Carrie Swails

I'm a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I'm crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item - apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can't see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on - I'm just happy it's available. I believe there's no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force - it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

31 Days to Better Wedding Photography

As photographers I’m sure most of you reading this have gone through a time when you’ve rebranded your business, relaunched and challenged yourself to take it to the next level. If you’ve been with me since the beginning of Photography Awesomesauce then you know all the different things I’ve tried, challenges I’ve given myself and you’ve seen my successes and failures first hand. I’m proud of all of them (the good parts and the bad parts) because they’ve helped shape where I am today and where I’m going in the future.

That said you can probably anticipate that it’s about time we give Photography Awesomesauce a new facelift, and a bigger, better purpose. So with that in mind we’ll be shutting down blogging completely during December to make some time to really revamp the website and prepare some awesome new things for you guys. December is also notoriously slow for blogging anyway if I’m completely honest with you. Traffic deters and people pay attention to their families. What time they do spend on their business tends to be in the mindset of goals for the new year and big changes they are making in their own business. So it leaves little time for new ideas when you’re taking all the new ideas you’ve had all year and are finally implementing them.

So that brings me to our own little revamp. While blogging may cease as we revamp the website we still have some important work to do. I’m going to be doing a 31 Days to Better Wedding Photography online event. Starting December 1st you can log into the Periscope app and learn a little bit about wedding photography every single day in December. Some days we might discuss lighting, other days we might discuss contracts. We’ll talk about marketing, posing and everything in between. I know so many of you are getting ready to dive in and start your first wedding season or are eager to learn more and up your game. I don’t think I have all the answers, or that how I run my own wedding photography business is perfect for everyone, but I’m happy to share the things I do know and let you decide if they’ll help you or not. There are a few things you need to do to participate so I’ll outline them below. Don’t forget a step or you might miss out!

  1. Download Periscope on your phone and follow me! Periscope is essentially a live video app that really helps other entrepreneurs learn from each other. While you can watch live broadcasts from your internet browser, you are limited to only watching and can’t ask questions or participate. That’s why you need to download the app. It’s free. Don’t worry about being live yourself, you’re just watching me live and can sit at home in the comfort of yesterday’s makeup, bedhead and no pants while you learn. Periscope saves live broadcasts for a limited time, so if you don’t catch a certain day’s as long as you log in soon after you won’t miss a beat!
  2. Follow me on Periscope. When you first download the app there will be lots of buttons to play with. Just head to the magnifying glass on the top left for the search function. Select ‘people’ and type in “carrieswails.” Once you find me select “follow.” From there the app will ask you to enable notifications. Feel free to not get the notifications, but if you want a little reminder sent to your phone everyday to remind you to log in and watch the free broadcast, then make sure you have notifications enabled. For a quick reference on how to download Periscope and just so you know what my profile looks like, below is a link to my profile as accessed from a desktop, just remember you can’t participate in a broadcast, just watch it (and PS I love answering questions live). >Carrie Swails Periscope<
  3. Follow Photography Awesomesauce on Instagram. I’ll be posting reminders and clips there as well to make sure you go log in!
  4. Sign up for the 31 Days to Better Wedding Photography emails. These emails will have links, resources and reminders all related to our daily content. The email list is the basis of everything, so if you don’t want to follow along in other places, at the very least make sure you’re getting the emails! There may also be some fun giveaways and interesting things from our sponsors via email!

Even if you’re not a wedding photographer there are probably lots of behind the scenes business tips and photography or lighting tips you can learn by tuning in! So share with your friends and lets spend December getting our knowledge on! I can’t wait to see everyone there!

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10 Things Photographers Look for in Second Shooters

I’d like to say I have some experience with second shooters. Unfortunately not all of it is good. I can’t point the finger at my seconds though, a lot of that blame lies with me for not knowing better. They say you can get knowledge from reading a book, but wisdom only comes with time. I’m about to pass on some serious wisdom to you. This is the stuff I’ve learned from the successes and failures I’ve had as a main photographer, a second shooter myself, and essentially as a boss.

