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.

A Huge List of Hashtags to Grow Your Instagram Community

Hashtag list to grow your InstagramHashtags are still a puzzler for most people when it comes to how they’re used. On Facebook they apparently don’t work very well so don’t bother. Some research has shown that posts on Facebook without hashtags perform those that do. Despite that, hashtags are a great way to expand your reach on Instagram. Even though Instagram has some new structure to their newsfeed that had us all upset, hashtags are still a really great way to be found.

Hashtags are clickable links on Instagram that will show you all the posts from everyone who has that hashtag on one of their posts. It’s a great way to find people you like and to be found. I put together a few categories of popular hashtags that I’ve used and see a lot of other peeps using too. So if you really want to grow your feed, pick out a few you like and start adding them to your photos on Instagram and see if it makes any changes.

Instagram-Related – #‎instagram‬ ‪#‎instagrammers‬ ‪#‎igers‬ ‪#‎instalove‬ ‪#‎instagood‬‪ #‎followme‬ ‪#‎insta‬ ‪#‎instadaily‬ ‪#‎instalovers‬ ‪#‎tagsforlikes‬ ‪#‎follow‬

Photography – #‎portrait‬ ‪#‎portraits‬ ‪#‎portraiture‬ ‪#‎feelgoodphoto‬ ‪#‎lessismore‬‪#‎negativespace‬  ‪#‎blackandwhite‬ ‪#‎bnw‬ ‪#‎monochrome‬ ‪#‎photo‬ ‪#‎photos ‬‪#‎photographer‬ ‪#‎photooftheday‬ ‪#‎color‬ ‪#‎capture‬ ‪#‎chasinglight‬ ‪#‎justgoshoot‬‪ #‎lifeofaphotographer‬ ‪#‎canon‬

General – #creative #artsy #beautiful #art #me #tbt #throwbackthursday #cute #happy #smile #lifestyle #success #passion #dreams #happiness #believe #strength #morningslikethese #mymondaymugshot #humpday #transformationtuesday #flashbackfriday #followfriday #fridayintroductions #sundayfunday #mcm #wcw

Entrepreneur and Business – #entrepreneur #business #mindset #wontstop #businessowner #smallbiz #entrepreneurlife #leadership #mentoring #onlinebusiness #coaching #inspire #ambition #wisdom #thinkbig #hardworkpaysoff #workhardplayhard #beyourownboss #smallbusiness #future #biztip #b2b #howto #innovation #marketing #solopreneur #bosslady #womeninbusiness

Creative – #calledtobecreative #creativepreneur #creativityisfound #designisinthedetails #dowhatyoulove #exploretocreate #fromwhereistand #lifeofanartist #liveauthentic #livefullyalive #makeithappen #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #pursuepretty #sayyestosuccess #thehappynow #communityovercompetition #tuesdaystogether #risingtidesociety #tablescapetuesday #flashesofdelight #ohwowyes #thatsdarling #theeverydayproject #creatives

Wedding Photography – #howheasked #thedailywedding #theknot #theknotrings #brideandgroom #weddingdress #weddingphotographer #weddingphotography #wedding #weddingphoto #weddingring #realweddings #weddinginspo #strictlyweddings #matrimonyhomies #weddingsquad #bridalbrigade #friendsofhonor – I also post my businesshashtags here.

Travel – #tasteintravel #traveltuesday #travel #wanderlust #jetsetting #dametraveler

Dogs – #weeklyfluff #delight_pets #dogsofinstagram #inspiredbypets #mydogiscutest #petfancy #petstagram #instadog #doglover #dogs_of_instagram #instagramdogs #dogoftheday #ilovemydog #dogstagram #lovedogs

If you don’t know what any of these mean, ask in the comments, search Google, or better yet – search Instagram. Here’s a couple extra tips I recommend when using hashtags.

