Category Archives: 06. Tips for Photographers

Tips for Photographers {Check Your Junk Mail}

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Jasmine Star thFix.  You can read my review of it here.  While there I met the sweetest husband wife photography team and snapped a picture of them with Jasmine’s husband JD.  A couple of days later I emailed the picture to them and never heard back.  Another couple of days goes by and I mention on FB that I emailed them the picture.  Amy says she never received the email and asked if I could email it again.  I re-send the email and again I hear nothing back.  Amy and I run into each other at another workshop and she still doesn’t have the image.

And then it happens…she finds it in her junk mail.  No big deal right?  Guess what else is in her junk mail…4 wedding inquiries and a couple of portrait inquiries!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HUGE deal now!!

I had the exact same thing happen to me last November.  4 inquires went directly to my junk mail and I didn’t realize it until it was too late.  It was like a giant sucker punch in the gut!  Since then, I keep a close eye on my junk mail.  Most of the time it’s just offers to help certain body parts “grow” (wink-wink),  but I still check it EVERY day.

Jasmine Star theFix-Phoenix, AZ

Last week I attended Jasmine Star’s theFix.  This was the first stop on her 12 city tour to speak to other photographers about….

Well, that’s an interesting question.  theFix website describes the event as a conversation with Jasmine Star.  Jasmine describes it as, “prom, but with better hair”.  I had pretty awesome hair at prom, so I signed-up.  Actually, I signed-up because I knew that whatever Jasmine had to say I wanted to hear.

Jasmine spoke about a new movement in the industry right now.  The idea of photographers working together to help each other grow their business.  Networking is HUGE in this industry, but historically it has only gone so far.  Get together for lunch…yes.  Tell me where you shot your last engagement session with that really cool background…no, actually hell no.  Tell you how much I charge?  I’m more likely to tell you how much I weigh.

It’s as if we invite everyone over to our house, but don’t let anyone inside and instead mingle on the front lawn.  There is an internal struggle of wanting to be open, but fearful of giving out what makes us successful.  What makes the client choose me over you.

Jasmine’s theme throughout the night was to let these fears and hesitations go.  The idea that you will be stronger as an individual by being part of a community.

It could have just been the atmosphere (or the champagne), but it feels like change is coming to the photography community.  It’s time to let each other past the front door and…gasp! let them walk on the good carpet.

And now proof that I had awesome hair at prom!







WIPA-Arizona Chapter

Last Wednesday I attended the first official Wedding Industry Professional Association (WIPA) for the Arizona Chapter.  It was hosted by Hotel Valley Ho and coordinated by Outstanding Occasions.

Fun venue + outstanding wedding coordinators = gorgeous event

The first thirty minutes was for mingling and networking.  Pretty much the entire reason why I wanted to go and also why I was dreading going.  Thirty minutes of mingling where you don’t know a single person can be pretty humbling.

I ran into Melissa Jill and Kimberly Jarmen almost immediately.  I said hello on the outside, but on the inside I was saying, “Oh thank you lord for letting me know someone here.  I beg of you to not let them leave my side”.  And then they left to mingle with other people.  Totally understandable, but I still started to panic.

My trick at these events is always to have my camera.  When there is no one to talk to I just pretend that I’m really interested in taking a few pictures.

I took a couple of pictures and then found the open bar…score!  I grabbed a glass of confidence wine, started to mingle and thankfully didn’t have to use my camera as a decoy.

The guest speaker was Sean Low who previously worked with Preston Baily.  I had checked out Sean’s blog before the event and found it to be full of some great advice for those in the creative industry.  I have to admit that his presentation seemed a little dis-jointed or maybe it was just over my head..not sure which yet.

The two things that I was able to take away from his speech are this:

Be you thru and thru: From the way you answer the phone, to how you conduct client meetings and even how you present contracts.  It should all be cohesive and convey your target message to the client.

It’s never too late: Slyvia Weinstock is a wedding cake designer/baker to the stars and has become somewhat of a celebrity herself.  She started her business at the age of 50 and is going strong 30 years later.  There are times when I have questioned if I am too old for this industry…this was the perfect inspiration to remind me that age doesn’t matter!

It was great to meet so many new people and actually see people in person and not just their FB profile pictures.  I am already working on having lunch with some of my new friends!


MJ 2Day Recap

Photo by Jared Platt

Last week I was able to cross off one of my 2012 goals: Attend a photography workshop.  I attended Melissa Jill’s 2 Day Workshop.  Melissa is a local photographer with rockstar status.  No exaggeration.  She commands top dollar for weddings, hosts workshops for photographers, sells album and blog templates and has yet another business venture launching this year.  She is a total business mogul!

