Better Business Tips for Photographers: Pricing, Goal Setting and Grammar

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If you haven’t noticed by now, I believe that continual education is key to a thriving business. I have so much to learn, but I’ve also learned a lot over the past five years! Here are three “better business” tips from personal experience. These are geared towards a growing photography business, but should be somewhat applicable to other industries as well.

  1. Accurately price your service/products and beware of changing them too often

If you’re anything like me, you tend to get discouraged and maybe even freak out a little when it feels like no one is booking sessions with you. Obviously the first thing our minds go to is our prices. “Maybe I’m not worth what I’m charging” is one of the most common, detrimental thoughts photographers have. I’m absolutely not saying that you should be totally booked no matter what you charge and no matter what value you are actually providing to your clients. What I mean is that there are ways to determine your prices based on experience in the industry, education, equipment and overall experience provided for the client, along with  the market you find yourself in. Rather than pulling numbers out of the sky and hoping for the best, my advice is to do your research.

  • Education and Experience: There are so many self-taught photographers in our culture today because information/education are so easily accessible online and because entry-level equipment is relatively affordable and simple to obtain. I know you already know that, but what are you doing to set yourself apart? Consider how many hours you have spent watching videos or reading books and what the quality of the source of information is. Is your education solely from random YouTube videos? Don’t worry, I’ve been there, but there are so many more in-depth options out there… resources like KelbyOne and Lynda.com do cost, but they give a much more well-rounded picture of specific topics and can really help grow your knowledge base. Taking it a step further, have you taken any classes or earned any certificates? Are you a CPP (Certified Professional Photographer)? How long have you been shooting/how many sessions or events have you done in that time? Have you attended any interactive photography conferences? Are you confident you can create beautiful images in any lighting situation? I think you get the idea.. All of these things lead to your credibility, which leads to being able to charge more.

  • Equipment: Know where your equipment fits on the scale between entry-level and professional, both quality and quantity-wise. Yes, I believe that you can achieve great results without having top-of-the-line equipment, but there is definitely a point at which it will be difficult to increase your prices unless you update your tools because they do make a difference (take a peek into my camera bag). In order for your clients to invest more in you, you need to invest more in them and the value you provide… it’s reciprocal.

  • Market: To find roughly where you fit in your market, do some research from your client’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and search as though you were trying to find a photographer for whatever you specialize in. Take note of the quality of work for each photographer you find and make an educated guess as to whether you are as experienced and/or provide as good of a final product or not. Be sure to consider what they include as far as digital files, prints, etc. in their pricing. In my research on wedding photography prices in Kansas City, I found this incredibly helpful infographic and supporting article from SnapKnot that affirmed that my pricing is right where I would like it to be in this market. Obviously our perspective of our own work may be a bit biased, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a good friend or family member do a little research of their own to give you another set of eyes (especially helpful if they’ve seen your website/work but don’t know what you charge yet).

  • Client Experience: Evaluate the overall experience that you offer your clients. Are there things you can do to add value? For example, I recently added a welcome guide as a tangible planning and educational resource for the brides that book with me to add worth to my service. I include a few small, branded gifts and a discount on invitations through a printing company to complete the package and make them feel as special as they are. From first contact to final product, your processes, personality and authenticity should result in the comfort and satisfaction of your client.

Kansas City, Union Station from the Liberty Memorial

If you change your prices, make any updates to your packages all at the same time. Then give it at LEAST a year before you change them again (whether you increase or decrease). Your clients need to know what to expect from you and if you change your prices too often, it can negatively affect their trust and confidence in your services. It is also a crazy hard, awkward process to charge previous clients more than you used to, so the less often you have to go through this transition, the better.

 

2.  Identify areas for improvement and create a plan to progress and meet goals

What makes you most nervous about photography? Do more of that.

I love to-do lists. Like… REALLY love them. Sometimes I write things down that I’m about to do solely for the satisfaction of crossing them off when they’re done. Call me crazy, but I think that feeling of celebrating progress has a snowball effect and makes me want to accomplish more! The key to to-do lists is prioritizing and making yourself go roughly in order of what is most needed.

For example, earlier this year I really focused on branding my business. Yes it involved a new logo/color scheme, but the overall priority was CONSISTENCY. While I had mostly discovered my style of photography, I lacked consistent guidelines and purpose in my processes. Of course, my branding to-do list was a fluid entity, growing and changing as I explored different opportunities to streamline my workflow and become memorable to my viewers/clients. Here is an idea of what my list might have looked like towards the beginning of the year:

    Priority:

  • Select color scheme that will complement my photographic style

  • Make new logo using those colors

    • Utilize a feather → meaning = freedom (flight) and constant growth/change (molting)

  • Take photos to use throughout the year wearing brand colors

  • Reformat and rebrand wedding contract, wedding questionnaire and printing release

  • Create wedding welcome packet for new brides

    Ongoing:

  • Interject more of myself and personal life posts on social media. You ARE your brand!

