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HOW THIS BLOG IDEA WAS BORN

We first met on Instagram, creeping on each other’s work. You do it too, and you know it ;). Since it seemed like we’d hit it off, a coffee date at the Lynhall gem of a cafe (where ALL of twin cities’ coolest millennials gather apparently), was arranged. You could say it was a 'where have you been all my life' kind of feel, coupled with the world’s longest coffee meeting. We laughed, we learned A TON from each other, and we’ve been friends ever since. Each of us had the same hurdle it turned out - loads and loads of inquiries from people asking questions about various photography subjects and not enough time in the day to reply to everyone. Hence this blog idea. As we put our blonde heads together and answer some of the questions you asked us, we hope that you too get inspired to get out of your comfort zone and get connected with peers from the industry, so you can help propel and motivate each other.

Cheers! To Community over Competition!  - Ester & Nicole

 

SETTING THE TONE - AKA. EMBRACE THE RESEARCH

Photography is not easy. Unless you have gone to a Photography school, you are self-taught. This literally means that you are (should be, and will be) self-teaching ALL THE TIME, and doing loads and loads of research. Like, nauseating amounts. Before you know it, your best friend's name is Google, you wear so many hats (from accounting bonnets to shooting and directing fedoras), and it becomes very easy to keep all secrets super close to the vest since you’ve worked your bum off on inventing your own wheels! If you’re not in this spot yet, you will be. Give it time. In this blog we talk about all of the above, to hopefully give you a little Come-To-Jesus moment. Ask yourself, how much of your own research do you do? How many instructional videos have you watched this week? How many close photographer friends do you have that you can bounce ideas off of? Do not expect others to be your own personal, walking Google. Be self-sufficient. That’s our schpiel and ode to Google Search for the moment, and with that, let’s dive in on the Q&As!!

 

HOW DID YOU FIND JOBS AND PEOPLE TO PHOTOGRAPH WHEN YOU FIRST GOT STARTED?
(Any suggestions for when friends and family are not being super supportive and don’t really want their photos taken?) 

We each had our own ways, so we’ll divide and conquer on answering this one… 
ESTER - Honestly, once I ran out of personal connections Craigslist was super helpful for me. When you’re first getting started you’re generally at a bit of a lower price range, which is exactly the type of client you will find on Craigslist - a price-conscious one. I was totally honest about my experience level, I charged $150 for portraits to begin with, and they got 30-40 images, which seemed like a win-win. I made sure everyone knew that I was building my portfolio and that those prices were going to go up. Also, since there were a TON of photography ads out there for super cheap, I made sure to put out my best work, and to not be the cheapest listed. I wanted my work to stand out so people could tell that though I was newer to the craft, and a bit higher priced that the Free-to-$50 offers, my work rocked, and was WORLDS better than anything else listed on Craigslist as a whole. As a result they felt like they were getting a KILLER dealer at portfolio-pricing. Some clients stayed as I raised my rates, some found other cheaper options, either way I got my portfolio built up super quickly, and kept raising my prices a bit at a time. I made sure that my presence everywhere was professional and inspired confidence - from my Facebook page to my Website, how I interacted, how I dressed to the sessions, so potential victims (hehe ;)) could browse my work before committing and felt assured once they met me. Not sure if this Craigslist trick will still work for newbies out there, but that’s how I got loads of jobs, from which I then got tons of word of mouth referrals. 
***Disclaimer - BE SMART! If it sounds too good to be true or creepy (like meeting up in some deserted location), bring a friend or just don’t go for it. Don’t be scared, use your brain, trust your gut (require Facebook/Instagram handles if anyone is asking you to come to their home, and check them out. ) Example: There was one time a guy wanted dating profile pictures, and wanted to meet in a building to go up on a rooftop in uptown. It seemed slightly creepy, so I brought my husband along. David made sure to meet the man, get a read on the situation, and then just worked from the car while I shot. It turned out to be a totally legit professional (construction company owner) and a very nice guy. We made friends, I felt safe, he got great shots, I got paid. Done and done! 

