Q & A: Gear, Business, & a Little About Me!

While I still have so much to learn about business, photography, and life, I love being in a community that supports and inspires each other, so I try to share what I know and have learned as often as I can. I am always open to answering questions, and spend a lot of time learning from others within the business. I decided to open up my inbox to some questions in the hopes of sharing some of what I've learned in the past year. Thanks to everyone who sent in some questions! Here we go:

Questions about Gear/Editing: 

Question: What is your go-to lens & do you switch out to different lenses throughout one shoot or just stick with one? (via. @maddison_trester)

Answer: Oh my goodness, I am a gear nerd. I love lenses and have really built up my collection in the past year since I started my business. I would say the one lens I bring to every single session is my Canon 85mm f/1.8. I love that focal distance, and am beyond excited to upgrade once Canon releases their new Canon 85mm f/1.4 in November. 

I do switch between lenses during sessions to achieve different looks, especially depending on where I am shooting. Most commonly on a shoot I will bring:

-Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 - I love prime lenses and this one is great if I have an awesome background. It’s a wider lens so it captures a lot more of the scenery and can be super useful in tight spaces. I don’t use it for close-up portraits as much, because I don’t like the distortion on peoples faces. 

-Canon 135mm f/2 - I got this lens for event photography, but it has quickly become one of my favorite special-purpose lenses. I love bringing this to shoots near the Golden Gate Bridge, because of how nice the compression is (meaning it brings the background really close). My boyfriend occasionally joins me on shoots -he’s an awesome photographer- and shoulder shoots with the 135mm since it is such a close lens. This enables him to get some really nice candid moments I otherwise might have missed just interacting with my clients. He normally gets the best shots with it, too, which makes me jealous! 

-Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 - This is a really practical lens. I use it for events, family portraits, and anything where I know that I am short on time and know the zoom will help me to get more versatility. I also use this lens for most of my landscape shots. 

Here's an example image of how shooting around 24mm on a 24-70mm lens can get a very different effect than shooting on a 135mm lens:

 with Marianna (@marianna.balletart)

with Marianna (@marianna.balletart)

Between shoots, I love to mix it up with what variation of lenses I will bring, based on the type of shoot (i.e. portraits vs family) and my background.

Question: Do you use a reflector or any lighting equipment for your sunset environmental shots? (via. @brycemartyn)

Answer: I rarely use reflectors or additional lighting equipment, because most of the time I prefer to shoot during sunset and am pretty comfortable with the light at this time of day. Occasionally I will bring along a reflector to provide shade in areas that may have uneven lighting or have a photo assistant help me if I’m not shooting during sunset. I always have one in the car just in case! It has saved my shoot a few times! 

The images below show one time that I used the reflector to provide shade in the middle of an open field (top) and one time I used the reflector to add light onto my backlit subjects and create a more cinematic feel (bottom):

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One of my favorite things to do now for sunset environmental shots is to actually use bracketing within the camera to take three shots really quickly at different exposures and create an HDR by combining those three shots in Lightroom. But most of the time, shooting RAW is enough for me to be able to keep detail in the background and on my subject. Here's an example of some shots I got by doing that:

 with Taylor Stone (@taytayboxing) & couple Liz & Jason

with Taylor Stone (@taytayboxing) & couple Liz & Jason

Question: How do you edit consistently despite different lighting situations? (via @jordynkhanphoto)

Answer: Editing under different lighting situations has been and always will be a struggle for me. Luckily, I am able to plan most of my shoots around sunset to get consistent light. I do this because it is the type of light I like, and also because I have found that I am way faster at editing when the lighting is nice, soft, and golden. When I shoot at other points throughout the day, I always try to find shade or areas with more even lighting. When I edit photos taken during harsh light, I always try to bring down the vibrance too, since colors can look really bright and saturated when the sun is high.

Questions about Photography - Style, Inspiration, Posing, etc.

Question: What do you do to get your couples interactive and natural? (via @jordynkhanphotography)

Answer: Ooo, I have started playing games, asking tons of questions, and just am outright silly with my couples. I ask them to do some really silly things to get them laughing and just do everything I can to get to know them and help them reminisce about their relationship so far. Also, movement is HUGE. If I can get my couples moving, they automatically become way more natural. Walking, dancing, running, all of that is great. I just try to make them forget that they are behind the camera, and really have them focus on enjoying their time together. I splurged and got the Unposed Field Guide cards and those have really helped me with ideas for games and prompts. 

In the image below, I had Becca stand facing me and whispered to Nick to sneak up behind Becca and give her a big hug. She wasn't quite sure what to expect, so when he ran up and almost tackled her, she was laughing pretty hard. 

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Question: How long was it until you found your style? (via. @joshua.sagar)

Answer: This is a tough one..

Considering I’ve only been in business since March, I would say it has been and continues to constantly evolve in in terms of style. I know what I like and what inspires me - flowy dresses, sunsets, beautiful landscapes, and being outside - so this has helped me develop a style in certain ways. Knowing what I don’t feel inspired to shoot may have helped me even more.

I also surround myself with a ton of super talented, creative people and try to draw inspiration from their work to continue to grow. While I have embraced certain aspects of shooting and editing which has helped separate me from other’s work, I think any photographer who has been doing this for a while can tell you that style continues to evolve as our careers and art does. 

