I started my photography business in 2017 and sheesh! it has been quite the task. I have loved (and hated) learning all there is to learn about creating a photography business. The list is long and not nearly complete, but I certainly feel like I have accomplished (and learned) SO MUCH since starting in the Fall of 2017!
I've created this page for my fellow photographers who are just starting off or seasoned photographers who are searching for some tips!
I want to share with ya'll all of the things that have helped me throughout this journey.
So lets get into this thang...
1. GEAR (Camera and Body)
I started off several years ago with a Nikon D3300 (similar camera body here) and a 35mm lens (linked here). I purchased both after college when I wanted a hobby and wasn't sure how passionate I would be about photography. It was about a $600 investment at the time and has given me some pretty rad photos (most of my initial sessions were taking with my Nikon).
I quickly fell in love with photography and my hobby grew into a passion and business. I have upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark IV (link here) and a 35mm 1.4 lens (link here). I had exclusively used a 35mm lens with my first camera, so the lens decision was a no brainer. I haven't felt the need to have an additional lens at this point because of how much I love and use my 35mm lens. If you need more convincing, a poll was created recently in the Heck Ya Photography Facebook Group and over 2,000 fellow photographers participated. The fan favorite (by a long shot) was the 35mm 1.4 lens (660 people voted for it as their favorite lens!).
The top lenses from the survey are as follows 1) 35mm 1.4 (663 votes) 2) 50mm 1.8 (351 votes) 3) 50 mm 1.4 (295 votes)
I did a bit of research when deciding which camera body to upgrade to and read through almost every Mark IV related post in the Heck Ya Facebook group. The overwhelming opinion was in favor of the Mark IV. There were several things I kept reading over and over again that really cemented my decision! There is also something to be said about upgrading to the newest model of something. When making the decision to invest a couple thousand dollars into gear, I decided it was worth the extra money to get the newest technology. I also noticed that most (if not all) of the photographers that I look up to use Mark IV's or recently upgraded from the Mark III to the IV. Here are some of the statements from fellow photographers that swayed me:
"Well, the reason *I love it is because of that whole thing where you can literally AF by tapping on the screen. Never having to move around focus points because all I have to do is go *DOINK* on the LCD has been life-altering, and missing focus has pretty much become a non-issue. You know when you try to focus perfectly on an eyelash wide open with a 35mm and it takes a few shots? Now it takes one. *airhorn airhorn* I just upgraded from mark iii (one camera, other one is still a iii) and I love it. Quite a difference in noise reduction especially. Part time wedding photographer; upgrade from 6dII to 5d mk4; very happy with the dual card; focusing system is easy, fast , accurate; no color issue; touch screen is faster to use too; I used to struggle with focus/recompose which can make you miss the perfect shot. The focusing system is for me the main reason of my upgrade.Dual card slots, improvements to autofocus system, better high ISO performance, finer grain structure with less color variance at higher ISO, touch screen, touch to focus and shoot....it's amazing."
2. GEAR (accessories)
Memory Cards. You can't go wrong with these two big memory card brands: SanDisk and Lexar .Some Cameras (ie Mark IV's) have two memory card slots...one for SD cards and one for Compact Flash Memory Cards. Most photographers use both slots to have images stored in two places. The differences between all cards(SD and CF) usually involves the card's speed and storage space and durability. There are tons of articles for in depth info about the differences if you want to research it for yourself! I use this Compact Flash Memory Card and this SD Memory Card.
Camera Body Case. I keep my Camera Body and Lens in this case.
Batteries: I carry these backup batteries for my Canon 5D Mark IV
3. Electronics (Computer & backup systems)
Computer: 15 Inch Macbook Pro (link here)
15-inch MacBook Pro - Silver
With the following configuration:
2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz
16GB of 1600MHz memory
Intel Iris Pro Graphics
Two Thunderbolt 2 ports
Backlit Keyboard - US English
Cloud backups: Backblaze is just $50 annually and is a great option for cloud based backup! I personally do not use cloud based backups yet, but its a great alternative if you cannot afford multiple external hard drives. I have created my backup system based on this article.
External Hard Drives:
I have several external Hard Drives. Based on professional opinions and articles I have read, LaCie is a highly trusted backup brand so I've chosen to use their products! (Side note...all hard drives, no matter the brand or cost, could fail at any point. It's crucial to have a thorough backup system for when one of your hard drives fails.)
