Last week I had an open Q&A on Facebook. Here are the answers. THANK YOU to everyone who participated. I’ll be having an open Q&A on Facebook again in the near future in case anyone has any more questions!
1.What’s the best camera for a beginner photographer?
My first DSLR was the Canon Rebel and I loved that thing. I used it for a couple years before switching over to the Canon 5D. I think the Canon Rebel with a 50mm1.8 lens is a great starter set. I go more in depth about this topic here.
2. What are some tips you can give a subject to help out the photographer?
People tend to freeze up when there is a camera pointed at them.
The best thing your subject can do is relax, and as a photographer, it’s up to you to make them feel comfortable. Talk to them. Build Rapport. Being photogenic has nothing to do with the way someone looks, but how they feel in front of the camera.
If you seem to have trouble getting people to relax in front of the camera, ask yourself “Am I comfortable giving direction?.” Because if you aren’t, people will pick up on it and as a reaction they probably won’t be comfortable with you. Here are 7 tips for Photographing People.
3. What inspired your deep passion for photography?
How do I put this? I AM ONE SENTIMENTAL SAP.
4. What lens would you recommend for an engagement shoot?
The two lenses I use during an engagement shoot are the 50mm 1.2 and the 70-200mm 2.8. I feel like an engagement shoot is more about the people versus the surrounding, so I don’t think a wide angle is necessary. If I had to pick only one lens to bring with me to an engagement shoot, it would be the 50mm 1.2 or the 24-70mm 2.8. More on my favorite lenses here.
5. Sometimes when I take pictures it comes out too dark or too bright. Can you give me some tips?
If your pictures are too dark, you are underexposing. If they are too bright, you are overexposing. Shoot in manual mode and you will have complete control over how dark or bright your pictures turn out. If you shoot in any of the Auto modes (Auto, P, Av, Tv), the camera is going to give an automatic exposure that can sometimes not be what you want. Digital cameras nowadays come with a light meter inside the camera so you can see where your exposure is. Here is a video I made that explains how important it is to learn to shoot in Manual mode.
6. Are you single? If so go to the next question.
7. If single, does shooting weddings make you want to get married more or less?
I like weddings. I am drawn to them. It’s fun. It’s a celebration. People have different ideas about what love and marriage mean to them. I have a pretty clear idea of what it means to me, and when I see a couple celebrating their love the way I think I’d celebrate it, that’s when I think it would be really cool to get married. But who knows. Stay tuned.
8. When a couple seems tense and unphotogenic, how do you loosen them up enough to get the shots you want?
I usually get to know my couples a little beforehand either by chatting on the phone or going out to a meal. That usually makes them feel more comfortable. When I start shooting, I usually have people do an action shot first. If they are moving, they don’t have too much time to think about how uncomfortable they are. I’ll tell them to walk, or run, or do something really stupid. There’s more in this blog post: 7 tips for Photographing People.
9. I am focusing on wedding/portrait/lifestyle photography. If I have a 50mm 1.4, do you think it is necessary to get a 24-70mm as well or do you think the 50mm already covers your midrange, and I should just focus on a Wide Angle like a 16-35mm or 20-35mm on a full frame?
If you plan to shoot weddings then I would recommend getting the 24-70mm 2.8 as well. I used that as my primary lens for a few years. It’s great for mid-range and sometimes, when you are shooting something as unpredictable as a wedding, it’s good to have more flexibility. If you get the 24-70mm then you can probably hold off on getting the 16-35mm 2.8. I used to have the 16-5mm and stopped using it. Then again, I’m just not a wide angle user.
10. How do you stay organized (and healthy!) with all of your events, travels, blog posts and still keep a great social media presence?
Organization does not come easy to me. It’s the artist in me. The main things I do to keep organized:
- I don’t overbook. It’s actually a rule I give myself now – to not shoot more than 2 weddings per month. It gives me more time with my couples and I’m able to work on business and engagement sessions in between without getting stressed out. I’m all about quality, not quantity, and for that reason I shoot less and charge more.
- I hire people to do the things that I don’t like or I’m not good at (i.e. bookkeeping, graphic design, etc.)
