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.

The Photographer Black Friday Sale List by a Lady Who Actually Uses the Services Listed

Disclaimer: This post has a few affiliate links in it, so if you use them I do get a kickback. It helps me keep the lights on around PA and offer free events like the 31 Days to Better Wedding Photography online class coming up December 1st. So if you appreciate all the awesomesauce free knowledge you get from PA, do me a solid and use my links. On the other hand if you hate me, don’t use these links but do use these services anyway.

I know there’s a lot of Black Friday blog posts out there with all the amazing deals you can get all over the internet. This is not the post with the ULTIMATE list of all the deals ever made in the entire internet for photographers this year. This is the blog post of deals, people and things I, personally, think you should be aware of. I’m only listing products and services I’ve used and love personally. Many of these are run by people I know personally and love their message and what they’re doing. There’s a lot of posts out there that just list everything for the sake of it and to make money. I mean I don’t mind a little kickback, but there’s lots of other things I could list that I don’t use and have no experience with just to make a buck. These are the people and things that I think matter, the services that I stand behind. These are the things I use myself. Some of these things I’m not an affiliate for (so I get no compensation for sharing them), I’m just an avid fan of the rad stuff they’re doing and wanted to share it with you.

  • How to Automate Your Business So You Can Drink More Wine and Watch More Netflix – On sale for $149 (usually $199) through 11/30. This class releases today! It has several modules that will go over things like how to automate your email marketing, your client emails, your Instagram outreach, your Instagram posting, your social media posting in general and a few tips to help automate your blog. All the things I’ve done in this course myself, so I’m your crash test dummy for automation. I truly believe (and can’t say it enough) that automating parts of your business is a huge lifesaver. You didn’t get into this business to spend 80 hours a week trying to work 40. You started a business to work less and have more time for the important stuff (or the Netflix watching) so the tools and techniques in this class can help you take your life back as a business owner!
  • How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing – This is a free class on affiliate marketing by yours truly. It’s a 26 minute long video that will introduce you into the art of affiliate marketing. If you’re not sure what that is, well look to this entire blog post as sample. It’s full of affiliate links which, when you click on and purchase, may send me a small commission or referral fee. This is an awesome way to earn passive income as a photographer and something  every photographer can afford to incorporate into their blogs, emails and education with clients. If you’re already referring stuff to them you might as well get some extra dollars because of it!
  • Shootproof – Shootproof is doing 40% off annual plans for new users and 40% off upgraded plans for existing users. This is my favorite online gallery software because it’s the ONLY one with an automated email system. I utilize these automated emails to market print sales and more to my clients once I send them their gallery. If you want to know more about why I think Shootproof rocks my socks off go read 9 Reasons Shootproof is the Best and How Shootproof’s Automated Email System Can Help You Sell More!
  • Coschedule – They’re having a huge Cyber Monday sale to keep an eye out on! Coschedule is a social media tool that can help you schedule social media, even fully automate it. Plus it helps you schedule blog posts in advance to blast out to social media. That way you can write your blogs, schedule the marketing and know it’s all done for you. So make sure you head over and check them out on Monday!
  • Get Found with Fuse – At the time I wrote this post I had no idea what deals Fuse would have on her SEO tools and classes. I still don’t, but head over there and check anyway. Even if she doesn’t have a sale her SEO skills are WORTH IT. She’s an amazing boss lady who inspires me every day and she really knows her stuff!
  • Moo – Get yourself some new business cards.
  • B&H Photo – Go buy all your gear here! They have tons of different deals going on with all kinds of equipment!
  • Photography Concentrate – 40% off all Photography Tutorials. These are digital online tutorials and great for new photographers!!
  • Borrow Lenses – Use the code BF2016 to grab 20% off all orders through 11/28
  • Lens Authority – 10% off store wide. The discount is applied automatically! This is the used sales department of Lens Rentals (mentioned below). It’s the first place I go when buying new camera gear because you get quality gear, excellent customer service, solid shipping practices, and the best prices all in one. It’s pretty much too good to be true. Just a secret, I grabbed two D750s for sale with their 10% off on Monday for about $1400 each!! ZOMG! Get your asses over to Lens Authority and use them to buy all your used gear. Also if they don’t have it in stock, just find the listing anyway and sign up for an email notification when they have something in stock. They’re worth the wait.
  • Lens Rentals – Grab 25% off Rentals with the code: BLACKFRIDAY
  • Know YOUR Beautiful Campaign Tees – This is a campaign special to my heart because the woman behind it, LaJune King believes we should know what our beautiful is (so no it’s not a typo). She’s selling tees with her message for 30% off. Go grab one and use the code: KYBBLACKFRIDAY
  • Pixifi – 15% off! For photographers who need studio management software to help keep them organized, Pixifi is the shit. Yeah you can do online contracts and invoices to your clients, which is important and will help you get that paperwork signed and give you a better chance of getting paid faster. The real kicker for me with Pixifi is the amazing automation tools it has. You know I’m a killer for automating. Pixifi’s automated email system allows me to send out resources, tools, and information to my clients the entire time between when they complete their booking until long after their session or wedding takes place. This gives me a lot of room to use the affiliate marketing course mentioned above to make some passive income. Plus it helps develop a lot of trust through consistency by anticipating what my clients need to know before they need to know it. I get nothing but compliments from my brides and grooms about how helpful the emails are and it totally takes emailing clients off my shoulders. Now the reminders about wedding day timelines and what to wear go out without me having to make sure they do. The real reason I stand behind Pixifi is the owner, Tim. You could not meet anyone with more dedication to his customers and customer service than Tim. This is the guy who spent hours digging a client I deleted out of the archives for me. He always goes above and beyond. So when you invest in Pixifi, you’re investing in a true small business and helping Tim put a roof over his family’s head and food on the table.  I know people are hesitant to set up Pixifi because it seems overwhelming, or you tried it out years ago and it was too much. Tim has worked hard to make it easier and easier. I set mine up in about 3 hours or less all on my own and Tim helped answer questions when I needed it. So really – you need to just sit down and dedicate the time to the set up because you won’t be sorry after!
  • Fundy – Fundy is doing a 35% off sale. If you don’t know who Fundy is you might be like WTF Carrie this sounds like something weird. I promise you Fundy is awesome. First because the people behind Fundy are some of the best in the photography industry. They’re just kind souls and good people. I like to share good things that amazing people do. I’m not even an affiliate for them, so I get no kick back talking them up. Fundy is software for photographers. They have several different types of software that include album design, wall gallery design, creating blog collages and more. They have the best album design software in the industry in my opinion.

BorrowLenses Photo & Video Rentals

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.

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