Baby Birthday Video with Joe Switzer

June 1st, 2016

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Baby Birthday Video with Joe Switzer

 

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Not many photographers specialize in baby birthday sessions. This month we look at the five most important factors that go into shooting and editing a compelling birthday film.

 

We used my daughter Sloan’s first birthday to show you our process. The photos and video you see are from two separate days. One was from baby Sloan’s photo/video shoot, and the other was from the actual birthday party with family and friends. Photos were taken by Ashley Becker Photography and Leanna Rolla Photography. Switzerfilm (myself and Kristin) captured the video clips. The final video we created shows baby Sloan Switzer in a way that we will treasure forever.

 

#1 – Offer video.

 

Either press the record button yourself or find someone to work with you on your birthday shoots to capture these beautiful moments that don’t last long. Some of the most precious years with your kids are when they are babies, and birthdays are a perfect time to capture them.

 

Photography and video go hand in hand, and it’s time for you to start doing both. Your clients want both services, and if you make it easy for them, they will almost always buy both. Switzerfilm has about a 90 percent booking rate for both photo and video. It doesn’t take any more planning or time for clients, and that makes it easy for them to say yes.

 

A great way to start offering your video services for baby birthday parties is to do it for your own child. Share a short clip on Instagram or Facebook, and before you know it, everyone is going to want it. I see photos in my social feeds all the time, but rarely do I ever see video. This is an untapped market. If parents have spent all the time and money planning a birthday party and photo shoot, they might as well add video. It’s hard to offer this service if you don’t have any demos or samples to share, so either film a baby video of your own family or give a friend a good deal. Once your followers and friends see the possibilities of video, they will want the same for their kids.

 

#2 – Don’t do everything on your own.

 

Props, baby, photos, locations, themes, schedule, video, editing—so many moving parts. Delegate responsibilities. Baby Sloan Switzer’s birthday shoot was much easier with the divide-and-conquer approach. Sloan’s mom, Ashley Switzer, was in charge of the props, theme and locations. Ashley Becker, the photographer, was responsible for a backdrop and a few props. Kristin, Leanna and I just showed up and filmed separately at each shoot. All of us creatives are in different situations, so take care of yourself and balance the workload. You can’t do it all with one camera by yourself.

 

#3 – Film the in-between moments.

 

Keep that camera rolling. With photos, you’re always trying to get the most perfect moment. With video, you’re looking for the moving/motion/in-between moments. Examples are filming babies finishing getting dressed, cake being carried out to the party, props being set up and Mom picking up and comforting a crying baby.

 

A photo is all about the perfect shot. With video, our goal is to show the audience what’s happening and what it took to get to this point in time. Your video edit will have a great flow when you not only film the posed shoot but also capture the in-between moments.

 

#4 – Keep the edit short.

 

Even though this is the cutest baby ever, you don’t need a seven-minute video. Don’t be worried about audio or telling a story. Maybe you just want to make a slideshow with a few iPhone video clips as a fusion video. Your final product should be no longer than three or four minutes. We broke ours up into a 15-second Instagram and a three-minute video to post on Facebook.

 

Let your video clips and music dictate the length of the video. Most of our videos are synced with music, and it’s so important for the music to match the feeling of the birthday. The song is going to connect your video clips with your viewing audience, so take your time and choose wisely.

 

Photographers tell me they use the same song for slideshows all the time, and nobody is really watching them. Why? Maybe the photographer is using the same song over and over or just not choosing a fun song that matches the event. Remember, your social media fans want to see you being creative, always customizing and producing content that is unique and different. You should almost never use the same song in any video.

 

Ingrid Michaelson, One Republic and Colbie Caillat have amazing music I recommend for birthday videos. You are at a huge disadvantage if you’re not using SongFreedom.com for your edits. It’s the only music licensing company that has genres other than indie music. Keep your video clips short. Use a variety of wide, medium and close-up shots. Make sure your video clips are cut to the beat of the music. Your template for the edit you’re using is the song. Let it tell you what clips to use and when.

 

#5 – Streamline your workflow.

 

Babies are unpredictable. You might have two minutes or two hours with a birthday baby. You’ll want a tripod and a track. A baby is so small, you’ll need to get low angles, and a track allows you to do just that. For a cake smash, you can multitask and use both. Using two cameras, you can put one on a tripod and use a track for your other shots. Record with both of them so you don’t miss any moments.

 

If you don’t have two cameras, just use your iPhone for the wide shot, giving you more options with angles and moments. Keep your batteries fully charged and have formatted cards that can record for long periods of time. I found myself using a 90mm macro, an 85mm and a cropped 10–18mm. Those lenses give you all the variety you’ll need to get plenty of usable shots for a fantastic film.

 

Chances are you will be working with another photographer on the shoot. For the staged shoot with props and the birthday cake smash, set up your tripod next to the photographer so you don’t block their shot. Tell her she can go in front of the tripod if she has to because you’re shooting two angles. Your other angle is great for a track, and the 90mm macro to focus on close-ups.

 

I’m always changing lenses because the goal is video variety. If you have an outdoor venue for the actual birthday party like we did, you can get motion video shots, party details, and friends and family having fun. It is all about the baby, but when the final video is being edited, you will have a more interesting video when you see everything that happened and not just a cake smash.

 

Nothing can complement your photos better then video. Almost every shooter I meet offers only video or photography, but not both. If you don’t want the stress of wedding filmmaking, offering video services for babies and kids could be a fun and rewarding way for you to create special experiences that nobody in your market is offering.

 

Remember that people buy emotionally, and when you connect photo and video and moments, you have all the right ingredients for final deliverables that parents, friends and family will want to share and have forever.

 

What a way to make a living, filming precious babies eating cake, crying, giggling, in the cutest outfits and settings with so much love. You have the greatest job in the world, and it’s time to capitalize on it with video.

 

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The First 28 Days: How to Pose Newborns with Ana Brandt

June 1st, 2016

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The First 28 Days: How to Pose Newborns with Ana Brandt

 

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The newborn stage is defined as the first 28 days of life, after which humans are referred to as infants for up to three months. In our studio, we consider newborns to be as old as six weeks, as most babies are born earlier than the 40-week cycle. A baby is considered premature when it is born at least three weeks before the due date—in other words, before the start of the 37th week.

 

When I started shooting newborns in 1999, it was common to photograph a newborn anywhere from four to six weeks. Now, most photographers want to shoot them at under two weeks.

