Mini Session Inspiration by Lexi Vornberg Photography

I love how Lexi Vornberg, when feeling burnt out, opts to challenge herself creatively by getting out of her comfort zone, a practice that will always push us.  Beautiful images, Lexi!

In Lexi's words: 

"As an artist we all hit a point to where we feel burned out or un-inspired.  I was stuck in that rut for the longest time and I can actually thank film for helping to re-inspire me.  In an effort to not lose my passion and love for film I always set up mini shoots for myself to capture what I love and what I see, without the client stress involved.  Lindsay was kind enough to let me capture her and her sweet daughter Ru last summer during one of these personal shoots for myself.  In an effort to push myself during each of these shoots I try to pick one detail that puts me out of my comfort zone.  And in this case it was an urban setting with window light and tight space.  Being an outdoorsy nature loving photographer, this location surely was a challenge and change for me.  But like all challenges it helped me grow and allowed me to capture so many beautiful images."

Ciny, Oh

Canon EOS 1v


Portra 400


You can see more of Lexi's work here:

website | facebook | instagram

Little Bellows is currently accepting summer submissions for our blog!  Feel free to submit your favorite session that screams summer here.

Need a Grown-Up Summer Camp? Let Me Help!

Summertime is here.  The days are long.  It's getting warm.  One of my kids is already out of school, the other will be soon. 

Over the past several weeks I have been doing what I'm pretty sure all working parents do this time of year, researching summer camps.  Lego Robotics Camp, Coding Camp, Exploring Urban Nature Camp (yes, thats a real thing).  Activities that are fun and educational and that will occupy both of my twins over the next two months.

As I was doing all of this research, I started thinking.... why aren't there summer camps for grown ups?!  Sure, it's a little harder for us.  We need to work and parent, and that takes up a lot of the day.  But still, wouldn't it be fun to learn something new? 

What are you doing this summer just for you?  Do you have any "summer camps" scheduled? Anything that will help you grow as a photographer?  

If not, I'd love to make a suggestion:  

This summer, I will be teaching an on-line film class through Click Photo School

In this course you will learn everything you need to know about getting started with film, including:

  •  How color and black and white film stocks differ from each other and from digital sensors.
  • About the incredible latitude of film and what that means for you as an artist.
  • How to “rate” and meter your film in a variety of lighting situations for best results and a desired look.
  • How to push your film for artistic flare and...
  • How to communicate with your lab, so that you get perfect scans every time.

By the time this class is done, you’ll be shooting film with confidence.

And... We'll be working with the amazing Richard Photo Lab!  It's going to be great!

For detailed information on the workshop and on how to sign up, follow the link below.

P.S.  I'm also speaking at Click Away: Seattle in October!  Would love to see you there!


Sandra Coan, Little Bellows: Beginner Film Photography Class




Magazine Submissions

Did you hear we are releasing volume 1 of the Little Bellows Magazine on October 1?? It's true, and we are pretty darn excited about it.

The entire Little Bellows community has so much talent. And we want to reach out to YOU in a call for submissions. It can be content, images, or both! We've added a magazine submissions page here for you to make it simple. 

So if you have a great idea for an article, or a few images you think are stellar, click on through and submit! You never know! You might end up with some work in print come the fall.

© Meghan Boyer Photography for Little Bellows

And if you want to be the first to know
about the magazine's release, be sure to sign up for our newsletter here!

What if it were actually CHEAPER to shoot film?

Have you done your numbers? Figured out your hourly rate? Do you know how many rolls of film you shoot at a session, and how much the total cost per session is? If not, you need to figure that out. It is eye opening.

My name is Meghan, and I am a spreadsheet addict. And I am proud! And every day I look at my "MBP by the numbers" spreadsheet. Every day! Things don't change on it from a day to day basis, but it's good to always keep your business budget in mind. What the heck is "MBP by the numbers"?? It's the giant spreadsheet I created that holds everything relating to money for my business. My goal gross, my hourly rate calculated, my number of hours spent per client, my average sale, my session fee breakdown, my product pricing breakdown, and lots of other pages. One that was eye opening to me is the Film Costs page (I told you there was a page for everything!) But what that page told me, is that it is actually CHEAPER for me to shoot film than digitally.

