and make sure to include minimum THREE unique facts about yourself. This could be your story, favorite things, family, etc. Make sure that a client could tell someone three unique things about you and your personality before ever meeting you.

3) Give your clients a clue about pricing

Imagine you're shopping for a new couch. You're looking online and found an AMAZING, adorable sofa. But the price isn't listed ANYWHERE... on any of the products! Not even a ballpark. However, there's another great sofa online that DOES... buying that couch is much easier than sending the company an email and waiting for an answer, just to find out it may be out of your budget in the first place. Frustrating, right!? Lesson: ALWAYS INCLUDE A PRICE POINT. I'm not a fan of listing your complete collections, but you should want to make your prospective clients' lives easier by including a section on what to expect when it comes to pricing. This can be phrased as "Most couples invest $X for their wedding day" or "Portrait collections start at $X" In turn, you're saving time answering emails to people who's budgets are way off from your prices in the first place. Win win!

4) Go mobile, ditch the Flash player

If your website is Flash based or not mobile optimized, remedy that immediately. The numbers don't lie - when I look at my analytics, 50% or more visits to my website are on mobile. If your website is looking less-than-perfect on tablets and phones, you're missing out on impressing clients! Switch to a website platform with integrated optimization, like Squarespace or Showit.

5) Fix slow load time

Let's admit it, we really do have short attention spans. Artists have very image-heavy sites, which slow down load time. Remember to always downsize images before uploading them. Check your site's load time on free websites like GT Metrix or Pingdom - and they'll even give you suggestions on how to improve!

Let's banish the bad website - and set yourself up for success!

 
 

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The Photographer's Spring Cleaning Checklist

 
 

Happy Spring everyone!

You clean your home in the spring, throw out items you don't use, and organize the things you love - why not treat your business the same? Here is a spring cleaning checklist you can use to energize your business before busy season hits!

Physical

  • Order new album samples

  • Update your business cards

  • Stock up on stickers, ribbon, boxes, mailers, tape, batteries, misc supplies so you’re not making runs to Target during busy season

  • Send camera gear in for yearly cleaning and maintenance

  • Buy new memory cards and chuck the oldest ones

  • Make sure your bag and straps are working well, if not purchase better ones

Facebook

  • Update cover photo + profile photo

  • Update about and contact info

  • Schedule posts every other day, if not daily

Instagram

  • Update bio + profile photo

  • Save time and plan out your grid - I plan using Later.com

Website

  • Update all portfolios and DELETE any portfolio photo or blog post that isn’t vital to your brand

  • Update copy on your bio, contact info, links, etc

  • Add new testimonials

  • Blog at least once a week to keep traffic steady

  • Revisit SEO keywords

  • Hyperlink all phone numbers + email addresses on footers, contact page, etc

Email

  • Create a new email signature

  • Get than inbox to ZERO and vow to reply to all client emails within 24 hours

Misc

  • Make sure your copy and branding is up to date on any sites like WeddingWire, The Knot, Google+, etc.

  • Send thank you notes and surprise gifts to vendors if you didn't over the holidays

  • Schedule some coffee dates with photographers and vendors in your area

 

HAPPY CLEANING!

 

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3 Quick Hacks to Make Your Daily Tasks A Breeze

Hey everyone! It's been a year since I last shared some must-have assets I use every day for my business. I've been introduced to new products, and after months of using all of these, I wanted to share with you! So - 3 more things that give me precious time of the day to spend doing more AWESOME things:

 
Crane_Estate_Castle_Hill_Wedding-28.jpg
 

Later.com

Nessa Kessinger introduced me to this amazing Instagram post scheduler at a workshop in NYC this fall. 

You drag and drop on your calendar and preview your grid on the website or app. You can schedule the time and write the caption, and when it’s time to post, it pushes a notification, photo, and caption to your phone to post on Instagram. I never have to worry if a picture “fits” in the grid anymore. Once a week, I schedule all my Insta posts and I save tons of time and headspace!

Price: 30 posts/month FREE - and if you sign up with my referral link, we both get an extra 10 posts free per month!