 

Newborns can be photographed during any part of the newborn stages if the photographer is prepared and knows the methods of soothing and caring for the baby. With that being said, there are times where a newborn is not having a very good day and is so fussy that capturing a single image is impossible. A number of factors can explain why, and I do not believe in forcing a session. If a baby cannot be properly soothed and cared for, it’s okay to reschedule with parents.

 

Parents and photographers always ask me when the perfect time is to photograph a newborn. I find it easiest to shoot babies between 10 and 14 days. I’ve also photographed babies between 15 and 20 days with no issues at all. It is important to find out if Mom wants sleepy-baby photos or awake photos. As they move along in their progression, they will be more awake and alert, but photographing them in this stage is often harder. Keeping a baby wrapped, warm, settled and well fed can reveal some amazing wide-awake images.

 

Note that brand-new babies may have peely, flaky skin as they shed their first layer. Around two to three weeks, they can develop acne. Trying to create the perfect session between peely skin and acne is a big guessing game, but just the right amount of retouching can cure either.

 

We suggest that our clients call or leave us a message within 24 to 48 hours of giving birth. If they are scheduled for a C-section, we preschedule their session and then follow up to make sure everything went as planned.

 

Other factors besides the age of the baby are very important, such as weight. If a client calls me to photograph her baby at one week and her baby is less than six pounds, I often suggest she wait a little longer to make sure the baby is gaining weight and eating well. Whereas if a mother calls me with a 9-pound baby, I may suggest we get that baby in sooner—perhaps around the eighth or ninth day.

 

Key Factors in Shooting Newborns

 

Delivery

 

Was delivery on time and as planned? Was there any trauma to the baby? Injuries? Difficulties with breathing? Jaundice? Circumcision?

 

Over the years, I have heard about and seen just about everything. From bruised heads, to heart conditions, to painful circumcisions—the list goes on an on. This is an extremely sensitive time for family and baby. Make sure delivery went as planned, and that baby is healthy and Momma is recovering well. If anything has gone wrong and requires home rest or more doctor visits, the newborn session will just have to wait.

 

I have received too many calls from stressed-out parents who have been told their one-month newborn is too old for a photography session. Who is telling them this? Photographers. Will it be more of a challenge? Maybe. This depends on the expectations of the client and the skill of the photographer. It gets harder and harder to achieve a curled-up newborn in a sleepy womb position each week as the baby grows and the bones develop.

 

While newborns are very sleepy during the first 14 days of life, they are often wide-awake and alert for longer at 28 or 34 days. Before the session, set parents’ expectations of what poses can be achieved. Photographers should also never “guarantee” any poses at any age. Newborns are human beings—and, while they’re tiny and are unable to say how they are feeling, they will let you know pretty quickly if a pose is uncomfortable. Never force poses, and always make safety your first priority.

 

Time of day

 

Newborns are generally best photographed in the morning. They are often up most of the night and then fall into a deep sleep in the early morning. Midday usually works well as long as the baby is fed right before the session. Late afternoon is not ideal, especially for newborns with toddler siblings. An afternoon session can head into the dinner hour, which is often a cranky time for everyone involved. We tell parents that we understand they are exhausted, but if they can come to us first thing in the morning and feed their baby before their session, they can relax for the first hour as we focus on baby. By focusing on the baby first, parents have time to get dressed and have coffee before family pictures begin.

 

Baby feeding

 

Newborns generally eat every two to three hours, depending on how well they are latching or handling a bottle. Ask the parents how long their feeding schedule is. The length of their feeding schedule determines how much time I have to work.

 

If the baby feeds every two to three hours, I suggest that Mom feed baby a full feeding right before the scheduled session. If the session starts at 10:00, then I am hoping for a 9:30 feeding, which means the baby probably has not fed since 7:00 or 7:30. In this example, Mom comes with a baby ready to feed. The baby feeds and then often lets gas out and will have bathroom time, all while being wrapped up and secured.

 

If I can work well in my newborn session workflow, then I can get through an entire newborn session before the next feeding. This often makes the difference between a two-hour and a four-hour newborn session. Once you go into the next feeding cycle, it delays the session for another 30 to 45 minutes of feeding and soothing, and often extends through the length of time set aside.

 

Each baby is different. We tell our parents—especially those traveling a long distance—that if their baby is hungry, feed her. Most babies feed on demand and have no real schedule in the first few days of life. Some babies latch really well, and others need to be fed with a syringe. Discuss feeding habits before the session to ensure a smooth shoot.

 

Heat

 

Most newborns are swaddled for the first two weeks of life, if not longer. They are kept very warm since the womb in which they were raised was about 99.86 degrees, which is the same as a woman’s body temperature. A baby’s temperature averages around 96.8 degrees. Babies cannot regulate their own temperature since they can’t shiver or sweat. Newborns’ body temperature is regulated by their body fat. This is why a 9-pound baby often does very well naked, while a 6-pound baby won’t settle well if not properly wrapped.

 

I don’t use heating pads because I can’t regulate how much heat is hitting the baby’s body. Instead, we use portable heaters at a safe distance from the baby to warm the room. We start most newborn sessions with the baby wrapped well, and slowly unwrap her as she adjusts to the room temperature. We then slowly work with various poses as the baby allows. Heavier babies (9 or 10 pounds) often feel very warm, and we don’t keep the wraps on as long for them.

 

A note on twins

 

Twins often arrive early and are smaller. Learn their weight and prematurity stage before scheduling. We photograph twins around two to three weeks.

 

So what are the best poses for each week of those 28 days? See the images below for some ideas.

 

Newborn Photographer’s Checklist

 

Baby shusher/white noise

Hand sanitizer

Baby posing beanbags

Posing beanbag

Cloth diapers

Chucks

Spare diapers

Spare pacifiers

Aquaphor

Wipes

Heating source

Weights for props

 

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Outdoor Newborns with Blair Phillips

June 1st, 2016

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Outdoor Newborns with Blair Phillips

 

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I can only imagine the amount of pain and emotional stress involved in giving birth. We should cater to new mothers any chance we can. It is a lot to ask of a woman who just gave birth to traipse around outdoors for a two-hour newborn session. Keeping Mom comfortable and stress-free during the session is just as important as creating great images.

 

I always have cool bottled water, light snacks and something sweet on hand for the new mother. Standing around in the bright sun is not generally exciting to someone who just gave birth. Keep an umbrella around to shade her. You want her to have a memorable experience so she will share it with friends. She is likely to remember the many comforts you provided during the session.

 

Women experience a sea of emotions throughout a pregnancy. Somewhere in all those thoughts, unique newborn images come into play. Bringing a child into this world begins the biggest responsibility of one’s life. A newborn photographer should pull out all the stops. This happens only one time.