Did that just blow your mind?

I know you don't believe me. I definitely wouldn't! But here's the breakdown:

  • I know my average cost per roll (BW or C41, 35mm or 120) is $22.76. That will change slightly with film costs, but it's my average right now. 
  • I know my 1 hour shoot will have around 5 rolls of film, making my total film cost per session $113.80.
  • I know my hourly rate according to my gross and hours available, etc, is $122
  • Shooting digital would take approximately 2.5-3 hours of editing time costing me a minimum of $305 (hourly rate x 2.5)
  • Film scans take about 15 minutes to cull and do any needed tweaks (typically just straightening because my head shoots crooked), which costs me $30.50 of my time.
  • My session fee is $225
  • Cost of shooting film for the session including edit time: $144.30
  • Cost of shooting digitally for the session including edit time: $305 and up
  • Profit from my session fee for film: $80.70

  • Profit from my session fee for digital: -$80 (yes, that's NEGATIVE!)

Seems crazy right? But numbers don't lie. It COSTS me my time (which is worth money!!) to shoot digitally. I encourage you to take a look at your own business finances. KNOW your hourly rate. Know your value and what is worth spending your time on and your money on. It might just be eye opening!

Meghan Boyer for Little Bellows // Budgeting Film

Sandra Coan's Friday Favorites

Years ago, when Little Bellows first started, I ran a weekly feature called Friday Favorites.  

Each Friday I pick a handful of photos that had been shared on our Facebook page and post them on the blog.

It was fun!

But when the Facebook algorithms changed, it became harder to do.  So I stopped. And I've missed it. So I'm bringing it back!  Woohoo!  Only now I'll be looking through out Instagram feed every week for my favorites.  

Want a chance to be featured on the blog?  Just be sure to use #littlebellows when posting your photos to Instagram!

And now... here are my Friday Favorites!

have a great weekend!

Little Bellows: Friday Favorites
Little Bellows: Friday Favorites
Little Bellows: Friday Favorites
Little Bellows: Friday Favorites

A Little Break on Lopez Island, WA

Lopez Island is the largest island in the San Juans, located northwest of Washington's mainland, and ironically, northeast of Vancouver Island, Canada.  It's known for its gentle rolling hills and open fields, making it a popular destination for bike riders who tour around all the islands.  

We got to spend spring break here with friends in a quaint little cabin free of wifi and cellular access.  This seems alarming to many at first, but I can assure you, after you're out of range the first day or two, your whole body will relax and your mind will clear of your to-do list to instead focus on the beauty around you.  This serene countryside is an hour and a half drive north from Seattle to Anacortes, followed by an hour ferry-ride.

We spent our week visiting many beaches and inspecting tide pools, collecting sea glass, riding bikes, going on walks, hiking to a secret mountaintop rope swing, and just hanging out at the cabin.  It was the perfect antidote to the busy life we lead.

I brought my Pentax 645n and Canon 1V cameras, equipped with Kodak Tri-x and Fuji 400h.  I've been shooting all our personal vacations on film for the past year and love it.  I see the shot, take the shot, then set my camera down and enjoy time with my family.  Now that many of you are starting your summer vacations, I challenge you to shoot more film and let me know if it frees up your time as well. :)

You can see even more photos from our trip here.

Location Scout with Erin Neace of Lux Senior Photography

I think Erin Neace found a fabulous location to shoot senior portraits! I love everything about these.  The skin tones, red lipstick, and outfit makes this senior pop against the industrial backdrops.  And don't get me started on that black and white wall. 

Here is more from Erin:

"This "session" was not a paid shoot, but a location/light testing session that I shot with one of my senior models in order to see if this was a location I could reasonably shoot an entire senior session. I think that it turned out very well and I can definitely use it as a reliable location! I shot both film and digital, and these film shots really thrilled me!

The editing I did was very minimal, just correcting skintones on a few that seemed more red (I think because of the Noritsu scanner but not sure) and straightening lines, as well as converting a few to black and white. I love how easy film is. No hours of editing like digital RAW files.