MileIQ

Amy & Jordan turned me on to the ingenious Tinder of mileage trackers. You download the app, and it automatically senses and logs all your drives. Like a fairy godmother in the background. Every few days, I’ll open the app and swipe LEFT for business or RIGHT for personal! You can export monthly reports and even annotate the drives. Every penny counts when you can deduct $0.56/mile on your taxes.

Price: 40 drives/month FREE or unlimited $59.99/year, but get 20% off if you sign up with this link!

StudioNinja

You know it’s time to get client management software when you have a sinking feeling that you’re forgetting something. Keeping track of email leads, who needs to set up a meeting, who you need to follow up with, if you’ve sent that booking gift yet, who has paid their retainer, who hasn’t signed their contract yet, which questionnaires go with which couple… IT’S MIND BOGGLING! Luckily, there are CRM systems for that!

I tried out a whole bunch of programs. Honeybook, Tave, ShootQ, 17hats… the list goes on. They were great, but none of them did exactly what I needed. I tried StudioNinja and loved it! Everything from the moment an email lead comes in, to quotes, invoices, contracts, questionnaires, online payment, scheduling, income statements, and workflow management. Hallelujah!

Price: 30 day free trial, $215/year but 50% off your first year!

Want to find out 7 more INCREDIBLE assets I use for my business? See Part I HERE!

 
 

Note: I'm not sponsored by any of these companies, I'm just a coupon queen and love PASSING ON referral discounts!

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7 Ways To Energize Your Creative Business In the Off-Season

Winter blues got you down? Are you BORED out of your skull, cursing the snow under your breath every morning? Sounds like off-season syndrome! Turn off Netflix and get excited for your upcoming season! It's gonna be a great one! Here are SEVEN ways to energize your business in the winter... leading to a SMOOTHER season and a HAPPIER you!

 
 Wedding season is over... WHAT NOW!?

Wedding season is over... WHAT NOW!?

 

1) House Cleaning Checklist

Physical

  • Order new album samples

  • Update your business cards

  • Stock up on stickers, ribbon, boxes, mailers, tape, batteries, misc supplies so you’re not making runs to Target during busy season

  • Send camera gear in for yearly cleaning and maintenance

  • Buy new memory cards and chuck the oldest ones

  • Make sure your bag and straps are working well, if not purchase better ones

Facebook

  • Update cover photo + profile photo

  • Update about and contact info

  • Schedule posts every other day, if not daily

Instagram

  • Update bio + profile photo

  • Save time and plan out your grid - I plan using Later.com

Website

  • Update all portfolios and DELETE anything that isn’t vital to your brand

  • Update the copy on your bio, contact info, links, etc

  • Add new testimonials

  • Blog at least once a week to keep traffic steady

  • Revisit SEO keywords

  • Hyperlink all phone numbers + email addresses on footers, contact page, etc

Email

  • Create a new email signature

  • Get than inbox to ZERO and vow to reply to all client emails within 24 hours

Misc

  • Make sure your copy and branding is up to date on any sites like WeddingWire, The Knot, Google+, etc.

  • Send thank you notes and gifts to vendors if you didn't over the holidays

  • Schedule some coffee dates with photographers and vendors in your area

2) Submit to wedding blogs 

I use TwoBrightLights to submit to wedding publications in the winter. If you’re not familiar with TwoBrightLights, it’s magical - you upload ~100 photos to a wedding album, choose colors / themes / keywords, tag the vendors, then hit SEND to submit to a publication. Not a fit? No worries! Just press “resubmit” on that album to send it to a different publication. No more time wasted submitting all the information over and over again, resizing images, etc!

I take ~45 minutes to gather 100 photos from the day, input the vendor data on the TBL album, and research publications that would be a good fit for that wedding. By doing this, I’m marketing my work across 2-15 magazines and blogs AND building a reputation and a stronger press section on my website. 

3) Review years expenses & make changes

It’s tax season anyway, so reviewing my profit and loss statements is key. I update spreadsheets with my final cost tallies for the year and analyze the data. Wow, I spent $594 on postage? How can I cut that cost by at last 10% by using different shipping materials? Looks like I was a little short on my projected portrait session income, why was that the case and how do I market my portraits as much as my weddings? Where did I overspend, and how can I cut costs? This is a great year to re-calculate your expenses, as running a business gets more expensive every year. From here, work to lower your operating expenses and raise your prices as needed.