As I and 12 fellow photographers gathered in her living room for the initial meet and greet we were all anxious to meet Melissa Jill in PERSON!  It was like we were all 13 and had won backstage passes to meet New Kids on the Block (before they were NKOTB).  We kept the crying and hysteria to a minimum.

The next two days were spent going thru almost every aspect of running a successful photography business.  It was a ton of information to pack into two days and it has taken me several days to fully digest what I learned.  For me the workshop was like fine wine.  Only after you open it and let it breathe can you fully appreciate its greatness.

Now that I have had some time to reflect on the workshop I wanted to provide a review in case other photographers are thinking about going.   I know this is an extremely long recap, so hang in there!

Day 1-Photography

The first day was spent covering photography.  Melissa shared tips on working with natural light, interacting with clients, off-camera lighting and more.  Since I have been a loyal blog follower for several years most of the information covered I had already read on her blog.  At first I was a little bummed about this, but then I realized that this was a total advantage.  Since I had read the information before I wasn’t caught-up in digesting it for the first time.  I was able to have a few “Ah-ha” moments.  One of them being when we discussed back lighting.  When we started to bombard Melissa with questions about back lighting she grabbed her camera and ordered us all outside. It was around 10:30am.  Pretty much the worst time of day to be shooting outside in Arizona.  She quickly pointed out where she would position clients if she were shooting right that instant.  Debra and Kim acted as our mock clients and Melissa gave us a live demonstration on the fly.  Although I had read about back lighting on her (and several others) blog it didn’t click for me until I was able to see it in person.

One thing that I REALLY appreciated during this day was that Melissa assumed that we all had a basic knowledge of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.  Although we had a wide range of photography experience in our workshop she didn’t spend time explaining the relationship between these three components.  I’ve been at workshops before where a lot of time is spent on this topic for the benefit of 1 or 2 people while the other 10-20 are bored.

Tips for getting the most out of your experience:  Know the relationship between ISO, aperture and shutter speed.  Know how to set your camera to back button focus (it’s life changing as Melissa says).  Even if you feel like you have heard or read the material before push yourself to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.  You’ll surprise yourself when you have an “Ah-ha” moment!  One more tip: download and play with Photojunction before you attend the workshop.  This is a FREE album design software that Melissa uses to design her albums.  I also use this software and love it!  For those that have never used it they seemed a little overwhelmed when she demonstrated.

Mock Engagement Session

Melissa set-up a mock “Knocked-up” engagement session with a cute couple expecting their first child in just a few months.  Mock sessions are my LEAST favorite thing about any workshop.  It usually involves 10-20 photographers 2nd shooting the exact same thing.  I tend to shy away from this shutter fest.  Melissa made a great suggestion prior to the session.  She explained that we should be more focused on observing her interactions with the clients than trying to get a portfolio shot.  As she was shooting she talked us thru her thought process of each set-up.  Later she downloaded all of the images and culled thru them with us.  As she put it, we got to see all of her out of focus shots!  For the record, there were very few “bad” shots from her.

Tips for getting the most out of your experience:  Observe, shoot, observe.  We shot the mock session in a “unique” backyard.  One might even call it cluttered.  You would never know if from Melissa’s shots though.  It was great to watch how she ran the session and made the most of our location.  If you do want to get some portfolio shots be sure to bring your long lens!

Day 2-Business

The business side of this workshop is by far the reason that I signed-up.  As I mentioned before, Melissa is a business mogul and she is willing to share her “secrets to success”.  As with day one, a lot of the information that was covered I had already read on her blog.  What you can’t get from just reading her blog is to be able to ask, touch and feel and learn in person from her experience.  We looked thru her sample albums, client welcome kit, pricing info and more.  If you do read Melissa’s blog you know that she is lightening fast at turnaround time and well connected with local planners.  She walked us thru from start to finish how she succeeds at booking clients, shooting-editing-blogging their event, the follow-up with vendors and how this process leads to referrals.

Tips for getting the most out of your experience:  See, touch and feel everything!  You’ve paid for the backstage pass..don’t leave without your autograph right!  I looked thru her welcome kit for new clients and took notes like: cute paper clips, min text on pages.  I’m not looking to copy her welcome kit, but I want to figure out the little details that subtly tell a bride to book and then implement them in my own way into my business.