My senior model, Emma, loved the film images. I had explained to her during the shoot about why I was shooting film and digital and told her all of the things I love about film. She was excited to see what the scans looked like after they came back, and texted me telling me how much she specifically loved the film images after I sent her a gallery link... Her mom's family is from Iceland, and who knows, maybe I can use her as a model in Iceland some day and shoot some more film!"


See more of Erin's work here:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Be Back Soon!

Hey friends! We are off retreating (as in the Little Bellows retreat, not like the actual definition of retreating)! We'll be back next Monday with a slew of good things for you!

In case you're feeling like you are missing out on ALL the fun we're having here in Portland, follow along on the fun over on Instagram! Check out #lbretreat to see all our posts!

See you next week!!

Sweet Baby Bump // Sophie Kawalek Photography

This sweet family session warms my heart. To see such excitement combined with gorgeous tones and colors, Sophie Kawalek did an amazing job with this session. Here's more from Sophie:

"I love photographing families on the cusp of a new beginning or change, since I think there really is a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement. When my client told me she was a few months pregnant with her second baby, I couldn’t wait for this family session. We wanted to incorporate a few maternity-like images but she specifically requested we focus on portraits of her little girl. A spunky and funny little girl, it wasn’t hard to capture her personality and sense of exploration. 

"I love photographing little kids because of their total wonder at absolutely mundane things. She could not believe that there were bees hiding in the tulips, or that she could see her reflection in the fountain pool. I prefer to take a more documentary approach towards little family sessions to capture kids being kids because I know that is going to be the most important thing to my clients when their new little one arrives later this year."

Pentax 645n + 75m 2.8 / Fuji 400h / Richard Photo Lab
Location: The Central Park Conservatory, NYC


See more of Sophie's work:
Website // Instagram // Facebook

Standing Out in the Crowd

It's the question that has been asked for a long time, not only among photographers, but among anyone who was driven in their career or passion. How do I stand out among all the other photographers out there? How do I get people to choose ME?

There are many amazing books on this (Seth Godin's Purple Cow is one of the best). And maybe it's a little much to tackle in one blog post. But, there is one thing that I believe you can do today to begin finding this out for yourself. 

Learn more about yourself. 

We tend to think so much about what other photographers are doing, what they are charging, who they are shooting, how busy they seem. Or we think too much about our clients and what we think they want. But when is the last time you sat and thought, "What do I want with my business? What makes ME happy?"

That is where I began. A little (ok a whole LOT) of self reflection lead me to my strengths and lead me to realize the things I loved and the things I really disliked about what I was doing in my business. And I decided to just do what I wanted to do. No one else was really doing it so it seemed crazy, but I just wanted to be happy in my business and in my work so I did it anyway. And it lead to amazing things. Personally, professionally and everything in between. 

I strongly believe it's possible to stand out.
And anyone can do it.

You have to work hard.
You have to fail. Sometimes a LOT.
You have to know yourself and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
And then, you have to work even harder

So go do you. Be weird. Be awesome. Be a cow. Whatever color you like best. 

Stand Out in the Crowd / Little Bellows //  © Meghan Boyer Photography

Mommy + Me // Stout & Co.

Sarah Der of Stout & Co. is one of my favorite photographers. Her work is so good, and always full of life. I was lucky enough to meet her last year and she is equally as awesome in person. I was so glad to see her submission come in and I'm happy to share it with you. Here's more from Sarah . . .

"I wanted to share with you this sweet mama session at home, with Gina and her first son James. Gina is a friend of mine, always behind the camera, dedicated to documenting the everyday life of her family. Like most moms, she isn't in many photos; she wanted this session to be a gift to James and a gift to herself.

"I really love this session because I think so often mothers are self conscious in front of the camera, and because of this they don't prioritize being in photos with their children and loved ones. I can't help but imagine how special and treasured these photos will be to James as he gets older, to see the love and tenderness in these images, to see how beautiful and joyful his mom is. These images really move me, because Gina really is so beautiful and generous and loving, and I am honored to have had the chance to document that for her and for her family. She has such a special relationship with James...! And I think it really shows in these."