  • They go great in the first comment instead of the actual caption. That way if your posts are shared automatically from Instagram to things like Facebook and Twitter, they translate better because the first comment doesn’t come with them.
  • You don’t need to go out and overload your posts with tons of hashtags.
  • Instagram does have a limit to how many hashtags you can use on a post, so keep that in mind.
  • Use location based hashtags as well for where you’re at. You can search Instagram for popular hashtags that are local to your areas and start using them to reach more local clients!

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!

 

12 Tools to Rock Your Photography Business This Year

12 Tools to Rock Your Photography Business This YearDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Hey hey! Today I put together a list of some of my favorite tools I use to rock my photography business daily. Everything from gear related tools to business tools. If you’re really looking for a way to level up your business this year and take something that’s a weakness for you (maybe it’s social media) having the tools available to help you make it a strength can make a huge difference in your business.

I’m not saying you need to run out and buy all these things right now. Everyone has a budget for your business, but I strongly encourage each of you to sit down and figure out what you’re strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to business and how you can use one of these tools to make a weakness into a strength. I’ve always been a believer in investing in your business and looking at these types of purchases as an investment that lets me get my life back and do a better job for my clients.

  1. Fundy Designer – Fundy is an album design software program – primarily. The cool thing is that Fundy has also come out with software to help you design wall galleries for your clients, or to help you collage blog posts and more. If you’re going to invest in some software to automate processes like album design Fundy is simply the best there is out there.
  2. Pixifi – Pixifi is my favorite tool for studio management. I run all my contracts and payments digitally through Pixifi, but it also automates my client reminders and communications as well, which means I get to take back my life and let Pixifi do the hard work for me so I can enjoy more time with family or getting out and shooting!
  3. Made in the Lab – If you haven’t heard of my new business venture with my business partners, Rachael and Jason, then you need to get over and read all about it. Made in the Lab is a web design focused company. We’re dedicated to creating affordable website templates for creative business owners like photographers. If you need a professionally designed website but typically can’t afford all the high fees associated with purchasing a template to design one, well look no further. You can grab a template for only $60.
  4. Showit5 – Showit5 is a brand new website design platform geared specifically toward photographers. It’s all about simple drag and drop website creation, no need to know how to code! Right now Showit5 is invite only based, but you can grab an invite for free from Made in the Lab over here.
  5. Lens Flipper – The Lens Flipper might be my favorite new thing I’ve found at WPPI this past year! If you’re a photographer then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about when you want to switch lenses and you just don’t have enough hands, or a place to set down a lens to do it properly. The lens flipper is a little attachment cap so you don’t have to worry about swapping lenses and having extra hands. It’s so cool. I was able to use it at weddings already and I’m in love. It’s incredibly helpful for swapping out lenses on the go.
  6. Holdfast Moneymaker – I struggle a lot with neck and back problems so the Holdfast Moneymaker harness system is the best way ever for me to hold my cameras. Whether you shoot with two cameras at once, or one (you can attach a lens bag on the other side to even out the weight), it’s perfect for keeping your back happy and healthy. Plus you look badass.
  7. Shootproof – Photo CDs and USBs are out for me and I love delivering photos through digital download with Shootproof. If digital download isn’t your thing that’s okay too, you can still use them as an online proofing gallery and sell prints! There are tons of reasons I could go on about why I love Shootproof, but instead you can read about how Shootproof’s automated email system can help you sell more prints, 9 reasons Shootproof is the best, and this review about Shootproof. You can also take 25% off any annual plan on Shootproof if you use the code SWAILS25.
  8. Lens Rentals Membership – For $79 a year you can never pay shipping fees ever again from Lens Rentals. I’ve only rented a few times and it paid for itself multiple times over already. It can cost $25-50 per rental to ship, so if you plan on renting more than once a year – you already save money. Lens Rentals is also Lens Authority, a used gear sales shop. They are seriously my favorite place to buy used gear. Everything is in pristine condition and the customer service is out of this world.
  9. Professional Graphic Designer – If you’re not into templates for web design (as mentioned earlier) and you want something a little more custom then I highly recommend hiring a professional designer. I’m terrible at design myself, and having Rachael Earl on my team to custom design two websites for me this year (among other projects) has been one of the best investments in life ever. Professional design can go such a long way to making your business look professional. After all, if it doesn’t look like you invest in your business, you can’t expect your clients to as well.
  10. Coschedule – Struggle with blogging? Writing and scheduling posts in advance is an amazing way to keep up with blogging and take advantage of all its marketing benefits. One of the best ways to help me with scheduling is Coschedule. It’s a plugin for WordPress blogs that adds an editorial schedule, but most importantly, it adds a box under each blog post that allows you to schedule social media blasts in advance for after your post is scheduled to go live. It means you can automate the blogging process, write when it works best for you, and then not have to worry about remembering to post on social media about your blogs.
  11. Edgar – Speaking of social media scheduling tools, let me tell you about Edgar. Edgar is a bit pricey in terms of scheduling, but if social media is something you majorly struggle with – Edgar can also be a lifesaver. I would say it’s definitely one of the best investments I have spent in the last year. It’s a social media scheduling tool for Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Hootsuite, where you have to go in and schedule posts, Edgar allows you to create a huge library of updates and sort them into various categories. Then you can assign the categories to post at specific times of the week to specific accounts. So Edgar actually does the scheduling for you, by cycling through your library and then making the posts go live. Even though it seems pricey in terms of a monthly investment, it’s WAY cheaper than hiring a social media assistant and it makes your social media basically hands free.
  12. Schedugram – The only thing Edgar can’t do is schedule on Instagram. In fact, a lot of Instagram scheduling programs still don’t fully automate the process. They have to send a reminder to your phone to post something. You have to drop everything you’re doing to post it at the time you wanted it to go live and then who knows…you’re probably off track chasing down weird hashtags on Instagram.  Hours later you’ve lost tons of productive work time. Am I right? That’s where Schedugram is different, it schedules and fully automates the process for you, unlike Latergram. You just schedule everything by logging into your browser on your desktop and then voila – it takes care of Instagram for you and you get your editing done. Between this and Edgar, I do often feel like I’m spending a big investment on social media, but I can’t tell you enough how much I’ve also earned back from that investment in terms of followers, leads, and actual bookings…plus happier clients and a happier husband who I can actually spend time with! Here’s a blog post I wrote about Schedugram and how to actually automate your Instagram posts.