4) Plan your goals

Tell me what you want, what you really really want... SORRY, that song seemed very appropriate to sing while making a goals list. Take a few minutes to write down your goal list for the year. Look at last year’s list, and see how many you accomplished. Why didn’t some happen? Were they based more off luck / the actions of others, or did you fall short in some area? If you’re achieving more than 80% of your goals, you need bigger ones!

5) Dig for inspiration

Stop digging snow and start digging for inspiration. I use this time to become better at shooting indoors with natural and studio lighting. I let the artistic side of my mind wander a bit more, and plan out either indoor winter shoots or outdoor spring shoots as the weather improves. Take a look at your portfolio and try to see what’s missing, and fill the gap.

6) Get schooled

I’m reading educational blogs all year round, but winter is a great time to make some cocoa and start taking notes on educational blog posts (like this one!). Sign up for webinars (there are many free ones!) and look at workshops for the upcoming year. Some of my current favorite educational blogs and email lists are Ashlyn Writes, Shanna Skidmore, Cat Coquilette, Psychology for Photographers, and Ben Sasso.

7) Make some passive $$!

Have great shots from your last road trip? Flowers in the garden? Outtakes from your last ocean session? Might as well capitalize! Set up a print shop on your own website, or if you want life to be even EASIER, just create a Society6 site! It's FREE! Take 1 hour to gather images, create an account, post your products (you simply upload the photo, tag it, then click all the products you want to sell from that image!) and make some passive income. If you’re into making your own presets, put them up for sale!

Do you have more ideas to bring some life into your business in the dark winter months? Comment below!

 
8Q5A0834.jpg
 

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How I broke into the commercial world

Happy February friends!

This post has been on the tip of my tongue for months now - and I'm so happy to share it with you! One of my most frequently asked questions is,

"How did you get into shooting commercial work?"

 One of my first favorite stock images - and the face of SheStock for a while!

One of my first favorite stock images - and the face of SheStock for a while!

When I first started taking pictures, I was always photographing my friends and the crazy things 15 year olds could get themselves into. Even after I started my wedding & portrait business, I continued to shoot people, especially teenage girls and young women, for the sake of fun and fashion. Before interning with the incredible Barb Peacock, she sat me down in her perfectly Pinterest office, with vanilla candles glowing, Bon Iver humming softly in the background, and a hot cup of tea, she said, “Lena - you should be shooting stock.”

 Behind the scenes on a car wash stock shoot (in Barb's driveway!) - Props to anyone that recognizes my second shooter on top of the car, Jenny!

Behind the scenes on a car wash stock shoot (in Barb's driveway!) - Props to anyone that recognizes my second shooter on top of the car, Jenny!

What is stock photography?

Everyone recognizes those cheesy photos of businessmen shaking hands across a desk and pretty women laughing while eating salad. Yup, that’s stock! Stock photos are images ready to be licensed by companies for commercial or editorial use. Example: Bank of America needs a photo of an Asian couple with two kids hanging out in their modern living room, they log onto Getty.com, search and find an image, and it’s printed on their brochures next month.

In the commercial world, the models and even the home or location needs permission to be sold (they signed a model or property release saying it’s A-OK). Old school stock photos have a pretty bad reputation, but there’s an amazing new wave of stock that’s high quality, lifestyle-driven imagery that kicks ass! You wouldn’t know that 80% of my portfolio on my website is all available to license for stock, would you? Go check out the work of the photographers at ImageSource and SheStock, the work is inspiring!

 Behind the scenes of one of my biggest stock shoots! What a production!

Behind the scenes of one of my biggest stock shoots! What a production!

And, stock relates how?

I signed with SheStock shortly after I turned 18, followed by Getty Images that summer, and ImageSource the following winter. I shot my ASS off from the end of high school onwards, submitting hundreds of images to these agencies for license. I was getting monthly statements telling me fragmented information about who was buying my photos - The New York Times, Hearst, Conde Nast, Microsoft, AOL - I was floored! Granted, most of those were selling for online use for $0.49 an image. And then my cut was 20% of that. But what a pretty penny it was (literally)!