This one (LaCie 4TB D2 Desktop Hard Drive - Thunderbolt & USB 3.0) is my main hard drive where all of my files stay. None of my files stay on my actual Macbook hard drive (occasionally I will have some files on my Macbook desktop if I am shooting and traveling, but I will move them onto my Desktop Harddrive immediately when I get home). This is SUPER important (I'll go into more detail about backup systems and lightroom later in this page). I have two of these Lacie Thunderbolt drives (1 or 2 TB). (Here's a quick and dirty article on backup systems that I used to setup my backup systems).
4. Editing (Lightroom, Loopdeck & workflow)
I edit all of my photos with Adobe Lightroom. I purchased this Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan and pay $10 a month for access to several Adobe programs (including Lightroom, photoshop, illustrator etc). However, I currently only use Lightroom (I'll eventually use photoshop for certain edits that cannot be accomplished with just Lightroom, but I haven't had the time to learn photoshop yet!)
THE most helpful thing for my growth as a photographer has been the Creative Live classes I have taken. When this whole hobby started, I purchased this (Fundamentals of Photography 2016 taught by John Greengo) online course through Creative Live to learn the basics of photography. It was such a great overview on all you need to know about photography. So many fellow photographers will tell you this statement "your understanding of light and the fundamentals of photography (ie Aperture, ISO, Shutter speed) are 100% more important than the gear you have. I highly recommend taking some sort of course through Creative Live. Youtube has some really great videos, but I notice a huge level of growth after taking this course. I also took this course: Adobe Lighroom CC Photo Editing: The Complete Guide by Ben Willmore. The #1 piece of advice that I have is to learn this freakin' beast of a program backwards and forwards before you start using it. This program does not store your photos. The way that you import your photos is CRITICAL to this program. This article is SOOO HELPFUL and should be read before you start with this whole Lightroom monster. "Importing creates a one-to-one relationship between your Lightroom Catalog’s thumbnails/previews and the image files on your hard drive. It is absolutely essential for you to understand that your Lightroom Catalog is an index, a searchable database, of your photography. The Lightroom database does not contain your actual image." When you import your images from your SD card to your computer, they must stay in the same spot. If you move or rename the folder that contains your "Raw" images, then Lightroom freaks the eff out, can't find your photos and all of the sudden you will be staring at a crazy ?????? on all of your photos. EEEK. It's really simple to avoid this and reading the articles from this website was so helpful in my understanding of the importing process.
Another super helpful workflow article is this one! PLEASE do yourself a favor and start out your IMPORT, EXPORT and BACKUP workflow properly! It will save you loads of time and headache and will help organize your brain and desktop and photos. Seriously this article changed me (LOL). My brain went from spaghetti to waffles in the 10 minutes it takes to read this article. Mind Blown.
Helpful workflow programs:
1. Photo Mechanic (Culling Program Helps You View, Organize, Manage, And Export Digital Photos. I don't use this program yet, but plan on using it based on how many people RAVE about it!)
2. Lightroom (For Editing)
3. JPEG MINI (to compress files to help with website loading speed)
I edit my images using Lightroom. I use VSCO presets for Lightroom mainly use Kodak Portra 400 VC with tweaks! The preset pack can be purchased for $59 here! I also just got a Loopdeck (aka a lightroom keyboard) and cannot wait to start using it!)
(Side note, THIS WEBSITE called Canva has been amazing for adding text to my images (like the two images on this page) I know photoshop can do the trick but for those of you starting off this is perfect! You can also create facebook ads and templates for advertising! Or create a template with multiple images and text on it!
I also had SOOO many questions about Lightroom export setting. Sheeeesh there are SOOO many different options and it's overwhelming having to research the correct settings for web, high resolution, facebook, print, etc. This diagram by Alexander Babl is super helpful! You can download it here.
Lightroom Tips from Fellow Photographers
Ashley Sykes created this list of lightroom tips from a comment thread in the HECK YA! Facebook group!
- “I think mine has to be Match Total Exposure. Absolute magic!
- The previous button is definitely my favourite! Love this feature but wish it didn't copy the crop when you copy the settings you can tick the boxes for what to copy. Just untick the crop. Unfortunately there's no copying when using the "Previous" button she was mentioning. I usually use sync for base edits and then have to go back and individually edit the photos. If I do one and the next one needs about the same things done, I just hit the previous button and it copies everything I just did. Where is the "previous" button?In develop mode, down on the bottom right, next to reset. You can also use shortcut keys for “previous" by pushing option+shift+p on a mac, but I'd have to double check that.
