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

Your Creativity & Your Business

Chances are you started your photography business because you had a passion for photography. For art. For creating photos for families just as you would want or maybe that you wished you had from your own childhood. You loved it and were really good at it. You were so good people wanted to pay for it. And you maybe thought, "hey a little extra money would be awesome". Then you decided to start a legitimate business. You got a business license (hopefully!!!), created your website, and bought a great logo off etsy. 

Then things slowly started to shift. Facebook groups and photographer friends were shocked at how little you were charging so you decided it was time to charge more. You realized you were shooting a ton, editing a ton, and then you focused a lot on how much you were charging. You created a new price list 4 times in a year. You bought 4 more logos from etsy that same year. You shot a ton and were so happy to book so many sessions.

And then all of the sudden you didn't want to do it anymore.  You dreaded going to sessions. You didn't even care about the money. And you realized you didn't want to even pick up your camera. 

Burn out. It happens to the best of us. And ultimately what it's really about is balancing the creativity and art that fills us with the business savvy and understanding we need. 

Business is boring. To most. There are exceptions that find business interesting and fun (I get called a dork a lot for this and I'm cool with it). But to most photographers and creatives, it's the part of it all that makes us cringe. And the thing is, if you understand business you can put things in motion so you don't have to think about it all the time. You can focus on being creative and stretching your work and staying inspired. You just have to learn a little business. 

Your photography business does not have to be a drag. You can still be creatively fulfilled making beautiful photographs exactly how you want AND have a successful, profitable business. It just takes a little extra work and a little bit of re-focusing priorities. Less about the logo and what everyone else tells you should be happening with your business and more about what you need your business to become.

© Meghan Boyer Photography

Are you burnt out? It's the spring, so probably not yet. But bookmark this to come back and read on October 17. When you are in the middle of that crazy ass fall season that your bank account needs but your brain, heart, and sometimes lower back desperately hate. OR don't wait until the fall. Just wait a few weeks and join us in Portland for our Little Bellows Retreat. Registration closes on Friday (that's only 2 days away). Don't miss out. Let us help you prevent that next burn out stage.

Finding Happiness in Your Work

My entire photography journey has been selfish. 

It feels silly to say that out loud. But it's completely true. I started because I needed something to help me grieve the loss of my son. I picked up my camera determined to learn something new and cope, learning to see the world differently because I NEEDED to. 

I started practicing with my camera photographing children in my neighborhood because I NEEDED to take photos of other people's children since I couldn't shoot my own. 

Then I started my photography business full time because I felt guilty quitting my job to stay at home with my baby boy, born a year later after my loss, and I NEEDED to feel more than a SAHM.

I started shooting film because I wanted to be a cool kid. I continued shooting it even though it seriously cut into my profits because I loved the way it looked and I LOVED not having to edit.

I began shooting weddings because I needed bigger paydays. 

I stopped shooting weddings because I didn't like playing the game of "hire me not them!". 

I began sharing a studio because I needed to feel legit as a photographer, even though I was a "lifestyle" photographer and didn't know what I would shoot in the studio space itself.

Every decision I have made has ultimately, even though sometimes unconsciously, been about what I want. I've been trying to be happy. 

My personal AND professional photography journey has been about my own happiness. I am the type of person that harbors a lot of feelings and sometimes (often) a lot of sadness inside every part of me. It's just who I am. And the older I get the more I understand it. 

Newborn Photographer Maryland Meghan Boyer Photography

In the last few years, instead of just doing what I thought I should do (becoming a "lifestyle" photographer), I started to think about what would really make ME happy. What did I want and why? How do I make that happen? What if it's not the norm and everyone laughs at me? What if my business falls apart because I'm not doing what everyone else does? What if I just flat out fail? What if?

I figured it out. For me anyway. I found out how to begin to let go of the things I didn't want to do. I gave myself permission to be selfish without feeling guilty about it. 

And you know what happened? I didn't fail. I began to smile more. I began to enjoy going to shoots. I started falling in love with my work and feeling proud about what I was making, what I was doing, who I was photographing. I didn't listen to anyone who was laughing at me, only those laughing with me.

My work changed. My business changed. And I finally felt that sense of happiness and fulfillment in my work and my business. 

I want the same for you. 