Once my images began circulating around the internet in a more widespread way, luck took over, as it usually does. The snowball effect is VERY real. An editor at The Boston Globe saw an image of mine through Getty, then reached out to me to shoot the COVER of the April 2015 edition of Boston Globe Magazine. I screen all my calls, so I remember ignoring the unknown number at 10am on a Sunday, immediately listening to the voicemail, then FREAKING out!

 My best friend and her boyfriend in a very embarrassingly titled Cosmo article (my first Cosmo feature though!)

My best friend and her boyfriend in a very embarrassingly titled Cosmo article (my first Cosmo feature though!)

 Save! All! Your! Tear! Sheets!

Save! All! Your! Tear! Sheets!

I kept screenshots and tear sheets when I found my work floating around. I don’t see the end product of 99% of my sales, because that's just the way stock works. But stumbling upon a published photo feels like a surprise party and Christmas and rolled up in one! (See surprised CitiBank face below)

One night, I got a frantic text from my friend Cam (one of Barb Peacock's sons) - “Lena! I’m in a Citibank ad!?!” I had no idea what he was talking about. About a year before receiving this text, I traveled to Chicago for my first spring break and did some stock shooting out there as well (making it a business trip, hello write-offs, but that’s another blog post). We stayed with Cam's brother and his roommates. One of the roommates happened to bank with Citibank, and saw Cam larger than life on the wall one winter day. I flew to Chicago a few months later and took tons of selfies with it!

From Cosmopolitan articles to AT&T ads, I built up a commercial portfolio and used the experience and tear sheets to pitch to companies I wanted to shoot for (Successful examples of me reaching out to shoot: Urban Outfitters, Blaze Pizza, Free People).

 Shooting at Fenway Park for the opening of Blaze Pizza

Shooting at Fenway Park for the opening of Blaze Pizza

I now regularly shoot commercial, editorial, and fashion work!

 Shooting with Urban Outfitters Boston - we collaborate at least once a month!

Shooting with Urban Outfitters Boston - we collaborate at least once a month!

 Pool party stock shoot! Sometimes you gotta just jump in.

Pool party stock shoot! Sometimes you gotta just jump in.

So that's the interesting trajectory of how I went from shooting weddings and babies to commercial and editorial fashion work!

More questions? Always down to chat!

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How to attract your ideal client

 
 

Close your eyes. I want you to imagine your dream client. What are they wearing? What does their home look like? What kind of food do they like? Are they savvy shoppers at Marshall’s, or do they love a splurge at Anthropologie? What kind of art do they enjoy? Are they silly and funny, or serious and passionate?

Construct your ideal client. This is the person (or type of couple) to which you are marketing.

You attract what you put out.

If you’re a bubbly, outgoing football fan who loves grilling and running and has two kids… your friends probably have kids, like football, and run with you in the morning. The same goes for business! If your online presence (and natural personality) is cosmopolitan / city chic, you mention that you love shopping at West Elm, and you have a soft spot for French cuisine, the clients who actually book you would have already connected to your personality and likes, and are more likely to be a potential friend as well as a client.

You can scatter little tidbits about your personality and likes on your about page as well as on your blog to give your potential clients bridges to connect to you.

So how can I get the chance to shoot at my dream venue?

Go through your portfolio and show only what you want to shoot. If you’re done shooting mid-range hotels and want more barn weddings, then take down everything shot at a hotel. Showcase your barn weddings on the home page and throughout your website. Give your website and portfolio a big revamp. If city shoots give you a headache and you love shooting on the beach, remove all city shoots and only showcase beach shoots. Yes… it’s that easy!

My challenge to you:

clean up your website, do a bit of social media marketing, and see how your inquiries change.

 
 

Why It’s OK To Raise Your Prices

 
 

One of the biggest, confusing, scary things about being an entrepreneur is figuring out what to charge for your services as an artist. Once you’ve decided on your pricing, and hit that sweet spot, it feels comfortable. You’re booking, and you’re happy. Well, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone, because we all know comfortable is not a productive state of mind. As a basic business principal explains, the more something is in demand, the higher the price is. The more people who want you, the more your time and talent is worth.

