Business

This will make you more PROFITABLE!

 
 

Specialization - why do people do it? Let’s think about a restaurant. You’re craving reallllly good Italian food. At first glace, would you choose a restaurant that served Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and American food, or would you select the restaurant that only served Italian? You’d probably pick the exclusively Italian restaurant. Because they’re not juggling seven different cuisines from around the world, they have more time and energy directed on just Italian, and therefore the food's quality is higher. 

The same principal can be applied to photography. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do it all. The one stop, all your needs photographer. The awesome thing about being your own boss, is that nobody can tell you what to do. However, if you dream of targeting more high end clientele and have no idea how to do that, specializing is the way to go. 

When you’re starting out, it makes sense to take every photographic job you can get. You need every bit of business to make a living and to get your name out there. But after a while, it’s time to rethink what you really love to do.

Some love to photograph moms-to-be and newborn babies. For other photographers, weddings and engagements light the fire in their eyes. Pay attention to which kind of shoot gets you the most excited, and think about specializing in that. 

Saying “no” can be really hard at first. Not only are you turning down a super nice person, but money!!! What you’re doing, though, is best for you and your prospective client. You want them to have a photographer who is jazzed about family portraits, not trudging along wishing it was a wedding. By referring them to another photographer who specializes in that field, you are establishing a network of professionals to generate referrals and get business, gaining respect for being honest with your client, and strengthening your brand image all at once. 

People want what they see. If you hate shooting parties, don’t have images of parties in your portfolio. If you would rather shoot a reception at a barn than a hotel ballroom, only post photos from higher end barn weddings. Tailor your website and the content people see to further reinforce what kind of work you do and don’t do. I’m a wedding / portrait kind of girl, and after listing the services I offer and re-structuring my portfolio, I have received two event / party inquiries in three years.

It will help your business and make you happier in the long run. By saying “no” to the things we don’t want, we leave more time to focus and improve upon what we truly love, while catering to more ideal clients in the process. It’s a win-win!

 
 

How to rock a wedding meeting

So you’ve been emailing back and forth with this couple about their wedding, and finally, you agree to meet. You have to talk to these strangers in person?! Oh god - bring the wine.


Don’t panic!

Let’s walk through how to have a successful client meeting that ends in a booking.


First, choose the meeting place. A private studio or somewhere in your home is ideal, but if you don’t have these kinds of spaces (like me), then you have to pick a public location. Choose wisely - sounds, smells, and atmosphere all subconsciously affect the mood of your meeting. Trust me on this - I once agreed to meet a client at a Burger King... never again.

Meet at a place that fits your branding - I like to meet at places that have parking, enough seating, and great food. I rotate between 5 different places depending on my couple's taste. Take it up a notch from Starbucks and opt for a local coffee shop instead, or partner with a florist to use their studio. The possibilities are endless.

Have confidence! Smile and give them a big hug hello. Treat them to anything on the menu as a congratulations on their engagement. Avoid the awkward “Where do we start?” by asking them about their story - how they met, the proposal, and all the goodies you need to know about them. Listen intently and connect with them - swap stories, laugh, and enjoy some coffee.

Ask your couple how they envision their wedding day. Is it intimate or large? Rustic or modern? What sort of wedding are they planning? This helps segway into the business side of things - ask what kind of coverage they’re looking for. Talk about when they may need a second shooter, how many hours of coverage would work for their day, travel, and all that jazz.

Walk them through a wedding day. I craft a timeline knowing only the ceremony time, so they can leave the meeting with a great understanding of the day, and we can figure out the best number of hours of coverage. Tell them what happens before the wedding, during, and after, and you'll be asking question and getting more info about the day, too.

Address their concerns. It is most likely the first and last time they’ll be getting married, so even though this is familiar to you, this is all new to your clients. Be there to give them advice for their timeline, answer their questions about coverage, and reassure their nerves by walking them through your approach to their wedding day. Make sure they feel like they're not just another couple on your checklist. Each and every couple is unique, and they will feel if you genuinely are excited about their day. This meeting is all about connecting and seeing if you both are a good fit. Tell them how to proceed once they decide either way, and also remind them to take their time deciding.

