Photographer FAQ: Lens choices, blogs and profit margins

I have lots of sessions to blog right now with wedding season and holiday portrait sessions in full swing.  Since I don’t have time to put together a full photography tips post, I thought I would answer some questions I have been receiving via e-mail.

Kim, who is from Spain, asked these questions (BTW-how cool is it that someone from Spain actually reads my blog!).

Question: “…I have the 18-55mm, 28-80mm and 70-200mm f/4 lens.  From what you say on your site, I was thinking maybe it’d be good to look into getting the 50mm f/1.4 lens as well.  With the lenses I already have, do you think that the 50mm would add anything to my shooting capabilities?”

Answer: Yes!!  For two reasons I think the 50mm lens would be a great addition to your bag.  When I first started out I was all about the zoom lenses and couldn’t understand why everyone raved about prime lenses (a prime lens is a lens that has a fixed focus length).  A fixed lens forces you to move and find different angles and to use your feet as the zoom.  Zoom lenses are great, but they allow you to be a little lazy.  The 50 mm is also a fantastic portrait lens and great for details too.  It’s almost impossible to take a bad picture with the 50 mm!  The second reason is the aperture.  The lower aperture (1.8, 1.4 or 1.2) will give you that creamy, yummy bokeh that is so beautiful in portraits. Here are a few pictures with my 50mm.

Question: What sort of profit margin would you say is necessary for a business to succeed?

Answer: Profit margin is unique to each photographer.  Photographer A could be doing this as a part-time gig just to make a little extra spending money, while Photographer B may be doing this as the sole supporter of their family.  The profit margin and number of weddings that each will need to shoot to meet their specific financial goals are going to be different.  Realistically, everyone wants to be making a profit, but it’s important to identify what your financial goals are (extra money, full time income etc) and then figure out how to make that happen.   Here is a link to a great resource on pricing that helps you figure out what to charge to meet your financial goals.

Bethany asked:

Question: I wanted to know what time of day you think is the best for an outdoor family photo shoot in AZ during the fall/winter months. I still don’t feel that I have mastered my lighting quite yet.

Answer: The best time for pictures is about an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise.  This is usually called the “golden hour”. When I am scheduling sessions I always check the sunset time for the exact day of the shoot.  This is extremely important to know when putting together a wedding time line.  If a bride wants a sunset ceremony and doesn’t want to do a first look then you will be shooting their portraits in the dark after the ceremony!  Click here for Arizona sunset/sunrise times.

Jewel, from OSP, asked:

Question: Just wanted to let you know I think your blogsite looks awesome!  I’m thinking about starting a blogsite with ProPhotoBlogs and I was wondering if you could share your experience and what theme you’re using. That would be a great help. Thank you!

Answer: Thank you!! I do love ProPhoto blogs.  Once you get familiar with the set-up it is so easy to use.  I’m not really using any particular theme.  I created the background myself in photoshop (the grey) and then just worked with the standard features to get the look I wanted.  Here is a quick list of things I did:

  • I created my header images in Photoshop based on the sizing ProPhoto recommended (once you get in there you will see what I mean)
  • I picked my background color (white) and trim color (light blue)
  • I used numbers in front of my blog categories (e.g. 01. Weddings). This allowed me to determine what order my categories would appear in the drop down menu.
  • I create all of my blog post pictures in Photoshop to add the light blue border and my logo.

I did my layout using the ProPhoto 2 theme and at the time it didn’t allow for a side column.  I have upgraded to ProPhoto 3 mainly to be able to use the gallery feature.  I might switch to a three column layout, but that will take some work and time…which I don’t have right now!

Use this PROMO CODE to get $10 off the price: SDEI2866.

Bonus Tip: Consistent blogging is important (especially if you have a blogsite), but it can be very time consuming.  Here’s a little bonus tip.  Set aside time to blog and prepare two blog posts at once.  Publish one immediately and the second one you can time to publish automatically a few days later.  Every blog post doesn’t have to be 20 images plus three paragraphs of information.  Make your second blog post something short and personal with maybe one or two images.  Personal posts help your readers and potential clients see that you are a real person behind the camera and makes them feel like they know you.  Personal posts are something that I have not done a lot of, but plan to do more in 2011.  The outcome will be your readers think you are blogging all of the time and you are working more efficiently.  This blog post was actually written two days before it was posted!

Hester I am forever indbeetd to you for this information.

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