It’s time to raise your prices.

It’s normal to increase your prices yearly as the cost of living (and everything else) also increases. 

But then, your mind starts running. What if people don’t book? I’d rather have lower prices and lots of bookings versus higher prices and lots of no’s! But I promise you - there will always be a market for $100 portrait sessions, and $500 portrait sessions, for $1,000 portrait sessions, and $5,000 portrait sessions. It’s all about what type of client to which you choose to market.

If you raise your prices by $X, that means you can book 8 less shoots per year, which means tens of hours spent with family and friends when you would normally be traveling, shooting, and editing. If you raise your wedding packages across the board by $X, you can now give your clients a welcome package with champagne and send Starbucks cards before the big day. You have more room to improve the client experience, which is what we all want to do! 

Value your time and your skill. If you've had the same prices for over a year, it's time to re-evaluate, take the leap, and raise your prices. Raised prices = more value = less work = more funds for client spoiling = more time with family = happier you = a better business all around.

Next week, I'll be sending out PART II - how to market to your new ideal client and take the work you've always wanted to. Stay tuned!

 
 

7 Money Saving Tricks for Entrepreneurs

 
 

Being an entrepreneur means a lot of things - creative freedom, constant decision making, total responsibility, and of course, being our own bosses.

But how do you cut company spending when YOU'RE the company!?

Think frugal!

Prepare for the hunt, and promise to never pay full price again.

Here are seven money saving tips to keep your hard earned cash in the bank!

1) Coupons are your BEST friend

When shopping online for your custom thank you cards, or renewing your Adobe account, if there is a little box to insert a coupon code during checkout, USE IT! That's your golden ticket! Look for sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com to find codes that work. Never pay shipping, my friends, and never settle for full price when purchasing online. Use the Honey extension for Chrome / Safari - it finds the lowest price of the product you're buying and adds coupon codes automatically.
 

2) Pay attention to price patterns

Before almost every major holiday, Zazzle will mark down their products to 50-75% OFF - that is HUGE! So instead of getting 10 thank you cards for $25, you get them for $7 + free shipping. Sometimes, you have to restrain yourself from buying them at full price, but you know you will save lots of money. Take advantage of Black Friday and big retail days, and watch prices of things you buy often.
 

3) Comparison shop

Find the cheapest deal by price shopping between stores. Often one will be having a unique sale when others are not. The best places to buy are B&H, Amazon, KEH, and eBay - if you shop new on eBay for big ticket items such as lenses or bodies, you get 3% cash back every quarter, which pays for extra batteries and new memory cards. Don't forget to check the prices a week later, as you can get a price adjustment within 14 days from most retailers if the price drops (there's even an app called Paribus that automatically tracks this and gets you a refund!).
 

4) Buy in bulk

Strike when a major sale is happening, buy in bulk! There’s nothing worse than running out of ribbon while trying to package an order or buying batteries for your flash at - GASP - the drugstore! So the next time your favorite client gift goes on sale, buy two dozen of them and save.
 

5) Reallocate your advertising budget

Stop paying to boost your Facebook posts. Instead, go for organic reach. Tag your clients, post beneficial content, and rely on word of mouth advertising from your clients. Take what you would have spent on a traditional advertising budget and use that money to treat your clients with gifts, and they will be referring you to everyone. Don’t forget to show your love for past clients, not just future ones. Go above and beyond in service and you will never have to pay a dime in advertising. 
 

6) Protect your gear

Be proactive and buy lens hoods ($10, not only to reduce sun flare, but to have a bumper if it gets knocked around), UV filters ($5, to protect the actual glass if dropped), memory card cases ($5 for 25 of them to avoid dust and prevent all around damage) and a durable bag (but not necessarily the cutest $400 leather one). The more you take care of your gear, clean it, and treat it right, the longer it will last!
 

7) Prioritize

I would love to take every potential client to dinner, but that isn’t cost effective for a very small business (25 clients/year = ~$1,800). For meetings with clients that haven't been booked yet, opt for a coffee shop to keep costs down (but of course, always treat them to whatever they want). Save a more upscale dining experience for clients that have already booked you.