 

I’ve enjoyed creating newborn images for nearly 12 years. While each shoot is similar, the approach is different for each. I spent a large portion of my career photographing newborns indoors. They’re so delicate. They must remain indoors in a controlled environment, goes the common wisdom. One afternoon several years ago, I decided to stop listening to that and created a whole new style for my newborn clients. I ventured outdoors with a newborn and discovered a new world.

 

A 4-foot by 6-foot scrim is my favorite tool for these images. I use different layers of diffusion panels, depending on the sun. The more direct the sun, the stronger my diffusion panel. The scrim attaches to a light stand, and is easily adjustable. A sandbag holds everything in place, allowing me to work without an assistant.

 

No matter where you are photographing newborns, you are very limited on time, so I have all my props and locations put together and ready. This way, I can place the baby, make adjustments, capture the image and move on.

 

Generally, the more people you include in a newborn session, the more opportunities you have to sell images. When I photograph newborns solely indoors, I find it challenging to get the family interested in participating—mostly due to the chaos they just endured, I imagine. Offering a more casual outdoor opportunity seems to be a little more inviting for me these days. Casually adding groupings of children and families is much more inviting and less stressful when shooting outdoors. New parents are sometimes on edge when they have to bring their other children along when it is indoors. Being outdoors is less stressful to parents with rowdy children.

 

Newborns are quick to let you know when they are uncomfortable or the least bit unhappy. A screaming, irritable baby makes for a tough sale. It is your job to bring whatever’s needed to ensure their comfort. A portable battery pack is a very important tool for an outdoor newborn shoot. I plug in a heating pad and place it underneath the baby if it’s cool or windy. On hot summer days, a portable fan can be a savior. Babies tolerate heat well, but they can also overheat easily.

 

Depending on your location, noise could be a factor. Consistent and constant noise is a must when photographing newborns. An old hairdryer set to blow cold air is one of the loudest, cheapest and most effective noise machines.

 

Over the years, a lot of my newborn clients have been small business owners. Anytime you can incorporate a newborn with a business or profession, you have a guaranteed moneymaker. This is one of the many reasons you ask a series of questions when someone calls to book a session. It is all in the way you market these sessions. Show sample images of how you tie in professions with newborn images.

 

Half the battle is getting clients’ minds wandering and imagining. People often don’t know what they want until they see it. I always ask the families to bring heirlooms. Heirlooms are one of the best ways to add instant emotion to a newborn image. The more emotion you bring to the table, the more money you put into your account.

 

Hobbies are another way to tack on high numbers to an outdoor newborn session. For sports-loving dads, incorporate sports equipment into the session. It’s best to use the items in a way that puts them in both the foreground and background of your images. It looks cheesy when you simply put them behind the baby.

 

Newborn photography can be one of the most challenging and rewarding forms of photography. There will always be a market for indoor newborn images, but parents are going to continue to want more creativity than what’s offered by studio images. Things are forever changing in our industry. You can make adjustments to remain current or do the same things year after year, and become a memory.

 

Photographing newborns outdoors is a guaranteed way to get people talking about your work. Bear in mind that not everyone is open to taking their new babe outdoors. Those clients who want my outdoor work are generally more open, creative and hungry for images that are less ordinary.

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Newborns and Neutrals in No Time—Retouching in Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas

June 1st, 2016

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Newborns and Neutrals in No Time—Retouching in Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Photographing newborns in an ideal setting can be difficult when you are working on location. We rush to the window light and make due with the nursery (for character) or living room (for that wide-open spacing). I try to find neutral tones and bare walls, and slightly overexpose in-camera to get the image close to how I want it delivered to the client.

Whether I am close or not in camera, it’s Lightroom to the rescue. Why Lightroom and not Photoshop? Time is of the essence. Moms want those images practically same day. My wife wants them even sooner.

You can do heavy research and purchase presets for newborns in Lightroom. Do not let me stop you from using the click-and-go technique as a starting point. I happily encourage presets, and use them to shift my untouched Raw files before retouching. Let’s build some together, and then move into adjustment brushes for the fine tuning of the image.

Build Presets

The initial investment for purchasing or building presets pays off in the time you will save. To build some, let’s review the Develop panels in Lightroom and begin dividing them into global versus specialized tools. Most commonly used is the Basic panel, a great starting point to apply globally. We can pull down some contrast for a softer look overall by lifting shadows, reducing highlights, making subtle adjustments to the black-and-white point sliders and lowering the contrast slider into the negatives. (1)

This is our starting preset. Save these settings by holding Shift + Command + N. Create a new folder to begin organizing the presets. Select all the sliders we adjusted, and click Create. (2)

If you like to globally apply Noise Reduction and Sharpening, these can also be added to the starting point preset. Use Lens Correction, and leave it at the default settings. We can make separate presets for these so you have a little more flexibility. (3)

Exposure, Tone Curve and HSL are additional presets for selective editing. I generally make a few for Exposure in 25% increments. (4) You can do the same for the other tone adjustments in the basic panel, but I like to move a little quicker. (5) Tone Curve can be used for a lot of selective tonal settings. I usually create a few midtones and flatten black tone presets. (6)

HSL works great for removing blue casts from white and neutral tones. (7) Pull down red and green saturation, and remember to lift red luminance to brighten skin color. These are great options for creating presets, but remember that HSL works globally—to be more selective, we need to use local brush adjustments. (8)

Target Adjustment Tools

Once we’ve applied some presets and begun editing the subject, the background can start to look discolored and distracting. When working with white balance, I find it best to edit for the subject’s skin tone and then remove the unwanted casts on their clothing and the surroundings. Making this image neutral overall with only white balance is not working. Target adjustment tools can help.

We can choose between Hue, Saturation and Luminance to target the colors that will be affected. I generally use Saturation the most, and occasionally mess with Luminance. (9) Hold Shift + Alt + Command + S to begin adjusting the saturation. Click and drag down to lower and up to raise the saturation. (10) Sliders move based on where you click. Notice that your subject may become affected when you drag out the yellow from the background. (11)

Using Luminance, you can brighten the red and orange skin tones and darken the background. (12) For neutral tones, you have to be mindful that adjusting the background can severely flatten the contrast when dragging Luminance down. (13) It is adjusting the white and light gray tones in my image. Not to mention that the color of the skin varies from warmer on the face to soft red tones on the arms and legs. We need to work more selectively in this case.