Don’t sign a contract on the spot. This is a big investment for a very important life event - so let your clients have some breathing room to make the final decision. Trust me - if your meeting all goes well, you will hear from them. If not, follow up in one week to see if they need more time deciding.  It’s all about rocking your confidence and personality, and showing your clients that you are the perfect person for their day.

Do you have any tried-and-true methods to seal the deal? Comment below!

5 Things I Would Tell Someone Starting Out

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I get a lot of emails from aspiring photographers asking for advice. In reality, that's a novel worth of material - but I sat down and thought of the top five things that would benefit creatives starting out in their field (or a reminder for seasoned pros!)

1) Shoot all the time. Bring your camera everywhere you go. Shoot everything under the sun, come back, and practice different editing styles until you find one you like. Practice DOES make perfect, friends.

2) Only compare yourself to yourself! Okay, so I would tell anyone this, not just someone starting out. It is so easy to turn green in the face with envy looking through creatives and other photographers' Instagrams and Facebook feeds. Why are their lives so perfect? They just got published in The Knot! They’re speaking at WPPI! On top of that, they live in the Pacific Northwest, which is basically cheating at life. Instead of scrolling through and getting depressed, take a step back and remember that your journey is no one else’s. Pull out an old hard drive and look at your work from a month ago, a year ago, and two years ago. Look at the difference in composition, editing style, artistic vision… I’m willing to bet that there is a significant change. Be proud of that! As Mary Marantz says, “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” It’s hard to practice what we preach, but it’s the simple truth.

3) Put your work out there. I have coffee with lots of “beginners” in the industry, and when I ask to see their work online, most respond that they don't feel “legitimate” enough to start a social media presence. No! Get your work out there. In the 7th grade, I was posting all my (TERRIBLE) photography to DeviantART. No matter what the platform is, start sharing your art. Get feedback and learn from your peers. There is no “kickoff date” when you run your own business, it all just unfolds on its own, so take the plunge and make yourself a Facebook page!

4) Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. If you love a photographer’s work, and have a question about how they got the shot, or their camera, or their editing - ASK! Send them an email, comment on their Instagram… the worst that can happen is that they don’t reply. And we all know, answering non-client emails during busy season is rough. Give them a few days. The best scenario is that you get answers from a professional, or grab coffee and start networking to become stronger! 

5) Study up. If you didn’t go to school for photography, make sure your knowledge reflects that you did. Watch documentaries on the history of photography and the progression of technology. Take out books from your library (yes, books, NOT online) from the greats. Study their work. Know their names, their work, and their legacy. Know how your camera and lenses work inside and out. Learn why there is a “burn” and “dodge” tool in Photoshop (yes, these are real darkroom techniques). Make a goal to have one study session a week where you sit down and watch a documentary on Avedon, or Bresson, or Nan Goldin, or Eggleston. You will become a more intelligent, worldly, well-rounded artist. Know who and what came before you.

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7 Things Your Business Can't Live Without

 
 

We all love amenities that make our lives easier, whether it be the Drive-Thru at Dunks, online bill pay, or the E-Z Pass lane on the highway. In my business, there are services I use that I love so much because they ultimately save time and increase productivity.

Here are some life hacks they don't teach you in art school.

1) Squarespace

Squarespace is a website platform It. Is. Incredible. After being unhappy with Wordpress and its clunkiness, I found Squarespace almost two years ago now. Their designs are clean, modern, and simple. There is so much room for customization, it's straightforward, you don’t need to know HTML or CSS to create a beautiful website. They automatically incorporate analytics, SEO, mobile optimization, storefronts and shopping carts, and blogging is something you can do in your sleep. At the end of the day, you get a gorgeous home base for my business and brand, for a really affordable price. Oh, did I mention they have the nicest support staff who answer all your questions within the hour, 24 hours a day? Yep!