  • Improve SEO by writing more detailed and location specific blog posts (wedding stories, educational posts, etc.)

  • Utilize Google calendar to remember anniversaries, track leads, follow up on prospects, set reminders to check in with clients, etc. (I set up a separate Photography calendar so I can toggle it on and off from my daily life calendar - I move leads to my personal one once they are set since I share that calendar with my husband)

The ongoing goals are obviously harder to check off, but as they become habitual, I replace them with more priority objectives.

3. Pretty please, pay attention to your spelling and grammar

After making this request, I am suddenly ultra self-conscious of the grammar in this post! We all make mistakes, it’s bound to happen. However, if you are consistently making common errors like the misuse of “their,” “they’re,” and “there,” it IS noticeable and it decreases your chance of being taken seriously as a professional.

That’s all for now! Do you have something specific you’re interested in knowing? Shoot me a note at hello@kira-whitney.com

Loose Park, Kansas City Family Session | The Caputos

Meet the Caputo family! I work with Cherish and have had the pleasure of meeting her beautiful kiddos once before. They are so full of personality and, as you will see, I purposely included some of the silly photos because they're real and I'm all about that :) It was my pleasure to introduce them to one of the prettiest parks in Kansas City: Loose Park. From the 1.3 mile running/walking trail around the outside to the playground, picnic tables, bridges and pond, pavilions, rose garden and grill-out areas, this park has so much to offer. We did, however, make the mistake of shooting in the early evening of prom night. I've never seen it so busy, much less that full of teenagers walking around in dresses and tuxes! The girls loved looking at all the pretty dresses though and we were able to avoid most of them in the background so it still turned out alright. 

Cherish and Tony, thank you for letting me capture your sweet family and I can't wait for some of these photos to be on the walls of your new house!! 


Did you miss my fun video experiment from last time? See it here!

Katie Rose | Spring in Kansas City

There is something about Springtime that just puts people in a good mood. The sun comes out and everyone comes out of hibernation, renewed and ready to take on the year. If you have followed me on my personal social media at all, you’d know that I have been running a lot in training for my first half marathon in 3 weeks (EEK!). It’s amazing what you discover when you walk or run outside instead of driving…this gorgeous tree in full bloom, for example. For about a week I kept running by it and every time I couldn’t help but think about how BADLY I wanted to photograph someone with it. I imagined a blonde fitting the scene perfectly and my new friend Katie was kind enough to help me make it happen. 

Growing up in Colorado was incredible (obviously, it’s Colorado), but we certainly didn’t have trees like this there so I’m still in awe of them every year. And yet, I always seem to miss them since they are only in full bloom like this for a couple weeks! I couldn’t be happier that I can’t say that anymore :) If you’re a photographer, don’t forget to shoot for YOU between sessions..let’s fight burnout together to continue to Create, Connect and Captivate.

Know someone who is looking for photos this Spring? Share this post and tag them! Or just let them know I exist....it's all appreciated :)

Cochran Family | Bentonville, AR

Somehow I always seem to book photo sessions at times when it ends up raining the whole day....but despite the weather we got some great family photos! The Cochran's outfits were the perfect pop of color on a gloomy, rainy day.  It was so wonderful to meet this family!

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Getting Clients to Respond to the Camera

I was at a photography group meeting a few weeks ago and someone expressed interest in how I get people to respond to the camera...I was surprised (and encouraged) because I have never consciously thought about that before. I compiled a short list of tips and tricks that seem to work for me and wanted to share them with you. Be sure to comment below with other things that have worked for you (whether you were the photographer or the ‘model’)!

1) Set the Stage

At the beginning of each session I make sure my clients know to make whatever pose I suggest into something comfortable, even if it involves changing my original idea. If it doesn't feel comfortable to them, it probably won’t look natural in a photo. Obviously if you aren't going for a ‘natural’ look than this doesn't apply! I also tell them to stop me if they see a spot they like or have an idea they’d like to try.  This gives them the freedom to participate in the creative process; plus sometimes people have really awesome ideas that I didn't immediately think of! Definitely balance this with Tip #3 (Take Charge) because you’re the expert and probably understand lighting and composition situations better, but the more interactive your sessions are the more enjoyable they will be for both parties!