Local Adjustment Brushes

Now we are ready to begin retouching this image and getting it ready to export. First, I remove the reddish, cool skin tone on the arms, legs, hands and feet. Activate the Adjustment Brush by striking the “K” key and then click the effects presets at the top of the drop-down menu. (14) I have previously made a red skin removal preset, so let’s select that and begin painting on the effect. You can see the difference immediately. We can now darken and warm the skin as well. (15)

Once we have the mask made for the arms, legs, hands and feet, we can adjust the sliders accordingly for the color and brightness. This starts to make the image look much more consistent overall. (16ab) Next, we smooth the skin by subtly lowering the clarity and noise sliders. Since we have a good mask made, let’s duplicate this edit mask and paint over the face. To do this, right-click on the edit pin and choose Duplicate. Mask out the eyes and mouth by holding Option while painting. (17)

Since his eyes are open, we can enhance the iris and whiten the eyes. Normally we are stuck dealing with the reds in the eyelids, but this will be more of a general portrait enhancement. (18) Automask works well with these edge-specific areas; try this when there is a crisp edge you are masking out of an area. (19) We want to dodge some of these shadows as well, but remember that shadows give depth and are not always distractions from the subject. (20ab)

Burning down the background is executed with the Graduated Filter. Strike the “M” key to activate this tool, and choose Burn From the Effects Presets. (21) You can quickly mask out the subject by holding Shift + T, and then hold Option while masking out an area. (22) We can drop the saturation to neutralize the white balance. (23)

The Results

Once the groundwork is laid with presets, you can move a lot faster through an edit. Of course, with presets we can only shift an image globally and will need to do some local adjustments in the end.

Retouching has never been a click-and-go process, but in Lightroom you can do quite a lot of processing with these retouching-brush presets. Take some time to build your own workflow and stylized presets so you can retouch with no time wasted. When you’re editing an entire newborn session, saving a minute per edit really adds up.

 

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Brand New: The Business of Newborn Portraits with Lori Nordstrom

June 1st, 2016

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Brand New: The Business of Newborn Portraits with Lori Nordstrom

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Whether you are currently a newborn photographer, have considered photographing newborns, or the thought of photographing a baby freaks you out—you have more than likely been asked to photograph a newborn session at one point or another. Even if you never want to specialize in photographing newborns, if you are a portrait photographer, it is a great skill to add to your bag.

 

When you photograph a brand-new baby, you have the opportunity to create a client for life. For many portrait photographers, this is the goal. We want to be thought of any time our clients think about photography, whether it’s of their little ones, their whole family as they grow, senior portraits, or engagement portraits and weddings, and it begins again.

My first choice of subject is always kids. But many years ago, I realized that if I didn’t get babies into the studio, I may miss the opportunity to photograph them as they grow. If a mom chose another photographer for her new baby, she may very well get tied into a first-year plan with them and then continue to use them for year two, three and so on. The answer for me at the time was to create a new division of my company that specialized in newborns. I suggest this to anyone who is looking to add a new product line into their marketing mix.

 

By creating different divisions for newborns, portrait parties and events, high school seniors and weddings, I can be very specific in our marketing and communication with each of those clients and their interests. It allowed me to bring on additional photographers and plug them into one division, giving them their own specialty. Because my studio name is my own name, it would be difficult to have other photographers comfortably shooting under the Lori Nordstrom brand. By creating divisions for different product lines, I am able to give them that division’s name and niche. Our newborn division is simply called Brand New. We communicate the brand to our clients by focusing on all of those brand-new moments and milestones that their babies will go through during the first year. By asking questions and engaging parents in telling their baby’s story, we are able to talk about and capture those memories for them.

 

Once you’ve decided that you want to photograph newborns, you need to make a few decisions. What products will you sell to the parents? How will you set up and present your pricing? How will you market and get in front of parents to be? Videos and tutorials on how to photograph newborns abound on the Internet, so we will stick to the business side of your newborn division.

 

What Products Will You Sell?

 

Most photographers ask themselves the question: “What are parents buying these days from their newborn sessions?” Your clients don’t know what they want to buy until you tell them. You get to decide what it is you want your clients to own, what products will best show off your work and what products they will most enjoy for years to come. The products that I want to sell are wall portraits and albums. Parents buy gift prints for family, and they buy birth announcements and thank-you cards. Those are add-ons, things that I don’t need to get them excited about. But I do need to communicate with them the value of a beautiful wall portrait for their baby’s nursery as well as an heirloom album that will be a treasured keepsake.

 

During baby’s first year, I recommend ages and stages to be photographed while talking about all of the milestones we’ll be capturing during the session and how they’ll want to remember those stages. I recommend a full-length sleeping baby portrait from the newborn session. My most popular size is a 20×30 because it looks really nice above the changing table. From the four-month session, I recommend our Expressions Collection, which is a 20×20 0r 30×30 with nine images in it.

 

Babies are very expressive at four months, and I can quickly get many looks. At eight months, babies are on all fours and sitting up well. I suggest a 10×30 storyboard of three images that show off exactly what the baby is doing at this stage. At the one-year session, I photograph a formal first-birthday portrait to be hung in a living area of the home, and then we do a birthday cake session. I suggest a collage of images from the birthday cake smash, with 20×24 being the most popular size. By recommending these different pieces from each stage of the baby’s first year, I can ensure good sales throughout each of the sessions from the first year. I also suggest a four-volume album collection, one album from each session. That makes the full-year album look that much more affordable. I don’t sell the four-volume set often, but I do sell the first-year album almost every time.

 

How Will You Set Up and Present Your Pricing?

 

Once you’ve determined what products you’d like to offer, you’ll want to set up your pricing for those products. Take into account all of the costs included in each product. You’ll want to add the costs to print, mount and texture your portraits, frame costs, packaging, credit card fees and anything else it takes to create those products. You also need to consider the time needed to create the product, and add that value to each one. I normally suggest taking yourself out of the equation when thinking about a time value. After you add up the costs, multiply that figure by four for a 25 percent cost of sale (COS), and multiply by five for a 20 percent COS. The lower you can get your COS, the higher your profit will be on that product.

 

Now you need to decide how you will set up your pricing and how you present it to your clients. You can set up your pricing with an à la carte menu, with packages or with a build-your-own-collection model. I prefer the last, especially if you are new to in-person sales. A build-your-own menu gives you the opportunity to walk your client through the pricing, telling them exactly what you want them to buy. They will be rewarded with a discount or with a complimentary additional product for purchasing something from each step of your build-your-own menu.

 

I also highly recommend creating a PDF of your pricing that you can email to your clients once a session is booked and you’ve talked through some of the details. By working with a PDF, you’ll never have unwanted pricing pieces stacked up or laying around. It also won’t end up in the hands of someone you haven’t been able to communicate with. Another thing that I like about working with a PDF instead of printed pricing is that I can change it anytime. I haven’t printed hundreds of menus that I feel tied to.