- Using the red eye tool on exit signs.
- Where is the match total exposure→ Under settings in the development tab
- Would there be a reasons why mine would be greyed out so I can't use it? Make sure you have more than one image selected!
- Fixing chromatic aberration If you notice a pink fringe on your images this will correct it! Sometimes and most of the time, using these sliders don't fix my aberration from my 85mm specifically! Use the eye dropper to select the exact colour you need!
- Making a metadata preset for each wedding with all the vendor links.
- Huge fan of the crop feature where you can draw a line across the horizon and it levels it out the best
- hold Ctrl while drawing your line at the horizon
- Brushes! Teeth whitening soft , extra detail love love love
- Honestly I'm simple I bounce between the auto straighten button and the comparison tool. It's the best thing ever!!! So in the crop tool you know where you can straighten? There are 2 awesome pieces. There's an auto button there and if the auto button doesn't work (sometimes it can't find a line to match) you can use a leveling tool that's there too
- Adjusting HSL using the drag tool! It helps so much with tones.
- Lens correction is a game changer
- Applying presets and keywords during import.
- What does the keywords do? It's the "information" your image holds. Helps with SEO It is HUGE for SEO, but also really helpful when I want to search back through my images for examples of a specific thing, especially a specific location. It shows up during import not export
- Favorite shortkeys -
- D-Develop Mod
- G-Grid View In Library
- N-My favorite for comparing photos up close
- \-quick before and after
- Y-Compare side by side
- Favorite tools
- The erase brush (lets you erase part of the area that you brushed)
- The Dehaze option
- The Enable Profile Correction
- Ability to Save your own custom preset
- Saving custom presets is huge.
- L for preview. It darkens the screen so just your photo is visible.
- cntl+] or cntl+[ to rotate your images in the Development Mod
- Smart previews.
- Lens correction, sync, dehaze and the cropping tool, (and exporting with droplets!!!) Basically you export your images and then they open in PS and run your "action" (aka droplet with save/close included in the action/droplet) on every photo that was exported! This is great if you have a finishing or signature action that you use on every photo. This saves the step of having to open up in bridge and then batch action... so you can literally export your images, they run through PS, save and you can be making dinner or answering emails while LR/PS edits!
- Using - + to change exposure saves me so much time.
- When you import photos, create 1:1 previews. It is so much faster when editing photos and switching between images.
- What exactly does the 1:1 do?
- It forces Lightroom to load the full image preview instead of a lower-res one. If you just import with standard previews, there will be a lag every time you scroll through the images as you are editing. Especially if you have a slower computer.
- Where can you set that ?
- In the Library Module, go to File > Import Photos > On the right hand side of the screen there will be a 'File Handling' tab. Click it. Select Build Previews - 1:1 Then click Import. (This has to be done when first importing photos from your camera/hard drive - not to a catalog you are currently working in.) I create a separate LR catalogue for each photo session and store it with the RAWS on an external drive. If you have too many sessions in one LR catalog, it gets slow.
- Gradient tool (the box that isn't crop)
- I use the gradient tool and drag about halfway up from the bottom of an image to decrease the shadows slightly and decrease the exposure just a tad. It ads a nice dynamic element to my photos that I really like without having to use a cheesy vignette
- There are some classes on Skillshare. I haven't taken any, so I can't recommend a specific one, but it's worth looking into them!
- Another one I use all of the time is shift+tab to close all of the side panels. Or shortkey F to make image full screen
- Radial filter is a great tool
- Shift+A to copy last crop ratio.
- X for rejecting pictures and the Photo -> delete rejected photographs to get rid of the images you don't want
- Content Aware Crop is a GAME CHANGER in Photoshop... if you need more image to stay in the photo without cropping off a client or important part of the photo! (and if you shoot horribly crooked like me)
- Split toning
- Hover over any number in the adjustments tab and press up or down on the keyboard to adjust amount
- Bringing the darks down to make my photos pop when they need a little extra
- Reference photo tool for maintaining consistency
- First select the photo that you like the exposure. Hold down shift and select the second photo. Once you hit match total exposure the second photos exposure will match your first photo. Control not shift
- The snapshot button so I can explore different editing styles on the same photo. Where is this button? On the left panel near the presets and history tabs
- Playing with blue luminance slider to brighten up a grey day/bring blue through the clouds
- I love the blue primary slider in the Camera Calibration
- X to reject, makes culling images much quicker. Does this delete the image? It basically flags its for deletion, so when you are ready you can delete in bulk quickly. I flag all my images right away, and set the view as flagged images only. Then as I go through I 'X' any I don't want, and they're removed, and it moves me to the next one. I don't have to make a decision about deleting, it just gets them out of the way.
