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Utilizing Pinterest to Grow Your Photography Business | Maryland Photographer Mentor | Maryland Senior Portrait Photographer

Utilizing Pinterest to Grow Your Photography Business

If you aren't utilizing Pinterest for your business, you should be! My senior session images have been pinned over a million times in the past year and my business has grown because of it.

Pinterest is an amazing tool for photographers because:
1. Pinning your images drives a ton of traffic to your website
2. It greatly improves your SEO
3. It gets your work in front of your target market because most of today's high schoolers are on Pinterest
4. It can help grow the social media page of your choosing despite all the crazy Facebook and Instagram algorithm changes

Strategies you can start using to grow your business today:

1. Add the website coding provided by Pinterest to allow your images to be pinned straight from your website by anyone viewing your site.
2. Create a Business Pinterest account to have analytics
3. Pin as many of your individual images from your site as you can.
4. If you blog your sessions, pin every single image you blog!
5. As you pin, in your captions cram as many keywords as possible in there, such as any terms associated with the image or any terms your target client will be searching for. This is how your pins will show up in Pinterest searches and get seen.
6. Use a collage maker to create a Pinterest friendly collage of images for each session. These collages always end up being the most pinned and get the most attention. I use this free collage maker that has a specific pinterest layout available: https://www.befunky.com/create/collage/
7. Instead of linking the collage pins to your website like individual images, link them to the social media platform you want to grow!

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Becca Mathews: Maryland Senior Portrait, Equine, and Couples Photographer

What's In My Bag | Maryland Photographer Mentor | Photographer Education

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Any experienced photographer knows great work doesn't come from great gear, but how you USE your gear. While this is 100% true, it's still important to find the camera and lenses that you love and allows you to create the kind of work you want to. 

Pictured above is the gear I use for all of my portrait sessions. Yup, that's it! Just my D750, 35 1.4, and 85 1.8. Below I'll talk more specifically about what kind of shots I use each for, what I like or don't like about each, and what's on my radar to add. But first, let's chat about backups. If you are taking paying clients and running a businesses, you NEED to have backup cameras and lenses. Even the best gear being used by the best user can (and will!) fail occasionally, and you need to be prepared in case that happens. I have a D7200 and various DX lenses as my backup, and I know I can produce the same quality work with that setup if my 750 ever fails. 

Okay, now into the good stuff. 

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The incredible dynamic range of the D750.

The incredible dynamic range of the D750.

The D750 is an absolute workhorse of a camera. The dynamic range is incredible and it performs exceptionally well in low light situations. Since upgrading from the 7200, I have yet to find anything about this camera I don't love. I always shoot underexposed to avoid blowing out the highlights, and with the 750 I know I can bring up the shadows a ridiculous amount without noise to achieve a properly exposed image. The price of this camera is also amazing for the quality. Only costing around $1500 depending on where you get it, the 750 is a super affordable full frame that many pros choose instead of Nikon's more expensive pro level bodies. 

The Nikkor 85mm 1.8 is my go-to lens for sessions. It stays on my camera for 80% of the shoot, but I definitely have a love/hate relationship with it. I LOVE the compression and gorgeous bokeh it produces, and it handles backlighting extremely well. I use it for everything from wide shots to tight head shots. 85mms produce super flattering portraits, and when the focus is spot on, the sharpness is perfect. BUT. I've noticed only about 1/3 images are actually in focus with this lens. It misses focus pretty often, so I end up with a lot of soft images in between the sharp ones. Eventually I plan on upgrading to either the Nikkor 85 1.4 or the Sigma ART because of this issue. But in the meantime, it's still my most used lens and I love the images I'm able to produce with it.  Below are a few of my favorite images shot with this lens.

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Next, the Nikkor 35mm 1.4. I absolutely love this lens. It's always tack sharp, produces gorgeous creamy bokeh, and never fails me in strong backlit situations. I LOVE the distortion it creates, and when used for close up shots, that distortion makes you feel like you're there in real life. This focal length brings images to life, so whenever I want a shot that's more close up with a strong feeling or emotion, I reach for this lens. I really can't say enough good things about it. Below are a few of my favorite images taken with it. 