 

How Will You Market to New Clients?

 

There are many ways to market to new mommies and moms to be, but over the years, networking has remained the best way to get in front of targeted, qualified clients. Networking with and through past clients is always my go-to place to begin. If I am starting something new, I make personal phone calls to a select number of clients. I tell them what’s new and ask them to keep me in mind when they hear of a friend, neighbor or coworker who might be interested in our studio experience.

 

I make up gift cards and enclose them in a nice card that can be personalized, and give each of my interested clients five to 10 of these cards to give to anyone they feel would be a good fit.

 

I work with other business owners in much the same way. Once a relationship has been established, I offer gift cards to the business owner to hand out to their best clients. Again, I supply the gift cards and stationery, and ask that they gift the cards to anyone they feel would enjoy my style of photography, wall portraits and albums. Partnering up with other businesses and well-connected people takes time and effort, but I’ve found that it brings me the most qualified new clients.

 

Enjoy your tiny clients. Be patient, and ask a lot of questions—moms love to talk about all the new experiences, whether it’s her first child or her fifth. This is a great way to not only bond and show you care, but to refer to those memories and milestones as things you’ll be capturing. They’ll be able to experience each stage only once. What better way to remember it all than with beautiful portraits?

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Top 10 Newborn Session Tips with Lisa Rapp

June 1st, 2016

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Top 10 Newborn Session Tips with Lisa Rapp

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

When people ask me what I do for a living, I say, “I shoot babies!”—which sounds a little harsh, but it’s what I do. Newborn photographers are a rare breed. I am one of the few professionals who literally gets shit on at my job, and I love every second of it. We are given the purest form of human life, entrusted to keep it content and safe, all the while trying to keep calm, cool and collected ourselves. Here are a few things I have picked up over the years during my newborn sessions.

 

  1. Know that you are not in control of the session—baby is!

 

You can’t force babies to do anything they don’t want to do. If a baby isn’t comfortable doing a certain pose, they just won’t do it. Persistently trying to force a baby into position will only make them cry, which in turn will make Mom uncomfortable and stressed, and make you look clueless. Content babies sleep. Comfortable babies hold positions and poses, and then you look like a baby whisperer. A warm environment, full belly and some white noise may also help keep a baby happy.

I try to get the baby into a pose a few times, and if it isn’t working, I move on. I may try again later if I feel they are more relaxed or sleeping better. Just go with the flow.

 

  1. Get it right in camera—wrinkles are bad, bad, bad.

 

For the love of your sanity, don’t say, “I can get rid of that in post.” Straighten out the wrinkles before you even press the shutter. Post-processing is a time suck. You don’t have to fix it if it isn’t there in the first place. Take a few extra minutes on these details to save you a lot of editing time. Smooth, nontextured blankets are easy to fix in post. Textured blankets are a nightmare.

  1. Let’s talk newborn safety—don’t drop the baby!

 

Baby’s safety and well-being are priority one.

I’m not going to rant or preach here. Use common sense. These babies are not toys. They need to be handled with care. Remember, you have someone’s precious little bundle of joy in your hands.

Babies’ heads are very heavy, and they have no muscle control. Always support the neck and head when handling a baby.

I prefer to do composites. While some photographers don’t do composites, I have to trust that they know how to handle babies safely and responsibly.

I always have someone sitting next to the bag or prop within arm’s reach. I tell whoever is helping me, whether it be Mom, Dad or my studio wife, “Your only job is to watch the baby. Don’t watch me, don’t turn to look at your spouse, keep your eyes on the baby. If baby stretches her legs out, she can jump like a frog and startle everyone.” I explain that the baby is on a huge beanbag that isn’t going anywhere, but that we just don’t need that kind of excitement during the session.

I don’t put a baby in/on a prop unless he is sound asleep and out cold. Fidgety babies move, and nobody’s got time for that.

 

  1. Check on Mom—she just had a baby, for heaven’s sake.

 

Childbirth is stressful on the body, and Mom is a hothouse of female emotions. Her body is sore and tired, even though she might not realize it. If she comes alone and my studio wife isn’t there, Mom will be the one assisting me. I ask her several times during the session if she needs a break, snack or drink.

If Mom is assisting, I help her up if she is sitting on the floor next to the bag. I never let her get up unassisted or while holding the baby. The question “Are you doing okay?” is short but sweet, and right to the point. This should be a pleasant experience. They will remember your genuine concern. Mommies have mommy friends—i.e., potential new clients.

For breastfeeding moms, I have a trifold screen for privacy. So if the mailman pops in, she feels secure.

 

  1. Patience, patience and more patience.

 

Every newborn is as unique as a diamond. Every newborn photographer knows that some babies are more tolerant to being handled than others. There are no “bad” babies; there are just some who are less tolerant to being handled.

This is where your inner Zen master comes into play. I don’t give up easily, and I tell my parents this up front. I take my time and don’t rush. I know when a baby isn’t going to cooperate, and I move on. Not every baby will do every pose, and that is okay. This is something I have difficulty with. I want every single pose to happen, and I want it to be perfect. This is when I have to revisit Tip No. 1 and remember that I am not in control here.

 

  1. All tied up.

 

Wrapping newborns is not easy when they are awake. We all have met that one newborn we call the Master Escape Artist. This is the baby that can kick, punch and squirm out of every wrap possible. My best advice is to wrap that little burrito tight. (Not too tight!)

Don’t be scared to experiment with different wrapping methods. Most babies like to be swaddled, and this is also a good way to settle some of them down.

When wrapping babies, keep a close eye on them, because you don’t want them to get too warm.

When unwrapping, don’t just yank it off. Unwrap with care so you don’t catch the umbilical stump and accidentally pull it off. Some boys who have been circumcised have a “bell,” and you need to use extra caution in this area. I have had them fall off during a session, and it isn’t a big deal, but be careful not to accidentally get it caught in the wrap.

 

  1. Shit happens.

 

Reassure parents that babies will pee and poop on everything, including you. They will stress and apologize repeatedly—just remind them that everything comes out in the wash.

I keep puppy training pads handy. These are a staple in the studio. When babies aren’t on the posing bag, they are wrapped up in a puppy pad. They have saved me so many times from being soiled.

It doesn’t hurt to keep a few extra t-shirts handy in case the baby has a huge explosion on Mom or Dad. That way, they don’t have to sit there covered in poo during the session.