As to how I booked weddings, I basically got duped into it! A friend really wanted me to photograph her wedding, to which I gave her a million reasons why I was not going to be the one to screw up her big day with my skillz. I gave her a TON of referrals to other photographer out of which she contacted a couple and felt they just weren’t her style. She wanted me. And, she waited me out! She waited till about 3 months before the wedding, giving me a heart attack, since I knew ALL good photogs would be booked. I wasn’t going to let her go with someone random and stepped up to do my utmost, with a fantastic 2nd shooter that basically kept talking me off the ledge every few minutes. Things kinda kept rolling from there  :)

NICOLE - My road is a bit different than Ester’s when it comes to portraits, but when it comes to weddings we kind of stepped into it the same way. 

Let’s cover portraits first. I REALLY wanted to take photos of people, and I was lucky enough to have three younger sisters who I was able to force into posing for me. One of my sisters was going into her Senior year of High School, so of course I was her designated senior photos photographer. Duh! Once she shared all her senior photos online and tagged me in them, my name started getting out there. Before I knew it a lot of her friends started seeking me out to shoot their senior photos as well. Huge shout-out to all Maple Grove seniors (and their moms lol) for jump-starting my photography career). This really is how things got started. 

As for how I booked my first wedding - one of my friends from high school that had seen some of my work, asked me to shoot hers. I immediately said no. But, she wasn’t a quitter, and persisted until I caved. Shoutout to my first brave bride that jump-started my wedding photography carrier. Thank you, and I’m sorry LOL ;). 

Moving on, to how I continued to get jobs. I needed a Wedding and Couples Portfolio for my website and social media in order to even show potential clients a reason to book with me. I sought out couples online (Facebook, Instagram, friends of friends, family connections, etc.) . Basically anyone who wanted free sessions that matched my ideal client style. Then once I did the shoot, I would ask my couples to share their photos online, tag me in every post, and re-share the blog post I created. So, for me, it was all about getting my name out there, working my butt off to find ideal clients, and working A LOT for free, and YES, this was on top of finishing my college degree and working a full-time job. Hello hustle! 

The sooner you realize that the ideal connections, jobs, photo-shoots, and work overall will NEVER just fall into your lap, the sooner you can start hustling your booty off! Start harnessing and working on your web of connections and it will yield results over time. If you don’t work hard to create and continue adding to that web, your leads will dry out and you will flat-line in this business. Consistency, persistence, and commitment are the requirements for making your dreams a reality. It can get hard because you also definitely really have to put yourself out there, but if you don’t try you will never know what could have happened. So, roll up your sleeves, and get to work farming your personal connections and going from there. Be willing to shoot for free to get started. You can’t expect people to pay for your work if you have no portfolio, haven’t quite figured out your editing, don’t really know how to work your equipment, and don’t have a lot of experience. 

 

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ANY SUGGESTIONS ON FINDING MENTORS WHEN FIRST GETTING STARTED? 

Every photographer that’s at least somewhat experienced gets A TON of requests for shadowing, 2nd shooting, assisting, and other questions. Both of us get at least 5-10 DMs or emails a day during the busy season. So now, given that little fact, what are you going to do to stand out? What value are you going to provide to a photographer you want to be mentored by that will make them want to invest their time into you? Since we do not get paid for any free advice we give out that likely took us years to figure out, what value do you bring to the table to make a potential mentor pick you out of the big bunch? 

