photography education

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


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. 

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.


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. 

Finding Your Style | Maryland Senior Portrait Photographer | Maryland Photographer Mentor

Finding Your Photography Style

Finding your style as a photographer can be confusing and daunting, especially if you are just starting out. There are so many different directions you can take your images: from dark and moody to light and airy to vibrant and colorful, and everything in between.

When I was just starting out, I already knew a big part of my style would be LIGHT. I’ve always been obsessed with that gorgeous, golden backlighting, and I sought it in every single one of my images. But when it came to editing, I was pretty much all over the place. One of my very first sessions I edited with super vibrant yellow/greens and saturated colors because that just ended up being how I thought those images looked best. Then I started discovering other photographers that I fell in LOVE with their styles, and I still admire their work so much today. My favorites were Jessica Heller Photography, Brittney Borowski, India Earl, and Ben Sasso. The funny thing is, and I’m sure you notice this if you follow any of their work, their styles are COMPLETELY different. I know lots of photographers have the same problem: they love work done in all different styles. So how in the world did I find MY style, if the photographers I admired most had such different styles?

I found mine by just shooting and editing and practicing, and that’s exactly how most photographers do, and how YOU will end up finding yours! After doing shoot after shoot, I started naturally editing my images consistently in a certain way. I found that no matter what the session was, I felt that each image looked best with a rich, film inspired tone that was not over exposed or underexposed. So instead of dark and moody or light and airy, I landed somewhere in the middle! Even though I loved specific photographers’ work, I never liked editing my images in their styles. I felt like my images looked best completely different, and I learned to be okay with that instead of trying to copy someone else’s style.

There aren’t any specific steps you can take, or a quiz, or a magical answer to finding what your style is. The only way to do it is to simply practice! Do as many shoots as you can and edit each shoot to the best of your ability. Don’t stress about trying to commit to muted greens or over exposed highlights, you’ll find your own style naturally by just doing the shoots and edits that YOU love.  


Becca Mathews: Maryland Senior, Equine, and Couples Photographer

The Key To Building A Successful Photography Business | Maryland Photographer Mentor | Maryland Senior Portrait Photographer

The key to building a successful photography business

In the industry today, pretty much everyone knows someone who either has a photography business or does photography as a hobby. If you’re struggling to compete with the massive amount of competition or wondering how to even begin competing, you’re not alone! The majority of photography businesses fail in the first 5 years because they aren’t making any money and aren’t getting any clients. Spoiler alert: the key to building a successful photography business is NOT producing amazing work. Yes, it’s still extremely important to be able to consistently produce professional quality work, but the real key to building success is to compete based on differentiation, not price.

No matter what you charge, there will always be someone out there willing to do the same job (but not always produce the same quality results of course) for less. It doesn’t matter if you live in the richest neighborhood in the country, trying to compete with other photographers by seeing who can charge the least is the fastest way to fail as a business owner.

Instead of trying to attract clients by offering a low price, build your business so it stands out from others. Photographers who see long-term success in their businesses offer their clients something they can’t get anywhere else. Whether that be the experience you provide, the type of session, an extremely unique style, or a coveted product, once you inspire the “fear of missing out” in potential clients, you won’t have any trouble getting bookings in this over saturated industry.

To figure out how you can stand out from the competition, start by defining your target market. Figure out what they like, what attracts them to certain businesses, experiences, stores, and what type of service they are most likely looking for. Then think about YOUR strengths, both as a photographer and a business owner. Are you insanely amazing at getting seniors to open up in front of the camera? Are you awesome wrangling the kids at family sessions? Do you have a unique editing style that no one in your area does? Or do you provide amazing personalized service to each and every client? Once you can figure out which of your strengths you can use to stand out from the competition and make your service irresistible to potential clients, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful photography business.


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