photography tips

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. 

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.  

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Becca Mathews: Maryland Senior, Equine, and Couples Photographer

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