 

BONUS favorite tricks:

CVS app - they send me 30% off my purchase every Thursday, good through the weekend. I pair this with coupons directly on the app to get free makeup, my favorite Kashi cereal for $1, and earn more Extrabucks.

When buying gear or purchases over $500, use a good cash back rewards credit card.

If you travel, getting a credit card with your airline is key - they usually have opening bonuses. I charged $1,500 to my new AA card, paid it off immediately, and used the miles for a free roundtrip ticket to California. Even just having a free Jetblue TrueBlue account gives me at least 1 free flight per year - and I don't even have the credit card!

Pay attention to rebates when buying cameras and lenses on B&H - remember to mail in that $200 rebate! Then, you can take the gift card and deposit it into the bank.

 

Go With Your Gut: How to Deal with Difficult Clients

 
 Photo by Anthony Fusco

Photo by Anthony Fusco

 

Situation #1 - You have a bride that inquires about shooting her wedding. After 25 emails exchanged, she continues to pull apart your packages after you told her that packages are not alterable. She keeps trying to haggle over your non-negotiable prices, and now things are getting uncomfortable. If she really values your work and wants you that much, why is she being so difficult?

Situation #2 - You rock a senior session. The parents and senior are thrilled. Then, the demands begin. Your contract states that you edit for color, exposure + style. First, they ask to edit out stray hairs, and you do that. Then, they tell you to edit out the necklace clasp. And then to take out their tan lines. And then, to mail half the prints directly to their grandma and the other half to them (to avoid mailing it to their family themselves). Now, you are contemplating never shooting seniors again.


As entrepreneurs and artists, it's safe to say that we usually love our jobs. We chose to do what we love all day every day - it's a no brainer.

But let's be real for a second - not every client experience is an ideal one.

One of the most difficult parts of entrepreneurship is dealing with difficult situations, often alone. This can be super stressful! Never fear, however - there are a few tricks to handle the tough stuff like a champ.

1) The power of "NO"

If you have a client that keeps asking or demanding you do more than you were contracted to do, learn to stop saying yes then getting stressed or resentful, and say NO. Breathe. No is okay! If you met with a couple and something isn't clicking right... do both parties a favor and let them know you're not the right fit and refer them to someone better suited for their needs. 

2) Know your worth

If a client is asking for time-consuming retouching, you don't have to say no, you can say, "Retouching of that nature is not included in my standard packages, but it is available for $X/hour. I can usually do X edits of this kind per hour, to give you a rough estimate."

3) If they're not contracted, you're not obligated

Sometimes, you undercharge or quote people at a lower rate for special projects. Maybe you're trying to make nice with a mutual friend's company budget, or cutting a discount for an old friend. However, especially in those situations, running into a nit-picky client can be even worse, because you don't even feel you're being compensated for the trouble. Remember: you run your own business. You do not have to do anything you do not want to do. TRUST YOUR GUT. If they are not contracted, you can always reach out and let them know that their date was filled or that you will not be able to work with them. 

4) Phone a friend

Sometimes the best thing you can do is get an objective perspective. Ideally, call up or message one of your photographer friends to get advice on your dilemma. But sometimes that isn't as option, so call your friend, your mom, anyone! They can provide the perspective of a client versus a photographer, which is super beneficial for you!


Once in a while, you may come across a client that makes you want to pull out your hair. But at the end of the day, it is your business, and your call. Be sure to handle every situation with grace and respect, while remembering that you have every right to say NO to ensure that both you and your client can have a great experience. 

 
 

Why the new Instagram algorithm is old news

 
 

Okay, so everyone has heard the news by now...

Instagram will be switching over to an algorithm based system to display posts. So, instead of sorting your feed chronologically, it will be sorted by what is calculated to be "most relevant" to your taste. We all remember when Facebook did that... and small business organic reach tanked. On average, 5% of your Facebook fans will see your posts without paying for them to be boosted. Now that Instagram (which is now owned by Facebook, let's not forget) has decided this new route, panic has ensued.