2) Pixieset

Pixieset is my wonderful gallery host. Every single client shoot gets uploaded to Pixieset as a modern grid with a customized and branded header. Clients can “favorite” pictures, download their favorites, send album notes to me, purchase prints, products, and digital files (that you can custom fulfill through your own lab or choose one of theirs). It has custom domain mapping, so your client’s page can be clients.yourphotography.com/smith. You pay by data storage amount. This last step in my workflow is so easy: Pixieset sends my clients who have purchased the digitals a link to download the photos instantly without me lifting a finger. This is great for when you're on the go or traveling and don’t want your clients to wait!

3) Facebook Post Scheduler

Do you have a life? Obviously. Forget to post your Facebook updates at peak traffic times? No problem! On your Facebook business page, you can schedule posts to be published automatically. You can queue up a photo, write a caption, and add a link to your blog, and schedule to be published on Thursday at 5pm. Once a week, I’ll queue up the next seven days and don't even need to think about it!

4) PhotoMechanic

Want to save hours culling? PhotoMechanic. I admit - Justin & Mary recommended this to me during a workshop in January 2014 and it took me at least a year to buy it. Best $150 with free updates for life. You know that little lag time in Lightroom when your RAW file is loading? Eliminated. In PhotoMechanic, it processes the RAWs like JPGs, so culling is instant. You can use a star rating system or just delete. It cut my culling time in half. On average, I spend 20 minutes culling a portrait session and 60 minutes culling an entire wedding. They have a free trial - so stop procrastinating like I did and your newfound time will thank you.

5) Mint

My significant other often calls me “Lena Mintisola” now. He introduced me to Mint this summer, which is a money management website. Sounds scary - but it’s actually so much fun! It’s free, and easily connects to your bank accounts and credit cards. You can track and analyze your spending, categorize your purchases, set BUDGETS by category every month, set bill reminders, goals, and rename expenses. You can take a quick peek at your phone on the Mint app, too, and see pie and bar graphs to moniter your monthly grocery budget to see how much you have left to spend, or if one more martini is really a good financial decision. It’s a great way to figure out, “What did I spend on my business this month,” as well as truly learn what's going in and what's going out. 

6) Notes

In business, as in life - organization is key. I keep Notes on my Macbook called “Shoot Schedule” and “To Do”. On my To Do list is a daily “win the day” list, weekly goals and blog calendar, miscellaneous work, orders coming in, and deadline reminders. On my Shoot Schedule is a list of ordered dates by month of 2015 + 2016 weddings and shoots, containing location, client name, and outstanding balances still owed. I keep these days marked off in my calendar as well, but I like having a double system so I don’t overbook a day or forget to log a shoot. Notes also auto-sync to your phone so you can have all the info about you upcoming day, month, and year wherever you go!

7) GSuite

Formerly Google for Business - My old mail server was through my domain host, which was great, but actually only archived the latest 250 emails… I found out the hard way. I migrated everything over to Google for Business, which is basically a Gmail account ending with @website.com name. Everything is archived forever and connects to my calendar, drive, spreadsheets, and presentations. I love using the color flagging system and folders to separate clients from brides, vendors, and everyone in between.

 
 

I’d like to shout out Bank of America Mobile Deposit as a runner up to this list, because who has time to go to the bank when they can take a picture of a check and deposit it in bed?

What things in your life or business make everything run smoother? Love a service so much you just need to SHOUT!? Comment below to share!

What should I wear? // The wardrobe guide

Contract signed, shoot booked - that was easy! But wait - oh no... like a salty ocean wave, uncertainty hits you:

"What should we wear?!"

Never fear! Here is a handy guide to help you through the process!


