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How to Overcome Difficult Lighting Scenarios at Weddings

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

A wedding photographer has to be prepared for pretty much anything. Big belly laughs, impromptu outbursts of song and bear hugs can happen at any moment. Not to mention that the light is constantly changing and you’ve got yourself a schedule to keep. Let’s just say weddings keep you on your toes.

That’s why it’s always worth planning ahead and being prepared. Weddings rarely take place in just one location and moving from indoors to outside, or from sunshine to shade can cause a huge change in exposure. When not competing with the sun, indoor lighting poses new problems. Tungsten bulbs mixed with daylight causes all sorts of white balance issues. But this is why we love weddings, they keep us sharp.

Being prepared and practice is key to achieving consistent results. Here are three top tips on how to make the most of difficult lighting situations.

Couple portraits – How to find good light on a dull day

Believe it or not, it is raining at the point of capture in the image below. This photograph was taken in July in Surrey, UK. The British weather was doing all it could to play up to the stereotype it would seem.

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Not every wedding takes place on a gorgeous sunny day and it’s not always feasible to shoot at sunset to capture the golden hour of light. What can you do to create images that your clients will love and to which you’re proud to put your name? Especially when the heavens decide to play against you. Here is the process I use when assessing lighting conditions and how this photograph was taken.

Understanding the principles of lighting is fundamental in any photographer’s quest to a beautifully lit photograph. Fortunately, these principles are consistent regardless of where you are located in the world or how expensive your equipment is. Whether you’re using the latest Canon or a generation old Smartphone, light can be manipulated to your advantage.

Approaching every scenario with the same set of questions can radically change how you see light and ultimately how you take pictures. Where is the light coming from, where is the even light and where are the greatest differences in the light?

Place the subjects in shade

Shade weddings

Here you can see the scene exposed to what the human eye sees. The background is correctly exposed which throws the foreground into darkness. What we want is to do is correctly expose the foreground to create a clean canvas with an overexposed background. In this scenario, there is about three stops difference in exposure, which is perfect.

Shade overexposed weddings

By placing the couple under the branches of the tree they are instantly evenly lit. There are no stray light rays coming through branches or dappled light on faces, and the pebbles on the driveway aid in reflecting light back onto the subjects. By exposing for the skin tones the background will be overexposed, providing a clean canvas.

A few tweaks in Lightroom to warm the skin and recover some of the highlights and voila! An evenly lit portrait on a rainy day. The added benefit of the tree branches is that they, of course, provide shelter from the wind and rain. This technique of using trees as shelter can also be employed on dry days that are windy. Even if the sun is shining, a venue on a hill can increase the risk of a veil blowing away!


Why is this difficult? Depending on the location of the venue or church, you may be competing with changing light that the couple will walk through as they process down the confetti line. This is problematic as you are going to be walking backward, trying to capture the action, as well as tracking the changing light.

It is quite common in the UK for churches to have tree lined pathways, this creates a lighting issue as a break in the trees will cause the couple to walk from light to shade to light, etc. This can mean a dramatic jump in exposure.

Confetti lighting weddings

Take pictures of your hand

This is probably the easiest method to test the exposure of skin tones which can and should be used to test all of the techniques in this article. Take a photograph of your hand, inspect the screen and adjust accordingly. The wedding guests may look at you in an odd way, but when you’re working at a fast pace this can be a life saver.

Take images of your hand in both the light and the shade and note the difference in exposure before the bride and groom appear. Depending on how you shoot, it makes sense to only change one setting as you will be multi-tasking. The control for shutter speed on Canon cameras is located where the index finger naturally rests, and logically is the easiest of the settings to change.

Pay attention as the couple moves from light to shade, remembering the readings of your hand. The camera settings are displayed in the viewfinder and alternate between the two as the light changes. Where possible, pre-plan your shots, performing a mental run through of where people are likely to be and what lighting difficulties you may encounter.

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First dance

Who knows what kind of lighting setup the DJ will have. Will they make a beautiful white spotlight for the first dance, or will they bust out some crazy laser snowflakes? Anything could happen. One method to overcome this is to shoot into the DJ’s lights and use them as compositional features rather than compete with them.

This isn’t the only option, sometimes shooting with the lights are beneficial as it gives you scope to capture the guest’s reactions. To create this shot, one flashgun at both corners of the stage (pointing at the center of the dance floor), elevated on tripods, and attached to Yongnuo wireless triggers were used.

First dance weddings

This setup offers two things. Firstly, by backlighting the subject even exposure on the skin can be achieved with no unwanted shadows. Secondly, you don’t have to worry about what the DJ is doing with their lighting setup.

It pays to ask the DJ before any dancing commences, what they plan to do and work with them. You would certainly be unlucky should you encounter anyone who wasn’t amiable in having a discussion. However, the point remains that they have a job to do. If they feel the song warrants a change in lighting then they will adapt it for the benefit of the wedding, not for your advantage. This is completely understandable, however, lighting surprises aren’t often welcome. This is why it makes sense to pre-plan and take control of the lighting.

Lens chimping technique

A caveat to shooting in this way is that it is possible to end up with equipment or the DJ themselves in the background. For this reason, an interesting tactic to employ is Sam Hurd’s lens chimping technique. By placing a convex lens element in front of your lens it creates cool flares and throws the background out of focus.

First dance 2 lens chimping technique

Practice is certainly recommended as an incorrect application of this technique can result in the lens element focussing all lights onto your sensor and completely blowing out the shot. The first dance is often a tricky one to shoot, it would be interesting to hear about your ideas and innovations below. Happy shooting!


Hopefully, these quick tips will help you deal with challenging lighting situations at weddings or any other photography opportunities. Do you have any others you want to share? Please do so in the comments below.

The post How to Overcome Difficult Lighting Scenarios at Weddings by Liam Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Build a Travel Photography Portfolio

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Building a photography portfolio can be a scary proposition, as it forces you to choose images that best represent you as an artist and creator, whilst also demonstrating your technical skill and storytelling ability. Developing a travel photography portfolio is no different.

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However, developing a portfolio is an exercise that has many benefits, both from a personal growth as well as professional perspective.

Unlike many areas of photography, there are some extra considerations for a travel specific portfolio. The main difference with travel photography, as opposed to specializing in weddings, events, or commercial, for example, is that there is a far greater need for you to be flexible in your approach to image making while allowing for the huge variety of subject matter one would normally encounter.

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Start planning your portfolio before you travel

This, of course, comes down to why you want to develop a portfolio of work and who you are aiming to show it to. I have always found this can shift depending on whether I am planning an exhibition, developing a book, building a stock library, showing work to an editor, planning a photography tour and marketing to potential attendees, or simply showing friends and family a new place I have been fortunate enough to visit and photograph. All are valid reasons to develop a travel photography portfolio. If you keep these options in mind before you travel, you are more likely to return with images that can be used across multiple platforms and for different reasons.

The consideration here is you may need to have multiple portfolios depending on to whom and where you are marketing. This is a key factor to consider before traveling as it will shape your approach to image making while on your trip. Having said this, it is also great to stay open to potential opportunities that may present themselves in the future by having covered a subject or place well.

