Tag Archives: Chicago photographer

Photography Update.

6 May

Awhile ago, I wrote this post detailing my frustrations with building a portfolio and how to get my name out there. That post turned out to be one of the most helpful things I’ve done thus far, because it not only got me a lot of wonderful advice from photographers who have been there, it also prompted my first (and one of my favorite) clients to get in touch with me about a session.

As the weather warmed up, the inquiries kept coming. I’m very happy with my decision to shoot a few free sessions – it allowed me to work with some truly amazing couples who really cared about their photos, and it’s truly been a great experience. In a short time, I feel like I’ve learned so much about what works for me and how to be outgoing and confident in shoots. This was a tough one for me, because I’m shy by nature and usually on the quiet side (until you get to know me) – but I’m starting to hit my own stride in terms of how I shoot, which is a wonderful feeling that lends me confidence.

I’ve learned that I absolutely love doing this. It’s inspired me to see the world in a completely different light, to slow down and look around. There’s something lovely about capturing the small moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. It’s making art out of the everyday.

I’ve also learned my own limits. It was easy for me to go full-speed ahead, blasting into shooting, editing, blogging, all in one day because I was excited about the session. But in terms of endurance, that’s just not possible for me. What’s more, sometimes a little distance from a session helps me to look at it in from a fresher perspective.

One of the toughest things has been sacrificing all my free income (which wasn’t much to begin with) towards the little things you might otherwise never think of – lots of CF cards, another external hard drive, website costs, lens rental, etc. This is one reason many photographers can’t afford to shoot free sessions, and it was definitely a hardship I took on knowing that it would be tough. I’m glad I did, but I look forward to the days when I can start putting the money I make back into my business and, eventually (most likely awhile away!) make enough that I can pay myself.

Which leads me to the subject of equipment. I thank my lucky stars that I had some wonderful people to talk to about what to buy in the beginning, because I am really happy that I didn’t place much stock in having everything under the sun before I started shooting. Can you shoot a wedding with the set-up I have? Not well, especially when you factor in backups. But having only my 35 1.4 on a daily basis has impressed upon me that most of the changes and improvements I see have nothing to do with equipment. Of course it was really exciting to move up to a full-frame camera, and if you handed me a kit lenses now that I feel the 35 is an extension of myself, I would probably not be pleased. But most of my major “aha” moments came with only things I was doing – the way I look at light, the way I see things through the viewfinder, even basic metering preferences, learning to shoot consistently – have come with no changes in equipment or editing.

So where do I go from here? I’m really excited for my upcoming sessions, I’m in the process of becoming official (taxes, ugh!) and while I still have my pricing set low to build my portfolio, I’ll hopefully be making enough that I can invest what I make back into building a better business.

I want to extend a big thank you to the blogging community for all the help and networking along the way – I’m consistently amazed at how generous all of you are, and I couldn’t have done it without you. And to all my clients, you’re the best! Thank you for giving me the chance to work with you. It’s truly been one of the best experiences of my life.


Something sweet.

15 Feb

I’ve been working on a little photo project for an upcoming endeavor, and I thought I’d share a little snapshot from it. I can’t wait to tell you guys more about it, but I don’t want to jinx myself just yet!

The plight of a new photographer (or: beware of Craigslist).

10 Feb

At this moment, I’m a photographer caught somewhere between amateur and potential pro. I’ve poured my heart into photographing often, even in the sub-zero temperatures and wind chills we get so often in this lovely Chicago winter. I spend hours reading blogs, Formspring accounts, photojournalism sites, fashion magazines, and Flickr sets for inspiration and guidance. I’ve pretty much put one of my arms (and a leg, too) into starting equipment that is capable in low-light situations. I’ve even bothered my fair share of photographer friends, who are wonderful enough to put up with my non-stop questions and chatter (thanks guys, you know who you are!)

But none of that means much without a portfolio. There’s this terrible in-between place when a photographer doesn’t feel comfortable charging for their time yet, but clients aren’t exactly lining up. In fact, pretty much the only people who are willing to take a chance on such an untested photographer for an engagement shoot are the Craigslist set.

Why is this a big deal? Because it shows. I know it’s not nice to say – after all, I think everyone deserves beautiful photos, even if they don’t have thousands of dollars in their budget, but when you’re looking on Craigslist and for free offers, it usually means photography is not a priority. Sure, maybe there are gems – those people who love photography or are excited about photos but are just that broke – but they’re a rarity.

And to be honest, when you don’t care about your photos, you don’t invest anything into them. It’s like the people who walk around in sweatpants and Uggs all the time with crazy bedhead hair – you don’t look put-together, you look like you just woke up. Off-days around the house are one thing, but judging by the state of my college campus, off-days seem to be everyday for some people.

Why not just bite the bullet and shoot shoot shoot no matter how little someone cares?

Because when a couple looks for a photographer, they often pick those who shoot couples similar to them. I’ll be the first to admit that we did. Our photographer features lots of  diverse couples who aren’t necessarily traditional. Their photos show them in places that mean something to them, and their personalities shine through. Part of that is skill on the photographer’s end, but part of it is the couples’ level of excitement and attachment to the photos. If you’re taking engagement pictures as a way to shut up mom and dad, you’re going to put less into them than if you plan to treasure and display them.

I’ve been trying to find a way around this conundrum for awhile now. Even more challenging is that crazy winter weather that make it kind of dreary and unbearable outside. I flipped back and forth about writing this post, but I’m curious to hear what you all think. If you’re recently married or heading that way, what things did you look for in a photographer? Are there any websites that you scouted most for photogs? And if you are in the industry, how did you get over the initial portfolio hump?

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