If you are shooting a wedding, be sure to spend a little time with the bride and groom before the big day and over-explain what you will be doing/ideas you have to make sure they are comfortable.  This way you inadvertently give them permission to stop stressing about the photos and put their energy into all the other aspects of the day. Also make sure to ask if there are any specific photos that they want and bring the list or snapshot examples (I use my phone) so you don’t forget them.  Chances are the bride will forget most of the shots she wanted since she has so many things to think about that day!

2) Be Friendly

This might seem like an absolute no-brainer, but it involves more than just smiling and nodding like you can sometimes get away with in group situations. If you talk and lead conversations, people stop thinking about how awkward it is to be ‘modeling’ for an hour and start settling into the experience. Tell them how good they look and get excited...truly excited...when you get a perfect shot. While you’re walking around the location ask them questions about their lives and find ways to connect. Become friends and not only will you have a better chance at good referrals, you’ll have a new friend!

3) Take Charge  

Depending on what kind of photography you specialize in, the likelihood of your clients being trained models is probably pretty low. Your clients have seen your work and chose you because they trust your eye and style. While they may have ideas here and there, they want you to make decisions about backgrounds, posing, and timing. Don’t be afraid to try something that doesn't look amazing at first because oftentimes you can adjust to the situation to create something beautiful. Contrastly, don’t be afraid to admit when something just isn't working and move on...there’s no use in wasting time!

4) Share the Excitement

One of the very best tips I can give for getting clients to respond well is to show them some photos on the back of the camera during your session.  It helps people to see what they look like so they can change what they don’t like or simply get pumped to see the final product! The more excited they are the more they will talk to their friends about the experience...and we all know how important word of mouth is in this industry.

Showing little kids their photos on the back of the camera works MAGIC in getting them to respond to the camera. Their attention spans can’t handle smiling at the camera for very long, especially if they’re young enough to not understand what’s actually happening.  My favorite trick with kids is to bribe them with funny faces.  I promise that if they give me their very best smile I’ll let them do a funny face...and then, of course, show them the funny face picture as leverage for another smile.  It’s hilarious how big of a kick they get out of it, plus mom and dad get some realistic photos to cherish ;)


Don’t forget to comment below with tricks that work for you or things that have made you comfortable as a client, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


The Importance of Fellowship Among Photographers

    For the first time in my life I am the new girl. I lived in the same house in a small Colorado town until I moved off to college…and that experience didn't even count because everyone is new together then! In an effort to branch out and meet some people, last week I attended a “Photography Group” at a local church.  I must say that I’m glad I went even though it wasn't totally in my comfort zone! I met some incredibly sweet and encouraging people who immediately made me feel at ease. 

    The group hadn’t met all summer so the meeting tonight was held solely to see photos that each person had taken over the last few months.  I have never been in a room so full of people who love the same thing that I do before like that! The leader had made a slideshow with music of all the photos we had previously submitted and we spent 50 minutes just watching it, being inspired, and talking about shots that stuck out to us.  There was nothing revolutionary about it, but it was refreshing to see people from so many different walks of life together because of one common passion. 

    As with most things, I would venture to say “we are better together.”  Photography is about sharing your perspective and capturing memories, but we can learn so much from each other in order to more accurately accomplish our goals!  I am always so happy to see groups like this….I knew of one in Colorado called “Photographers Encouraging Photographers” and I know there are “Shoot and Share” groups in most major areas!! Photography knowledge and ideas aren't meant to be horded and ‘safe-guarded’ from competitors.  Creating fellowship with those very competitors can be one of the most rewarding endeavors for maintaining your passion and inspiring you to continually improve! Not only that but it shows that you have more passion for what you do than passion for the money you make doing it.

    Sometimes when you’re chasing your dreams it feels like you’ll never get there.  As cliché as it is to say, we can’t forget to enjoy the journey though because in the end..that’s really all it is…a journey…and who would want to go on a journey alone! If you support others, there’s a good bet they’ll support you back.

KEEP DREAMING...and don't do it alone!


BOKEH - For Beginners

When I was first getting into the photography world, one of my biggest questions was how to achieve bokeh in my photos. Okay, rewind...what’s bokeh? Only the single greatest discovery ever!! Okay that’s an overstatement, but it’s absolutely one of my favorite things about photography :)

Bokeh comes from a Japanese word meaning “blur quality.”.  A little more specific definition is “aesthetic quality of blur in out-of-focus areas of an image.” Oftentimes, because of the shape of the opening in the lens, the out of focus areas (bokeh) looks like small circles.