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One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to stay completely open to any possibility. This is especially true when visiting destinations that are expensive or difficult to get to, which ultimately means it may be a while before I return, or perhaps not at all. This means that when you are shooting in this situation, make the absolute most of your time. Be open to possible image usage across multiple platforms and for many reasons. This is best done with thorough research for all possible uses of images from the location you are visiting.

What if you aren’t traveling soon?

So how do you start in building your portfolio if you are not planning to travel? Your local area is an excellent place to create content, and for many reasons, some of which I have listed below:

  • You build your skills working in different and changing lighting conditions.
  • Learn how to deal with bad weather while still coming home with images that describe a place well.
  • You learn how to show a destination through images. The goal being to give people who have not been there an understanding of this destination.
  • You are able to visit during different seasons, times, and weather conditions with ease.
  • Research the most common images available for that area. This is handy if your aim is to build a stock library for editorial or commercial use. Then push yourself to photograph this area in a new creative way.
  • You develop your ability to work with local organizations and businesses to help you get the images you need.
  • Build your understanding of the process of storytelling with your images from a destination.
  • You will further your understanding and knowledge of your camera gear and the photographic process before you are looking at an unrepeatable moment. There is nothing worse than a once in a lifetime image opportunity and not having the confidence or ability to capture it well with a camera.

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Now do the same at a destination

Transferring this process to travel destinations is no different. However, the importance of thorough research before you leave is far more critical as you will not know a travel destination as well as your local area. While it is important to have a plan of attack before you land, remain open to opportunities that may arise during your travels.

It is also important to travel to different destinations that have a variety of cultural backgrounds, landscapes, architectural styles, and ultimately photography opportunities. This will further help diversify your images which can then be presented in your travel photography portfolio.

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Your first trip

Your initial trip can be considered the most important as it will be your first opportunity to build a library of images. I always recommend making your journey as long as possible, across different destinations, to help you get a wide variety of images.

While traveling I look for eight main areas of subject matter:

  1. Landscape
  2. Portrait
  3. Wildlife
  4. Food
  5. Architecture
  6. Culture
  7. Transport
  8. Local events, festivals and activities

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Not every destination will give you the opportunity to photograph all of the above options. However, I have found over the years these will give you the best chance of showing that destination and what it would be like to be there.

If you were to make a list of potential images of your local area or any destination based on the list above, you can easily build a large library that shows it in a comprehensive way. As well, taking into account different demographics of people will further build your portfolio of images to show any destination in a more comprehensive fashion. For example, budget accommodation through to more expensive options.

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Diversity is also of key importance for your work, especially if you are visiting a location that receives a lot of tourist traffic, all with cameras in hand. Here are some key points to consider to build diversity into your work, regardless of where it will end up.

  • Visit during different times of the day than the norm.
  • If the weather goes bad, keep taking photographs.
  • Use a full range of focal lengths for each subject.
  • Try to shoot from an elevated position as well as crouch down low to help give different perspectives.
  • Be completely proficient in all lighting conditions so you are able to deal with them no matter what scenario.
  • Experiment with filming as well as stills. There is a huge demand for footage and video content.
  • Document the process of traveling.
  • Put people into your photographs, whether it be yourself, your friends and family, or people you meet along the way.
  • Be sure to always photograph the less exciting, day to day elements of travel as well. You never know where these could be used in the future.

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Hone your skills

It is important to have developed your ability before you go traveling to not feel a lack of confidence should a fantastic photographic opportunity arise. Practice, practice and more practice is critical for any area of photography. However, the extra cost and competitiveness of the travel photography industry mean you need to be highly proficient before you go traveling in order to make the most of the opportunities that will arise.

Travel is far from cheap and easy. Your time away should best be used creating content. So again, it is important to feel confident in your gear and process before you go to maximize this time away. While there are cheaper destinations to visit, it is still a resource hungry activity. Learning how to shoot efficiently when opportunities arise means you will further add to your diversity of images as well as your versatility and ability for future opportunities.

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Once home, the process of selecting images can begin. Again, look for a variety of images and subject matter that best show your ability, both technical and artistic. Try to avoid images that look similar or show the same subject more than once. Pick only your strongest work and focus your selection based on use. Images for an art instillation are going to be very different to images for stock of local transport or architecture. Having someone review your work with fresh eyes is also an option to consider.

Printing your images, even at smaller sizes can be a great way to finalize a selection of work. It allows you to interact with the images differently as well as being able to view them under different lighting sources to ensure your edits are the best possible. You are able to lay the images out offline to see how well they work as a series or collection, something that is very difficult to do on a computer screen.

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Remember, the more you get outside taking images, the more you can develop an understanding and skill level in working in all weather and lighting situations as well as working with people from different places and cultures. Practice, practice, practice.

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The post How to Build a Travel Photography Portfolio by Damian Caniglia appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Wedding Portraits – 5 Tips for Getting Out of a Creative Rut

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

As a professional photographer, it is normal to take a fair amount of pride in your work. In an ideal world, everyone would take pride in their work; but photographers in particular are usually people who own their business, who are doing something they love and who are creative by nature.

It can be particularly frustrating when you feel that you aren’t doing your very best work. Even if the customer is happy, you want to keep doing your best and you want to keep growing and learning in your craft. Getting compliments or rave reviews are great, but that feeling when you take your latest and best image is unforgettable.

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Wedding portraits is something that is particularly challenging in this regard. Your job is to capture the newlywed couple on the happiest day of their lives, which usually means photographing them face-on while they grin into the camera. Maybe you’ll ask them to embrace, to hold hands, or to stand in front of one another. But ultimately, you’re essentially doing the same thing in every photo. There is less freedom to be creative and to have a vision; which makes it easy to get into a creative rut.

How can you grow and expand when all these photos are essentially the same thing? As they say, the devil is in the details. Actually, it is precisely the limitations that this type of photography places on you that will allow you to challenge yourself to become even more creative.

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Here are five pointers that will help you get out of that creative rut and take some truly memorable wedding portraits.

#1 – Look for Inspiration

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Tip number one is to look for inspiration on the web. Social media like Instagram and Pinterest are excellent for this. Just take a look at the ways in which other photographers have handled their wedding portraits and see if there is anything you can learn or borrow from them.

As Steve Jobs famously said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Don’t be afraid to try and improve on what has come before you. Save some screenshots on your phone, or print out a list or shots you’d like to go for. Trying something brand new usually means failing a few times, but that’s what makes it an adventure!

#2 – Get a Second Shooter

Our second tip is to find a second shooter. If you feel that your creative juices are running a little dry, then how about inviting another cameraman along for the day? Get them to have a go at the same shots and you might find that they give you some fresh ideas that you can try. Even if you don’t end up taking their advice directly, this will help you to step out of your comfort zone and that’s when new ideas start flowing!

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Ask your second shooter for some advice on locations. Try and find someone familiar with the venue, or maybe a photographer that has some ideas about great locations to shoot. Let him take the lead, and if you see him start something, see if you have a finishing flourish to take your portraits to the next level.

#3 – Remember the Basics

When you’ve been doing this gig for a long time, it’s easy to forget the most basic aspects; things like composition, framing, and lighting. Our third tip encourages you to bring it back to basics and remember some of the tips you learned when you were first starting out. You’ll often find you can inject fresh inspiration into your shoots.