The Titanic may as well be sinking again, by the looks of it. You may have seen posts begging you to "Turn on post notifications" to ensure your favorite Instagrammers will stay in your feed. Which also means, you will get a push notification whenever they post anything. And you may want to scramble to do that, too - but here is why NOT to freak out.

If people already like and comment on your photos, they will continue to see them. The people who never interact with you anyway, will most likely not see your posts at the top of your feed. Notifications are nasty little distractions - don't risk annoying your loving followers by automatically pushing your content in their phones and faces twice a day. Que sera, sera - what will be, will be. Take the change in stride, and keep creating and posting content the same way you did before.

The good news - you don't have to do anything!

Sit back, relax, and take this as a lesson on how to roll with the punches.

 
 

So you want to find your signature style?

We’ve all had that moment when we’re scrolling on Instagram and BAM! We see a “Sam Hurd” or a “Justin & Mary” photograph before we even read the username. How do some people have such iconic styles? And how can I have one, too!?

Unfortunately, like all great things from wine to cheese to dating,

it gets better with age. 

 
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However, you can start the process of discovering your style now. With thousands of photographs being passed through our overwhelmed brains every day, it’s hard to know where to start. The key is - start with yourself. Someone else’s style is not yours, no matter how much you wish it could be. Comparison is the thief of joy, folks… so focus on YOU and how YOUR pictures are unique, and push that!

Shoot all the time.

 

Pick up the camera and shoot, shoot, shoot! As you review your images weekly, monthly, and yearly, trends will begin to emerge. Maybe you highlight architecture more than nature on portrait shoots. Maybe you incorporate props. Maybe you like shooting at golden hour in the sun versus darker, moody images indoors. Shoot what you like, and shoot it often.

 
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The other side of the key is consistency, in shooting and editing. No, this doesn’t mean you have to operate like a factory. Go out and explore! Fail! Push the envelope! Experiment! Fall flat on your face!

Consistency does not equal monotony.

However, if you’re consistent in using a specific type of lighting, and editing with a similar set of presets, your images, regardless of the subject will have your “signature style” on them.

Styles develop slowly over time, and constantly evolve and improve. If you shoot what you love often, and edit your photos in a consistent way, you’re on the fast track to developing your own style! 

 
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10 Things I Love - And how that can help YOU!

Photographers:

Something that is SUPER important in all aspects of business is connecting with your clients - potential, present, and past. When you're having a conversation with a bride and groom to be, you gush over shared interests, laugh over stories, and connect with each other. But, you can actually do that before you've even met them. HOW? By sprinkling hints of things you love throughout your online presence.

Story - I signed with an incredible stock agency after their art buyer found me through Twitter, then read on my website that I loved pretending to cook like a Food Network Pro. She emailed me connecting over that, and the rest was history.

We become friends with people because of common interests - and the BEST thing about being a photographer and meeting so many people is becoming their FRIEND! In the end, your ideal client will have a lot in common with you, so the more you connect with people on a personal level, the more potential friends and clients you attract! So don't be afraid to have a section on your website dedicated to the things you love, or your favorite movies and food, or share little snippets about your life on Facebook on Instagram. It's time to make some friends!

Without further ado, here is my list of

10 Things I Love!

 
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1) Snuggling. I am a cuddle fiend. Like a cat, except human sized.

2) J. Cole. Hip-hop with an important message; rapped and sung by an incredible human.

3) Traveling. Boarding a plane is like second nature to me - have passport, will travel.

4) French manicures. I get my nails done maybe once a year, but a sparkly gel french mani just makes me feel oh so pretty.

5) LUSH. I am obsessed with every Lush product. They have the friendliest and happiest employees, hand make all their products with fresh ingredients + without toxic chemicals, do not test on animals, and are extremely socially and environmentally conscious. Whether it's washing my face at night with Ocean Salt or showering with Honey I Washed The Kids and Curly Wurly, I get a little happy rush whenever I use anything from Lush.

6) Couponing. I’m a bargain hunting, coupon wielding princess. I love sales on sales plus coupons, as well as the high that comes after getting what you need for next to nothing. Every time I return from the grocery store, I call at least two people announcing my steals and deals and how cheap I got chicken breasts per pound.

