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3 Last Minute Things to Do Before Wedding Season Starts (aka: Holy shi@—is it spring already?)

wedding photographer tips

3 Last Minute Things to Do Before Wedding Season Starts (AKA:  Holy shi@—is it spring already?) 

 3 LAST MINUTE
As wedding season wrapped,  and the winter months settled in—the list of ‘to do’s’ I had in mind to conquer was a-plenty.
All of the ‘workflow, ‘marketing’ and ‘business development’ ideas I had stuffed into my perpetual to-dolist  (but did not have the time to complete while fully engaged in ‘season’ ) were ready to hit the scene over the winter months I had off.  (I mean man, a whole three months “off!”)
And yet, though I did accomplish some of these things:  somehow, its nearly April. I blinked. And,  here we are again.  Its wedding season 2016 and many of those tasks remain untouched.
So what’s a girl to do when, in two weeks:  it is prime wedding season?  Here are a few ‘hail Mary’s’ for my fellow photogs friends who are also in my last-minute shoes:
Wine and cocktails anyone?  (no, seriously.)  Vendors Relationships are everything!   Get out there and set some appointments with your favorite venues/wedding pros.  Invite a few of your planners, hair and makeup artists or caterers to a meet-up over coffee or cocktails.  (I always prefer cocktails;-) About 80% of my business comes to me via relationships with others in our industry who refer me to their clients.  Keep in mind—this is the same for many other (successful) photographers in your market!  So when you sit down to chat—discuss both of your ‘ideal clients’ (uh-hum: referrals are a two-way street my dear!) so you can each keep a lookout for each other in a more specific way than ‘refer-me-all-the-things.’
Its a lot more difficult in the sea of photographers for folks to refer you if you don’t immediatley pop into their brain as the ‘right’ fit for their specific clients. (I.e, I adore intimate weddings of wild-child,  adventurers having elegant/outdoor weddings .  I want my wedding industry peers to think of me when they come across these folks.)  So in a few weeks, Im hosting a little cocktail party at the studio to gather some of my favorites all in one place as we hop into season.  (Its impossible to be referred if you are not on the forefront of people’s minds and you cant be if you are not in contact..)
 best charlotte wedding pros
(My ‘theme’ for our our vendor cocktail meet up. Who doesn’t freaking like tacos? If you say ‘you’–you are not my people.)
Get your Gear in Gear:  If you are like me—since I do not photograph much outside of weddings—my gear does not get as much use in the off-season (other than an ocaasional workshop or personal project)  Other than my core body and a few lens/flashes.. some of it is gathering dust.  So, pull open those drawers, closets, bags and boxes and compile all of your gear.  Inventory it.  Make sure everything is functional and organized in the manner you prefer. (I recently purchased the Think Tank (ginormous) rolling bag,  so for once—ALL of my gear can fit int one professional looking bag that can rolled into the venue doors.)
Get any replacement gear orders rolling—for example, I found one of my flash triggers was no longer functioning and placed an order  along with a few extra camera batteries.  (Thank you Lord, for Amazon Prime.)   Also—think about sending off anything that may need annual ‘clean and check.’ (If you are Canon and are not a CPS member—get on it!)
think tank logistics manager
(Totally expensive..but totally worth it.)
Blog it!  If you are a better woman than me-you kept up with your blog all winter.  Kudos! If not—time to step up. Make this week a crash-course in giving your blog some lovin.’  (The last thing you want is for a prospective client stop by your blog and see content that is from last fall. You look both not busy and a little lazy.
‘But Cass—how can I cram 3 months of blogging in in a few weeks?’   Drum roll please:  Year-end wraps-ups are a great way to recap your favorite images of the year. (As are behind-the-scenes posts which always get a laugh.)  Both of these types of posts are some of the highest rated for me in terms of both ‘google juice’ and my most mentioned by clients/peers.  They are also a great place to link to when replying to client inquires. Clients get to see a bit of your ‘high lights reel’ all in once place with a bit more ‘personality’ than dropping by a website gallery as you have the ability to tell stories with your copy.
best charlotte wedding photographer
(you can check out mine here)
 
Bonus Tip:  Take a an overnight get-away.  My hubby and I are getting the hell outta dodge this weekend for a little mountain air before season starts and ‘life’ gets away from me.  (As you may recall from this post...I am a BIG believer in how much you enjoy your business and stay creatively motivated is directly proportionate to how much you are enjoying your life.)  Taking a day or two to just ‘be’ before the chaos of season allows you step into it refreshed and ready.
Now, go forth young soldier—we’ve got a wedding season to slay!