 

  1. Know your limitations.

 

If you are just starting out, keep it simple. Get comfortable posing newborns before you dive into the harder poses. Discuss what the parents are expecting in the session. If they want poses that are beyond your experience level, you need to be honest with them and discuss their expectations. Honesty is always the best policy with newborns. The baby’s safety is more important than any shot, especially any shot that you don’t know how to accomplish safely.

Invest in your education. Continue to learn and grow. Learn something new with every session.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know, ask. There are many photographers out there who are not willing to help, but there are just as many who are willing to give you advice and encouragement. Go find them.

 

  1. Presession tips.

 

I ask Mom to loosen the diaper a couple of hours before the session. This is to help eliminate marks on the baby for editing purposes. This is a purely selfish request—I hate editing.

I keep the studio at 80 degrees, and warn parents so they can dress accordingly. I am a hot sweaty mess during a session, and it isn’t pretty.

I ask Mom to dress the baby in a sleeper, with no onesie. The sleeper should either zip or snap up the front. This prevents me from having to pull anything over the baby’s head when they arrive.

I ask Mom to either feed the baby right before they head to the studio (if they live within a half an hour from me) or to hold off feeding the baby until they get here (for those who travel more than an hour for their session). This is not set in stone. It’s just to ensure the baby has a full belly. If it doesn’t work out this way, I tell Mom it’s okay, and explain why I am making this suggestion. Babies’ needs come first, obviously.

I photograph just one baby a day. This ensures I am not rushed in case the baby needs a little extra time, if parents are a smidge late due to poop explosions or anything else that may pop up.

I tell parents that I have everything that is needed for the session. This prevents them from bringing outfits that are not my style. But if they have something special that someone made them, I am more than happy to photograph it. I do tell them if they have a lot of things they want to bring, they should choose one or two of their favorites for me to shoot.

 

  1. Appreciate this honor.

 

Always remember what a blessing and honor you are being given. These parents are handing you their world. Treat the experience with the respect it deserves. You are capturing this newborn at its most vulnerable and purest, and you shouldn’t take that lightly.

What isn’t a perfect pose in your eyes will be the most perfect shot in the eyes of the parents. This family is now your extended family, and will remember the wonderful experience they had with you. You are being given access to the beginning of a wonderful relationship with this family. Don’t underestimate the power in this new connection.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

 

Making Money in Any Market and Any Economy with Sal Cincotta

June 1st, 2016

June16_LargeBlog_SCincotta

 

Making Money in Any Market and Any Economy with Sal Cincotta

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

My company excels at the business of photography. We get it. I’m not being condescending. Business savvy is key to the growth and success of your business. You have got to constantly take the temperature of your business and the landscape in which you operate.

 

If you don’t take the time to do this, you run the risk of waking up one day to a business and economy that has passed you by. To make matters worse, you will find that your competitors have stolen market share right from under your nose while you were sleeping. Yes, sleeping at the wheel. Your business is your ship, and you have to navigate it through a minefield.

 

The Basics

 

To craft a good business plan and build a successful business, you need to understand the competitive landscape. If you don’t understand this, you will constantly feel like you are reacting to market changes. You can’t run a successful business if you are always reacting to things. You need some vision and a plan of attack. That plan can’t be a feather in the wind.

 

It drives me bonkers when I hear any business owner say, “It’s the economy” or, “People in my area don’t spend money.” Let me get this right: Your success is based on the economy? Your success is based on the people in your area spending money? Actually, the problem is you. That’s right. Time for some tough love. It is in fact you. You are the single biggest obstacle to the success of your business. Stop blaming everyone else. Control your own destiny.

 

Let’s lay some ground rules.

 

First, everyone has money for what they want to have money for. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a welfare recipient or a multimillionaire. That’s reality, my friends. When you walk into someone’s home who says they have no money and you see a nice big flat-screen TV—well, they clearly have money for what’s important to them.

 

This is a key piece of psychology you need to wrap your mind around. It will prevent you from “feeling bad” for people when you are trying to sell them your services. My philosophy is you came to me because you want great pictures. Well, guess what? I am in the business of selling great pictures. Ding-ding-ding, we have a match. Stop “feeling” anything. Run your business like a damn business.

 

Here is something else to consider. Wall Street makes money in a down economy and in an up economy. Wall Street doesn’t complain. They keep making money. But you are thinking, Wait, we are not Wall Street. No, we’re not, but consumer behavior is no different. Yes, when the economy pulls back and spending tightens up, people are still spending money on things they want. The key is convincing your market that they “need” your product or services. Do any of us need a $4 cup of coffee? Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped Starbucks from record earnings.

 

Standing Out

 

We grew our studio during the middle of the recession. We hit record numbers in clients and sales. How? I can tell you we didn’t worry about what everyone else was doing. We didn’t say that people have no money. We took matters into our own hands. We knew that photographers were a dime a dozen. Pricing was all over the board, from the $500 shoot-and-burner to the $20,000 celebrity shoot. We had to carve out our own niche. So the question has to be: What can we do to stand out from the crowd? This applies to every business, not just photography.

 

Step back and ask yourself what you can do to stand out. Here are some things to consider.

 

  • Who is the market leader in your area?
  • What are they doing that makes them the market leader?
  • What can you do to leapfrog the market leader? Product? Service?
  • Where are you weak in your business compared to your competitors?
  • How is your brand viewed in the marketplace? Are you on the low end of the market, midmarket, upmarket?

 

Notice that I didn’t tell you to copy your competitors or market leaders. That makes no sense. To be successful, you have to be forward leaning. Force your competitors to react to you rather than just copy everything they do. That’s a complete waste of time and effort. What makes you unique? This is the only way you will be successful, regardless of the economy.

 

Competing on Price

 

Want a surefire way to end up broke and out of business? Compete on price. You will run your business into the ground. Guaranteed. We are artists. We are not a commodity product. You are not Wal-Mart. Competing on price is a race to the bottom that leads to bad decision after bad decision.

 

Instead, compete on your offerings. Compete on the uniqueness of your product or service. If you see yourself as just a photographer, that’s the problem. Think about if a baker saw herself as just a baker. She would be, well, just a baker. But a world-renowned baker is operating with a different mindset, creating works of art, unique flavors and specialty designs. See the point here? Think like an artist, and you will never compete on price again. Why? Because what you offer is so unique, there is no need to.

 

At Salvatore Cincotta Photography, we do not compete on price. We are one of the most expensive wedding photographers at our bridal show every single year. And every single year, we book a shit-ton of business. I refuse to compete on price. If I did, we would cut prices in half. Instead, I offer high-end albums and service. Service starts the minute they contact us, the second they walk in the booth. Then I let my imagery speak for itself.