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Try going for a classic or timeless look. Forget the props, crazy locations, special effects, and confetti canons. Try and see what you can do with your best lens, and most basic posing. You may find yourself asking why you’re trying to take the same photo that’s been taken by every wedding photographer before you. And the answer may just astound you!

#4 – Work With Your Resources

For our fourth tip, let’s talk about your environment. Every wedding is different, whether that is because of the weather, the dress code, color scheme, or the crowd around you. Don’t fight it – work with it! Rain or clouds can be a dramatic backdrop for a photoshoot for example. A big crowd of onlookers can make for an interesting new perspective.

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But the biggest resource you have at your disposal during your wedding sessions is the couple! No doubt they have a lot of ideas and suggestions for their photos – after all, they’re the ones paying the bills. Don’t be the snobbish professional who knows best. Listen to your customers and you may just find they can teach you something. At the very least, it may bring some fresh new ideas to the table.

#5 – Leave Your Ego at the Door

This final tip is really the point you need to focus on here; your job is to make the subjects of your photos happy. You might be tired of taking the same old shots over and over again but if that’s what the couple wants, then it doesn’t really matter.

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It’s an easy mistake to think that you need to be more creative and dramatic with your photography, while forgetting that the customer actually just wants a nice picture that will look good on their bedside table.

Your creativity here should serve a purpose, and that purpose is to make your customers happy. Forget about showing off what an original and inventive photographer you are – at least for the portraits. If you want to be creative, then you can always get in a few artsy shots of the bride’s shoes and the wedding rings. Letting go, and giving the client what they want should always come first.

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Closing Comments

So there you have it – five tips that can help you rediscover the fun and creativity for your wedding portraits; look for inspiration, get a second shooter, get back to basics, use what you have, and focus on the customer. Let us know in the comments below what you do when you find your creative juices are running dry.

The post Wedding Portraits – 5 Tips for Getting Out of a Creative Rut by Michael David Reichmann appeared first on Digital Photography School.


7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Photography Business Stands Out

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Let’s be honest, not many people view their photography as a business these days. But even if you are not a professional photographer, there’s no reason not to view your photography as a business because for many that’s the ultimate aim. But being able to make a career as a photographer has arguably never been more difficult. Any prospective photographer now is not only competing with other photographers but with thousands of people with smart phones as well.

So here are 7 ways to help ensure your photography business stands out from the crowd.

7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Photography Business Stands Out

#1 – Have a Business Plan

If you think about it logically, you would never start any business without a detailed and well thought out business plan. But for some reason, photographers often forego this part of the business. A good business plan isn’t just necessary if you need to finance your new business from a bank, it also gives you a clear understanding of every element of your business, because after all, this is a business.

Not only will it help you plan your budget, understand your market and audience, plan your growth, and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and how to improve them, it will also make you view your new venture as a business rather than a hobby.

7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Photography Business Stands Out

#2 – Have a Great Website

We live in a world where everyone’s first port of call for any information is the Internet, so this is often where anyone interested in your work will head first. A great website is an absolute necessity for any business but as a photographer, it is even more important. But any old website isn’t enough. As someone who’s entire business depends on people seeing your work, it’s vital that you have a website that really showcases your work in the best light possible.

So instead of settling for any cheap website that you can find, really spend time researching all the different options available and choose something that is modern and fits within your style (and budget). Websites are not expensive these days and usually for a few extra dollars a month you can also remove the website company’s branding to make it look even more professional.

Once you have found the right website provider, spend time putting your website together and pay attention to the photos that you are uploading. Don’t showcase every single photo you have ever taken, instead, pick a few that really highlight your best work.

7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Photography Business Stands Out

#3 – Social Media Presence

Love it or not, social media is now imperative to any business and whether you are someone who knows your Twitter from your Pinterest or you have absolutely no idea, you need to at least have a presence on a few channels. Spend a bit of time reading about the basics, understand what the best practices are when you have taken the plunge, and make sure you stay true to who you are. The powerful thing about social media is that people choose to follow you and your work because of you, so be yourself and don’t try to imitate other people.

You don’t have to try to cover every social media channel. Just pick a couple that you are comfortable with, communicate, and use them well. Set yourself a clear plan of what each channel is for and what your objective for using it is. This will ensure you have a clear message and brand that carries across everything you do.

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#4 – Your Own Style

While it’s always great to view other photographer’s work and be inspired by them, there is only one you, and that’s the best way of ensuring that your work stands out. Try to take photographs based on what you like rather than what you think your followers want to see. The obvious exception is if you are working from a brief from the client, but even then, the majority of the time the client has hired you because they like your style.

If you are struggling to find your style, a good exercise when you are starting out is to collect any photographs that you particularly like from magazines and newspapers. After a while when you have a collection of them, spread them all out and usually, you will see a similar style or look and feel. That’s where you should start, as that is what your eyes find pleasing. Over time you will adapt that to something that is more unique to you.

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#5 – Marketing Communications

Big companies spend millions of dollars on advertising and marketing. While we photographers can’t do that, you still need to build a marketing communications strategy into your business plan. Your website and social media presence is a big part of that but you also need to think about specific marketing collateral such as business cards, flyers, post cards and email marketing. All of this combined will give you some much-needed exposure for your business and potential clients. But like any other business, you will need a clear strategy and a marketing plan to get the most out of the money you invest.

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#6 – Good Equipment

There’s no doubt that the most important element of a successful photography business is the quality of your photos. While most of this will come down to your creative flair and technical abilities, the actual quality of the end result will also matter. For example, if a client wants to use your photograph on a big advertising billboard but you captured that photo on a basic point and shoot camera, chances are that the photograph will simply not be of a high enough resolution to enable usage at big sizes. The same can be said of lenses, which is why the best lenses cost more than the others. But beyond the camera and lenses, even accessories such as filters and tripods can make a difference to the quality of the final photo.

So, the lesson here is that you should always go for the very best equipment that you can afford and when you are able to trade your equipment up, do so.

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#7 – Great Photos

When all is said and done, the ultimate success of your business will come down to the quality of your photographs. A good indication of how your photos are received is to sign up to a stock agency and see which images sell and which don’t. Try to evaluate if there is a common theme between your sales and the ones that don’t sell and use that to improve your work, but still keep to your style.

Learn from your “nearly shots” and from your mistakes and remember that it’s okay to make mistakes at the start. The important thing is to learn from them and ensure you don’t make them again.

7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Photography Business Stands Out

For a lot of people, photography is their hobby and that is absolutely fine. But if you do have the ambition of making this a career then the first step towards that is to treat it like any other business and set yourself up properly from the start. Like any other business, with hard work, determination, and a clear plan for your photography business, you can make it successful.

Have you got any further tips or advice? Please share them below.

The post 7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Photography Business Stands Out by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.


8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits

Sometimes as a photographer, you are lucky enough to get a family session full of models with perfect natural smiles in every photo. It doesn’t take much to get a photo that is ready to hang on the wall. However, most of the time with family portraits it isn’t that easy.

Maybe you’ve got somebody who doesn’t want to be there or little kids that have no idea what you’re trying to get them to do. And maybe, just maybe, you’d like to have some photos that show some extra personality. Everyone looking at the camera and smiling is nice, but I always love the ones that show a little more of who the family really is. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to help you through the more difficult sessions, and to help you get some fun full-of-personality shots and great expressions with any family.