Are you happy in your work? Do you feel fulfilled? Are you stuck with to many "what if" questions in your head? Let's work those out. Together

Come join me and Sandra at the Little Bellows Retreat. I promise you will leave Oregon with a sense of what you too can do for yourself AND your business to begin (or continue) your own journey of becoming happy with your work. 

I hope to see you there.

xo,
Meghan

3 Way to Generate More Income

Who out there is a photographer struggling to make an income with their current business? It's likely that nearly everyone's hands were raised there. 

Making a living running a photography business is HARD. It's a huge challenge, and we often make it harder on ourselves without even knowing. I know I did for a long time! 

It might be time to diversify. No I'm not talking about your stock portfolio, although my husband is a financial advisor, I know jack shiz about that. BUT I do know that diversifying your income is a great way to make extra money without a ton of extra work. Here are 3 things you could start doing to bring in extra money each month. 

This is a stock images that sold that showed up in an ad I saw on FB.

This is a stock images that sold that showed up in an ad I saw on FB.

SELL STOCK

Yes, that's right. Sell stock. No it's not selling out. It's not cheapening what you do. It's simply uploading photos to your agency portfolio and waiting for the money to come into your account. It's not tough. If you are a film photographer, use those extra shots at the end of a roll for some intentional shooting for stock. Look through your hard drive, what photos of your own kids or family or still life do you have just sitting there? Upload that! And then earn money each month in your pajamas. (Jonathan Canlas coined that phrase "pajama profits" and this is exactly that!) I use Stocksy and Offset personally, but there are a LOT of other agencies out there. 

This image is one I had on my hard drive. I was taking photos of my kids, testing out a new camera and my youngest was. not. having it. And I took the shot. When uploading Stocksy, I figured why not. And it's sold several times. You never know what you might already have that you can turn into money. 

REAL ESTATE PHOTOGRAPHY

Yes, it's boring as hell to most of us. But how hard would it be to reach out to a realtor (we ALL know one), and offer to shoot their next 2 listings for free? Learn how, use a very wide angle camera, and practice. Then do a kick ass job and set a price. An easy simple way to add a few additional shoots per month that cost you nothing but a little time but bring in good extra money. 

CORPORATE HEAD SHOTS

Do you offer head shots? I know they aren't the most exciting thing in the world, but they are easy to do and only cost you a little time. Ask your friends and family if the places they work have corporate photos. Chances are someone works for a company that does them and it takes a phone call, note, or email to get started. 

I promise you that if you do any or all of the above, this isn't going to make you any less of a fine art photographer, it won't devalue your wedding, family, or newborn business, it doesn't make you a sell out. It's just smart work. To help things be less tight financially. You don't have to show this work. You don't have to market, advertise, or blog it. It's just something to keep in your back pocket. 

XO,
Meghan

Carrie Geddie | Artist Spotlight with Joyce Kang

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Ahhh!  So glad to be back for the Artist Spotlight feature!  I have missed it so much since I interviewed our last photographer.  

Today, I am bringing you Carrie Geddie!  She is one of my favorite film photographers.  Her work is full of fun and delight just like her personality!  It is truly a joy to be able to sit down and get to know Carrie a little deeper...

1. To start off our interview, I would love to know how did you first get into photography? Do you have a formal education in photography or self-taught?

As I look back, I have always been a photographer.  My first camera was a disc camera (I realize I am dating myself here!) and then I graduated to point and shoot (film) cameras, which I used to capture friends at school and family vacations.  I took photography in high school and used my dad's Pentax Spotmatic II (still have it!), and loved developing black and white in the darkroom.  So while I always loved photography, it never occurred to me that it could be my job.  I went to college for political science and finally came back to photography seriously in 2007 with my first DSLR.  After that, the obsession was fast and furious.  I took classes locally, read books and online forums, and chatted with new friends about anything and everything photography.  

 

2. Have you always shoot on film? What is that "thing" about film that keep you wanting to shoot film in this digital, pixel peeping photography world today?

I think that because I am self-taught, I've always had a hard time feeling like a legitimate photographer.  In my world, you go to school to get an education in something and that's how you define and prove yourself.  I didn't have that with photography.  In 2012, I started hearing about people shooting film again and I thought that if I could remember how to shoot film, maybe I would feel more legitimate.  That if I could create a beautiful image and properly expose it on film, maybe I'd finally feel like a "real" photographer.  So, as a personal challenge, I bought some Portra 400 and a Canon Elan 7e.  And then pretty quickly after that, a Mamiya RZ Pro II.