In terms of portraits, I've compiled a few of my favorite shots over the past few months that I find are really representative of what I want my style to be. Nature (beaches, flowers), flowy dresses, soft light, delicate, diverse. 

 Models: (Left to Right, Up to Down) Carsen (@ctrinkino), Taylor Stone (@taytayboxing), Candy Tong (@candytong12), Emma Miller (@emmamillller), and Hannah Siddiqui (@theroadtohannah).

Models: (Left to Right, Up to Down) Carsen (@ctrinkino), Taylor Stone (@taytayboxing), Candy Tong (@candytong12), Emma Miller (@emmamillller), and Hannah Siddiqui (@theroadtohannah).

Question: How do you stay inspired? (via @jordynkhanphotography)

Answer: This is a tough one that I think every photographer struggles with. Since I am still a student who lives at home, I am lucky enough to have time to go out and do a lot of personal projects. For these, I work with people who are already very comfortable in front of the camera and who match a very specific style. I also try to find locations that I love and that inspire me - which is usually some new outdoor location that I've never been to. 

I’m taking a motivation class in school that is teaching a lot of ideas that I think align with this idea of staying inspired in an artistic craft that you also work in. The point is to really be internally motivated for shoots. Have full control planning them, make sure they are something that you will be super excited about, so they don’t feel like work. I always find these beneficial as well, because I have more to post that is reflective of my style, and now am starting to book a lot of clients who like the same kind of things I do, so there is a less of a disconnect between work and personal. 

I also try to work with other photographers when I can, see what they do, and use this as inspiration. I see what they do and push myself to keep growing. Other things I’ve tried is challenging myself to do include:

    -convey specific emotions through images

    -base poses on song lyrics that I find meaningful

    -go to places I would never shoot with a friend I really like and see how creative I can be in shooting there

P.S. I would love to hear how other photographers stay inspired as well, feel free to comment below what inspires you! 

Questions about Business

Question: What is your best way to market/get new clients? (via. @maddison_trester)

Answer: I am probably not the best person to ask about marketing and getting new clients, but there are a few things that I find helpful.

I do most of my marketing through Instagram and blogging. On Instagram, I’ve found that location hashtags (i.e. #sfphotographer, #igerssf) have helped me book quite a few gigs. Also posting at least a few times a week and interacting with people in your community is super helpful. My business has also begun to pick up since I started blogging more consistently - which I based off of some knowledge from an article in a Lemonade & Lenses magazine. 

I would say the most one of the best ways to get clients is through referrals. While it takes time to build up a clientele, I try to work within different markets so more people can see my work, hopefully like my work, and recommend me to their friends. While I am starting to only do limited collaborations, at the beginning I did a lot of collaborative work just to spread my name around and get noticed in different niches. Also, I’ve been reworking my booking processes to make things clear and easy, which helps me have a higher retention rate for inquires.

I have a lot to learn, and am always open to learning more as well!

Question:  Running a business can be difficult because it's pretty much non-stop. How do you schedule work time vs. you time? (via. @renhirsch)

Answer: This is a super important question that I think is easy to ignore. I remember starting out I would try to respond to client's constantly and this really started to stretch me thin. While I think it is important to have a quick response time, if I am constantly checking my phone and trying to respond to a multitude of questions, I am losing out on a lot of important quality time with the people in my life. 

Something my boyfriend and I discussed early on was establishing "business hours", basically picking times when I would be open to inquires and questions and finding times where I would tune out and take my mind off of business. Even with doing this, business is constantly on my mind and there is always more to be done. 

Most recently, based off a tip from my friend Jess, I found a more streamlined way to communicate with clients. I made a basic pricing/info sheet and established questionnaires to save myself a lot of the back and forth which can take a ton of time. It also helps establish clearer expectations and I think is easier for the client to know right away if I am the right kind of photographer for them. I am looking into programs like Honeybook currently as well to help automate some responses, clear things up, and save me a lot of time.

 I also schedule date nights in my calendar based off of my boyfriend and I's work schedule to make sure we have time to spend together, despite our busy work and school schedules. It sound silly but this is so important!  

Questions about Me

Question: How did you meet your man? (via @jessbaumann_)

Answer: We met when we were both in high school actually. I was friends with his sisters through theatre, and his sister (& one of my best friends) Aurora actually set us up so we would meet. And against all odds, we really hit it off. Now we've been together for over 3 & 1/2 years! He's my travel buddy, the silliest guy I know, and also the absolute sweetest. So thankful for him. 

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Question: What’s on your bucket list for traveling? (via @jessbaumann_)

Answer: Uhh, just about everywhere. I have not travelled nearly as much as I want to. I would love to go to Europe (especially France), hit as many more national parks as I can (Denali is way up high on that list), Patagonia, Mt. Everest Basecamp - if my asthma doesn’t get in the way, and Thailand would be really cool. 

I’ve been thinking of offering free photography/wedding coverage for people who pay for me & my babe’s flights out to areas I've never been, just to try to see more. Who knows??

On a side note, here's some cool places that I've gone to just this year! 

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Thanks so much for reading! I hope you found some of this information helpful. I always love answering questions, so please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have!