ESTER - When I first wanted to get into weddings, I found a few photographers that I really liked and asked if I could buy them coffee or lunch. I let them know I was interested in potentially 2nd shooting or assisting for free. I knew I had something they could maybe use (a pair of willing, extra limbs), and I knew I was willing to do anything to be of help to them. The gal that I particularly clicked with and wanted to learn from was 10 years younger than me, which made it super hard on my ego. And, I’m being very real here. I texted a friend to get advice, cause I was super put off by the language in the “intern” agreement I was supposed to sign and agree to. You know what he said? He basically did me a huge favor and called me out on being prideful. He said if you want to learn from her, suck it up buttercup, quit trying to prove to her how much you know, and do whatever you can to be invaluable - carry their bag, bring her food, be respectful in front of her clients, etc. and, definitely swallow your pride, which is exactly what I did. And, let me tell you - I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for that simple decision to humble my ego. I signed up for the dates that no one wanted, the out-of-towners (with overnights), the long drives, the not-so-great venues, giving her some company so she didn’t have to shoot them alone, and getting to pick her brain on the long rides, learning her story. I got A TON of value out of the 11 or 12 weddings I shot with her FOR FREE, we made friends, and I basically learned how to run a chill wedding day. I had 2nd shot / assisted for other wedding photographers that had basically made me never ever want to get into the biz, but she made it seem so doable and all her weddings seemed so fun and low-key. Having shot many of my own weddings now, I know for a fact that wedding days are far from easy, and she was really just that good, but I also know that what I learned from her helped me emulate that ‘easy day’ feeling in how I plan for and run things. I’ve since found my own style, utilizing all my project management skills from my past corporate day job, but it was she that really helped me know what was possible. Not to mention I got to see 12 very different wedding day scenarios that helped make me feel somewhat prepared for what a wedding day could bring, which gave me the confidence to book my own dates. 

NICOLE - I have never actually had a mentor, to be totally honest. I probably should have, but I was too scared to ask, fearing that I’d annoy people with my questions. I told myself that if I ever made it big, so to speak, I would make it a point to answer some questions for others, to reward their guts for reaching out. It can be really intimidating to contact someone that you admire. They don’t know you from Adam, and you don’t really have much to offer them as a newbie. I don’t suggest going the route I took, because I know very well that I could have learned so much more, so much faster, rather than feeling very overwhelmed and lonely for a long time doing it all on my own. One advice I can give is - if you are too scared to connect with a potential mentor, connect with someone less intimidating first - your peers. I have recently started getting more into my local photography community, and in just a short amount of time I love how much I have grown! So, I encourage you! If you are not making any traction on the mentor route, OR if (like me) you are too shy to reach out to a potential mentor, try hard to get connected still, and find people with the same passion so you can motivate and inspire each other. 

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WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PROMPTS FOR COUPLE'S POSING, ANY IDEA ON HOW TO MAKE THINGS MORE NATURAL? HOW ARE YOU SO GOOD AT CAPTURING THE PERFECT MOMENTS?!!

Oh boy could we basically spend this entire blog talking just about this question? It’s a bit of a big nut to crack in here, so we’ll give you some resources where you can get some of this info, and cover a few base ideas to get you going. 

The caveat in posing and directing, is that not every prompt or pose works for every couple or every photographer. It really depends on what your personal shooting style is, and what feel you’re trying to create in your photographs, which also goes to who is your ideal client that you are trying to attract with your work? 

For both our shooting styles, and the ideal client bait, creating movement is an absolute must! We love that high energy feel (call it the loud moments)! Rather than focusing on poses, having couples perform actions (or add movement into poses) allows us to right off the bat work off that nervous energy our couples show up with, and create a space where we get a ton of genuine reactions so we can capture that more candid look. 

We both start our sessions with walking, running, jumping into each other’s arms, tugging on each other, bumping hips together, spinning around, whipping hair, and so on, because those are all great moment and reaction-inducers. You can always use a couple of the same things more than once and build on a single action. For example: tell them to run towards you, holding hands, while looking at each other (or variate where you are looking - look, at each other, look where you’re running, look away, etc.) Set up the mood! Tell them to skip like it’s the first day of school, or most fun they’ve ever had walking! Then build on this first action - now tell them to run towards you, while looking at each other, and when you get to about this spot pick her up from behind and spin her around. Kick your feet out as he picks you up! Those are just some ideas on a few setups. 