  1. Gear – A main photographer may want to know exactly what gear you’re shooting with. It’s not a slight on you if you don’t have the best camera body in the world, but a lot of us are curious about lenses so we know your lens choices might compliment the ones we’ve got. Some photographers, but not all, also want to know the brand of your camera and feel it may mesh better with their brand if everything is the same. Be prepared to share a detailed list of your camera bodies and lenses before getting hired. It’s also important that you take care of your gear. It should all be in working condition. If it needs to be repaired or cleaned, that’s on you as the independent contractor to take care of. Don’t come to work at a wedding (a once in a lifetime event) with gear that is limited by its malfunctions.
  2. Experience – There’s this ironic thing in the wedding industry. Main photographers want second shooters who are experienced to work with them, that way they can trust them to split up and take photos as needed without intervention. At the same time as an industry we tell people they shouldn’t shoot weddings until they’ve gained a lot of experience as a second shooter. It’s kind of an awkward thing. The truth is, most of us want an experienced photographer by our side. We can trust them to shoot parts of the day we can’t supervise and we know it’ll mesh with our style effortlessly. The more experienced a second shooter is, the easier the day can be. Experience does matter. If you’re looking to gain wedding experience and you feel like you’re getting rejected a lot, it might be because the photographer is looking for someone with even more experience. Then it’s good to offer to assist for free, or ask if maybe they’re looking for a third shooter. When you start looking for your own second shooters you’ll want to find someone whose experience mirrors your own. If you fell down and broke your leg at a wedding (knock on wood), you shouldn’t have to worry when your second takes over and runs the day.
  3. Style – A great second shooter has a style that matches your own so your images blend together well in the final gallery for the client. Working with a second shooter who shoots with similar lenses and similar settings is a start to finding a style match. Make sure you check out the work of the second shooters you’re considering before hiring and see if your style is a match. If you’re looking for second shooting gigs, it’s good to check out the photographer’s style before you work for them and make sure you understand what they may be looking for and what you’re capable of creating for them. It can be a mistake to go in blind and really have no idea what the photographer’s work is like when you work for them.
  4. Professionalism – This one is a big one, or as some say…”it’s bigly.” How you dress and present yourselves to your main photographer’s clients is a really big deal. Friending their clients on Facebook, texting all day, and handing out your own business cards must be avoided. Remember these aren’t your clients, they’re the main photographer’s clients. When you’re shooting a wedding as a second shooter you are a direct representation of their business in all your interactions.
  5. Contracts – Different photographers might require different things in a second shooter agreement. Some may let you use the photos, some may not. Every photographer is different.
  6. No Second Guessing – It can be easy to go into a situation and expect one thing and end up with something else. If you haven’t really chatted to your main photographer or researched their style you may not really know what your in for. Some photographers work with a specific niche of clients or do things a certain way. Remember that the main photographer knows their business best. The clients booked them for their work. So don’t second guess their every move during the day and ask why all the time. Those questions are better saved for later. In the midst of a wedding there isn’t really time to get in detail about why someone has a specific workflow.
  7. Different Angles – A lot of wedding clients will say they want different angles of their day. I can’t speak for all photographers, but I know that having a second get a different angle is important, but not as important as capturing the other things around us that are happening. If the main photographer is photographing the groomsmen getting ready, then the second photographer is photographing the bridesmaids. Sometimes it’s better to be in a different place instead of offering the same angle of something the main photographer is shooting. If you’re not sure what the main photographer wants, just ask!
  8. Initiative – Second shooters that take initiative by asking questions and getting things done is awesome. I think this is a skill anyone would want in an employee or contractor. Weddings are busy and often times you don’t get the time to explain what would be best and where to go during the day, so having a second shooter that can anticipate where the best place to be is, or what they could be doing to make things even more awesome is great. Don’t sit back and wait for instruction, take initiative and get things done. If there’s one skill that will really impress me (and maybe others), this is it.
  9. Positive Attitude – Being a wedding photographer is an intriguing mix of being both an artist and a business owner. There are lots of times we put the needs of our business first and our art second. For me, personally, it’s important to have a second shooter with a positive attitude. Weddings are stressful and nothing gets me in a bad mood more than a second shooter who is complaining about my clients all day long. Sometimes clients drive us nuts or things get stressful, but it’s better to vent about that stress after the wedding. Venting about it throughout the day puts me in a negative mood and I try to keep those negative things at bay so I can create the best art possible.
  10. Memory Card Options – This is a little detail, but every photographer wants to get their second shooter’s files differently. Some have you shoot on their cards, with no access to your files later. Some have you shoot dual card slots with one of their cards and one of your own. Some have you shoot with your own cards and transfer the files later via Dropbox or another file sharing service. They might transfer the files over at the end of the night before you leave too. Be prepared for a variety of options since each photographer may have a vastly different workflow.