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!

 

Why I Converted to Sigma Art Lenses

Sigma Art LensesI’ve heard nothing but good things about the Sigma Art series of lenses, but as a Canon user I’ve found it incredibly difficult to let go of all the money I’ve invested in my lenses with the red line around the end. It’s like a status symbol for how hard I’ve worked to pay for those L series lenses. They’re hard to let go of. I decided to rent a Sigma Art lens just for the sake of seeing what all the hype was about. I totally intended on writing this blog post where I figured I’d tell you all how much they sucked and how to stick to your own brand.
Sadly that’s not this post. I was seriously impressed with the Sigma Art series. After renting I did some research on them, watched a lot of review videos and finally came to the conclusion that I needed to sell my Canon lenses and switch to Sigma Arts (for a few of the lenses at least). I’m not sorry. At all. Sure, I miss my fancy little red line around the end of my Canon lenses. I also miss how much more lightweight the Canon L series is (in most cases) because the Sigma Art series are metal and heavier. However, here are a few reasons why the switch was incredibly worth it.
  • Focus Speed – OMG. OMG. OMG!!! The speed at which Sigma Art locks in and nails focus is incredible. Freakin’ incredible. I don’t have all the stats like some videos and fancy reviewers do, but I can feel and tell there’s a huge difference. These lenses lock in on focus so fast that I feel like I’m actually on a learning curve figuring out how to deal with the ability to take photos faster than I’m used to. It’s kind of amazing. I owned the 50L for a long time and comparatively Sigma feels like a race car and I feel like I’ve been driving a beat up old mini van.
  • Chromatic Aberration – Okay this is a big word. You might be reading this blog post and think that you have no idea what this is, but don’t feel embarrassed. I didn’t know what it was until well into my photography career – so you are not alone. Chromatic aberration is a lens distortion that can be corrected in an editing program like Lightroom or Photoshop. It causes there to be a halo of color (typically bright magenta for me) at points of deep contrast in photos. I’ve learned over the years that every photographer is sensitive to different things in photos. Some can’t stand vignetting, some can’t stand black and white photos, and me? I can’t stand chromatic aberration. That pink halo in my photos DRIVES ME NUTS. One thing people have found with the Sigma Art lenses is that there’s less chromatic aberration. That means one less major fix in post processing. I’m super happy about that.
  • Sharpness – I found in a lot of videos and reviews that people were saying the Sigma Art lenses were sharper not only in the center, but sharper on the edges compared to their Canon counter parts. I can’t say I’ve pixel peeped enough to notice a huge difference, but they feel sharper in general.