Bonus tip: Melissa did two website critiques in-front of the group and mine was one of them.  She clicked thru several pages and blog posts and provided her critique on the fly.  This was such valuable information to get from someone other than friends and family.  Since it was during one of the workshop sessions the other attendees chimed in with their thoughts also.  Again, I LOVED it!  So, here is my tip.  About 50% of the group wants to be picked for the website review and she only has time for two.  To get picked you need to be quick on the draw and be enthusiastic!  For the first review I was too slow on the draw, so when she asked for the second volunteer I shot up both hands and looked bright eyed like a kid begging for candy.  You also need to have thick skin.  People are going to give you their first impressions and sometimes unfiltered thoughts.  If you think you might get offended opt to have your website reviewed during your one-on-one with Melissa when the rest of the group is not involved.

Head Shots

On day two Melissa took head shots of each attendee.  While she was shooting someone else we paired up and shot each other.

Tips for getting the most out of your experience:  Wear something CUTE!  Plan ahead, pick something that is flattering, perhaps fits with your branding and something that looks CUTE!  Why is this a tip?  Have you ever gone home at the end of the day and looked at yourself in the mirror and decided that you should immediately BURN your outfit.  I mean BURN it to the ground?  Well, that was the outfit I wore for head shot day.  I could have had lots of cute new pictures to put on my blog, but nooooooooo.  I have pictures that remind me to get the matches out.  I would like to point out that this in no way reflects on the quality of work from Melissa or any of my fellow workshop attendees that so kindly took my picture.  This is 100% rushed out the door, didn’t properly plan and wore the ugliest outfit ever.  So, please…wear something CUTE!

Here is the top portion of the said BURNED outfit (photos by Elizabeth)

These cute ladies got the wear something CUTE memo!

One-on-One with Melissa

Melissa spent fifteen minutes with each of us one-on-one.  It was an opportunity for us to ask any questions and discuss the workshop.  I asked Melissa to review my current pricing information and help me figure out how to effectively bump it up.  As we discussed my pricing I could tell that she was genuinely, whole-heartedly focusing on how to best help me.  She wasn’t giving me some fluff answer.  She really racked her brain and gave me solid useful input.  Again, I would expect nothing less from her, but it really struck me how genuinely giving she is during this session.

Tips for getting the most out of your experience:  Come pre-loaded with “burning” questions written down and add to it during the workshop.  What I mean by “burning” questions is something that ONLY a photography and business mogul like Melissa can answer for you.  Take advantage of the breaks and/or the one-on-one with Melissa to get these questions answered.  An example of my burning questions were: Review of current pricing structure; tips for some up-coming meets I have scheduled with planners.

My final tip is to get to know your fellow workshop attendees!  Is has only been a week since the workshop and already we have been a wealth of knowledge for each other.  Trading info on where to order flash drives, album design, Photoshop actions, thoughts on logos etc.  I personally made connections with new local photographers and we are planning to either second shoot for each other and/or go to lunch.

A HUGE thank you to Melissa and her team who put on a great workshop!  Specifically, Sara for keeping us caffeinated, fed and well taken care of the entire workshop.  Here she is quietly working behind the scenes.

And thank you to Dixie for sharing the couch with us.  Especially since my tail bone is still broken!

A text message at 8pm {can you shoot tomorrow}

A couple of Friday’s ago I received a text message at 8:23pm.  I had settled in for the evening (ummm, yes I’m old) and had actually turned my phone to silent, so I didn’t read the text message until I was going to bed around 10pm.

The message read something like this, “Suzanne, this is Kim.  My second shooter might be sick can you shoot tomorrow?”.

My reaction was this: OMG, OMG, O-M-G.  Where’s my camera? Where are my battery charges?  Have all my cards been downloaded?  What clean clothes do I have to wear?  I better text her back….I hope it’s not too late!

As most photographers know, finding a second shooting gig sometimes feels impossible.  Shooting for an amazing photographer and getting the opportunity to work with their team, at high end venues and with the best of the best wedding coordinators is a very rare opportunity.  An opportunity that came my way via a text message at 8:23pm on a Friday.

I third shot a wedding for Kimberly Jarman who is one of the top wedding and portrait photographers in Arizona.  You can see her blog post here and here of the amazing wedding.

I love shooting weddings and I love being the lead photographer, but assisting brings it’s own unique gratification.  There’s a lot less pressure, you have more time to be creative, and I love being the steady-calming force for the lead photographer.

I highly recommend to other photographers to take time to second shoot even when you feel you might have moved beyond a second shooter role.  It will help you build new relationships within the community and make your own photography even stronger.