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Hey Photographer! You Rock!

PHOTOGRAPHYAWESOMESAUCE.COMHey you! Yes you! Ugh do you ever get sick of the photography industry’s ability to just judge everyone and tear each other apart? We’re all guilty of ranting and complaining, but today let’s stop for a minute and do things differently. Let’s acknowledge that we’re all human and we’re all doing the crazy insane hustle that is owning a business. Owning a business is literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding. So today, smile and remember you’re awesome for even being here and trying this thing. It takes a lot of guts to put your work out there, to ask for help, to make mistakes, and run a business.

I don’t care if you’re a newbie, an experienced photographer, a hobbyist or something else. I don’t care if you charge $10 or $10,000. Maybe you’re working for free to build your portfolio. Lets put our judgements aside for just one small minute and give ourselves a pat on the back for even being here and trying to do this thing. Because this business shit is hard enough. What makes it worse is when we don’t acknowledge how hard we, or others in the industry are working to get to where our personal goals are.

Today I just wanted to post on the blog to remind you that you’re awesome, you’re worthy and to keep kicking ass. Ignore the Facebook posts complaining about photographers who do XYZ, or the haters. If you’ve ever been a hater, stop for a moment and re-evaluate with me. We all make that mistake. Be proud of where you are now and what you’ve accomplished.

If you do one thing today, aside from reading this blog, I want you to be proud of yourself. Find 5 quiet minutes today and sit down and list 3 things you’re proud of in your photography business. You don’t have to shout them out to the world or post them in a Facebook group where you’ll have to worry about the judgement of everyone around you. Just say them to yourself and take a minute to realize that it’s okay if you’re not where everyone else is around you. It’s okay if your goals aren’t as lofty as that photographer down the street. You do you and be proud of that.

Seriously have MAD RESPECT for yourself (and hopefully others) for even trying to do this photography business thing. Spend some time today celebrating that! We all make mistakes and we all learn from them. Today let’s wipe our slates clean, start fresh, and be proud of wherever we’re at.

5 Tips for Relocating Your Photography Business

5 Tips for Relocating Your Photography BusinessI’m knee-deep in what seems like endless to-do lists for the next two months. We’re moving. 5 hours away from the Denver area to one of the most remote spots in the state. It’s a small town. When I say small. I mean small. I know it can be hard to comprehend, but let me tell you…the only grocery store is also an Ace Hardware. At first my thought was, “well at least there’s a grocery store.” However, after my first visit to the grocery store…I’m preparing to shop for groceries at the nearest town, which is an hour away and also in Utah (it’s also still ridiculously small). The produce section had about one of a handful of veggies. You may have been able to get a small broccoli crown for $5 each. There was only one on sale at the time I was there.

Basically…it’s small. I think the thing I’m most sad about is no movie theater. I’ve been a movie-goer for as long as I can remember. The nearest towns to where we’ll be going are all about an hour and a half away. They’re still pretty small too. I’m moving at the end of this August and the biggest question I’ve received is, “Oh no! What will you do about your business?!” Then they quickly answer their own question and say, “Oh well you can just shoot weddings there.” Um yeah…because a town of 2,000 people without a real grocery store is such a hot spot for weddings.

So here are a few things I’m learning along the way. This will be the first time I’ve moved my business a long distance and hopefully I can follow up this post with more info as I go through it all.