 

Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, I embrace my dramatic style of shooting and editing. This ensures my clients are crystal clear on what we do and why we are the best fit for them.

 

Price? That becomes a secondary or tertiary issue for them. They love our work and know they want to work with us. That’s all that matters to everyone. The sooner you realize this, the better. A typical wedding costs $30,000 and up. If they want to work with you, they will reallocate money from another vendor.

 

Stop competing on price and start competing on talent, quality, products and service. It will change your business and your life.

 

Investing in the Business

 

This is truly a vicious circle. You don’t charge enough, so you have no money to invest in the business. Marketing, advertising and subsequently sales all suffer. This leads to more issues. Now you don’t have time money to invest in training or the proper equipment, and so your images aren’t up to par. You don’t have money to invest in the right sample products to show the clients you don’t have what they should be spending money on or what makes your business better than your competitors.

 

Sound familiar?

 

You have got to break the vicious circle. Take control of your destiny and make the right investments. Smart investments. My thought process is anything that helps me increase sales is something I will invest in. I do this without even batting an eye. I know that an investment like this will have a tenfold payback over the course of a year.

 

Want a new product to show your client? Ninety-nine percent of the time, making that investment in a sample product will immediately pay off when your client buys it. For me, proof was in my upgrade to displaying a 30×40 canvas in my studio. We’d never sold one even though it had been on our price list for two years. We made the investment, made it a centerpiece in our studio, and the first client to come in after that purchased one.

 

Now we sell 30x40s pretty regularly. Why? Because we are showing this high-end product in our studio. If I’d kept telling myself I didn’t have the money to do it, I would still be scratching my head wondering why no one was spending money. I guess I would be one of those photographers saying, “My clients don’t want large prints—all they want are digital files.”

 

Lack of training is another thing that boggles my mind. We have an annual training conference called ShutterFest (ShutterFest.com). (Tickets are $99 if you register early, and up to $299 for a two-day event of shooting and learning.) The number of people I see on public forums saying they don’t have the money to go is truly laughable. Let me get this right: You don’t have $1,000 (travel included) to learn how to make $100,000? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?

 

If you want to have a successful career and business, you need to invest in it. Every successful business owner in the world knows this. It takes money to make money.

 

Success is not an accident. Success is not easy. Success is a result of hard work, an investment of time and money, and laser focus. I promise you, it can be done. Whatever your area of expertise, success can be had regardless of the economy or what your competitors are doing. Take some time to make smart logical decisions, not fear-based decisions, and you too will become the 800-pound guerilla in your market.

 

Go get ’em!

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

 

How to Have a Baby When You’re a Wedding Photographer with Vanessa Joy

June 1st, 2016

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How to Have a Baby When You’re a Wedding Photographer with Vanessa Joy

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

It’s impossible. At least that’s what most of us women think. After all, we know that we can’t miss a wedding we’re booked for no matter what happens, short of a terrorist attack (and even that is covered in my contract). There are no sick days, no calling out and, as far as a lot of people are concerned, no birthing days either.

 

I have witnessed horrible behavior not only toward me, but also wedding colleagues who dared to start a family. It wasn’t anything I wanted to experience for myself. Like so many others, I thought pregnancy would ruin my life. I once had a mother of the bride call me a month before the wedding, and the first thing she said to me was, “You’re not pregnant, are you? Because the hair lady and florist both are, and it’s ruining everything.”

 

It gets better. I once had a potential bride sit down for a consultation with me who said, “We love your work and would love to hire you, but we’re a little concerned that you’ll be starting a family soon.” Wow. I tried to convince her that I wasn’t, but she still didn’t hire me.

 

So where does that leave us workingwoman wedding photographers? Childless? No. It means we have to be more informed and ready than most women who are thinking about having a child. Countless women have asked me about this topic ever since I wrote “6 Reasons Why I Hid My Pregnancy for 8 Months” on my blog (http://vanessajoyphotographyblog.com/2014/04/6-reasons-why-i-hid-my-pregnancy-for-8-months). Here’s the best advice I can give to anyone looking to have a family and a career.

 

Think More About What Comes After

 

A lot of couples make the mistake of thinking about and planning for the wedding more than they do the marriage. It’s the same thing with babies. So many women think more about the pregnancy and delivery more than bringing the baby home and caring for it. It’s only natural, because what it takes to care for a child is beyond a nonparent’s imagination. Think of it this way: There are no sick days—you have responsibilities all day, every day.

 

You might not have the luxury to plan your childbirth around your wedding schedule, but at the very least, you need to plan for one to two months away from work after the birth. Sure, you may hear about the hero moms who shoot a wedding two days after giving birth, but they are the exception, not the rule.

 

Even if everything goes swimmingly, you will need at least one month, preferably two, in order to get to your new definition of normal. You’ll need an extraordinary amount of help for the first two months. If you’re not already outsourcing everything you possibly can, now’s the time to start putting that into practice. Get a family member or friend to start a TakeThemAMeal.com account for you so you can get help at home too. If people want to come see the baby, let them, but have them help you out while they’re there.

 

Have a Plan

 

After the craziness of the first two months, you’ll get into what your normal routine should look like. Even nonroutine people are going to develop some sort of routine. Your routine might not look like a color-coded calendar, but a child needs to eat and sleep on a regular schedule.

 

Now think about what you want that routine to look like. Don’t think about the daily routine yet—that’ll come once you learn how your kid operates and how you operate with them. How many days a week do you plan on working for five or so consecutive hours a day? You’ll need to figure out childcare for those days and times. Do you plan to work only during your child’s naps and bedtimes? Learn all about sleep training now so you can get them sleeping on a predictable schedule. You will be too tired and busy to read a book on the subject after the baby arrives. I used Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old, and it worked like a charm.

 

Stay in Shape

 

There are some circumstances in pregnancy that you cannot avoid, and others that you can. Do your best to eat healthy and exercise while pregnant within your doctor’s guidelines. Though you’ll want to, being pregnant is not an excuse to let it all go. Being pregnant is training for a marathon.

 

You’re about to do the most difficult and miraculous thing a human being can do, and typically it’s not a sprint to the finish. Labor lasts hours and hours, so being in good shape is a really nice way to help that along as well as help you shoot weddings late into your pregnancy. Stay within your pregnancy capabilities and your doctor’s limitations, but be active through your pregnancy as much as possible.

 

Family First

 

I saved this for last because it’s probably the biggest thing on your mind right now: How can I make sure I don’t miss a wedding?

 

As hard as you try, life happens. If your precious event happens at an inconvenient time, if you need more bed rest than you expected, if your postpartum recovery is harder than you’d reckoned, you just might miss a wedding. That’s okay.