7) Asian food and drink. If anyone knows me, they know that they can usually find me in Chinatown. I’m big on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, Chinese snacks and juices, and the mother of all my loves - bubble tea, which is Taiwanese.

8) Surprises; giving and receiving. I love surprising people (and not in the scare you with a spider and record it way) - and I love when people surprise me, too.

9) Documentaries. I really enjoy learning new things and being introduced to ideas to which I would have never otherwise been exposed.

10) Rainy days. Okay, so for shooting, I need golden sunshine. But I'm actually super productive on rainy/cloudy days - unless I'm outside, then I hate getting my hair wet!

 
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Take Your Photos To The Next Level with this ONE TRICK!

Editing trick: Removing distractions

Something I learned from the amazing Ben Sasso’s blog was to look at a photograph and ask yourself,

“How can I make this better?” 

It’s all about taking your imagery to the next level. When I have a fantastic photo, before I post it online to be showcased to the world, I step back and examine what could really make it better. And most of the time, it can be improved tremendously in less than 5 minutes. The #1 culprit?

Distracting elements. 

Below is a photo from a Boston City Hall elopement. Before I shared it after taking it over a year ago, I stopped and brought it back into Photoshop. Revisiting old edits can be extremely beneficial.

(For mobile users, tap once for before/after rollover!)

You’ll see when you roll over the image that I removed people in the background, removed cracks and imperfections in the street, blurred the background a bit more (with the Blur Taming Brush from Little Lusker Photoshop actions), removed flyaway hairs, and removed colorful road signs in the background. All in all, it took about 6 minutes of clone stamping.

 
(For mobile users, tap once for before/after rollover!)
 

All the photos showcased in your portfolio should be polished and distraction-free. Put your best foot forward, and take your photos to the next level!

 

Five 5-Minute Hacks to Conquer Your Inbox

Tackling your inbox can be a huge headache.

The more emails that pile in, the more you want to procrastinate replying to them. Sometimes, one will slip between the cracks, and all of a sudden it’s been three days… and now you’re profusely apologizing to your client in the first sentence. #meltdown

Prompt communication is key for being professional and booking clients, especially wedding clients. Here are some top tips to keeping your inbox manageable and never miss anther email.

 
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1) Use templates

For years, I found myself writing the exact same email over and over when a bride introduced herself and asked for pricing info, as well as for my gallery delivery emails. So, I saved those responses as “Welcome wedding,” “Delivery families,” “Wedding meeting locations,” and so on. You can do this in Notes or Word, or save them as Gmail templates (how do to that here!) It’s a serious time saver. Of course, add in personal details that fit with each client (talking about their venue, specific questions, etc), but your base reply is already there. Wedding inquiry emails take thirty seconds to personalize and send!

2) Create a FAQ section on your website

What does this have to do with your email? It's another time saver! In addition to your pricing guide, make sure to have some kind of basic Q&A on your website. Take the most asked questions from brides + clients in their emails, and answer them online. That way, most of their standard questions are already answered before they contact you, and you save time typing out responses over and over.

3) Stick to the 24-hour rule

No matter what, make it your #1 goal to reply within 24 hours. Timeliness is important - I love when I email someone and get a super quick response back. It puts me in such a good mood! Brides and new clients are eager for your reply, so when you reply to them within a few hours, it puts you in a great position (and above all the other photographers/vendors they’re emailing).

4) Flag

I flag my client messages to easily identify them from other emails. When they reply, the conversation remains flagged. Keep different folders for brides, portraits, and all your different categories. It helps bring your eye to the important stuff, instead of a sea of subject lines!

5) Set boundaries

Reply to emails during acceptable business hours. If you don’t want a client to expect you to reply to their messages at 11:30pm, then don’t answer your emails at that time. I answer my emails anytime between 7am and 9pm, but never later than that. If you happen to be awake and on a roll at 2am, use an app that automatically sends your emails at certain times, such as Boomerang.

 
 

P.S. -

It is okay to use smiley faces and exclamation marks in your emails. Be professional, but if you're a bubbly super excited wedding photographer like me... you would sound angry and weird if you didn't throw in a smiley face here and there. Let your personality shine!