Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We heart sharing...

I have just had the best 5 days I think I've ever had. I've just been to Cornwall with my girls... Joanna Brown, Debs Ivelja and Anna Hardy. We are four photographers who have come together to help, support, encourage and inspire each other to become better photographers and to become better at running our little businesses too. We are called 'From our hearts' and we will be launching our own little blog soon to share our experiences, our thoughts, our likes, our inspirations and also encouraging others to do the same. I'm quite excited.
Recently I've had quite a few emails from other photographers who are maybe just starting out with questions that I asked a lot when I first started (and still ask!) and coming back from our trip I thought how lucky I am to have the support network I have around me. So with this in mind I thought I'd start doing a few posts answering some of those questions. NB I under no circumstances think I know what I'm talking about but I am happy to just write down how I did/do things, what felt right, what I don't think worked and maybe a little bit of it might be useful... :)

What equipment do you use most (lenses/lighting/camera)?
When I first started I had a Nikon D40. This got me started and I would take lots of pictures of Pete, my family, friend's children, my feet... anything really... I had the kit lens (18-105mm) and I remember buying the cheapest 50mm lens and just being so over the moon. I then bought myself a Nikon D90 and a few more lenses and used this camera up until about June/July of last year. It was then that I moved over to Canon (for quite a few reasons) and got myself a Canon 5D MkII which I now have with a 24-70mm, the 35mm 1.4 and the 85mm 1.2... with this I have a speedlight and that's about it with regards to lighting. I don't use any reflectors or off camera flash... it's pretty much just me and the camera.
I'm really pleased that I did start off with cameras that were lower models as I felt like I really had to work at getting the shots, not that having the Mk II makes it easy, but there are obvious benefits by having better equipment. I feel I really appreciate the step up (I still can't believe it's my camera) and also my new lenses are frickin' amazing... (You suddenly realise you can talk about lenses for quite a while instead of shoes... although I could talk about shoes too..)

Pete's band... it was great practice to direct and try things out...

How did you go about getting yourself out there and how do you just keep on booking?
I must admit I do think it was a lot to do with right place, right time with this one. When I shot my friends', Ruth and Dan's wedding back in October 2009 it was a vintage style wedding which was kind of new at the time. Pete had also proposed the Christmas before (when he bought me my first camera) so I'd been mooching on the internet (with no definite date in mind) for wedding stuff and photographers. I was typing in 'alternative' and 'vintage' as me and Pete would probably class our taste for things such as clothes, music etc as that but I couldn't find anything. What I did find tho was the most amazing wedding photography... from America. I found most of this through Rock 'n Roll Bride so when I had edited Ruth and Dan's wedding I sent it to Kat to see if she would feature it. She did and all of a sudden I was getting a lot of enquiries. There seemed to be a lot of couples out there, like us, who were after something a bit different. At this point I had no idea if i could do it, how much to charge, how to run a business... so I had to just do what felt right. I charged a very low amount to begin with and this has both helped and hindered me in equal measures! It was great as couples had no problem booking me as I was cheap but it was bad because I pretty much filled 18 months with weddings for not a lot of money so in terms of exposure it was fantastic but in terms of our bank balance it was a real struggle. That's the one major thing I've found difficult which I'll write a separate post on another time :)

This is the second picture I took with my camera and right after this photo was taken Pete proposed...

Ruth and Dan's wedding..

I read “about you” on your blog; do you mean to tell me you’ve had no formal training in photography?? I'm officially baffled.
What advice can you give a self-taught, struggling/aspiring wedding photographer such as myself for getting established and becoming successful in this field?

I'm not sure if anyone specifically needs 'formal' training... I have learnt a lot myself but I've also learnt a hell of a lot from Steve Gerrard. I have second shot with him, worked with him in his studio and I can honestly say that I don't think I could ever repay him for what he has given me. I would say to anyone wanting to learn = second shoot! But be the best second shooter you can be. I was hungry to learn so wanted to make it as easy as possible for Steve to have me with him... you want to be as useful as you can and I promise you you will learn a ton. I also learn a lot from people like the girls... we've all started at the same time so we can bounce ideas, talk through problems, ask for advice... I think a support network is great. Oh and flickr.. there is an amazing community on there ready to give... but just make sure you're giving too :)
Another great thing is the social networking side of things... Twitter, Facebook are the obvious ones... get chatting, get commenting, get organising get togethers, offer a shoot, style your own shoot.. put out there what you want to be coming to you... if I'm looking for an alternative photographer and I click on your blog/website.. am I seeing an alternative photographer. It needs to be obvious.
I also think showing who you are plays a big part too. I said from the start that I'm going to be myself, be completely honest and shoot how I want to shoot. People like to read about Pete, Maximo, if I'm worried, doing well... they feel like they are on this journey with me and people are then proud to see you achieve things. I especially like to feel like that about my couples too.. they are MY couples and I am THEIR photographer.. I'm with them on their journey and they're with me on mine.