- I have a dry erase calendar on my wall that maps out the major events for me. I’m old school. I like to see the whole year (really big) in front of me and neither Google Calendar or my iPhone can do that.
Blogging and social media take a lot of time. Lucky for me, I really like doing it. Every Monday and Wednesday I devote my afternoon to writing blog posts. As for updating, I use HootSuite to update most of my social media platforms. I’m pretty self-expressed so it comes natural to make time to share things I like on Facebook. If Blogging or social media is not something you enjoy doing, I would hire someone to take care of it.
On staying healthy:
-I meditate, I do yoga, and photography is kind of a work out in of itself! It is pretty physically intense carrying around all that equipment. I’m also a generally healthy eater. My priority is taking care of my mind and what I put into my body. If I’m good there then I can perform well in all other areas.
11. I want to buy a new camera but don’t know what to look for exactly. I’ve only ever used Nikon products and was wondering if Canon would be better, also how to tell what cameras would be better than others without having to buy them all try them out.
The best thing you can do is go to a camera store to play with the different models. You can also rent cameras and lenses. I shoot with Canon because that is what I’ve always shot with. Whether it’s better than Nikon, that is up to each individual. I honestly think that Canon and Nikon are both strong brands and you can’t go wrong with either of them. The first DSLR camera I had was the Canon Rebel with a 50mm 1.8 lens. I loved it. More about this topic here.
12. How did you get to work with celebrities?
I’ve gotten most of my celebrity gigs through event planners and publicists, and I’ve met most of these people at casual parties or through friends. One of the event planners who gets me a lot of celebrity gigs I got to know because I applied to work for her when I first moved to LA! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a photographer so I went on Craigslist to look for day jobs. I interviewed at this event planning company and got turned down for the position. The office manager saw my photos and told me that I should be taking pictures (thanks Lauren!). A few months later she called and asked if I was available to shoot a celebrity party. From that day I’ve been one of their go-to photographers.
13. Do you have an agent/representation?
I do not, but I have thought about getting a publicist recently. It’s a huge job in of it’s own!
14. Where do you see your business going? Do you have a business plan/goal?
I see myself continuing to shoot weddings (mainly destination!), teaching photography, writing a book, and doing seminars.
I’m not a huge planner but my ultimate goal in life is to travel the world, eat good food, take pictures, and have wonderful shared experiences with others.
15. How do you do it all? Photography/yoga/blog/puppy duties etc!
See the answer to #10. The thing I really would like to make more time for is my dog. I play with her and we cuddle every night but it’s hard not to feel guilty that I’m out of the house so much. I think it’s just about impossible to return the kind of love that a dog gives you. I love you Sammie!
16. How did you get started in photography?
My mom bought me my first SLR camera for my birthday one year. This was after college. I had a strong interest in photography before that so as soon as I got that thing, I did not put it down for days! Eager to learn, I shot anything and everything. Nature, food, my new adopted dog…I would even set up “fashion” shoots with friends.
It wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to do this as a job. My friend Linda (thank you Pinda!) helped me build a website. I went on Craigslist to look for gigs and offer my services. I made business cards. I printed up photos, put them in an album, and showed all my friends and their friends. I had “gallery exhibits” at home. My goal was to basically let the world know what I was doing and establish myself as a photographer.
Shortly after that, the referrals started to snowball, I moved down to LA, and now here I am!
17. What would you recommend for a good bridge camera, for those of us who don’t need a DSLR (read: don’t want to lug around a heavy kit) but want better than a point-and-shoot? I’ve been looking at the Nikon P510, but it doesn’t have threads on the lens for filters… I’m mainly focusing on landscape/scenery/macro photography.
Unfortunately I’m not familiar with in between camera models. Besides my SLR cameras, I have a Lumix LX-3 point-and-shoot which I LOVE. It has a Leica lens, the ability to shoot in Manual, and superb macro capability. I love it. But again, it’s a pretty basic point-and-shoot.
18. How/when did you know you were ready to switch from fun/hobby/photography-for-free/practicing to actually turning it into a business?