I think so too Sarah!

Shot on a Hasselblad H2/80 2.8 and Canon 1V/50L with Fuji 400H and Ilford XP2. The film is processed by Richard Photo Lab.

Check out more from Stout & Co: Website // Instagram

How To Pick The Right Workshop For You

Every time you log into Facebook, you are likely bombarded with 100 new photographer workshops that are  "OPEN FOR REGISTRATION NOW!!!" Hey, Little Bellows was one of those posts that you either looked at and thought "oh cool maybe I'll check that out", or you thought "Ugh, another annoying workshop!" or maybe you just breezed by the post and went on with your life. 

This is not a post promoting the Little Bellows workshop. Registration is closed. Don't worry you are safe. :)

But this is a post to help you. Help you sift through the workshops that seem like they were thrown together by a photographer who has taken a lot of workshops him/herself in the last year and are now teaching (copying) everything they were taught to make money, and the workshops that are put on by professionals who are experts in their craft who genuinely want to help others succeed. Because there are a lot of workshops that fall under both of those categories unfortunately (or fortunately?).

There are 1 day, weekend, weekday, online, on location, PDF's, retreats, styled shoots, business focused, film, hybrid, luxury, beginner, advanced .... I could probably go on forever on the different kind of workshops out there. 

Ask yourself some questions to help you decide what kind to sign up for. 

What do you most want to get from a workshop?

Do you want to learn or get more confident with film? 
Do you want to network with other respected professionals?
Do you want more styled shoot looks for your portfolio?
Do you want to shoot at all?
Do you want to learn a new skill?
Do you want to meet a mentor?
Do you want personalized help with your website and/or portfolio?
Do you want a marketing plan and ideas on how to build your business?

How far do you want to travel?

Do you want to go to an awesome or exotic location you've never been?
Do you want to stay close to home?
Do you want to stay in your pajamas?
Do you have childcare to think about?

How much money are you comfortable spending?

Do you have a designated budget for education? 
Do you have cash to pay or do you have to use credit?
Will you be able to make back the money you spent quickly?

Who is the instructor?

*this one is important!
Are you drawn to their work? Why?
Is your style similar to theirs?
Do they work in the same genre or with the same medium?
How is their social media presence? Are they helpful? or are they a complainer?
How long have they been in business?
If a film shooter, how long have they been shooting film?
Have they recently (in the last year say) posted about a similar workshop they attended?
How many workshops have they done?

Photo taken at Yan Fam Way 2.0 in Marfa, TX (which was wonderful ;) )

Photo taken at Yan Fam Way 2.0 in Marfa, TX (which was wonderful ;) )

I'm not going to say which workshops I think are legit and not. That's not helpful. What I would spend my money on might not be the same thing you would find value in. I also tend to jump into things. And in the past have walked right into the "PDF ONE DAY SALE!!!" and wasted money on a bunch of junk that I either never read or that wasn't helpful to me.

I will say this. . . it is hard to be a good educator. You have to be able to know more than just photography. You have to know psychology, you have to know HOW to educate people, you have to have excellent speaking skills, writing skills, and people skills. It's not something just anyone could do or else there wouldn't be a teacher shortage in most states. Look into who the workshop teacher or writer is. Read their posts on social media going way back, get a feel for their voice and see if it's one you really want to learn from. With a little digging you might realize they aren't for you afterall.

You work hard for your money, and I want you to make the best decisions that will help you and your business grow leaps and bounds. Do your research, it will pay off in the end. 

Negative Reactions and How They Effect Your Business

Everyday in a facebook group, there are posts written by photographers about other photographers. Posts saying "so and so local photographer is advertising sessions for $50 and giving the files away! I don't know how they can do that! They are destroying the industry! I know them a little, I'm going to talk to them about why they should charge more." Seem familiar?

There are very likely in OTHER groups that you aren't a part of comments like "so and so local photographer charges $100 for an 8x10! Can you believe that?!! Who do they think they are charging so much! I charge $50 for my sessions and am booked solid!"