 

Your contract should specify what will happen if you can’t be at a wedding and need a replacement. Your clients will have signed off on it, so, although they will be disappointed, you’ll save yourself with that contract. But you’ll still be there handholding your clients before and after the wedding. But most importantly, it’s okay because you already know in your heart that no wedding will ever be as important as the incredible gift of your beautiful child.

 

Watch this video for the life-saving baby tools I used with my daughter Felicity.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

 

Building a Recognizable Brand Through Your Portfolio with Michael Anthony

June 1st, 2016

June16_LargeBlog_MAnthony

 

Building a Recognizable Brand Through Your Portfolio with Michael Anthony

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

There are no second chances to make a first impression. Your portfolio is the first impression your clients have of your brand. When building your business, the quality of your branding is essential. Without a recognizable brand, your business will get lost in the endless sea of competitors coming into the market every single day. There are many parts that go into creating your brand, but the most important thing to remember is that all of those parts must work in sync. Your brand should be developed and revolve around your portfolio in order to attract clients who are a good fit for you.

So how do you develop a recognizable brand? It starts with consistency.

Step 1. Hone Your Photographic Style

This step may seem easy enough, but it’s the hardest part to master. In the first five years of your career, you will likely be evolving your style at a rate that is quicker than your clientele can keep up. You will learn what works and what doesn’t, and constantly look back on how your work has progressed. During this time, you have to look at what makes your work unique, and notice the consistent subtleties as your style evolves. From there, your individual style as an artist will begin to shine through, and you will be able to play to your strengths as an artist.

Step 2. Differentiate

Differentiating your portfolio from your competition is the best thing you can do to book more business.

I have been a professional photographer since 2012. In that short period, we have created a brand that is synonymous with “different.” When I started out, though, my style fluctuated with whichever way the wind was blowing. I constantly adapted to trends, and failed every time. Once, I took out an advertisement with Style Me Pretty, a huge wedding blog site. It was one of the most expensive ads I ever invested in, and I didn’t get a single call. Mind you, SMP is one of the most visited websites for new brides in the world, and its aesthetics are very defined. Not a bad place to advertise, right? Wrong. I was not reaching my ideal client or demographic. Once you realize your style as an artist, your entire portfolio must convey it.

So how do you differentiate? You can do it in a variety of ways: lighting, composition, post-production, etc.

Here are some of the ways we differentiate our brand.
Lighting

I have always loved photographic lighting. My first mentor was a very talented off-camera flash shooter, and it rubbed off on me very early in my career. Recently, I invested in the Profoto off-camera flash system. The B1 and B2 give me the ability to differentiate my work in a way that no other tool can (with the exception of my Canon 11-24; more on that in a minute).

The B1 and B2 give me the power to get my subjects out in the sun, and create a look that is unique in every way. You will often find me using the B1 or B2 to compete with the harsh California sun. The build quality is second to none, and I have dropped these tools in the field with no damage to them whatsoever.

Is the Profoto system expensive? Yes, it is. But the investment has paid for itself 15 times over. And, because it’s exclusive, it has allowed me to separate my work from my competitors. Invest in your business if you want the rewards you dream about.

Composition

Your composition is influenced by a variety of things: posing, lens choice, subject placement. I’ve learned through workshops that composition is one of the hardest photographic skills to conquer. Our studio is known for our use of ultrawide-angle shots. Sal convinced me during a recent visit to St. Louis to purchase the Canon 11-24mm lens.

It’s one of the best tools I’ve invested in. You can take wide-angle shots with many different lenses, but there is something about 11mm that is special. The look is unique, and much of the work featured in our portfolio is shot at 11mm.

Posing

Posing and lighting go hand in hand, and you need to know how to pose your subjects to create a believable image. I often use candid poses that are romantic, intimate and sometimes even sexy for my couples, and it has created a style for us. A potential client who isn’t looking to be posed in this manner is likely not a fit for us.

To get better at posing, you need more than practice. You need solid instruction on the basic foundations of a pose. Take a look at my May and June articles in Shutter for our studio’s posing principles.

Post-production

We have been outsourcing all of our color correction and edits to Evolve Edits for a long time. Evolve has helped me grow our brand to where it is today. There are other companies that offer color correction, even some that do it for a subscription model. But none do it like Evolve. Some editing companies have seen the success of the Evolve’s Signature Edits, and have tried to replicate it. The one thing that makes Evolve unique is that every single Signature Edit hits Sal’s desk. Sal is a Master of WPPI, and a highly awarded photographic artist. No other post-production company offers this high-level service.

I recently had dinner with a client of Evolve who told me about how a Signature Edit that was delivered failed to meet his personal taste—but he saw the light when his client paid $1,500 for it in a large acrylic. Sal usually knows best, which I’ve been reminded of many times.

Step 3: Create Consistency

One thing I see when doing portfolio reviews for newer photographers is a lack of consistency. This was the first thing that was mentioned to me years ago when I had my portfolio reviewed by Daniel Aguilar, an amazing photographer. Your style does not matter as much as how a collection of your images is viewed as a whole. Remember, you have to specialize, and by doing that, you will never be everything to everyone. The style of photography we display on our website actually turns off probably nine out of 10 brides. We have heard it all: “Your style is too dark.” “Your images are too dramatic.” “This doesn’t look very bridal.” And my favorite, often said by my own mother: “Why is everyone so small in the frame? I can’t see their faces.”

Not my client.

My client is the one bride out of 10 who is looking for something dark, dramatic, unconventional, and that will look good on their wall. Your client will not find that style anywhere else, and will be willing to pay you what you are worth to get it.

Another important thing to remember is that everything that goes into your portfolio on the main page of your website needs to be your best work. This goes for social media as well, and you should be updating both your portfolio and social media often. If you do not have enough client work right now, set up some model shoots until you do.

You cannot have images that you are only somewhat proud of. They are not an indication of what makes you different. You also need to keep it to less than two images of the same couple, because featuring too many images of a single set of people can indicate a lack of work or experience, neither of which is good for your brand.

Your Portfolio Is Your Brand

Make sure that when clients look at your portfolio, they are enamored by your ability to tell a story. When they see your body of work, they should be thinking: “I have never seen anything like this before.” Once you get your work to that level, you have built a portfolio that stands out.

But you’re still not done. Portfolios always need to be updated. This year, we are planning shoots in some of the most exotic places in the world. We have to continue to evolve our portfolio because our competitors are always on our heels. Operate under the mindset that the more you continue to innovate, the more you will continue to succeed.

 

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