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If you’re like me and you’ve been hearing all the amazing hype about the the Sigma Art series of lenses, it might be time to rent one and see if you can sell off that fancy L lens for a Sigma Art. Hey, you might even profit off the sales since Sigma Art lenses are definitely cheaper in price (and in my opinion better in value overall).  I hope this blog post gives you some insight into Sigma’s Art line! If you have other questions hit up our Facebook group, or shoot me an email! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or look for support in a community of like minded people!

4 Advantages to Editing Photos Faster

4 advantages to editing photos fasterWe all have excuses, right? You’re a mother, a single parent, a spouse, a family man, or you work another job. With all that on your plate and trying to prioritize for the things that matter most you just can’t get the editing done fast enough. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in editing. There are times I wish I could take forever to edit photos, but what I’ve learned over the many years of being a photographer is that the faster you can edit photos and get them back to your clients, the more you benefit as a business owner. Even though you have a thousand other things going on maybe these points can help you figure out how to edit faster. There are so many photographers who wish they could edit faster, but don’t have either the motivation or the means. I’m not here to judge. Everyone’s life is totally different. You gotta do you first and foremost at all times. However, if you’re interested in a change and you’ve been wanting to make one, maybe these tips will help give you the kick in the pants you need.
  1. More Print Sales – It doesn’t matter to me whether you do IPS (In Person Sales) or whether you sell online when your clients download their gallery. There’s always an opportunity to sell more prints. The sooner you can edit your photos the more excited your clients will be. I always want to hit my clients with their photos when they’re still in that euphoric week after their wedding. When they’re the happiest, relaxed and so much less stress. I love my clients, but I also know it’s the best time to end up making print sales too. If I chose to wait it out then my clients start emailing, calling and texting about their photos. They get impatient and are less likely to be excited and thus less likely to order through me.
  2. Happier Clients – If you’ve ever heard that saying ‘happy wife happy life’ I feel like this sometimes applies to clients too. A happy client is a happy business owner. The sooner you can get your clients their photos the happier they will be. Who doesn’t want their clients to be happy? I want mine to be as happy as humanly possible. Happy clients bring all kinds of advantages to there business owners.
  3. More Referrals – More referrals is a sign of a happy client. When I shortened my editing time a couple years ago one thing I noticed was how quickly my clients were to refer me, tag me on Facebook and let their friends and family know how soon they got their photos. That inevitably led to more bookings.
  4. Less Stress – Every photographer knows what it’s like to be suffocating under the weight of sessions upon weddings upon sessions to edit. It weighs down on you and it feels like it will NEVER end. If you can find and create ways to edit faster you get less stress. Less stress means you can take your life back. More time with family, with your kids, or spouse. More time for you.
I couldn’t write this article without leaving a couple tips on ways you can actually accomplish editing photos faster. I’m more than wiling to admit that it’s just not possible for every photographer to edit faster. That’s ok. It’s totally ok. Ultimately what matters most is that you are happy and so are your clients. Businesses are always run differently. There’s no right way to do any one thing in business. There are a million ways to do it. The way that makes you the most happy is most likely going to be the right way so don’t worry if this isn’t possible for you.
I have two big tips for accomplishing editing faster. One is to outsource your editing to a company like Shoot Dot Edit. That can be pricey and may cause you to have to raise your prices. It makes some photographers nervous. You never have to outsource though. It’s not your only option. I run four businesses. Yes. FOUR. I still edit 30-35 weddings a year on my own without outsourcing. Here’s how I manage it. When a client books a session (like engagement photos) or their wedding I don’t just mark off the day of the shoot or wedding in my calendar. I mark off an entire day in my calendar on the next week for editing. It may just be me, but I feel like I owe it to them to ensure that I’m not only making time in my calendar to photograph them, but also to edit their photos. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but it definitely has changed the way I run my business and ensures that I can make time for editing (which I do love to do myself).
I hope this article may inspire you to edit faster or give you some ideas on how to accomplish it if you’re motivated. If you need support, hit up our Facebook group, or shoot me an email! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or look for support in a community of like minded people!