Not pictured is the Nikkor 70-200 VR II that I just bought as my new sports lens. I haven't really been able to put it to the test yet, but I'm really excited about it! The next lenses I have my eye on are the Nikkor 58 1.4 and the Sigma 50 ART. Both of those lenses produce really unique images, and I hope to add one of them to my collection soon! Before I owned the 85mm, I used the 35 and Nikkor 50mm 1.4. To be honest, I really hated that 50mm. The focus was always soft, and it I never really got excited about the images I produced with it, but lots of people love that lens so it's really all personal preference. If you're looking to add a new lens to your gear, the absolute best thing to do is to rent the lens first to test it out and form your own opinions. 

Senior Portrait Posing Made Easy | Carroll County Maryland Senior Portrait Photographer | Union Bridge, MD

When I was first starting out in photography, the idea of doing senior sessions TERRIFIED me honestly. As someone who hates speaking in front of people and being the center of attention, I just knew I would completely blank on any poses as soon as I had a senior in front of me. After tons of practice, I started falling into the same "system" of posing during each session, and it has let me confidently pose seniors and get tons of posing variety in my images. Photographing senior portraits can be so intimidating for new photographers, but with this system of posing you'll start to truly LOVE posing and even start to challenge yourself to see how much variety you can get in a single spot!

So what's my secret? Memorizing a few key base poses and building off them with small adjustments. 

Base Pose #1: Sitting

The sitting pose is my personal favorite because it's so easy to get a TON of variation without ever moving your senior! The image to the left is usually how I'll start, with their legs crossed. You can have their hands in their lap, or reaching up into their hair like Allyson. Without moving anything else, right here you can get different shots by asking her to look at you with a serious face then a smile, then look off to the left or right with a serious face and smile, then look towards the ground to her left or right, then get a laugh out of her. Every single pose you do, you should be doing variations of where she is looking and her expression without changing anything else. 

Variations:

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If you have access to stairs or something for your senior to lean up against, you can do even more types of sitting poses.

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From the base pose, you can easily flow into all the variations by asking them to pull one knee up and rest an elbow in the knee. With that elbow on their knee, they can put that hand in their hair (usually I ask them to run their fingers down through it or play with the ends). Then, if they have something to lean against, they can flatten one leg and lean back, doing the same facial expression and hand variations. If there's nothing to lean back against, direct her to pull both knees up and rest her arms there. Then, have her lean to one side and pull her legs off to the side. She can use one arm to prop herself up and the other can play with her hair, rest near her shoulder, or wrap around either side of her neck. You'd be amazed at how many different poses you can get while your client is seated just by adjusting their legs, their facial expression, and their hand placements!

Base Pose #2: Standing

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I could make this entire blog post about standing pose variations, but I'll try to keep it to my favorites! My standing base pose is the classic straight on, hand on the hip with either the legs crossed at the ankles or one leg bent and pointed in. Same as the sitting pose, from here you can get a ton of variety just by having her look in different directions, doing different hand positions and changing her expression.

Variations:

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These are just a few of the MANY variations you can do on my base pose. Rotating between legs crossed at the ankles and one knee bent and turned in ensures a super flattering body-shape. Have her turn to the side, look at the camera, then look down over her shoulder (I always ask her to tuck her chin towards her shoulder). Mix it up between letting her hands relax at her sides and giving each one a job. Usually when I ask them to place their hands up on their shoulder (like the black and white), when they place it the first time their hand is stiff and flat. If that happens, I tell her to take it off, shake it out, and then just plop it right back there. For every standing pose, besides moving limbs and changing facial expressions, do full body shots plus waist up shots of each pose. 