1. You’re in charge of the kids

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Many times during a family session, you’ll have parents that are really concerned about whether or not their kids are looking and smiling at the camera. They don’t realize that the moment their little one looks and smiles, their faces aren’t photo-ready because they’re spending all their time wondering what their kid is doing.

Remind the parents to keep their faces ready for photos at all times, and you, as the photographer, will take care of getting their kids to look and smile. If they are talking to their child, it will be hard for their child to look at you, because he’ll think he needs to be looking at mom or dad. Whether you want the parents looking at the camera or not for a particular photo, remind them to do their part for the photo and leave the rest to you.

2. Let the parents help sometimes

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This might seem to contradict point #1 above, but there are times when getting those genuine smiles from the kiddos requires a little bit of help from the parents. If you have a reluctant smiler and you want to get a good individual photo of the child smiling, ask the parent to make a funny face, or do something silly off-camera. If you want the subject looking at the camera, ask the parent to get right behind you. Parents often know one silly word that will get their child giggling, or the child might just need the comfort of seeing a parent smiling at them to know that it’s all okay.

You can also have photos with the parents interacting with their children in the frame. These often end up being some of my favorites. I love capturing the genuine interactions, and those expressions that the parent sees every day. Put the parent and child together, and simply ask them to smile at each other. Often this initially awkward directive gets them really giggling together, and you’ve got the perfect expressions.

3. Laugh at the silly one

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One of my most effective prompts for natural looking family interaction and genuine expressions is to ask them to laugh at the silly one. Sometimes they all look to the same person right away, and everyone will start truly laughing. Sometimes they all look at someone different, and after a second of bewilderment, they all start laughing.

This one can backfire, though, and needs to be used with caution. Some kids automatically think that laughing means to be over the top silly, and they over-exaggerate a huge laugh that doesn’t look natural at all. Some kids think that laughing also must be accompanied by pointing, and that never looks great in a photo either. In these cases, I tell them to giggle quietly and to keep their hands down. Usually, that solves the problem. If it doesn’t, I just move on to something else and let the moment go.

4. Simply hug

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Oftentimes in sessions, I position everyone into a nice arrangement, take a photo of them all smiling and looking, and then I just say, “Now, everyone hug each other.” or “Put your arm around the person next to you.” When I look at the photos side by side later, I’m always amazed at how much more natural the smiles are in the hugging photos.

I think that when photos feel really formal, it’s hard to relax, and people end up with stiff smiles. When they feel comfortable, the true smiles come out. There’s just something about being surrounded and hugged by those you love that makes you feel safe. Sometimes you need to prompt them to hug each other but make sure they’re still looking at you. Occasionally you get the real huggers that will turn right around and give their mom a bear hug. Although that looks cute in real life, it doesn’t work as well for a photo.

5. Let the personalities shine

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Sometimes you might have a perfect photo in mind, but you just have some little guys that have big personalities. You could spend the whole session trying to get them to be somebody they’re not, or you can just go with it and laugh about it.

Let’s be honest, sometimes those expressions that just scream personality make the best photos. Families will treasure those photos and laugh about them throughout their whole lives. You can try to get that perfect family photo for mom, but don’t make everyone miserable by insisting on squelching unique poses and expressions every time they pop up. That said, I don’t encourage them in their silliness because sometimes that can make them go a bit out of control. Just simply take the photo, and don’t make a big deal out of it.

6. Big groups are fun too

big groups - 8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits

Giant group photos can look very dull at times. When you have tons of people in one photo, it can be a task just to get them all arranged, and then after all that work the photo just looks like a bunch of little boring faces.

Try getting a few photos that are just for fun. Ask the entire group to hug or kiss their neighbor. (Give them the option. Nobody likes to be told they must kiss the person next to them.) If you have a bride and groom, you can have the bride and groom kiss, and ask everyone else to cheer or to react however they’d like.

When you have a big group of people with funny happy faces, it makes a photo that you want to look at for awhile, and you can’t help but smile. These photos are never perfect, but they’re fun, and end up being the photos the families really love.

7. Capture life

life - 8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits

You don’t always need smiles, nor do you need all the eyes showing. Capture the family participating in an activity together, and just let their expressions happen naturally. These lifestyle photos will capture the family as they are, right now. They will be the photos that really bring back memories for your families when they come across them later. You don’t have to set up anything elaborate. It can be as involved as a picnic together with the blanket and basket and everything, or as simple as holding hands and walking together. If you do have them walking away from you, ask the family to look at each other as they walk, so you get some profile expressions, and interaction with each other.

You don’t have to set up anything elaborate. It can be as involved as a picnic together with the blanket and basket and everything, or as simple as holding hands and walking together. If you do have them walking away from you, ask the family to look at each other as they walk, so you get some profile expressions, and interaction with each other.

8. Take a lot of photos in a row

8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits

When you’ve got a lot of people to capture at once, the chances of getting all of them with a great expression at the same time is slim to none. I snap a lot of photos in a row of one pose because the chances of catching smiles and open eyes for each person go up greatly when you have a lot to choose from. If all else fails, you have a lot in nearly the same position, so you can swap eyes, faces, or heads if needed.

It can be so frustrating when you have a family photo that is nearly perfect, but one family member is blinking. Trust me, even three in a row may sometimes not be enough to get every expression that you need. I don’t head swap often because I usually have one in the series that captures everything as I want, but it’s nice to have the option of swapping something if needed.

I’d love to see your family portraits in the comments! What tricks have you found to capture great expressions in your family sessions?

The post 8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits by Melinda Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

In today’s world of rapidly changing technology, there’s one big problem that you and every aspiring photographer must face; you are one among many. It no longer takes years of practice or even an expensive camera to make someone a talented, and in some cases professional, photographer. Whether you are an aspiring pro or just taking up photography as a hobby, here are five ways to challenge yourself and stand out as a photographer in today’s crowded market.

How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market

1. Keep evolving your craft

Let’s start with the good news; just because someone has a camera doesn’t mean they know how to take great photos. In fact, there are very few people who desire to shoot in anything other than the automatic program function of their cameras.

Dedicate yourself to mastering every aspect of photography. If you’re shooting in full auto, learn how to shoot in Aperture Priority, then Shutter Priority, and then finally Manual mode. If you’ve mastered natural lighting, move on to off-camera flash and other lighting techniques. Keep pushing forward and challenging yourself to master new aspects of photography, and you’ll always be a step ahead.

How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market

2. Focus on one area of expertise

Just as the photography market has become saturated, so has the industry for teaching photography skills. From websites like dPS to local workshops, there are many avenues to learn about every aspect of photography. In order to keep evolving your craft and not get overwhelmed by the plethora of information out there, focus your studies on one aspect of photography to start. Also, limit the resources you use for the sake of consistency.

This same strategy of limiting your areas of expertise is also true if you’re aiming to start a photography business. Narrowing your focus makes it much easier to grow your skills quickly, and also attract clients that you actually want to work with.

How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market

3. Only implement new technology if it’s working for you

No matter how many features are packed into a camera, your job is ultimately about producing a good photo. Sometimes, having the latest camera packed with tons of fancy new high-tech features can actually overcomplicate your work. I remember the first time I tried shooting tethered for a new corporate client. It was only my third time using that process, and I was so overwhelmed by other factors on set that my attempt at using technology just caused more frustration.