I'm here to ask one serious question that I want you to think really hard about.

Why do you care?

I don't want to imply that there is anything wrong with caring, I just legit want you to think about why.

Do you think they are taking clients from you? Are you afraid that potential clients will compare your prices to theirs and make the choice to go cheaper? Are you annoyed that you have spent time and money on educating yourself  and take pride in running your own business and they don't seem to follow any rules? Or are you just annoyed that they exist in general?

I understand all of those scenarios. I've thought them all over the last 7 years in business. I'm chimed in before with "Ugh! I know! What are they doing!?" type of comments before. And you know what it did for me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

Well, I take that back. It did do something. It perpetuated a very negative attitude and outlook that effected my business. My own attitude hurt my business not the other, cheaper photographer. 

Instead of working on my business I instead internet investigated said photographer. I took time out of my day to look through their website, facebook, and social media. Instead of emailing my clients I took time out of my day to read through comments on the facebook group. Instead of getting a newsletter out I was too distracted by wondering about if said photographer even filed taxes. And if I added up all that time wasted. . . ugh. I can't even begin to think about the total number of minutes, hours spent doing unproductive, negative things. 

So think about how you can react when you see posts like that. The posts will ALWAYS be there. From photographers you know, photographers you even may respect. But why do you care? Always put your business first and instead of comparing or wasting your time with negative thoughts, instead think about how you can make your business better. Do something for your clients so they know you are providing more than just photos on a thumb drive; show them you are providing a service that can not be compared to any other photography business in your area. Stand out.

This isn't a post about community over competition either. I think a little competition is healthy and can drive you forward in your business! But those photographers charging $50 for their hour session and giving away the files are not your competition. They are not ruining your industry. They are doing what they are doing. You go do what you do.

Don't stand with the crowd of complainers. And then see who's out in front after a year. 

Maryland Family Photographer © Meghan Boyer Photography

A New Take on Family Photos

Last weekend I had the opportunity to photograph my eighty-seven year old mother-in-law Joan. 

Joan has always been an out-going, life-of-the-party, kind of lady.  And she still is.  But she also has dementia, and some days are better than others.  

The day of the shoot was not a great day for Joan.  She was tired and really just wanted to sit on the couch under some blankets and relax.  She wasn't over excited about being dragged up to the studio.  But we decided to move forward anyway.  We got her ready and sat her on a comfortable stool behind a desk (to give her something to lean on).  I thought perhaps we'd get one or two frames and then let her go back to her comfortable spot on the couch in the lobby.

But as soon as we got her situated and in front of the camera, everything changed.  She sat up straight, talked about her kids (all seven of them), sang songs.... she was herself in a way she hadn't been just minutes before.  Something about the photos brought this out in her, and it was amazing to see and to capture.

Most of my time in the studio is spent photographing newborns and their families.  I love those photos because they capture such a special moment in time. The newness of a relationship that is so unlike anything else.  That sense of wonder and the indescribable love that we all feel for our children. 

But what about the other side of that journey?  When at some point the roles reverse and the child grows into becoming the care giver.  

The love that is there on that end is a different kind of love.  It's the love that has history.  It has a lifetime of stories.  And memories.  And times together.  It's about the love children feel for their parents as well as the love parents feel for their kids.

I think that that was what Joan was responding to the day of our shoot.  

She was there with two of her kids.  They got to sit, with their arms around each other, and talk and laugh and just be.  

Moms and babies.  That is what I photograph.  And as any mother will tell you, your baby is always your baby, no matter how old they are.  And your mom is always your mom.  She's always that person who loved and cared for you, even before she knew who you were.  That relationship is unlike any other we will ever have.  And I'm so honored to be able to capture it at every stage.

Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film

What's On Your Site?

When is the last time you looked at your website? I mean REALLY looked at it? As in went through each public page with a fine tooth comb looking for typos, ill fitting photos, or anything that just doesn't fit your brand any more?

This is something you need to be doing. And doing it often. 