Base Pose #3: Leaning

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It doesn't happen that often for my locations, but when there's a building, fence, or railing to lean on, this base pose is my go-to starting point. While looking super relaxed, this pose lengthens any body to create a super flattering shape. You can have her cross her legs at the ankle like pictured, or bend one leg at the knee. 

Variations:

Starting with the base pose, have her lean with her back against the railing of a bridge. Get full body shots then move up closer for waist up images. Have her look at the camera, straight in front of her, back over the railing. Then she can come off the bridge and face you with a hand on the railing. If you're working with a wall of a building, have her lean up against the side with her shoulder. Shoot from further away as pictured, then shoot right along the wall to get some awesome bokeh for a tight head shot. Keep her hands moving in each pose by putting one in her back pocket, her front pocket, up near her shoulder, playing with her hair, grasping a scarf. The hand placement possibilities are endless!

Base Pose #4: Laying

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I've just recently started doing laying poses, and I've learned they can be tricky to get right! The easiest place to start is this base. Ask her to lay on her stomach and either relax her hands in front of her, prop her head up with one hand, or bring one hand up to the outside of her hair by her ear.

Variations:

From the base pose, have her roll onto her back and let her far arm rest behind her head. Be sure to have her turn her head all the way over to look straight at the camera. You could also bring her close hand up and have her rest it on her shoulder near the base of her neck. Then, stand behind her head looking down at her with her looking straight up at you. The trick here is to have her upside down in the frame to avoid a double-chin effect, and make sure her hair is swooped neatly off to the side. You can also have her lay on her side and prop her head up with her hands, but this one can be tricky to get right and doesn't always turn out flattering.

To bring it all together:

So that's it, my secret to posing is memorizing 4 base poses and using slight adjustments to create tons of variety in my images! You can create your own base poses based on your posing preferences, but you should always have at least one pose for every "type" (sitting, standing, etc) up your sleeve for each session. Some final general tips:

  • If you feel like you run out of poses super fast during sessions and don't have enough variety in your images, you are probably forgetting one of these aspects that can be easily changed for every pose: expression, where they are looking, hand placements, head tilts, and leg positions.
  • One of the best ways to get relaxed poses is to add movement or actions! Have her walk towards you and ask her to look off to the side, then at you, then down at the ground, while she's walking. Instead of telling her to put her hand on her hair, ask her to run her fingers down through her hair.
  • Get her to laugh! There's a ton of different ways to do it, but my go-to is to ask her to give me her best fake laugh, then when she does it I say "that was terrible!" and THAT gets a real laugh almost every time.
  • Last but not least: don't forget about her hands! I repeat: DON'T FORGET ABOUT HER HANDS! Okay, do you get how important her hands are now? :) If she doesn't know what to do with her hands, she WILL feel awkward, and that translates to her looking awkward in photos. Always make sure every hand has a job, even if you just tell her to relax them at her sides.  
  • The most important thing to do at a senior session is just relax! Don't get in your head too much worrying about trying to remember that one pose you memorized. Just look at the senior in front of you and focus on how you can move each part of her body at a time. You don't have to go from one specific pose to a completely different one. Concentrate on making small adjustments and you will end u with more variety in your images than you could've ever gotten before. 

If you want to learn 150 unique poses and how to flow through them during senior sessions, be sure to check out the complete Senior Portrait Posing Guide that photographers are raving about!

What I Wish I Knew When Starting Out | Maryland Portrait Photographer | Union Bridge, MD

What I Wish I Knew When Starting Out | FAQ for Beginners

When I first got interested in photography at the very beginning of high school, I had so many questions! I found myself constantly wondering the same things over and over again while looking at any photos that inspired me and finding my favorite photographers. I became pretty obsessed with searching for the answers to my questions and was grabbing onto any and all photography education I could get my hands on online. This is how I completely taught myself! You absolutely do not need any formal photography education, like art schools, college, or professional workshops, as long as you are totally committed to teaching yourself and learning as much as you possibly can. So, I’ve answered all the questions below that are the same exact ones that I wanted to know when I first started out. The answers to these questions, given by all the photographers that influenced my work, are what really shaped my self-taught journey and still shape my work today.