Getting scans back for the first time was a revelation.  What I'd seen through the viewfinder was perfectly represented in front of me.  My second roll through the RZ was when I really fell hard for film.  My eyes welled with tears as I saw a black & white photo that I'd taken of my boys in their room, waking up from a nap with their stuffed animals.  It is just the purest image, beautiful in its simplicity and grain.  I was completely hooked.  Since then, I've tried many cameras, film stocks and labs, but the thing that keeps me shooting film is the heart of it.  I lost my mom to cancer in 2000, and have looked through all our photo albums to find pictures of me with her from when I was little.  I found many from family vacations, with the whole family in them, but only three pictures of just the two of us from when I was a kid.  Just three.  And they were all shot on film, this tangible thing that preserves our memories.  So, even though my mom is not here, that negative still is.  Shooting my personal work on film just became so important to me after that realization.  

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3. What I love about your work, Carrie, is that you seem to capture that genuine bond between your subjects. Whether it's a portrait of your own boys or a lifestyle session of clients. What is one advice you can give to Little Bellow fans who are struggling to capture "the moment"?

Wow, Joyce, thank you so much.  That is exactly what I am trying to achieve and I am so thrilled that you see that in my work.  Everyone has their own shooting style, but for me, I try to set it up and then be ready for the moment.  Being a good listener and observer helps, as well as knowing what makes people tick.  So, I try to create a situation that is likely to produce a real moment or reaction, and if that doesn't work, I try to make them laugh! 

 

4. I think one of the struggles as a mother is finding the balance between work and family time. How do you balance the two?

Oh no, I am terrible at that!  Although, this school year has been better.  When my boys are at school, I reply to emails, edit and blog.  When they're home, all work (usually, ahem) waits until after they're in bed or the next morning.  It's so hard!  The main problem for me is my iPhone - Instagram in particular!  I'm totally addicted to Instagram but am working at setting the phone down at night and disconnecting.

 

5. If you have one piece of advice you can give to those who are just starting out in film photography, what would it be and why?

Try as many different cameras and stocks as you can!  Even if you think you like cool tones and will love 400H, shoot some Portra 400 and see what you think.  Try each film in 35mm and 120, because they perform differently.  Try different lenses, cameras and labs.  If you're not happy with your scans, call the lab and ask them questions.  When I was first starting in film, I did a personal project where I shot a different stock (and tried to shoot different cameras) every month.  That project taught me so much about what I liked and what I didn't.  And don't worry about what camera or stock everyone else is shooting with, just start experiment what with you can get your hands on to find out what is most YOU!

 

6. If you can spend one day with one person (present or past), who will it be and what would you talk about?

Well, this is pretty easy.  I would choose my mom and I would be talking nonstop to catch her up on life in the past 15 years!

 

7. What are some of your favorite cameras and equipment that you can't do without on a client session? Do the setups change for personal work? If yes, can you share what are your must haves for for personal work?

For clients, I shoot my Pentax 645N and sometimes also my Canon 5d mk II, I cannot lie!  Just depends on how fast the kiddos are moving or what is going on.  For my personal work, I probably shoot the Pentax 645N with the 75mm lens the most - I just love that focal length on that camera and everything about how it performs just feels right.  I also shoot a Pentax 67, Canon Elan 7e, my son's AE-1 and sometimes a Holga for fun.  And I'm currently borrowing a Hasselblad 500 c/m from a friend and fighting the urge to add one to my collection!

 

8. What  or whom  do you draw your inspiration from?

I could answer Richard Avedon or Robert Frank, but honestly, it's motherhood.  I am always trying to think about the moments I will want to remember and the things my boys will appreciate when they grow up.  Losing my mom was an indelible moment in my life and has greatly impacted the way I see photography and its value.  I always tell clients that they may think the images we create are for them now, but they're really for their children in the future.

 

9. If you can go back in time and do it all over again, what would you do differently and why?

I wouldn't change a thing.  Everything in your life brings you to where you are today and forms the person you become.  For me, there's no sense in second guessing any of it.  I try to take what I can from my experiences (be they good or bad) and figure out how to make what happens next more meaningful because of them.

