photographer education

New Year's Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make | Maryland Senior Portrait Photographer | Photographer Mentor | Education For Photographers

3 New Year’s Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make For 2019

Entering into a new year is like hitting the “reset” button of life. For us photographers, it’s often the time when we are evaluating our work and business from the past year, and thinking about where we want to take it in the new year. Below are the 5 New Year’s resolutions every photographer should make this year in order to achieve growth, success, and balance in 2019!

  1. Learn how to say “no”.

It might sound crazy that I’m recommending you turn down paid work in 2019, but hear me out! Every photographer out there gets requests to do every type of session under the sun, myself included. During the very first year of my business, I said “yes” to pretty much every one of those requests that were willing to pay me. While it was great to gain the experience of doing all different kinds of sessions, I quickly realized that every time I said “yes” to a session that I wasn’t thrilled to do, it meant that I would have to say “no” to something that I DID really want to do, because I just didn’t have time. This meant that I was putting a ton of time and work into things that I didn’t really want to do, and it also meant that I kept getting more and more inquiries for those types of sessions, since that was what I was posting on social media. When I began turning down all the sessions that I didn’t truly LOVE and look forward to do doing, my business flourished because I was able to put all my time and effort into working on the sessions that really inspired me.

2. Set business hours and stick to them.

Being your own boss has a lot of advantages, but one HUGE disadvantage that we all suffer from, is the feeling that you should be working and available to your clients all day every day. We all need to let go of the guilt that often comes with putting off answering that email that just came in at 9pm, and instead take a break, and take care of ourselves as well as we strive to take care of our clients. Answer that late night email the next day, and wait until Monday to get to all those weekend emails. It might feel like the world will end and your clients will hate you if you allow yourself some time off, but there is no email that is worth more than your mental health. You do NOT need to be available to your clients at all hours of the night, and all weekend long. Own your business, don’t let it own you!

3. Shoot for yourself.

Make time this year for at least two shoots that are just for YOU. No client expectations, no time limits and outfit requirements. Style a session that is exactly how you want it to look. Let yourself be inspired by something new or different. Being busy with client work is AMAZING, and the ultimate goal for every photographer, but if you don’t take the time to shoot for yourself every so often, you’ll quickly become burnt out.

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Becca Mathews: Maryland Portrait Photographer and Photographer Mentor

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. 

5 Worst Business Mistakes New Photographers Make | Maryland Photographer Education

The 5 Worst Business Mistakes New Photographers Make

Starting a photography business can be overwhelming and scary for new photographers, and I’ve noticed most new photographers keep making the same mistakes as they struggle to build a client base and earn a living. Each of these mistakes is overwhelmingly common in the photography industry and can have serious negative impacts on your ability to build a sustainable and profitable business. Luckily, they can all be easily avoided!

1. Booking clients without a retainer and contract

No matter who the client is or how far along you are in your business, you should always require a retainer and signed contract in order to book a session. Requiring these two items will help prevent so many possible problems later on in the session process, that there’s really no way to even list them all! Just to name a few, using retainer fees, even a small one, will help you attract clients who value your services and avoid clients who “book” a date, and then either don’t show up to their session, or repeatedly ask to reschedule at the last minute. Contracts should also be used with every single client, even if they are a friend or family member, for a multitude of reasons. Not only do they help set clear and consistent expectations of the session process with every single client, but they also protect you and your business. Implementing these two items are crucial to building a successful business and will save you time and money over and over again.

2. Failing to set clear expectations with each client

As I mentioned above, using contracts with each client is just one way to set clear expectations from the very beginning of the session process. Besides having clients sign contracts, you should also have CONSISTENT policies that apply to every client, and consistently verbalize those policies to all clients. Being sure to speak your policies directly to clients is so important, because most people don’t thoroughly read any emails or documents sent to them. When you consistently set clear expectations, you’ll be less likely to have to deal with people trying to constantly bargain with you over prices, ask for you to make special exceptions for them, disrespect your time and work, and devalue your whole service from beginning to end.

3. Sending pricing info over email, text, or Facebook messenger

If you have been doing this and wondering why you aren’t able to book any clients, you have your answer! People can afford what they VALUE. If a potential client says they can’t afford you or you are “too expensive,” 9/10 times it’s because you didn’t convey the value of your services to them. The best way to convey the value of your services and get clients to book with you is by scheduling an in person consult or talking on the phone. It’s basically impossible to build a relationship with clients through email, text, or messaging, but when you actually speak to them over the phone or in person, you are able to build trust, confidence, and your perceived VALUE.

4. Failing to charge your worth

Besides the simple fact that charging pennies on the dollar for photography services is harming the industry, your business will never succeed if you aren’t earning a profit. Most new photographers begin by charging less than $100 for a session and don’t even realize how much money they’re losing! Running a business is EXTREMELY expensive, and a photography business is no exception. We are not just pushing a button for a few photos and rolling in the dough after that $100 session fee. Instead of charging basically nothing for a session just to get practice with clients, spend your time doing free model calls to build your skills and portfolio. Then, once you are confident in your ability to produce consistent, quality work, evaluate your REAL cost of doing business and charge prices that will allow you to not only cover costs, but also make a profit. Professional photography is a LUXURY, not a commodity, and is not meant to be cheap.

5. Spending more time and money learning photography than business 

While improving your photography skill is obviously important, running a successful photography business is only 20% your photography skill and 80% business skill. For every fancy new lens or pack of presets you buy, you should be investing twice that in your business education. It will never matter how good your photos are if you don’t know how to price your service profitably, attract and book potential clients, or run a sustainable business.  

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

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!