1.     What equipment do you shoot with?

Right now I shoot with the Nikon D750 and I absolutely love it! It’s amazing in low light, and let’s me shoot underexposed to avoid blowing out the highlights without having to worry about too much grain when bringing the shadows up. For lenses, I use the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 and 35mm 1.4. I use the 50mm for all of my senior sessions because the compression is super flattering. I use the 35mm for my couples and equestrian sessions because it’s wider angle lets me get closer but have more in the frame. I love the little bit of distortion the 35mm gives when you get up close to the subject because it makes the photos seem more real/personal.

2.     How do you find/choose your locations?

I honestly find my locations just by driving around. When you’re looking closely, Carroll County has tons of little spots that look amazing in photos, but you have to know what kind of spot you’re looking for. I use different locations for every single session, so when I go out looking I usually have a specific “look” in mind. Usually I’m looking for a tall overgrown field, a quiet backroad, or a wooded area. The most important factor when I’m location scouting is the light! I always try to go out scouting in the same type of light and time of day I’ll be shooting, which is golden hour. I’m SO picky about what the light needs to look like at locations it sometimes makes it super hard to find spots, but locations can be anywhere really. Photographers have the power to transform a not so great location into something really beautiful in images.

3.     What settings do you usually shoot at?

I shoot in manual, so my settings will be different for every situation. But, in general, my aperture is almost always between 1.4 and 2.8. 1.4 is my favorite aperture to shoot at because I love the creamy depth of field look it gives. When I need a little wider depth of field, like when I’m shooting couples or equestrians with their horses, I’ll be closer to 2.8 to keep everything in focus. Aperture is most important to me, so I set that first, then set the shutter speed and ISO accordingly. My shutter speed is never under 1/200 to make sure all the motion is stopped, and the ISO is the lowest possible number that lets me keep the aperture and shutter where I want it.

4.     What do you edit your images with?

For every session, I start by opening up the RAW images in Adobe Camera Raw where I do all the exposure and color corrections with my custom presets I’ve created. Then I open them in Photoshop where I retouch skin, remove anything I don’t want in the background, sharpen, and export.

5.     Do I need to specialize in a certain type of portrait photography?

When you’re just starting out, it’s good to shoot as many different types of sessions/subjects as possible to get a feel for what you like. Overtime most people naturally specialize, and I think its best for most photographers to. With so much competition these days, you’re more likely to be profitable with a strong brand that focuses on a specific type of photography. Instead of being a photographer that people think of as someone who is okay at everything from weddings to seniors to newborns, you’ll stand out more if you are THE photographer people think of when they think of senior portraits, or another specific type of photography. For me, the decision to specialize in seniors, equestrians, and couples was super easy because these sessions are the ones that inspire me the most and the ones I really excel at.

6.     How do you get such good lighting in your images? Do you use a reflector?

I get my images to look the way they do by shooting backlit! I place my subject’s back to the sun which gives soft, even lighting on their face and I can control the light coming into the frame by where I position myself and my client in relation to the sun.  I don’t use reflectors. When shooting I either expose for my subject’s face or slightly underexpose them, so while editing I bring up the shadows on their faces and drop the highlights of the background to get the balanced exposure I want.

7.     What’s the one thing you learned that drastically improved your photography?

How to control light! Once I learned how to shoot in and control different types of light, my work improved dramatically. Learning how to do this is SO SO SO important if you want to become a pro. Photography is literally defined as “painting with light” so to say it’s important is a big understatement!

8.     What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out?

To anyone just starting out with photography, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! Ask your friends to model for you, follow your pets around the house, experiment and shoot as much as you possibly can. That’s the easiest and fastest way to improve. The learning never stops for photographers, and if you’re willing to put the practice in and learn, you’ll start creating work you’re truly proud of.