 

10. What are your favorite artists on your play list right now?  Right now, we're listening to a huge variety of stuff!  I'm in the process of educating my kids about all different kinds of music, so we might be listening to anything from Eric Church, to the Platters, Wilco, or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

 

Ok, here goes the "quick shooter"!  I am going to ask you a question and you answer it with whatever comes to you first....here we go:

"I wish my kids would hurry up and go to sleep so I can watch..."  Narcos on Netflix!  And I can't forget about Homeland, Better Call Saul and Nashville!

A quote you live by:  Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.

Where is the most exotic place you have ever been?  Does Barbados count?  Yeah, I didn't think so...

The first item on your bucket list:  To spend a night in the tree house we are building for our boys in our backyard!

Your favorite hobbies beside photography:  Caffeinating (daily), volunteering (at my kids' school), walking/running (when motivated), and eating (at great local restaurants).

Beer or wine?  Beer AND wine!

Flip flops, sneakers or sexy stilettos?  Flip flops.  You can take the girl out of Southern California, but not the flip flops off the girl...

Car, Train or Airplane?  Road trip!

Two truths and a lie:  I used to work at MTV, I'm left handed, and I'm a lawyer.


Do you want to know more about Carrie?  You can see her work at:

email: carrie@carriegeddie.com

website:  www.carriegeddie.com

google:  https://plus.google.com/+CarrieGeddie/

facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CarrieGeddiePhotography

twitter:  @crbroder

instagram: @carriegeddie

Cat Thrasher | November 2014 Film Photographer Spotlight

10728935_10152750315383798_1767247622_nI  have been following Cat Thrasher's work for a while now.  One thing that made the most impression on me is her approach to simple and classic portraits.  Her work is absolutely breath-taking!  It has an elegant aesthetic and style that I have not seen anywhere else.  Her use of natural light in her studio is out of this world.  Today, I have the honor to interview her for my Film Photographer Spotlight feature on Little Bellows.  Let's get started!

 

Joyce: how did you get started in photography?

 

Cat: My first professional job was in 2005, when a friend of a friend asked me to take pin-up photos of her to send to her boyfriend, who was stationed in Iraq. "He's got all these photos of women in his tent…I want him to have photos of me." I was 23 and in college at UVa at the time. But it became a thing that I specialized in early on. My clients called them "sexy photos" because the term "boudoir photography" hadn't caught on yet.
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Joyce: browsing through your website, I noticed that you only photograph clients on black and white film, why?  Anything thing specific you can share with us why you choose black and white over color?

 

Cat: By only using one camera and sticking to black and white, I have put limits on what I do. I made the decision to do this gradually, but it started after processing umpteen million digital photos for a few weddings that had backed up on me back in 2010. I was so disillusioned by what I was doing: everything was so virtual, intangible, and so plentiful, that I began to wonder what each photo meant, to me, to the bride and groom, to anyone, if they began in such an abstract way, on the computer. How real were they, if I could not touch them? How real were they, if the bride and groom just wanted the high res DVD and never printed any? I knew they were feeling anxiety too, with 1000+ photos per wedding, they were having trouble choosing what to print, so they were putting it off for years and years. On this particular post-wedding occasion, I had to take a break from shooting for about a month. I bought some oil paints. I painted a picture of my husband. Oil painting is a long process, and forces patience. You paint a layer, then you wait a week for it to dry. Then you paint another layer, and wait a week, and so on. It takes months to paint one painting. It took me about 3 weeks to paint this portrait of Jim.

 

After this incident, I continued shooting digital for a few years, but I knew something needed to change. I began teaching myself film photography, and trying out new cameras. One day in 2012, I rented a Hasselblad from the local camera store. I photographed my friend Joanna, using just black and white. Something changed that day. The feeling of the Hasselblad, the double-flop-flop of it's shutter, the fact that it took no batteries…it was like a romance that started at that moment. Joanna's reaction to the photos was so positive, and I loved them too. It was a match, between that camera and me.