Raise your prices right away.

As soon as I knew we were relocating I raised my prices. I still plan on shooting anywhere in the state of Colorado. That means my plan is to simply increase my pricing to include the cost of travel for all weddings inside state lines. That way pricing is simple and easy for people to understand. I did this a couple months ago when we got news of the move and it hasn’t stopped booking at all. Since I’m lucky enough to still be in driving distance of where I photograph a lot of weddings it may seem like much hasn’t changed, but it is a lot more difficult to balance double header weekends if they have different locations, find a place for the dogs and do everything else.

Change your locations online.

I’ll be moving to the “Western Slope” as we like to call it in Colorado. So it gives me a whole new list of mountain towns and wedding locations I can incorporate into my website wording. By listing those locations on my website, I’m opening up my search engine optimization (SEO) so I have a better chance of being found in a Google search for new locations. Make it clear to readers where you’re at and where you’ll be available. If you’re living in a small town one of the best things you can do is use nearby larger towns to anchor your locations to a larger audience. You might have to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to travel too. I’m still keeping my Denver stuff on my website so I can shoot anywhere. I’ll just make my audience larger by expanding to all new towns.

Be OCD about planning.

This. So much this. I can’t even tell you. I run 4 businesses so photography is just one of them. While the other ones aren’t location sensitive, the wedding photography is. Between doing most of the paperwork and packing myself and everything else I will admit I’m totally overwhelmed. Knowing that I still have to photograph about 15 weddings in the month before and after I move means that I have to become a time management goddess. I sat down with a calendar and wrote down which days I have weddings and where they are. Then I had to plan for the first month after I move where I get to drive back down to Denver every weekend for double (and triple) header weddings. So I marked off the weddings, the driving days and looked at what was left. Just enough time to keep up on editing. I have a very tight calendar with days marked off for packing now too. The best thing you can do so you don’t lose momentum or fall behind on editing for your clients is to plan which days you’re going to do it all – and then STICK TO IT.

Decide how to let your clients know.

I’m not one for announcing price changes or big things on social media. I don’t feel its necessary, but I understand why other business owners do. I just made my price change and started handing out those prices to all my inquiries after that date. I also won’t be making a big announcement about moving in the midst of one of the busiest parts of wedding season either. No need to panic my clients. I’m just going to keep on with how things are going because I know I’ve got my plan, my strict schedule and that I’ve got this. Moving isn’t allowed to be an excuse for neglecting my clients.

Prioritize.

With as many projects and businesses as I’ve got going on prioritizing is key. There are big things I’ve been wanting to work on, but I’m learning they have to wait. Right now my priority is to simply stay on top of things for my clients first and foremost. My to-do list for all businesses is left to blogging, social media, and editing. With a bit of client communication, wedding timeline building and things like that thrown in. Updating my website, making new online classes, and any other big projects are not happening. During the move itself I’m just going to keep up with the bare minimum of things needed to keep the business running and in Winter when wedding season is done and I’m living in the middle of nowhere (with no movie theater to distract me), I’ll have tons of projects and things to work on. It’s important to not burn yourself out and ensure you’ve got your clients and customer service at the top of your list during stressful times. If your clients see you handling things like a boss when they know you’ve got a lot on your plate, they’ll love you even more.

Want More?

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

7 Mistakes Photographers Make When Buying a New Lens

PHOTOGRAPHYAWESOMESAUCE.COM-2Raise your hand (in the comfort of your own home where nobody knows) if you’ve seen those Facebook posts that say the following.

“Share photos taken with the 85mm 1.4 please. Thanks!”

Or maybe they say this.

“Looking to buy a new lens. What should I get? What is your favorite?”

Or maybe it’s this.

“I have an 18-55mm lens and am looking to upgrade. What’s best?”

Maybe it’s just me, but these questions are tough to answer. I’ve been around the block when it comes to lens purchasing. I’ve made so many mistakes when I’ve based my purchases off questions I ask or see in Facebook groups or elsewhere online. I’ve never bothered to count how many dollars I’ve lost when I purchased a lens and then found out it wasn’t the lens for me and had to sell it for less than I purchased.