One piece of advice we want to give you is to be vigilant and not just focus on that one pose start to finish, but also shoot the in-between, the after, and so on. Basically, as long as something is going on, be shooting. Also, keep an eye on your couple for those after-feels and after-laughs (the best!). Make sure not to get lost nose in the camera, reviewing your prior shots, while they are laughing at what they just did, giving each other that post-run-hug. If you’re too consumed with your LCD screen you might be missing out on those awesome un-posed moments. The best kept photography secret is to make them feel like you’re not looking, so they relax just a bit thinking they are not being photographed, while you are ready to jump in and snap a totally candid shot that just might end up being your favorite. 

If you are having trouble remembering your prompts, Jasmine Star (an incredible photographer and brand strategist) comes to mind with her “Shooting with Intension” idea from the Wedding Photography Bootcamp on Creative Live. Instead of trying to memorize prompts, think about what feel you’re going for. If your intension is “Playful and Natural” - that will help you remember the play-inducing prompts, and also ‘sell’ the mood to the couple (Be playful with it guys!). If you’re going for "Romantic and Sweet” it will help you remember those sweetness inducing ideas, and get them to think along those quiet moment lines. 

Here are some good resources for poses, prompts, and ideas that will help you find your own directing magic

  • Facebook group called Couple’s cards (read through posts and comments to find awesome prompt/action ideas for both couples and families) 
  • Ben Sasso Posing and Directing course (absolute GOLD if you are really struggling on how to run a session from start to finish! Covers Couples and Individuals) 
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WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO LENSES? ANY RECOMMENDATIONS?

We both started with a 50mm (F1.2, F1.4 or F.1.8) prime lens, and both agree it’s a fantastic learning lens, especially if you can only efford 1 piece of good glass to begin with. A prime lens is an absolute must, because not only can you get a much better, more blurred background, but it also forces you to be quick on your feet since there is no zoom (you are the zoom). Once you get comfortable with the 50mm, it really depends on what you’re shooting and what you need to accommodate + what camera you use (ex. Crop or Full Frame) to pick the best lens lineup. National Camera Exchange is a great resource for all camera and lens related questions, they’ll help point you in the right direction if all this prime vs. zoom, crop vs. full-frame gives you a migraine. 

What’s in my camera bag? (wedding setup) 

  • ESTER - Canon 5D Mark IV (primary), Canon 5D Mark III (backup), Sigma ART 35mm F1.4, Sigma ART 50mm F1.4 (spare lens, in case something happened to my 35mm), Canon 85mm F1.8, Canon 24-70 F2.8 (zoom lens). Flash - 600 ex-rt (x2), Large battery bag (Canon, AAA), 2x SD/CF card wallets (1 for empty cards, 1 for full cards, so I can tell them apart), Business cards! Black Rapid Sport strap (with underarm Jack strap) 
  • NICOLE - Canon 70D (primary) + Battery Pack, Canon 6D Mark ii (backup), Tameron 24-70mm F2.8, Canon 50mm F1.4, Tameron 70-200mm F2.8, Flash Di622 Mark ii (Nissin digital) with defuser and extra batteries; Numerous camera batteries, battery chargers and memory cards 

POPULAR WEDDING USES FOR EACH LENS TYPE (IN CASE YOU ARE STRUGGLING FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU NEED AND WHY)

  • 35mm - A bit better than the 50mm for tight indoor spaces where you can’t back up far enough (ex. bride/groom getting ready room). Can also be used for family photos if you have enough room to back up. A great go-to lens for portraits overall (ex. engagement sessions) 
  • 50mm/35mm - Detail shot queens! (ex. bridal details, reception table setups). Also a fantastic portrait lens. Pick either a 50mm or a 35mm. You don’t really need both. 
  • 24-70mm - Works awesome for family photos, wedding party photos, recessional / processional (ceremony overall), and flash-use photos during reception
  • 85mm/70-200mm - Both work great for reception candids (closeups without being in people’s faces) and ceremony closeups (as well as other closeups, like when you have to sit far away at Ceremony with strict photographer seating policies)