 

So, your actual question here was why I shoot in black and white, but it's not just about the black and white…it's about the limitations of black and white, using square format, the Hasselblad itself, and the studio setting. Digital taught me that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to quantity and unlimited choices. My current set-up is so limited because, sometimes, it is within limitations that we can truly thrive.
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Joyce:  I love the personal connection of the subjects in your photographs, and the subjects are very natural and relaxed.  Do you direct your clients or you simply sit back and wait for the moment?  How do you get past that "awkward" moment when you first start a session with a new client?

 

Cat:  I choose to let the awkward moments occur, and to be okay with it.  But there are ways to minimize it.  First, I believe that every photographer should have their go-to poses ready and waiting, before their client even walks in the door. Sandra Coan calls this "consistent, predictable routine."  In my case, I have about 3 poses that I'm ready to put my subject in. I put them in those positions, photograph them, and when we're done they're like "well, I was nervous, but that was so easy!"

 

Second, I bring positive energy to the shoot. You can't take away your client's nervousness, so don't try. But what you CAN do is have a confident, positive approach to every session. That confidence and positivity is contagious, and many times, you might find that your clients relax without you even trying.
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Joyce:  Your use of indoor light is stunning!  What do you look for when you shoot indoors?  Do you favor shooting in studio/indoors more than outdoors, and why?

 

Cat:  You need lots of light to shoot indoors. I look for large windows, and prefer north-facing. Outdoor light is great too, it just behaves differently. Outdoor light permeates everything, it gets into every nook and cranny. Indoor south-facing windows can provide similar light to being outdoors, because it really fills a room thoroughly. But indoor north-facing windows provide an isolated glow that is very dramatic. Light is everything.

 

Joyce:  If you have one advice you can give to those who are just starting out on film photography, what would it be and why?

 

Cat:  I'd say, start with one camera, one lens and one film stock. Become a specialist. If you find something you love, stick to it.

 

Joyce:  If you can spend one day with one person (present or past), who will it be and what would you talk about?

 

Cat:  My grandmother Margaret. She died when I was 2. I'd ask her what it was like to live in the first half of the century, and what it was like being a mother to her 5 children.

 

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Joyce:  What is your favorite film stock and camera, and why?

 

Cat:  Current film obsession is Ilford Pan-F Plus 50. Slow, smooth, mysterious. Favorite camera is my Hasselblad 501CM and Zeiss 85mm lens.

 

Joyce: What is one photography accessory/gear (other than camera and lens) you can’t do without?

 

Cat:  Hand-held light meter! Don't really need anything else.
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Joyce:  Tell me more about Film for the Studio Photographer Workshop you have with Sandra!  It's such an exciting venture.  I heard there are new topics in store for the future attendees!

 

Cat:  Oh man! This workshop is so fun!! We focus on indoor natural light photography. We teach workshop goers how to make great portraits inside using window light, and how the metering is different for black and white versus color film. We go over what film is, the chemical processes, how we approach our own photo shoots, how to work with labs, and other fun things.

 

The business portion is new, and we're so excited about it. Photography is a tough business to be in, because there are so many photographers out there. For this portion of the workshop, we'll be going over healthy ways to approach your photography business, how to work with clients, and my personal favorite: how to connect with your ideal client.

 

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Something fun:

Who is(are) on your playlist right now?
Lake Street Dive!
Complete this sentence:  “I wish my kids would hurry up and go to sleep so I can watch…” 
The News Hour
A quote you live by:
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." -Ghandi
Where is the most exotic place you have ever been?
Petra, Jordan
The first item on your bucket list?
I just did it - build my own photo studio!
Your favorite hobby(ies) besides photography
Gardening, reading the New Yorker.
Beer or Wine
BOTH!
Flip flops, sneakers or sexy stilettos
Sneakers, but this changes regularly.
Airplane, train or automobile
Train!
Two truth and a lie, go!
Can't it all just be truth?

CatThrasherPortfolio-23 You can see more of Cat Thrasher's work at: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

 

Blog Contributor and Writer:  Joyce Kang

Joyce Kang selfie black and white on mamiya c330Joyce Kang is a children & family photographer in Austin Texas.  She is also a mentor and an instructor for Embrace The Grain, an intro to film photography workshop.  She is married to her best friend and enjoys outdoors with her family.  She loves to curl up with a good book and has a terrible addiction to any thing that tops with a heaping scoop of ice cream drizzled with chocolate fudge!

Follow Joyce and see more of her work at: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google+