Volunteering your Photography

If there’s one thing I love, it’s dogs.  Funny thing is, it’s mainly bullie breeds (pitbulls, rotties, etc) but that’s a personal thing and it’s really because they get so overlooked and have a seriously bad stigma attached to them.  But that’s not what this is about.  It’s about using your skills.  It’s about getting out into the community (people or animals) and helping out.

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4+ years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would come to an adoption event to take some photos of adoptables.  Of course I said yes, so we headed down, got some great pictures, I brought home a dog and that’s all she wrote.

I’m a firm believer that photos of sad dogs behind cage bars, is no sure fire way to get a dog adopted.  They’re sad, confused, scared among other things and in all honesty, not a flattering photo.  Getting these animals out of the shelter and into a neutral environment helps their personalities shine a little more.  This is where you can sit back and capture they’re goofy personality that’s going to get them adopted!

So where do you start?

With me it was a little easy since I was asked to do it but there are tons of rescues and shelters that need help.  Start sending messages on Facebook offering your services.  DO NOT CHARGE them for these!!  Seriously.  All rescues are non-profit and make no money so charging them is just plain stupid.  Same goes for the shelters.  Most shelters have a volunteer program that you will have to go through in order to start shooting for them but each one is different so you’ll need to contact them to see what their rules and regulations are.

Now remember something, just because you go to a rescue’s Facebook or website and see that another photographer has taken photos, don’t just assume that they won’t want your services.  Most of the time, their fosters are all over the place so having more than one photographer can be a benefit for them.  Scheduling, etc, things like that can make it difficult for one photographer to take photos of 20+ dogs so don’t assume.

I love working with the rescues more because they are usually foster based rescues, so they will take any help they can get.  The more great pictures they get, the more they can get adopted and the more they can save.  Just remember that volunteering isn’t going to bring business busting down your door, or it could but don’t bet on it.  You should do this because you want to, not because you think it’s going to zoom you to the top of the photography food chain.

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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!

Getting Published, or Not.

Getting PublishedI have, for the past year or so, been struggling. I’ve made it pretty known. I’ve written a few posts on this very blog about my struggles. I’m not struggling with booking, pricing or workflow. I’ve been struggling with being inspired, but mostly with STAYING inspired. I only write these types of posts so that anyone reading, whether you’re a brand new photographer, or season veteran, know that you are not alone.

 

Because of all of that, I have been pushing myself. I was bound and determined to GET PUBLISHED.

For some reason, I had it in my mind that I needed to be published to be worth something.

Even writing that it sounds nuts, but I know a lot of photographers put a ton of pressure on themselves to be published, whether print or blog. I’m not saying getting published is bad, so hear me out.

BEING PUBLISHED DOES NOT EQUAL YOUR WORTH. 

I have tried getting published a few (more than a few…) times. And every. single. time. I’m told that they need to see more detail shots. You know; cake, shoes, dress, venue, centerpieces….yawn.

Don’t kill me or anything, but I just don’t see the merit in photographing those things for an hour. I know some photographers do, and I’m so glad that works for you. It’s not for me, because

I’m a photographer of people. 

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I’m a photographer of moments. 

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I am NOT a photographer of things. 

I know there are more of you out there like me, which is why I’m sharing this with you. I always get what I need of the details. I know how hard my brides work on their wedding day details, so they are important for that reason. But, if I have 30 minutes to photograph the bride and groom AND the details? I’m going to spend 25 minutes with the bride and groom and 5 minutes on the details. The photos of the two of them, on one of the most important days of their lives, completely outweigh photos of the napkins and chairs.

I know some people (ahem, other photographers) say that being published gets you free advertising. Especially if you make it on a really well known blog. Somehow, unless you are VERY specific in your niche, I doubt you’re getting much out of that one blog post. I would rather provide my couples with really kick ass customer service so they tell their friends about me. Personal referrals are everything to me.

I’m not saying getting published is stupid, or that I’m bitter because I was rejected so many times. I know my clients are happy, and I’m happy…so that’s what matters.  Just know, if you are struggling with the desire to be published, but are getting denied; don’t get discouraged! Take a step back and figure out WHY you want to be published, and if it’s actually worth it.

 

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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!