This is no new concept, but when I kept running across this word and even understood what it meant, the most frustrating thing was not understanding HOW TO ACHIEVE this effect! Bokeh is determined based on the Depth of Field, the distance (or seeming distance) between the closest and farthest subjects in a scene. Throughout the past few years, I have come to understand 3 basic ways to produce and adjust bokeh and depth of field: aperture, distance of the subject from the camera, and lens focal length.

 

Let’s break down these terms a bit.

  • Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken and, therefore, how much light is let in to the sensor.  It is characterized by “f-stops” (focal ratio) which describe the ratio of the lens’s focal length (described below) to the diameter of the lens opening. Don’t freak out if you don’t understand this.  It takes practice to really understand how this works in correlation with the other settings on your camera and honestly you don’t have to fully understand it to use it!  I just felt the need to describe it so that you can know what to look for on your camera and eventually realize what is happening when you change certain things. Here is just one more thing to confuse you: the lowest numbers represent the largest apertures, while the largest numbers represent the lowest apertures.  For example, many kit lenses (the usual ‘starter’ lenses that come with SLR and DSLR camera bodies) only open up to f/4, while many (usually more pricey) lenses can go all the up to f/1.2, allowing for better low light shooting and the look of distance between the subject and background.  Just remember: APERTURE = OPPOSITE as far as numbers go. The smaller the number, the larger the opening will be, therefor blurring out the background more. This places more focus on the subject and helps them "pop" from the scene.

    • Random tip - At higher apertures you typically want to be closer to your subject as it affects the range of focus.  For example, a full body shot might not appear fully focused at apertures below 2.8 or so and both eyes on a head shot may not be in focus as wide open as f/1.2 if the plane of focus is not exactly straight on (ex. head tilt).

Canon 60D camera, 50mm lens, f/1.4, 1/80, 100 ISO

 

  • Distance - This one is much easier to understand!  The farther your subject is from the background, the more blurred out the background will be (I wish I had learned this sooner!).  For example, instead of putting a model directly in front of a cluster of trees, try moving them 10, 20, even 50 feet in front and he or she will stand out because of the increased blur that will appear behind them.  

    • Random tip - If the sun is close to setting and you can get some nice backlighting through the trees, the bokeh will have a lovely variety of colors and brightnesses.  This is my favorite situation in which to utilize the wonders of bokeh!!

 

  • Focal length is commonly thought of as the length of a lens.  But in actuality, it is the distance (in millimeters) from the optical center of the lens to the focal point (located on the sensor). Telephoto lenses each have a maximum focal length where it is zoomed in all the way, and a minimum, where it is zoomed out completely.  For example, a 70-200mm lens has a maximum focal length of 200mm and a minimum of 70mm.  With the camera settings the same, telephoto lenses at maximum focal length tend to produce more blur because of their narrow angle of view. This means that you will have to back up (quite far in some cases) in order to zoom in far enough.  

    • Note - the further you zoom in, the more problems you will have with stability, resulting in completely blurry photos. I would encourage you to brace your lens somehow, even if it has IS (Image Stabilization) built in.  Sometimes I crouch down and rest my right arm on my knee as I shoot to prevent shakiness and improve sharp focus.

Contrastly, for a fixed lens (50mm, 85mm, etc), the closer you (the photographer) are to the subject, the more blurred out the background will be. In other words, a wide angle lens (like a 35mm or 50mm) can fit more of a scene into the field of view but naturally detects less distance between objects (deeper focus - more details are sharp and background isn’t as soft/blurred) while the view through a telephoto naturally increases the seeming distance.

Tamron 90mm macro lens on tripod, f/5.6, 2 second shutter speed, ISO 400

Tamron 90mm macro lens on tripod, f/5.6, 2 second shutter speed, ISO 400

 

So...how do you even begin to put these ideas into action?? My suggestion would be to find the “Aperture Priority” on your camera and shoot in it until you get comfortable with the other settings.  What this setting does is automatically set everything except the aperture, the most important setting for creating depth of field and bokeh.  As you increase or decrease the aperture, the shutter speed and ISO will automatically adjust to create a “properly” exposed photograph.  I use quotations for the word properly because there is no one right way to do photography...that’s why it’s a form of art!! But sometimes you have to learn the “rules” of photography before you can understand how to break them creatively...stay tuned for a blog about this!! Once you get comfortable enough with Aperture Priority and you want a bit more artistic opportunity in your shooting, you can switch to Manual!