- Love sync settings when batch editing!
- Smart previews!
- Culling/importing in Photo Mechanic by tagging good photos FIRST...then dragging tagged photos into LR to 'import at current location'. I can cull a 12 hour wedding from ~3k to ~600 in 45 minutes, if that. Photo mechanic renders raw files far faster than LR can. It does little else and that's the point - it does one thing incredibly well. For each image I can very quickly judge 1) if it's in focus and 2) if it has merit as a ‘good photo' (composition, is it a 'moment' etc.). Tag 'em and move on! No possibility of being distracted by editing them during this process either.
- Double clicking next to a slide while holding shift sometimes picks the right temp/exposure/whites / blacks needed for your image
- If you click j- it will show you the total whites and blacks. It's a Mastin trick. I'll send you the link for The tone curve tricks
- Clone & heal tool to remove objects. Literally never have had to use photoshop to remove objects. And smart collections to sort rejects and edited photos.
- I look through my photos and press '1' to all the photos I want to edit to give them a 1 star rating then I click add smart collection and under filters I click 'rating' and 1 star. Then all the 1 star photos collect in a folder and once I finish editing a photo I rate it 2 stars and create a 2 star rating smart collection named 'edited'. You can just hit the stars on the bottom right to show all images at or above a designated level. Smart collections are primarily for custom sorting. You could even achieve this even more quickly by hitting the b key on the selected image(s) to add to a quick collection.
- Decreasing shadows in the tone curve! Adds a nice contrast without overdoing it. And the iris enhance brush for up close portraits!
- also cntl+z to redo the last change you made. and \ to toggle between SOOC and current edit
- Ctrl+/ will bring up an index of all available shortcuts within your current window.
- Lens corrections and Auto transform.
- I found myself in a jam yesterday we're I was on a stage with about 100 people looking at me for a group photo - 24 wasn't wide enough so I shot three frames and used the auto pano mode in LR - worked out great! Just select the images you wand to combine and right click - then select photo merge, panorama. There's a shortcut too I think.
- The colour picker in the HSL tab that allows you to hover over part of the image and see what sliders will adjust it, and if you drag it across your subject, it will change however many colours are affected e.g skin ...might be a combination of orange and red
- When culling, if you keep the Caps Lock on, it automatically jumps to the next photo. So you can turn on caps lock, and use P to flag the photos you like, U to skip photos you want to keep but aren't your faves, and X to mark to delete, and as soon as I choose one of those keys it automatically goes to the next photo. I can flip through a whole session in a short period without taking my fingers off of those keys.
- LR organization has changed my life and workflow! Making a new catalogue for each shoot, then creating collection sets and/or collections for each portion of a wedding or session. It keeps me from getting overwhelmed and I tackle one collection folder at a time rather than a thousand photos all in one place!
- The camera calibration sliders on the very bottom are sometimes the best way to tweak color and get skin tones that look more realistic when working with presets.
- If you hold the option key down while in the sharpening menu for the sharpening slider your image will turn B&W so you can see the sharpening better and for the masking slider the image will turn to full black, any white that remains are the parts if your image that are being sharpened.
- First thing that I learned and I always make sure I have done when creating a new catalog is to go into preferences and make sure the box is checked that says "Store presets with catalog" Without this box checked you can easily lose your presets.
- Hit Command + ? (Mac) to bring up the shortcut menu for the module you are in.
- Holding shift while you double click the name of setting will have LR do an auto adjustment for just that item. Example: Shift + Double click on the word Exposure will give you an auto exposure adjustment without effecting the other sliders.
- CLONE BRUSH TO LIGHTEN SHADOWS UNDER EYES. Set your clone brush to like 20% opacity and drag it under the eye. Then move the source to an area that has smooth even skin (I often use the forehead). Then just mess with the opacity until it looks right. This works significantly better that using a regular brush and adjusting the shadows or exposure to remove bags under eyes.