If you invest in new technology, be sure it is actually enhancing your workflow and not holding you back. Take the time to practice using it over and over until it feels like second nature. And always have a fallback plan, since technology notoriously fails at one point or another.

How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market

4. Work your people skills

Being a skilled photographer isn’t just about growing your technical abilities. You should also have excellent people skills. As a professional photographer, it’s not uncommon to be hired for a photo shoot or complemented on my work before my client even looks at my photos. I’ve come to realize it’s all about people skills and making people feel comfortable even before delivering a service.

Even if you don’t photograph people, you still interact with them to set up photo shoots and sell your services. Practice your people skills and get good at putting a smile on someone’s face even when they’re not in front of your camera.

How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market people skills

5. Continue to network and put your work out there

Another positive aspect to a growing interest in photography is the huge uptick in communities for photographers. From Instagram and Facebook Groups to local Meetups, there are tons of places to meet fellow photography enthusiasts. Take part in communities such as the Digital Photography School Group. Check out the questions and conversations others are having. Put your work out there to get feedback from others and make improvements accordingly. Also, don’t be afraid to chime in and offer your own constructive criticism.

In Conclusion

What are your thoughts on the role of evolving camera technology today? Do you have your own tips and strategies for standing out as a photographer in a saturated market? Let me know in the comments below!

The post How to Stand Out as a Photographer in a Crowded Market by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


5 Top Tips for Incredible Headshots Every Time

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Headshots are arguably the unsung heroes of the photography world. They’re everywhere, from social media profiles and advertisements to portfolios and hanging on the walls of the home. These carefully crafted images didn’t take themselves, though.

If your headshot skills are a little wanting, there are a few tips you could take to improve your game. If you’re after magnificent snaps, for personal or professional reasons, follow these steps for a perfect shot every time.

1. Let the eyes be the stars

Eyes headshot tips Eyes headshot tips

As cliché as it may sound, eyes really are the windows to the soul. By creating a clear focus on them, this is a world of opportunities that can instantly draw in the attention of a viewer. If you want to capture a certain emotion it’s easy to do so.

Depending on the intended use of the images, you can convey a specific message. Want to create a professional looking photo? Focus on welcoming eyes that encourage contact. After a serious acting portfolio? Concentrate on targeting a stern appearance stemming from the eyes.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different poses, eye positioning, and lighting. After a few shots, you’ll know exactly what to do.

2. Think about light

Light headshots

It may sound rather obvious, but light can create a number of different variations of the same photo. The best photographers know how to use light to their advantage and create excellent works of art.

Again, this is largely dependent on the purpose of the shoot. Natural light and the outdoors are great for showcasing a genuine feel. Natural light can be powerful for achieving real-life situation photos. It will also allow you to grab an honest and genuine aura of the person.

Light headhsots

Artificial or studio light is an exceptional tool for providing a highly professional end result. You’ll be able to inject light where you see fit, creating a photo that screams professionalism. This is probably the better option for taking corporate headshots as it allows for a uniform lighting pattern amongst a team.

3. The lens is key

Lens headshots Lens headshots

You’re probably very familiar with your lenses but with so many available, it can sometimes be difficult to know which one will work for each shot. Generally speaking, headshots aim to achieve two things. Compliment the subject and grab a clear and concise image.

Even the best lenses on the market are vulnerable to distortion if used in the wrong way. Mid to wide angle options are best avoided, as headshots are taken within a fairly close range to the subject (they will create facial distortion).

Using a 90mm or longer telephoto lens will let you capture a stunningly clear image, with the added benefit of slimming the face, which most subjects would be thrilled with.

4. Capture the mood with your background

Backdrop headshots

Pathetic fallacy works on so many levels. Primarily used as a literary term for setting a mood or humanizing elements, the same criteria can be applied to the camera.

If your shoot is outdoors, you don’t have to do too much to convey the message. Typically speaking, you wouldn’t capture a happy face in the rain unless you were doing a contrast shoot. You’d wait until the weather brightens up and use the environment to further enhance the purpose of the image.

Backdrop headshots

Healthy trees and plants have lively connotations; a park can showcase a playful personality. There are literally thousands of ways you can use a backdrop to strengthen your headshots. Just be careful that the attention isn’t taken away from the subject, though.

5. Live the shoot as a director

Director headshots

As a photographer, you’re essentially the director of a film split into still photographs. This might not be completely for your benefit, but you’re the one who knows exactly how it should be done.

Of course, it’s important to listen to the subject’s requirements, but from there you are the captain. Dictate how the shoot goes. Explore different angles. You are the professional after all.

You’ll be working together to achieve the end goal. With your direction, knowledge, and experience, you’ll both get the best possible results.

Director headshot tips

It’s easy once you know how

Headshots are among the trickiest photographs to capture. A demand for perfection is there almost every single time. With so many variants to take into account, what works for one shoot may be completely wrong for another.

With a little thought and by leaning on your expertise, you’ll get incredible results. You’ll produce your best work and the subject will be more than happy. Everybody wins.

Please post any questions or share your images in the comments section below.

The post 5 Top Tips for Incredible Headshots Every Time by John Kemp appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Think pricing your photography is overwhelming? You’re not alone. If there’s one question that every photographer struggles with time and time again, it’s how to price their products and services.

  • How should you price your photos?
  • What products should you offer?
  • How do you make sure your prices are high enough to make a profit, but not so high that you drive away business? price your photography

No matter how hard you’ve worked to develop your client base, if you don’t have a consistent and effective pricing model in place, you’ll find yourself treading water. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be hard to come up with a pricing system to help you reach your goals.

To figure out what you’ll need to make annually to run a successful photography business, we’re going to break your expenses down into two important sections: the cost of doing business (CODB) and cost of goods (COGs). Then we’ll explore session and product fees to determine how you can price for profit and success.


When it comes to pricing, there is no one size fits all solution, so be sure to tailor your prices to fit your specific needs. Before we get started on pricing in detail, here are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind throughout the process.

Target market

Your pricing should be reflective of your target market. If you’re targeting high-income families in a wealthy area, your prices will be much steeper than if you were targeting budget buyers with more modest incomes. There’s truly no wrong target market. It’s all about defining your goals and knowing your niche.

How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit


Consider your location. Do you live in an area with a high population or a smaller area with a narrower potential client base? Also, consider your local competition. While you should never construct your pricing based solely off of what your competitors are offering, you don’t want your prices to be drastically off base. Get a feel for what’s selling in your area and for how much, and use that as a baseline. Then adjust according to the specific needs of your business, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.


Although there is no set rule about which fields of photography charge more or less, it’s helpful to consider your niche or genre when coming up with a pricing list.

For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, consider all of the work that goes into shooting and editing a wedding. Chances are you’ll be there for at least four hours, and that’s a very conservative estimation; many wedding photographers provide around eight hours of coverage on the big day. That’s why wedding photography packages can run upwards of $5,000 in some markets. Other niches are less exhaustive and time-consuming, so prices tend to be somewhat more conservative.

How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit

Measuring your cost of doing business (CODB)

Your cost of doing business refers to any non-reimbursable costs directly associated with running your business. These costs include internet fees, telephone, advertising, software, equipment purchase and maintenance, office supplies, etc. (this list is not exhaustive, think of everything you pay monthly whether or not you have any paying jobs). Calculating your CODB can seem overwhelming at first – especially to those of us who aren’t mathematicians – but it is an absolutely essential part of developing a realistic and profitable pricing model.