What I didn’t realize is that lenses are truly an investment. The technology doesn’t age as fast as that of your DSLR. So lenses are here to stay. They’re a big purchase and one that should last you a very long time without a need to upgrade it. That means we shouldn’t just run out and buy the next big thing or whatever your neighbor uses because she takes great photos. Here’s a few common mistakes I see happening when photographers are considering a new lens purchase. A lot of these are mistakes I’ve made and wish I had known better, so I’m passing this on to you.

  1. Not Doing Research – You should always be reading, watching videos and researching a big purchase like a lens. Remember, it’s an investment. Learn how it works and what people like and don’t like about it. It can give you a lot of insight.
  2. Not Knowing Your Style – Doesn’t it feel awesome when you get a new lens? I just get excited to get out and play with it. I’ve often times made the mistake of buying something because I heard it was great only to find out it really didn’t suit my style. If you love big wide landscapes then the 200mm 2.8 is probably not an awesome idea. Or if you love traditional cropped portraits, you may hate the 24mm 1.4. You need to really take a look at your style and where you think its going in the future and chose a lens that accentuates it instead of the newest trend.
  3. Buying a Lens Someone Else Has Because Their Photos are Amazing – No. Just no. Don’t do this. We all know that the camera and lens don’t make a photo. You do. Lenses are just tools. Ultimately so many factors come into play when creating an amazing image. Your camera body and your posing of clients. Plus a true understanding of the type of light you love and how to work with it. Just because someone else has a specific lens doesn’t mean you can create the same imagery they do. Remember. Lenses don’t make photos, you do.
  4. Not Trying Before Buying – I know it’s a pain in the booty to pay to rent lenses before buying. You’re probably sure you’ll like the lens, but don’t want to loose the $100 on the rental when you can put that into something else. I know exactly how you feel. Trust me though. You need to rent the lenses first. Rent different brands of a focal length you want to try. Make sure you rent it on a weekend where you have scenario that’s very typical for you within a shoot. Don’t rent it when you’re not working. You actually need to get out there and try it. Compare it to other ones you’ve tried and see what you like. I really thought I wanted the Canon 24mm 1.4 for example. I rented it and it was just blah. I had second thoughts about purchasing it. So instead of purchasing it anyway, or skipping it altogether I rented the Sigma version. That one wowed me. It’s now my most-used lens ever. If I had just passed on trying it, or given up, or not tried it at all – I would’t know what I was missing out on. Always try before you buy. A new lens is expensive. It’s an investment. You wouldn’t buy a car without testing it first, please don’t buy a lens without testing it first. Make a wise educated investment instead of one on a whim.
  5. Not Giving a Lens a Second Chance – I don’t mean you need to forgive it like you did that ex-boyfriend who needed a second chance. What I mean is your style changes. It’s constantly evolving. I told photographers for ages how much I hated the focal length of 85mm. I just thought it was so traditional and boring. I like to shoot wide. So that level of zoom was just too much. I rented it and tried to give it a chance and it was just awful in my opinion. However, years later I kept researching and tried it again. I fell in love. My style just needed to develop more. Don’t rule out a lens forever because you may change your mind about it later.
  6. Not Saving for a Better Model – I’ve totally bought the cheaper version to save money and I’ve been sorry many times. Of course sometimes it still works out great, but consider saving a tad bit more to invest in the better model. You won’t be sorry for it if you do.
  7. Buying New When I Could Have Bought Used – Since lenses don’t age as fast as a camera body does they hold their value for a long time. They also don’t have “mileage” the same way a camera body does. I buy all my lenses used now. You can get like-new quality for a much better price. My favorite place to buy used is Lens Authority. It’s Lens Rentals’ used gear store. They have the best customer service, the best prices and the best quality in one place. My favorite!

It’s easy to just run out and buy a lens. It’s fun to have that new toy to play with. It’s exciting! Make sure you take the time and invest in a lens that you truly know you’re going to love. It will help you put time into the right parts of your business and not waste time purchasing something that doesn’t work out.

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!