NOTE - The lenses above are listed for a full sensor camera. Keep in mind that on a crop sensor these lenses perform differently (ex. a 24-70mm lens on a crop 70D body is more like a 35mm on a full frame 6D/Mark iii/Mark iv). You have to know what you shoot to pick the right lens lineup for you. And, if you are serious about photography, NEVER invest in any lens that only works on a crop body (OR in a KIT lens i.e.: lenses F4.0 and above). Pick the lenses that work on a full frame as well, in case you want to switch some day. 

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WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FEW TIPS FOR TRANSITIONING INTO FULL-TIME PHOTOGRAPHY?

Keep your day job as long as possible, and get a budget! These are absolute musts we agree on. Before you move on to quitting any jobs, make sure you know exactly what your expenses are, how much money you need to bring in monthly in order to not just survive but not struggle, and make sure you have enough jobs booked that you can make a living and not go into debt during the slow season (either that, or marry a Sugar Daddy / Sugar Mommy with a regular monthly income ;)). 

One thing you have to understand is that this is NOT a 9-5 job. Basically the whole idea of a Monday through Friday work week with free evenings and weekends to yourself are completely out the window in this industry. And, though you might be tempted to say “duh, I know!”, the idea of a work week and a fun free weekend are so ingrained into our society that this is actually a really rough transition for most people, even if you think you know what you signed up for. In photography you will basically be working two jobs in one. During the day you will be working a regular job (emails, editing, scheduling, planning, blogging, writing, social media, planning out wedding itineraries, prepping your gear, making travel and logistics arrangements, etc.), during the week night evenings you will be shooting sessions, and Saturdays (and sometimes Fridays/Sundays/whole weekends) you will be shooting weddings. This is often way more than 40 hours a week! In fact, let’s not even try to convert this job into $ per hour, cause one of us might start crying… LOL ;) Photography is an awesome hobby, but most people don’t actually realize how much work it is as a business. If you really want to do this full time, you have to start busting up the myth of a 9-5 job, and make sure you are up for this. We both agree that it’s just a matter of time till you start feeling like you are missing out (happens right around that gorgeous Memorial Day weekend when ALL your friends go boating or hang out at the cabin and you can’t because you’re shooting two back to back wedding). Also don’t forget - weddings are a seasonal business, so May-November (the ‘warm months’) you will have almost all your weekends booked up (including a lot of major Holidays). Then comes the Winter, when you start working through your arm-long Winter To Do list, catching up on everything that couldn’t get done during the Fall (because you were too busy shooting all the “Fall Colors Sessions”), and all the accounting and tax prep you need get done! Now doesn’t that sound like fun??!!

Let’s keep going though, we are on a roll! Since this is a seasonal job, your income stream really dries up in the slower months (Nov-April), and this is where the need for having a budget really comes in strong! You absolutely have to know what your expenses are in order to plan your busy months' earnings to last you through the winter. Kinda like a squirrel with a bunch-a nuts. 

Let’s bust up another myth while we’re at it, shall we? The Travel Myth! Everyone on social media, every photographer make it look like travel is the ultimate goal in life! Like you are less than if you don’t travel. Travel is NOT all it’s cracked up to be, and it gets old very quickly. We won’t go into details on the hours spent booking accommodations and actually in transit, but just trust us on it. 

Lastly, let’s cover weddings - the holy grail of what everyone and their grandma is trying to get into. You spend the day directing, anticipating, and planning ahead, hungry, sweaty, and smelly. You pretty much don’t get to pee all day, because you are always worrying about missing something important, and therefore you try not to drink water either so you don’t have to pee. Add dehydrated to the list. Just getting real here. 