Math time! Don’t run away just yet, it’s simpler than it looks. Your CODB is the result of an equation. It is determined by adding up your annual expenses plus your desired salary, then dividing by the number of billable days (think of this as the number of shoots) for that year.

For example, if I have $30,000 in annual expenses and I want to pay myself a $45,000 salary, I know need to bring in $75,000 per year. If I plan to do 2 photo shoots per week for 48 weeks (accounting for four weeks of vacation), I’ll be looking at 96 photo shoots per year. $70,000 divided by 96 is about $781. This is the average amount I need to make in income per shoot, through session fees and products. Here it is broken up for easier reading:

  • Annual non-reimbursable expenses: $30,000
  • Plus salary desired: $45,000
  • $Equals: 75,000 in total annual expenses
  • Weeks worked: 48
  • Times 2 Shoots per week
  • Equals: 96 shoots per year (needed)
  • $75,000 ÷ 96
  • Equal: $781 per shoot/job

How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit

Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. The National Press Photographers Association offers a free CODB calculator to help you figure out your annual CODB. Keep in mind that the numbers they’ve plugged in are estimates only. Yours will vary.

If the annual calculator seems overwhelming, try breaking it down by month. Many people find it helpful to break it down by month instead of looking at annual expenses. Digital Photography School offers a free monthly CODB worksheet that can be used for calculating CODB by month. Add in your own numbers and categories as necessary.

Your numbers don’t have to be exact but try to make them as accurate as possible. Once you have an idea of what your CODB will be, you can use this number to determine what you’ll need to charge to keep your business running and pay yourself a suitable salary.

Measuring your cost of goods (COGS)


By Anne

Think that the cost of goods just refers to the cost of the prints you sell? Think again. If you want to price for success in the photography business, you need to factor in both materials and time.

As defined on Investopedia, the cost of goods consists of; the direct costs attributable to the production of the goods sold by a company… including the cost of the materials used in creating the good along with the direct labor costs used to produce the good.”

Sean MacEntee

By Sean MacEntee

This means that you need to factor in your time and labor on top of your material costs. Calculating material costs is simple, but figuring out your time can be a little more challenging. You need to account for all the time that goes into a client session, from the first phone call to the moment they receive their products. A typical workflow will look something like this:

  • Initial inquiry or phone call
  • Pre-session consultation (in person or by phone)
  • Session (time spent shooting)
  • Editing photos
  • Reviewing photos with client
  • Ordering prints/products
  • Inspecting prints/products
  • Packaging prints/products
  • Delivering or shipping prints/products

Estimate the average amount of time you spend on each of these pieces of the puzzle. Many photographers figure in this time to be covered by their session fee, which we’ll dive into in the next section.

What am I charging for?

How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit

The session fee

Sometimes referred to as a creative fee, the session fee is typically due in full prior to the session (this helps ensure you don’t have no-shows). This fee covers your time and creative talent as a photographer. By determining the amount of time you usually spend per shoot (as discussed in the previous paragraph), you can establish a base session fee.

First, determine how much you want to make per hour. A simple way to calculate this is to divide your desired salary by the number of weeks you plan to work and the number of hours you will work each week. For example, from our numbers above:

  • $45,000 per year desired salary
  • ÷ 48 working weeks
  • ÷ 40 hours/week
  • About $25/hour

Keep in mind this is adjustable based on your own perceived value. If you plan to make more per year, your hourly rate will go up.

Then, multiply your cost per hour by the average number of hours you expect to spend on each client. For example, if you plan to spend an average of five hours on a single client from start to finish at $25/hour, your session fee is calculated as follows:

  • 5 hours
  • x $25/hour for your time
  • $125 per session (not including products, which we’ll discuss shortly.)

This is a fairly average price for a 1-hour photo shoot in most markets. Remember, this fee is in place to reserve your time and creative talent.

How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit

Prints and products

Your prints and products should be priced according to the amount of money you need to bring in per shoot after your session fee. In keeping with the example above, let’s say we need to bring in $781 per shoot. The session fee will cover $125 of this, so you need to sell an average of $656 ($781 minus $125) per shoot in products.

What products will you be selling?

To start, figure out what products you’ll be offering to your clients. Don’t worry about including everything if you’re just starting out. There’s plenty of time to expand your product line as you grow. Typical photographer product lines include:

  • Prints in a range of sizes from 4 x 6″ to 30 x 40″
  • Framed prints
  • Canvases or gallery wraps
  • Albums
  • Digital files

What do I charge for these products?

To figure out what to charge for each item, you’ll want to add your marked up hard costs to your labor costs. We’ll use an 8×10 print as an example.

How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit

1. Determine hard costs

First, figure out what the print will cost to order from your lab. Add this cost to your other hard costs, like shipping and packaging materials. For example:

  • Print cost: $3.50
  • Shipping cost: $5.00
  • Cost of your packaging materials: $5.00
  • Total: $13.50 hard costs

2. Mark up your hard costs

Next, it’s time to figure out your product markup. A commonly recommended markup for photography products is 2.85. So in this case: $13.50 x 2.85 equals total: $38.48 marked up hard costs for that 8×10.

3. Calculate your labor time

Then figure in the labor time for each item, being sure to include time for post-processing, ordering, inspecting and packaging. For example:

  • 10 minutes for post-processing
  • 2 minutes to place order with your lab
  • 3 minutes unpacking and inspecting photos
  • 5 minutes packaging for delivery
  • 5 minutes scheduling a pickup time or dropping off at the post office (If you meet with your clients in person this may be a longer meeting, so account for that too).
  • Total: 25 minutes labor time

If we’re calculating your time at $25/hour (as discussed in the above example dealing with session fees), the cost of labor for 25 minutes is about $10.50.


4. Add marked up hard costs to labor time

  • $38.48 hard costs
  • $10.50 in labor costs
  • Total: $48.98 rounded to the nearest 0 or 5 and you’ll end up with a retail price of $50.00 for an 8×10.

This is a typical price for many photographers. Adjust accordingly based on the considerations we discussed in the beginning; your target market, location, and niche.

If your target market is a high-income community in a location where your niche is highly in demand, you can adjust for higher prices – try a 3.5x markup or even higher. But if your target market is a bit more budget-conscious, consider sticking with a 2x markup instead of 2.85x. Just be prepared to do a higher volume of work in order to reach your desired income.

Follow this process with each item on your product list, being sure to account for the extra time it takes for items like albums. As always, keep in mind that these numbers will vary depending on your hard costs and time spent processing and packaging each order.


Taking the time to establish an effective pricing model will put you well on your way to creating a successful and profitable photography business. We know it’s not as fun as getting out in the field and shooting, but you’ll find it’s a necessary part of taking your photography business (and profits) to the next level.

The post How to Price Photography Products and Services for Profit by Chelsea Lothrop appeared first on Digital Photography School.


10 of the Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

James ebook Creative Freelance Marketing is on sale now at 50% OFF over at Snapndeals (only until December 13th, 2016)

Photographers can be some of the best business people around or some of the worst. But realistically, if you’re building a photography business, you probably didn’t get into it because you enjoyed business and marketing. This is why some photographers struggle at being successful. They got into it for the passion, and then wake up one day to the reality that it is a business like any other.