It's easy to forget our website's importance. Most of our time online is probably spent on social media be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We often see those platforms as the most important web presence. While they hold their own importance, your website is your BOOM factor. It's your complete presence in one place. No distractions from hashtags, ads, or any other posts from random people about this crazy political season. 

Go through every page on your site. And spend a LOT of time on that first page. What does that home page say about you as a brand? Is it relaying the message you want? Is there anyone you can ask to review your site for you and give feedback? Maybe even a past trusted client? Or other photographer? 

The most important thing to figure out is what your website says about you. Is it saying what you want it to? Are you getting site traffic but not many inquiries? Then there is a disconnect somewhere and your site is where to look first. 

maryland family photographer © Meghan Boyer Photography

If you're struggling with your site, that's something a mentor can do for you. They can get you on track and help find the blocks that might be hard for you to see yourself. Both Sandra and I offer mentoring, and you can find more information here

The Importance of Getting in the Photo

I first met Carrie Geddie at the very first Little Bellows Film workshop several years ago. And instantly I knew she was someone I wanted to get to know more. Fortunately, I've been able to see her and connect more with her several times since. She is a kind soul with an amazing heart and huge talent. Today she is our guest contributor with an important and special post. Read Carrie's words below. (And then take her advice.)

With Mother's Day on Sunday, we have a chance to reflect not only on motherhood, but how we document the mother-child relationship through our art.  I think we commonly look at motherhood photography from the point of view of mom.  Mom is the one that hires us for the session, plans it out, and pays us.  She is our client, right?  Yes, but there is another important point of viewpoint that we often forget - that of her kids.

Right now you probably think I'm crazy.  Kids don't care about the photos!  And maybe you're correct.  Babies and toddlers are certainly not thinking about the photos they'll have after the session, and most school-aged kids probably aren't either (although my boys love to look at the photos we take together!)

What I mean when I talk about point of view is to consider what the images you create today will mean to those children when they become adults.  I always tell my clients that yes, the images we create are for them now, but they are really for their children in the future.

I lost my mother to colon cancer in 2000 when she was only 57 years old.  I wouldn't wish losing a parent on anyone, and I've learned in the years since that it doesn't really matter how old you are when it happens, losing your mom is hard.  While my mom and I were incredibly close, I've also realized that even if you're estranged from your mother, death is final and there are no more chances to change the relationship.  So while my mom's death has undoubtedly been the hardest thing I've gone through, it has also formed me as a mother - and as a photographer.

Not too long ago, I went through our family photo albums in my dad's attic.  I remember these photo albums from my childhood.  On a hot summer day, I'd wander bored into my dad's office and start pulling them off the shelves.  My mom had meticulously put together an album of my dad's family photos from when he was a child, another of her childhood pictures, and then made several albums of our family memories from years of vacations, birthdays, and other milestone events. 

One afternoon last year, I set about to go through the albums again, hoping to find some fun pictures of my mom and I when I was a kid to show my boys.  I found three.  Three.  Oh sure, there were group photos and lots of photos of me with my dad (because my mom was often behind the camera - does this sound familiar?).  But there were only three of just the two of us. 

When I talk to clients or friends (or anyone who will listen, really), I tell them this story.  It is my WHY and it drives me to document those little moments between moms and kids.  I don't share this story with them because I want them to hire me, but because it is so important they think about the creation of family memories from their kids' perspective, too.  As photographers, we create a tangible print or album that a client can hold in their hands.  And when her children stumble on those boxes of prints or albums in the attic years later, they will see their mother's love for them, her touch, and all the hope she had for them.  They will see the sacrifices she made and the way she made them laugh.  How she supported and encouraged them, as only she knew how.

If you think about this perspective when you work with your family clients, I hope your work will take on a richer meaning.  The good thing about it is that you don't have to actually BE a mother to understand it, you just have to have had one yourself.

I know that as photographers, we are usually behind the camera.  I am guilty of this myself.  But as you celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday, I encourage you to get in front of the camera with your kids.  Set up your camera on a tripod with the self-timer, hand the camera over to someone else (hey, full auto mode was invented for a reason), or use a selfie stick, I don't care.  Just start to create that tangible legacy not only for yourself, but for them.