DEEP BREATHS… The above sure makes it sound like this job sucks, OR like we are just trying to discourage you (the competition) from entering into the space, but it’s actually not either one of those. This is ALL totally honest, the not so talked about truth about what it’s really like. What we talked about above is not meant to get you to quit, but more to help you go into this with eyes wide open, knowing that once the novelty wears off things might not be easy, and not as glamorous as social media makes it all look. We don’t just shoot beautiful people frolicking in fields all day long, we also shoot awkward clients that are hard to direct and make us want to pull our hair out. Trying to create beautiful photographs for lovely, real-live (non-model) people can be hard, despite best intensions. What we’re trying to say is you need a strong, iron-clad WHY to get you through when the going gets rough if you’re seriously considering doing this full time. The “why” are all the things that you can go back to and review when you want to quit that will help you pull yourself by your own bootstraps and face the music! (hopefully even bob to the tune!) Hope this makes sense! 

If the idea of a budget is way beyond you at this time, check out a resource like the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (local churches like Substance often offer it at a great deal!) 

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ANYTHING YOU LEARNED OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU WISH YOU KNEW WHEN YOU FIRST GOT STARTED? 

Oh gosh, so many things! Let’s maybe list a few that each of us thought of… 

ESTER - Over the years I learned that "Photography is at most 20% capturing, and more like 80% directing". I think if I knew that little fun fact, I maybe wouldn’t have gotten into it LOL ;) I had all these grand ideas of just capturing this beautiful love and these moments that just magically happened, and then I’d get to a session and the first thing people would ask me was “What do you want us to do?!” Or “What do I do with my hands?!” to what I wanted to scream out loud “Anything! Do anything! Just don’t stand there!” LOL :) I mean you’d think people had never made out in their life before coming to my session because every little bit of affection seemed so awkward. Then I figured out that your photographs are only as good as your directing skills. I spent hours and hours researching prompts, prepping, practicing silly jokes, practicing poses and actions with my husband, etc. I started bringing music to sessions to help create a fun and relaxed atmosphere, and getting people to let loose a bit. I don’t have it all figured out, but I am constantly seeking to learn more and get better when it comes to directing.

Another lesson I learned pretty early was to always create a separate Lightroom (LR) catalog for each session/wedding rather than having a single giant catalog with thousands of photos, to avoid your LR to slowing down to a crawl and possibly crashing, losing all your edits. I learned this from an SLR Lounge class on Creative Live that talked all about workflow, naming conversions, and things like LR catalogs. Such an amazingly useful class!!

NICOLE - I’ll be honest and say when I first stared I had no idea that RAW files were SO DANG BIG! (By the way you absolutely should be shooting in RAW and not JPG! And if you don’t know what that is, then please research it and don’t make the mistake I did). I put them all onto my laptop and crashed my computer, thus losing everything and learning the hard way of the importance of using an external hard-drive and having multiple backups. I also learned that traveling is not all its cracked up to be (as we mentioned above) - it takes a lot of work to book the type of shoots you want to travel for. Not to mention often times it takes paying your own way for the travel and building that travel portfolio till someone is actually willing to pick up the tab for those expenses. 

Another thing I wish I knew was the importance of consistent branding and editing - deciding on what the “style" and look is that I’m going for, and making my website, my photos, my social media, etc. work together, look the same, without constantly changing up the style and confusing my clients. I want people to see one of my photos and know I took it before seeing my name on it. THAT is when you really know you’ve nailed it when it comes to creating a brand!

Learning and using programs available to my advantage and to save me time was also a huge growing pain! (ex. Dubsado, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, Preview for Instagram, etc.) Start them as soon as you can. They all took a long time to get the hang of, but they’ve really freed up my brain space to be more creative and get through those menial tasks faster. 