The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Dancer Portrait

However, fear not. The business and marketing aspect of photography can actually be rewarding and interesting. It’s necessary to learn it to be able to succeed, but once you start to see it work, it becomes empowering. It’s a way to guarantee your success as a photographer so you can continue to do what you love.

But you can’t do that if you make too many mistakes. Here are the biggest mistakes that I see photographers make (and which I have also made myself).

Mistake #1 – Not charging enough

Business Portrait Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business portrait photography

How much you charge is going to be the backbone of your entire business. You cannot let clients lowball you over and over again. By doing that you are lowering the perceived value of the work for the entire industry, and you are not even giving yourself a chance to succeed. By not charging enough, you will inevitably go out of business. Even if you feel desperate for a job, know that it will take up time that would be better spent on marketing yourself to get jobs that pay what you need to survive and thrive.

Many young photographers are afraid of losing jobs, but that’s a regular part of the business. You should not feel bad about it if the client cannot afford you. If they can’t afford you, then it was never a real job in the first place. How can you do good work or create a portfolio worthy piece if you’re not being paid enough to have your heart in it? In addition, these cheap jobs always end up to be the biggest headaches anyway. Every photographer has a story from when they were starting out about that client who just wouldn’t go away.

Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography

Even worse than a client lowballing you, are situations when you do not charge enough! Sometimes you will have no idea that a client has budgeted much more than you quoted them. A simple and fantastic question to ask to help you handle confusing pricing situations is, “What is your budget?” This question is sometimes not appropriate, but there are many ways to say it, such as telling them that you offer multiple levels of service based on the cost and asking what their budget is for the project. Or if they say they are tight on budget, you can offer to help them and simultaneously ask what they can pay. When introduced in the right way, this can get your client to lay all their cards on the table.

Mistake #2 – Not responding to inquiries quickly enough

Musician Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Musician photography

Every ounce of business development and every second of time spend on the tedious aspects of building a business serves the specific purpose of getting someone to contact you with a job. Well then answer them! I get nervous if it takes me 24 hours to respond to an inquiry, and the clients usually come back thanking me for responding so quickly. If you answer your emails and calls efficiently, then you immediately put yourself ahead of the majority of photographers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that we were able to have a whole back and forth and book a job before a competitor even replied.

In addition, responding regularly and efficiently will add to their comfort in working with you. Showing that you are responsible enough to do this also shows them that you are probably responsible in all aspects of your business. It is a great way to set the tone for what working with you will be like and can be excellent for gaining referrals in the future.

Mistake #3 – Not having a focused business plan

Business Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business or corporate photography

You need to know how you are going to make money. Having a focused plan with an income target, price per job needed to reach that target, and a strategy to reach clients will become the basis for your entire business. The more focused that plan is, the more focused you will be. Figure out the strategy with the most potential to help you make a living and start with that. Focus on that before you waist your time on anything else. You do not want to fragment yourself too early in the building process.

Mistake #4 – Not setting aside enough time for personal work

Fine Art Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Fine art photography

Personal work is what you do to renew your passion for photography. Without that, it will be very difficult to succeed in the photography business. However, it is also the way that you get jobs and build your portfolio. It’s where you test out new strategies and ways of photographing, and it is a way to improve overall at your craft. If there is a type of job that you want to start booking, then build a portfolio of work that will help sell you as a photographer to those clients. They don’t have to know that this portfolio wasn’t made of paid jobs, and in many cases they will enjoy knowing how passionate you are in pursuing your personal work.

Mistake #5 – Not researching colleagues/competitors

As a business owner, you need to know what’s out there. Learning from your competition and even your friends is incredibly important. Go through their work and figure out what you like and what you dislike. Try to figure out the different ways that they market themselves and where their jobs come from. See how they use social media and where they get press from. Learn their pricing and test out their website.

All of this information is so important to helping you find your way. Take the best aspects of everyone you research, and put them together into your own plan. All of the information is out there for you to be successful, it’s just up to you to find it.

Family Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Family photography

Mistake #6 – Not having a plan for editing and delivering

One of the biggest problems that I see newer photographers have is that they take way too much time editing. They end up missing deadlines, wasting their time, and worrying too much. This is not a good situation for anybody and is one of the quickest ways to hold your entire business back. Learn to cull your images from a job quickly. Right away, knock 800 images into the top 200 or 150 as fast as possible and work from there. Organizing and attacking a job’s editing in an efficient matter will make your life so much better, and it will make your clients very happy.

Always tell a client that you will deliver a job to them a couple days after you plan to (under promise over deliver). That way you will look very good when you deliver the work early, and if you have some unfortunate setback or issue in your life, you will still have extra time to complete the job.

Mistake #7 –  Not doing enough local networking

Writer Portrait Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Writer environment portrait

Friends, family, and colleagues are your first line of people who can help you gain work. The second line is your local area. Figure out the businesses and people in your community that might need your services, and figure about the best way to reach them. Find business meet-up groups, local meet-ups, and trade shows that occur in your community and become a part of them. And this tip doesn’t mean that you should only show up once and never again. Become a regular part of them. Spend more time socializing within your community and that will come back to you business-wise.

Mistake #8 – Not using a mailing list

Business Portrait Photography- The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business portrait photography

Social networks come and go. They all change constantly and hold you at their whim. While they are necessary to be a part of, social networks are in it for themselves, not for you. Diversify your marketing and build up a mailing list of all your contacts, clients, and friends. This way there is nothing between you and reaching them with important news. Mailing lists have a significantly higher open and click-through rate than social networks, and won’t charge you (per email) to reach your list.

Mistake #9 – Trying to do too much all at once

Event Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Event photography

There are so many strategies to market yourself in photography. Every situation is unique, and every marketing plan should be different. It is important to learn as much as you can about marketing, but at the same time you need to prioritize. Five strategies done with a small amount of your attention on each will be much less effective than one strategy with all of your attention focused on it. Spend some time to figure out which strategies will have the most potential for your situation and rank them. Then start with the first one and over time move down the list.

Mistake #10 – Not putting yourself out there

Artist / Writer Portrait Photography focused

Artist / Writer Portrait Photography

Nobody is going to give you an opportunity if you don’t ask. The biggest difference between the people who make it and the people who fail is that the ones who succeed will wake up tomorrow and take these steps. None of this is rocket science – it just takes dedication, organization, and follow-through.

Many people won’t give you an opportunity the first time you ask. Learn to take rejection because rejection isn’t that bad. It means you’re pushing yourself and it’s inevitable along the way. Keep a thick skin and pride yourself on trying. Marketing is a grind at first. The photographers who can dive right in despite every frightened feeling their brain gives them will be the most successful.

James ebook Creative Freelance Marketing is on sale now at 50% OFF over at Snapndeals (only until December 13th, 2016)

The post 10 of the Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.


12 Sources Where You Can Make Money in Photography

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials

It can be a daunting task when you first start looking for ways to make money in the photography world or find photography jobs. On one hand, there seems to be, and are, many different avenues you can take to achieve an income, but on the other hand, each of these avenues can be difficult to break into.