3 Steps for Creating an Annual Marketing Plan

PHOTOGRAPHYAWESOMESAUCE.COM-2There’s this business I know personally. It seems like every week I see them floundering when it comes to marketing. Whether you’re a business owner yet or not you’ve probably seen another business and thought the same. You’ve wondered how they have survived so long on such a minuscule marketing plan. I wonder that about businesses sometimes. I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they said this business is ‘reactive’ and not ‘proactive.’ I’m pretty sure that statement created immediate fireworks and has sat with me ever since. Reactive marketing. Proactive marketing. I’ve been throwing those words around inside my brain for weeks now and decided to write about it.
Here’s what I’ve realized. Reactive marketing is the kind that responds to customer complaints and tries to fix problems after they’ve raised. Proactive marketing anticipates everything in advance, plans in advance and avoids those kinds of fixes and complaints that come with not being prepared. So…I want you to be prepared! The best way to prepare yourself for any business marketing is to create an annual marketing plan. I realize it might be March, but that doesn’t matter. We don’t have to start these things at the New Year no matter how much my organizational issues like it.
An annual marketing plan can help you create a plan of attack in advance that anticipates customers needs, reactions and basically beats them to the punch. Not all business owners are planners  though. I get it. I know I’m in the minority with my hand written planner, notebook full of scribbled notes and need for a very specific type of pens in my office. Even though planning and organizational skills come natural to so many people you can still work toward having a more organized approach to your marketing plan and here’s a few tips that can help.
  • Create a marketing calendar. This is your first step. I don’t care how it’s done. Print out a blank monthly calendar, write it in your planner, write down the months in your Evernote or a Word document. Just create a calendar somewhere right now, or at least after reading this blog post. In order to create an organized marketing plan you need a calendar. This calendar will serve as a place to make notes on what you need to do to prepare in advance for different events.
  • List out holidays and events. Tons of businesses plan holiday-related sales and events. I want you to go through your calendar for the remainder of this year (or next year or wherever you are in the future reading this) and mark down any holiday you are using as a marketing opportunity for business. If you’re a photographer and you do Fourth of July mini sessions, or Halloween Costume photo sessions you need to mark down the dates and set them aside in this calendar right now. The more you plan in advance the more successful you’ll be.
  • Planning! That’s what’s next. Now that you have your calendar and your dates you are holding events or need to plan marketing events around you actually have to do the work. If you have Fourth of July mini photo sessions on your calendar then you need to go in and mark the date when you are going to start marketing and selling these to your customers. If you want to get really fancy, maybe make a few notes about how you are going to do the marketing. Email, social media, fliers…you name it. This is how you build your marketing plan.
I’m hoping this blog post helped you stop what you are doing and break out a notebook and pen (my preference) or Evernote (eww digital stuffs) and start brainstorming and creating some organization for your business when it comes to your marketing efforts. You’re going to be so much more prepared and booked when you’ve spent a few minutes planning in advance. This isn’t a project that has to take hours or days by any means. Just sit down for an hour and make a list or two and put it somewhere you’ll be able to find and check into regularly. Add the reminders for your marketing plan into your Google Calendar or iCal. Take some action and you’ll see the results!

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!