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HOW DO YOU DELIVER PHOTOS TO CLIENTS? DO YOU JUST OFFER DIGITAL COLLECTIONS OR DO YOU MAKE THEM ORDER PRINTS? For digital collections what do you size your photos to? 
Hip Hip Hooray to PASS Plus! It’s one of the best Gallery services out there, and we both absolutely love it! There’s also an option (with some limitations) to start for free, and bar none PASS is the best and we can’t recommend it enough! As for the file size, we both upload high resolution JPGs into collections. The clients get a print release, so they can download all images for their personal use, and through PASS we also can give them the option to download ‘web-sized’ files, and even print prints directly through our pro photo lab. 


IN YOUR OPINION WHAT IS THE BEST PHOTO EDITING SOFTWARE? 
Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) for Photographers hands down! For ‘volume editing’ which is what everyone shooting weddings does, Lightroom is the way to go. With the Adobe Creative Cloud $10/month subscription you get both Lightroom as well as Photoshop, and all the latest version upgrades.
 

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHY SOFTWARES OVERALL THAT HAVE MADE YOUR LIFE EASIER? 

Here are a few of our favorite Mac software and iPhone apps that have saved us a ton of time, or things that we use on a regular basis:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud for Photography - Lightroom (LR) and Photoshop (PS) for $10/month
  • Dubsado - CRM (Client Resource Management) System - This is where all your Sales client data lives. You can input your Contracts, Pricing List, and other questionnaires you want the client to fill out, or sign electronically. You can set up separate to do lists and workflows for different session types and see who owes you money, send remaining due reminders, etc. If you are in a desperate need of getting organized in the financial and client data realm, Dubsado is clean and pretty intuitive. If you want to give it a try you can, for free, and if you want to sign up you can use code EKPHOTO20 to get either 20% off your first month, OR 20% off the year (annual is a better deal, since you end up with basically $50 off - average $16/month rather than the $20/month regular price). Honeybook is another really good CRM option that does basically the same things as Dubsado (you can use India Earl’s 50% off code for the first month/year) if you want to go the Honeybook route. You can’t go wrong either way! If your client data is a mess, you need a CRM!
  • Quickbooks (QB) - With your Sales data safely in a CRM, you still need some place to handle all your business expenses for tax purposes. This is where an accounting software comes in. Quickbooks is the best in the biz of financial tracking for small businesses. The options are either Quickbooks Online with a monthly subscription or buy a version of Quickbooks software directly from Quickbooks (you can download it right from their site). (Ester - Personally, I don’t like any monthly subscriptions of any sort. This is why I went with the non-online version fo Quickbooks. Just know, that if you want your CRM to integrate with your accounting software you will need Quickbooks Online; otherwise you have to manually enter your Sales bulk figures into QB and let it take care of all other expenses). 
  • Evernote - This program literally has a million uses and an amazing search engine! You can organize anything that’s in your brain - write blog posts, ideation for instagram, keep track of frequently used hashtags, keep track of your wedding dates, and so much more!  Most importantly, it is accessible and updatable from either your computer or cell phone, and syncs across all devices. Awesome!
  • Blog Stomp! Hands down the best blogging tool around! It will cut your blog creation time by hours! Best feature - you can (under Settings) click your photos to keep the original names you exported the images with, so when you create image collages (ex. 2 vertical photos side by side) they will be given the name of the first photo in line. Then you can us batch processing (just resize) of any images you want to use as is (ex. Your horizontal stand-alone non-collaged images). If you have all photos keep the original name, once the batch stomp is done your collages will fall right in line with the other images, so all you have to do is maybe move a couple collages around for aesthetic purposes rather than try to plug every single collage into the flow. Eureka!!!!! And Hallelujah!!! 
  • Photo Mechanic for culling - also known as the best $150 ever spent! - This software renders all RAW images instantly so you don’t have to create smart previews and have LR import overnight. It also helps shed unwanted images (so none of the blinks and other weird faces end up in your Lightroom Catalog thus cluttering it up and slowing it down). 
  • Google Maps - Comes in so handy for staring or hearting favorite (and wedding) locations so you always know where you’re headed. 
  • Dusk and Dawn app for iPhone (in App Store) - It will tell you when the Sunset is in any location on any date (even years into the future) so your brides can plan out their Itinerary around the Golden Hour photo slot!
  • Sun Surveyor app for iPhone (in App Store) (Sun Seeker is another alternative)- If like us you first tend to scope out the best spot for the First Look and Wedding Party/Family Photos when you arrive at the Wedding location, this app can be of huge help! It will show you in live view where the sun will be at let’s say 10:45am so you get an idea on which backgrounds are your best bet on a full-sun kind of a day. 
  • Instagram Preview app for iPhone (in App Store) - This app can help you plan out your photos in the Instagram feed so everything flows together. You can plan out your captions and be ready to post whenever (or even schedule out your posts) 
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HOW DO YOU FIND GREAT SHOOTING LOCATIONS IN THE TWIN CITIES? 

