I'm sharing how a $50 data overage charge and an app failure was the best thing to happen to me all year!
How to stand out in an oversaturated market to turn a quirky fact into your signature brand identity.
Surprising tips for the perfect magazine submission
Now that you know how to get published, it's time to learn how to craft the PERFECT submission! The process might surprise you!
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS.
Shoot the hell out of every detail at a wedding, vertical and horizontal. You’re doing your clients a favor by capturing the details they worked hard on, and you’re preparing for a magazine feature before the wedding day is even over.
Submit lots of: Details, flowers, bridal party style, bride style, groom style, location
Submit less: Couple portraits, cocktail hour, ceremony
Submit none: Dancing, family portraits
Publications won’t accept weddings without a full vendor list. So, a month before the wedding, ask for a list of all vendors involved. That way, you can credit them in your own blog and social channels, plus you’re ready to rock and roll when you submit to a magazine.
Editors want weddings that are unique and diverse, with photos that are clean, stylish, consistent, and look like they belong in a magazine. Think of the three most unique things about the wedding day and use those to pitch the story.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Don’t submit to a DIY magazine if the wedding was styled to perfection by a planner. Don’t submit to a Canadian blog when the wedding took place in North Carolina. Spend time researching these magazines and blogs and their social channels to really get a sense of the weddings they publish and who their reader is.
THE POWER OF NON-EXCLUSIVE
There are two types of publications - exclusive and non-exclusive. Exclusive means the wedding can not be pending or already published before (usually excludes your personal blog). Sometimes it’s exclusive forever, sometimes they ask you to wait 60 or 90 days before submitting to anyone else.
Non-exclusive means you can submit a wedding to 10 different publications and that’s ok! Don’t underestimate the power of going the non-exclusive route - it’s better for ONE of your weddings to be published 6 times, that’s 6x the reach of just submitting to one. Your work gets more life!
Don’t get discouraged if your wedding isn’t accepted. They may have a full editorial calendar, have just accepted a wedding with a similar style to yours, there aren’t enough detail shots. I’ve been rejected as many if not more times than I’ve been published - it happens! There will usually be a better fit elsewhere.
Don’t give up - keep submitting!
If you do get published, remember to share the good news with all the vendors, say thank you to the editors, and re-post the hell out of it on your blog, website, and social media!
I hope you enjoyed this two part series!
Email me if you get published, I can't wait to see!!!
(Link to part one if you need it)
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!
1) House Cleaning Checklist
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
Update cover photo + profile photo
Update about and contact info
Schedule posts every other day, if not daily
Update bio + profile photo
Save time and plan out your grid - I plan using Later.com
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
Create a new email signature
Get than inbox to ZERO and vow to reply to all client emails within 24 hours
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!
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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!
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!?
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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!
Posing can be complicated!
How should I pose them? Make a list of poses? Is it going to look too… POSED?!
Tip: If you want genuine emotion in your photos, direct, don’t pose.
From portrait shoots to wedding shoots, let’s face it. Everyone loves smiling at the camera photos. So I make sure to get a few of those on every shoot. “Look at me and give me a big happy smile yayyyy!!!!” *Click*
For everything else, I direct. At the beginning of the shoot, I’ll tell them, “I know this is awkward. We finally just met. And I’m pointing a huge camera at you. For our time together, I want you to be in a mindset - you are in LOVE! You are head over heels in LOVE!” And they laugh and giggle. “If you feel like grabbing her around the waist - DO IT! If you want to pull him in for a kiss - KISS HIM! If she makes you so happy you want to pick her up and spin her, SPIN HER!”
I explain to them that it’s always the in-between moments that are the best. I tell them to walk holding hands and look at each other, then me, then each other (like the Old Spice guy). Piggybacking is always fun, picking up and spinning results in great smiles and laughs, and eskimo (nose) kisses are darn adorable. Sometimes I’ll tell the groom or fiance to whisper something sweet (or salty) in his bride’s ear, and she’ll smile from ear to ear and giggle. I also use the dance move - slow dancing in the middle of a field or on Newbury Street, “practicing their first dance”. Usually, I’m screaming from excitement, which in turn makes my couples and clients laugh as well. Sometimes I end up making weird noises or voices, which will also make them laugh. At me, with me… as long as they’re happy, it doesn’t matter.
Always listen to your client's vibe, though - if they're more of a shy, reserved couple, give them a few more sentimental versus silly photos. Warm hugs and embraces, snuggles, and serious poses work well. If your couple are funny goofballs, then laughing and silly is perfect.
If you make your client comfortable, they will look genuinely relaxed on camera. Once they start running, jumping, making out, laughing, and of course being complimented on doing such a great job, they have a blast, and looking at a list of poses isn’t even necessary. That is how to get authentic photographs of love!