THINK COORDINATING, NOT MATCHY-MATCHY

White shirts and khakis? Not anymore. Find a palette and coordinate using that - if you love light, bright fabrics in photos, then creams, whites, light pinks, and beiges will look great. Mix and match tops and bottoms in that color, but have some of the family in jeans, one in a cream lace dress, another in khaki pants and a patterned pink button up. I'm not as much of a dress girl - I buy them and never end up wearing them. BUT, when I'm being photographed, I'm usually in a dress. I LOVE the way dresses photograph whether it's in a field or in a city.

 
 

SOLIDS VS PATTERNS

Solids are great, and so are patterns! The trick is to coordinate them well. Majority solids, minority patterns. Coming with your partner? Mix a patterned dress with a pair of jeans and a solid button down. Or, if she's wearing a solid colored dress, he can wear a plaid shirt with grey pants. When in doubt, especially for guys - plaid is always a yes. Thin stripes are great, too!

 
 

TEXTURE IT UP

Textured clothes look fantastic on camera. Instead of a plain button down, think about wearing one with a textured stitch and little speckles throughout. Lace is my favorite texture - it photographs SO beautifully! And sweaters? YES! Fuzzy knitted sweaters for the chillier months give outfits delicious texture.

 
 

LAYERS ON LAYERS

Especially in colder months, layers are great. They add great dimension to photographs. Wearing cardigans over a blouse, a jean jacket over a dress, textured socks coming out of boots... it gives you a second look without having to change clothes. Steer away from any kind of formal wear for adults. No dressy shoes or dress pants, NO ties... but for kids, suspenders on little boys and bow ties make me melt! Dresses and bows on little girls are way too cute, too. 

 
 

COLOR ME HAPPY

It's important to think about the environment you're being photographed in when it comes to colors. Across the board, I recommend lighter and more neutral colors. Creams, pinks, beiges, mustard/golds, and whites. These colors look especially fantastic for golden fields and forests. Natural settings = earth tones. If you're running around Boston with me, pops of color are fantastic! The city is more grey/blue/silver, so a bright pop of mint green with an orange statement necklace and some bright heels is great! Go with a color slightly off from the color wheel - mustard instead of bright yellow, maroon instead of bright red, navy instead of blue. Stick with lighter, not darker. No the time to wear all black! And above all - NO neon. It makes color casts onto your face, so steer clear!

 
 

IF THE SHOE FITS

The funny thing is, shoes aren't really seen much - unless they stick out like a sore thumb. This is not the time to wear Nike's! Classic sneakers like Converse or Vans are always in style, sandals for ladies but no flip flops unless we're kicking it at the beach! Cute boots are a must for the chillier months. 

 
 

STRAPPY UNHAPPY

Most frequent comment I get about wardrobe after a shoot - "Crap, my bra straps were showing!" I'll always let you know, but to fix this beforehand, if you're wearing an off the shoulder shirt and want them in the photos - great! If you don't want your straps peeking out - wear a shirt that from every angle in the mirror, doesn't pop out. This includes from the back, sides, and front. Wear a strapless bra if it's a problem shirt/dress or if it's the band by your underarms showing, wear a bandeau over your bra.

 
 

BE YOURSELF

You want your clothing to compliment YOU, not the other way around! Choose something you feel absolutely amazing and totally comfortable in. Your smile, your laugh and your face is the main event, not the clothing. The clothing compliments you and your personality! You're bright and bubbly and love polka dots? Show me polka dots! Preppy and love all things nautical? Hand over the J Crew catalog.

 
 

THE LITTLE THINGS

NAILS - Ladies, HAIR ELASTICS! Remember to take them off your wrists. Have your nails clean or painted, nothing in-between! Chipped polish will show when I take close-ups. Bring chapstick or lip gloss to reapply during your shoot, even non-tinted makes a wonderful difference :)

RECAP:

Coordinate, don't match perfectly.

Pick a color palette and run with it

Mix solids and patterns

Texture = great

You can never go wrong with a mix of creams, pinks, beiges, mustard/golds, and whites + LACE

Leave running shoes at home, wear cute + functional shoes

Low stress - wear what makes you feel amazing.

XO, LM