What programs/effects/actions do you use for processing your photos?
The dreaded question! All photographers I think get asked this and some like to share and some don't which is perfectly understandable! I think I found my style through a bit of both... frantically typing in to google things like 'Sarah Rhoads actions processing style how' and reading loads of forums and tutorials. But I also had lots of fun, when I found out what actions were, playing around with them to find what I liked. It's all well and good knowing how Jonas Peterson edits his photos but you want to be you so maybe take elements of what you like and then make it your own.
At the moment I have both Totally rad Actions and then most of Oeil Photography's actions too. I've found little recipes that I like and mix some together to create the look I want. I enjoyed this process and feel it's an important part of finding out who you are as a photographer so I would say go have some fun with it! The Totally Rad Recipes is also a good resource to find out what actions make images look a certain way.
Do you usually bring a second shooter/assistant with you to weddings?
I have used a second shooter on occasion but it depends on the wedding. To be honest I think I'm at a point where I could do with another photographer at some parts of the day (e.g to shoot the boys getting ready) but on the whole I can do it on my own. I also don't want to end up with double the amount of images to go through when it comes to editing so as a second shooter myself I tend not to shoot for the sake of it. I want to fill the gaps that they can't get, also shoot from a completely different angle... those are the images they need rather than another 20 of the same thing. I usually bring Pete to weddings for the other stuff (Pete doesn't shoot) such as finding good spots, carrying stuff, downloading cards setting the photo booth up... having another pair of hands can be really useful for all of that!
What is your pricing like?
Think I'm going to tackle this question in a separate post!
I noticed that you post new photos quicker than I can say peter piper! How do you get them done so fast? What is your turn around time for your clients?
Ha! Do I? I always worry that I'm ridiculously slow! I really don't think I can advise anyone on my editing workflow as this is something that I'm tackling this year. I did spend last year constantly at my computer trying to keep up with the shooting and it's something that I'm looking in to for this year as I really want a good work/life balance which is something that I found really difficult last year. It will happen tho :) At the moment my turn around is anything from 2 weeks to 5 weeks max but that's usually mid season.
I also noticed you do not have a website; only a blogger site (as do I). Obviously this has not been an obstacle in your path to success, but do you provide online galleries for your clients or just discs of their finished photos?
When I started it wasn't a business, just a personal blog so it did the job for me perfectly. As it grew and became a job people kept saying 'Ohhh you should have a website' and I always knew i would one day but I wanted it to be right. I have found that last year was my 'establishing myself' year. I found out how I worked, who I was as a photographer, who my couples were and only now do I feel able to put it all in a website. I also find it hard to give the creative reigns to someone else so spent a lot of time researching and have come full circle and have started to design it myself. The website is coming but obviously because of work load I'm having to do it between editing etc but I'm really enjoying the process. I wasn't actually going to show anyone until it was finished but it feels quite natural to stick in a little sneak peek of what it's going to look like... I absolutely love it :)

Your photos seem to have that candid, natural feel that I love. Do you pose your clients much or are you just that good at capturing the moment?
When I started I didn't direct very much at all... I thought that to get the candid, natural feel I should just let them do whatever they wanted and hope it was what I wanted. Now I direct a lot more. Couples want to trust you and actually want to be directed... when a camera gets pointed at you it can be quite scary so I might give them a little bit of direction and then let them be free with it. I've also learnt to laugh with them but have my camera up. I used to miss loads as we'd all be laughing and I'd stop taking pictures... that's the BEST time! They're relaxed, they're genuinely laughing and not thinking about the camera! I also have a few of my favourite poses that I like to use... I do find myself saying 'Just look deadpan' quite a lot....
And finally, what is your shoe size?
Size 6 and sometimes a 7... :)

Not sure if any of this is useful! If there are any other questions that you fancy me rambling on about then feel free to add them to the comments or email them over...

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