- FAST KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS. Use < and > to cycle through all of the different sliders in the develop module. Then use - and + to move the sliders left and right. I start with temperature, then move to tint, then exposure, and so on
- Create a auto mask brush with contrast -100 and shadow 1. It gives the most subtle boost of brightness to a face with shadows in it. Adjust the shadow to your liken, I wouldn't go past 5.
- How do you create a brush and save? hit where it says custom and it drops down. Choose save current settings as a new preset.
- Does anyone know if LR has a way to create a tilt shift blur (I think that's what it's called) effect? It doesn't do it by default but you can create a gradient brush with clarity -100 / sharpness -100 and adjust those back to get the blur strength you want. Yes the radial filter could work too.
- Sync settings. Survey Mode (n) is a huge underused tool to help you decide which picture is the best out of few pics and learning to use Lightroom with keyboard shortcuts vs keyboard + mouse is a huge plus.
- YouTube Videos And other Learning Resources
5. Business (programs and Necessities)
This one was a doozy for me. I'm pretty sure I lost 1/3 of my hair the night I decided to set up my website. Once you get past the learning curve, it's really simple to use! But it took a couple hours to get the hang of things! You can purchase your domain through Squarespace and then set up your website from there. I really relied on these articles to help me setup my website and work through the obstacles I found along the way. The most frustrating thing for me was the "blog" portion of my website. I really wanted a "full page" of images that you could click on and then get launched into the blog post. This article was a lifesaver and helped me create exactly what I wanted!
If you willing to invest more financially into your website, Flothemes is another great option. It's more expensive than Squarespace but the themes are brilliant! Seriously beautiful. They also do most of the installing for you. My website is built through Squarespace (I felt it was the best option for me starting off. Super easy to use and affordable. I've loved it so far but it definitely has its limitations!)
Design Aglow and Legal Zoom are great resources for contracts. Contracts are SOOO important when it comes to photography sessions. NEVER do a session without having your client sign a contract first! Friends, Family, Strangers. They all need to sign it. Avoid headaches. Legal Zoom is great for setting up your photography LLC!
I use Pixieset to deliver client photo galleries. I love it! It's really simple to use and allows clients to download the high resolution edited images!
One little nugget tip for Pixieset is to unclick "high resolution images." You only want your client to download the originals or web images. If the "high resolution" option is checked, the client can download the images that are compressed versions of the original image. So I always keep that setting turned off! Otherwise, it confuses the client. "High resolution" sounds better than "original" but in the Pixieset world, the High Resolution option is compressed versions of the original and can cause blurry photos to be downloaded.
I currently do not offer client print packages for physical prints, but I like to provide my clients with options for high quality prints! Your high resolution digital photos can turn into blurry prints if your client chooses a low quality print company! So save them the headache! Here is a list of print companies that I give to my clients:
1. MPIX (my favorite)
4. Artifact Uprising (love)
A really affordable option for creating client magazine handouts is through MagCloud! You can create your own PDF files for free with Canva and upload them to MagCloud or make them from scratch with Photoshop or the the free MagCloud "template." They're just ~$1.47 a pop for an 8 page magazine. You can create magazines with up to 60+ pages too! They look super professional and get the job done! I hand mine out to local businesses and leave them in my hospitals workrooms and breakrooms!
One item on my 2018 to-do list is to create MC Morgan Photography postcard ads and send them to local neighborhoods using Every Door Direct Mail. With Every Door Direct Mail, you send mail to a zip code or street or neighborhood of your choosing. Its really affordable! I plan on creating postcards through Vista Print or another printing company (ie whichever one is cheapest!) and then mailing them out to local neighborhoods using Every Door Direct Mail!
Honeybook & other Booking Systems
I started using Honeybook shortly after I started up my business. It's seriously amazing! Its really a game changer and allows you to email contracts, get client signatures and payments and so much more. I haven't learned all of the ins and outs of honeybook yet, but so far its been amazing! Their customer service is also LEGIT. I had some girl texting me at 3 am to help me set it up. Like WHAT?
Morgan Stell created this spreadsheet to compare all of the contract signing options! Here it is incase you want to shop around!
Sheeeessh. This whole process is a weee bit of an investment. Here is a spreadsheet of the expenses I've encountered so far!
The Most Important Part of This Whole Deal
Last but certainly not least is a link to my attire throughout this entire process.
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