We are basically always keeping an eye out for cute places, even when just driving around running errands, just in case there is a super cute doorway that’s got the perfect light at just before sunset time! If we spot a good field, woodsy area, etc., we keep it in the back of our minds as a possible location for a shoot (or better yet, drop a pin in it on Google Maps and label it accordingly, heart it as a Favorite!) We also always pay attention to where the sun sets in those locations we have in mind so the sun isn’t on the wrong side (some locations are really not ideal during certain times of day and certain seasons). We always pick places depending on session time - the goal is to always be able to have the sun behind your subject, to avoid harsh shadows. We ALWAYS shoot with the sun behind our couples.

Google Maps (as mentioned above) is awesome at keeping track of favorite locations. If you are really short on location ideas you can literally type in “Park” and see what comes up. If the photos under the location look at least somewhat enticing, set an exploration radius and go for a location scouting date with a friend. You can check out each park, make some notes about it, and grow your database. 
Fun fact! - Once you’ve been hearting some of those awesome places you find, all you have to do in Google Maps is type in “Favorites” for it to bring up a map of all your finds. You can then match the best location to your couple’s ideal radius, and voila! You’ve got it! 

Another piece of advice on finding great spots, is to make super duper close friends with another photographer in your area, join a local Instagram pod, etc. and swap location ideas, go scouting together. It’s always fun, and there’s always coffee! Plus, it peels you away from your computer for a bit, so your eyes don’t go permanently cross-eyed from all that editing ;)

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Woohoo! THE END! 

If you’ve made it this far, KUDOS, and you’re obviously made of questions, and hungry for all kinds of information, which is EXACTLY where we were when we first started. Frankly, most days that’s still us! We salut you for being a doer, a learner, and A MAKER. We hope all this was super useful and we wish you all the best in your photography career as you grow, make friends, explore, push boundaries, and break some rules. 

Still, we understand the you might have many more questions, and as much as we’d love to produce these kinds of blogs and live videos and share share share, we do have businesses to run, clients to take care of, so our time is very limited. If you found this very helpful but want to know more, and want to pick our brains much more than what we discussed here, we will be offering Mentoring sessions, in a super low-key non-intimidating atmosphere - think a  coffee meeting (in person or over Skype), and those will be available for signup at $150 / HOUR. You can hit either of us up regarding a Mentoring session via our website contact form, and we’ll be happy to help! 

(PS. Your best bet of getting a mentoring session on the calendar is during the Jan-April timeframe, since during the wedding season May-Dec things get pretty crazy with work). 

Thanks again for showing up! And good luck! 

Ester + Nicole

 

BONUS!
HERE ARE SOME MORE GREAT RESOURCES FOR PHOTOGRAPHY KNOWLEDGE THAT WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND (beyond just Google and YouTube)

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