I created this list to help focus you on your path to finding the right way to achieve income through your work. Take your skill level, your location, your situation, your short-term goals, and your longterm goals all into account and choose the strategies that you think will be most effective. Hit those strategies hard. There is no need to waste your valuable time on the other stuff.

1. Friends, colleagues, and family

Band Photography

Band photography

There are few photographers that I know who did not gain their first photography jobs through friends and family. Your friends, colleagues, and family already know you and your work ethic (which I hope is strong). They trust you and will be willing to recommend you. Some will even hire you. Everyone needs photography in some way and people often want to work with a person they know. Let that person be you.

Think about how your network can help propel you where you want to go. Who might they know who can help your career? Ask for an introduction. If you want to do business or law firm portraits, ask your friends who work for those type of companies to put you in touch with the person who hires photographers. In addition, influential people (connectors) can be a big boon to your business. Reach out to any of these people that you might know or seek out an introduction from a friend who might know them.

Send out an official announcement about your business. Create a mailing list, and send out a professional looking email that talks about your services and how you can help people. It’s one thing to talk in passing to your friends and family about it, but it’s another to be official and explain how you can help them or the people they know while showing your accompanying work.

2. Assisting and internships

Business Portrait

Business portraiture

Besides your personal network, assisting and internships are the other primary way that you can effectively break into the photography business. Be prepared to make coffee and sweep floors (tip: if you learn to make good, strong coffee, everyone on a photo shoot will love you). Doing this will allow you to learn about how a true photography business runs quicker than at any photo school. It will give you a nuanced insight that you cannot get in any other way.

If you assist a portrait photographer, you will learn about lighting really well because you will be in charge of setting up the lights. If you assist for a wedding photographer, you will likely be a second shooter. In that role, you will gain invaluable wedding experience without the risk of shooting a wedding for the first time without any support.

It will allow you to build a new network around you. The photographers you work for will pass along jobs that they cannot do. You will make friends with the other assistants and you can help each other out in the future when you all start shooting on your own. The relationships and skill building that happens in these environments is invaluable.

3. People that need photographs for their wall

Canvas Print

Canvas wall print

If you are aiming to sell your photographs, you can market directly to businesses, restaurants, local galleries, everyday people, collectors, and your network. You can be a go-to person for gifts. However, keep in mind that this is a very hard way to make money. It can take years of dedicated work to build up and you will need to actively market yourself.

Studying marketing and selling is important for anything you do on this list, but particularly if you are aiming to sell your work. Most photographers choose other ways to make a majority of their income at first while building up a print sales business over time.

4. Local businesses

Business Portrait

Business portraiture

You know the needs of your local businesses well, and most likely you already know the people who own them. Figure out what they might need, whether it’s business portraits, shots of their food or products, event or conference photography, or work for their walls. Approach them with a plan in mind, and ask to set up a meeting to discuss your ideas and how they can benefit.

Better yet, if you know anyone that works for the business or has a relationship with someone who does, ask for an introduction first. Introductions will give you a huge advantage.

5. Couples, weddings, and engagement photography

Engagement Photography

Engagement photography

Wedding photography is a big business for photographers. It takes a lot of time to get good and is very hard to do well, but it is one of the best ways to make a good living at photography. If you are aiming to start off with wedding photography, I suggest trying to at least work as a second shooter for a while to gain a portfolio and skills.

But there are other ways you can take advantage of this as well. You do not have to be a wedding photographer to be an engagement photographer. Couples and family photography is a very viable business wherever you live and engagements are a big part of that, whether or not you are a wedding photographer. Learn the best locations in your area to photograph and market to families and newlyweds. This may also be a good first-step to transition into the wedding world.

6. Travelers


Tourists from a workshop

If you are in an area that gets any sort of tourism, you can become a photography tour and workshop leader. Learn about all the best locations in the area and the best times to photograph them. Learn some history too. Just because you are running a photography tour does not mean that history isn’t important. People should be able to get to know more about what they are photographing. They want to learn that stuff. Market yourself through hotels, tourism companies, local tourism boards, and Google.

7. Actors, artists, and students



There is a whole photography sub-industry that caters to creatives and students. These genres do not usually pay as much as working with business firms, but they can as you improve and move up. Go advertise where these people hang out. Find a connection at your local schools. Learn which of your friends have high school age children that need photos taken, then begin to work with their network of friends. Try to get into acting or art schools.

8. Conferences and events

Conference and Event Photography

Business Conference

Event photography is another way that photographers can start making money right away. Event photography is on the easier and less stressful end of the photography spectrum, as long as you are okay with the socializing. There is not as much pressure involved as shooting a wedding, and the technical skills are not as difficult to master as other forms of photography. Learn to use your camera, your flash, how to shoot in low light, and how to get people to smile in photos and you’ll be good to go.

9. Trade and art shows – networking events

Trade Show

Trade event

Seek out all of the trade shows whose members you think you might be able to work with. Whether it’s a business related show or a local tourism event, many of the attendants will need your services. Meet people, get to know them, don’t come on too strong, and let them know that you’re there if they ever need your services. The more you attend these different events, the more people will recognize and get to know you. Just this exposure can be very valuable in the long run.

In addition, many areas have arts and crafts fairs and shows. This is a great way to get your work seen by your community. It’s a lot of work, so plan carefully and try not to go overboard at first. Do your research coming in, and use the time at the show not only to sell your work but to get to know people in your community. Even if someone is not ready to buy your work, it doesn’t mean that they will not want to in the future or for a gift. Get to know them, and see if they want to sign up for your mailing list, so you can keep your work in front of them in the future.

10. Organic: Google and social media

GStar Fashion Show

An image used as a fashion show backdrop

Due to all the competition, ranking highly in Google is tougher than it used to be. But with some focus and time, it is very doable. Learning how to rank higher in Google involves too much information to do the topic justice here, but you should follow resources and websites such as (our own Darren Rowse’s other site), which will help you learn to make more of your living through the internet. You will need a website of course. Also keep in mind that besides a variety of unique factors, Internet links are the lifeblood of ranking highly in Google, so it is necessary to figure out how to get other people to link to your site and mention your work.

In addition to your email list, build a Facebook business page and an Instagram page to grow your following. This will help you keep your work in front of people so that they will remember you the next time they need your services.

11. Local internet marketing

Business Portrait

Business photography

You can market your work to all types of business on the internet. However, local websites can be the most important. Local news sites, blogs, or wherever your community hangs out on the internet are important to become a part of.

Think about how you might be able to work with these websites or be of value to them. If you join certain communities, you do not want to go crazy marketing to them. Join the community, be a valuable member, answer questions and offer advice, and just get to know people. That’s how you market in these situations. If you do this the right way, they will like and trust you and will want to work with you in the future.

12. Other photographers

There is so much competition between photographers that it can get incredibly frustrating. Other photographers share the same passions that you do, and they are going through the same trials and tribulations. Seek out the good ones and become friends with them. Offer to help them if they need. Pass along jobs if you can’t fulfill one. Grow together.

Over time, you will surround yourself with an invaluable community and you will all be stronger together. The photographers who feel too competitive to give you the time of day will then not have the advantages that the rest of you do.


Making money in photography can be challenging and hard especially when you’re getting started. These tips should give you some ideas to move forward with in your photography career. If you have any other ideas that have worked for you please share them in the comments below.

The post 12 Sources Where You Can Make Money in Photography by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.