I had an “aha” moment while I was working at a restaurant 6 years ago and that’s when I decided to go full time with turning photography into a business. You can read more about that aha moment here.
19. What are your thoughts on 3rd Party lenses and would you recommend any that are equivalent to Canon L Lenses…say for someone a bit more on a budget?
I’ve only had one 3rd party lens made by Tamron and it was . . . ok. Someone once told me that it’s best to buy components from the same brand because they are “made for each other.” Kind of like shampoos and conditioners.
20. What is the best way to get your name out there? I need more clients but I’m coming up short on finding some.
Word of mouth and social media are the two methods I use. After I started photography, it took about 2 years for word of mouth to really start snowballing. Friends of brides from weddings I had shot previously began calling. It takes a while but after it starts rolling, it really starts rolling!
Blogging is very helpful for my business. I promote my blog posts through Facebook. Facebook is one powerful tool. Post photos, interact with people . . . use the heck out of it!
21. What are some of your favorite go-to post-processing/editing adjustments and functions that you make sure to always use when you are editing? Any other editing tips? Do you feel every single photo you take needs to be touched up at least a little?
My editing style has changed a lot and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. I do all my editing in LightRoom. With each photo (if necessary), I will straighten and crop, adjust exposure and contrast, and usually add some yellow (I tend to favor warmer tones). If I want colors to really pop, I boost the vibrancy.
I used to use some pretty heavy presets on my photos but as of the last couple years I have lightened up on using them. I like the feeling of timeless, classic photos. When I was starting out I bought presets from Jules Bianchi. I used some of her presets as a starting point (i.e. Jules’ “Vintage Bright”) and adjusted the settings to my liking.
My recommendation to using presets would be to go easy on them. They do make your photos look cool and different, but sometimes I feel like they can be a little much. They can look fake and very “graphic-y,” if that makes any sense.
Not every single photo needs something done to it. Now that my photography skills are much stronger, I like to shoot like I’m using film. Post-processing should be used like make-up, used only to enhance.
Also, try your best to keep your editing consistent. Style will develop over time.
22. Do you ever doubt yourself? Your skills & talent? If so, what do you tell yourself to overcome that feeling?
If I ever say that I never doubt myself, I give you permission to punch me in the face. I absolutely have insecure thoughts. The “story” that I had growing up was that I was never good enough. With everything I did, it could have been better. Those were the thoughts that created my reality.
Even though I know now that it is absolutely not true, the conditioning still stays. Thoughts will creep into my head. Did I take enough pictures of the details at the wedding? I hope the clients like the photos . . .
Thoughts are involuntary and they happen to you just as your heart beats and your lungs breathe. I’ve learned how to separate thoughts so that I can quickly recognize that it’s not the truth, and then I laugh it off before it takes over and becomes a negative feeling/emotion. I’m a total personal development junkie and like to work on these things.
On the contrary, I also get frequent thoughts that I am pretty darn awesome! I let those thoughts stay. I’ll look at my work and give myself a high-five. It’s a good feeling.
23. What is your secret to building your clientele?
Word of mouth, blogging, and being authentic. Being authentic can be one of the hardest things to do. You are vulnerable, not everyone is going to like you, but the amazing thing is that you become a magnet for everything that you want in life.
I can’t believe how awesome my clients are! They are all people I’d be friends with. Some people ask if I ever get bridezillas and the answer is no. Never. The bridezilla is not attracted to me. The way I take photos, the way I run my business, the way I blog . . . the bridezilla doesn’t like to hire me.
My clients tend to be: laid back, fun, and maybe a little quirky. I love them. I only post things that I like on my blog and on Facebook, and the people who call me are ones who have a similar interests.
In the beginning, I felt like I had to go find clients. I wanted to impress people. I cared and was worried if I would be able to attract customers. Since letting go of that I haven’t even had to try to get more clients. They just call me. Funny how that works.
Being authentic is 110% effective (and worth it!) for building your dream clientele.
24. What time of day do you think is the best lighting for outdoor shots?
The hour before the sun sets. If it is overcast, then any time of day. Overcast is some of the best natural light you can have. It’s like a giant soft box.