Starting Your Own Portrait Business: Advice for New Photographers

Starting your own portrait business is overwhelming. There are many things to consider, from equipment purchases to choosing a company name, and everything in between. The best advice I can share (that I wish someone shared with me) is simply, don’t walk this path alone.

Being a small business owner can be isolating. As a portrait photographer, you may only ever see another person when you are actually doing a photo session. During my first year in business, I spent countless hours figuring out basic business questions on my own. What lab should I use? Where should I get albums and other products? How much should I charge for a session, or for prints? Should I just sell digital files? AM I DOING IT RIGHT? While all of these questions must be answered individually, it sure does help to have advice and opinions from others!

I had been in business for about …

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The Difference Between Good and Mediocre

The problem with good is it’s always a leap of faith. It exists in stratified territory, where the new intersects with the enduring, and it is, by its nature, the unknown. Worse yet, the greater the ‘good’ is, the more it departs from convention, so the less likely people are to believe in it. And there’s not even a guarantee it will make you a dime. Not all things good succeed. Not all things that succeed are good.

But if good is bad, then the opposite is worse. When we refuse to budge or fail to move in the face of the empty unknown of the future, we are staring down a lifetime of mediocrity. This is the true opposite of good, and it is the worst of all options. At least bad requires nothing. It’s the alternative of least effort. It requires no dreams, it asks for no action. You …

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Why Shooting Hugs & Mugs Can Be Fun and Profitable

Jim and I discovered something surprising about ourselves. When looking at our wedding photos, we realized that we would love to have more images of the people who came from all over the country to celebrate with us. It never occurred to me to ask our amazing photographers for “grip-and-grins,” but looking back, that was the only part of the coverage that was missing!  Some of our dearest friends don’t dance, and are more comfortable being in the background. Since they weren’t part of the main wedding “action,” they weren’t included in our wedding images.

So now, we intentionally photograph wedding guests because those images may be more meaningful to our clients than they – or we – even realize. Honestly, I used to think these types of images were boring, not artistic enough. Now, my mentality has changed. When I shoot these types of images at weddings, my goal is to …

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How to Build A Successful Family Photography Business

Let’s be honest – it’s a tough time to build a successful family photography business. Just sit down for coffee with anyone running or starting a business and you’ll hear chatter about how new technology and undercutting by beginners make it harder to book clients. It’s a conversation that, quite frankly, I’m tired of having. And I think it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems photographers face when working to build a client base.

Recently, while at a popular tourist destination with my own kids, I noticed how many parents were carrying around DSLR cameras. I estimate it was at least half of the parents there. Sure, my camera was bigger than their cameras, but we all know that the camera doesn’t make great pictures, right? The eye behind the viewfinder does. And, whether they are right or not, these parents believe that their higher-quality …

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Win the Day

Now is the time of year that most wedding photographers will tell you their to-do lists turn into multiple pages and the hours in the day never seem to be enough. We’re smack dab in the middle of busy season. With so much going on, it’s easy to start thinking you could give Gumby a run for his money – you’ve tied yourself up in so many knots!

Deep breaths now. It’s going to be ok.

I think the hardest thing to figure out when things start getting overwhelming, is where to start. There’s SO much that needs to get done and the list is piling up. And you lose precious time spinning yourself in circles trying to figure out what you should do first, all the while thinking about all that still has to be done.

Seriously, take those deep breaths with me now. It really is going to be ok.

A couple …

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A Real Life Review of Pocketwizards

This started as a real life review of Pocketwizards.

Basically it said, “Pocketwizards are bulletproof and if you know the tricks, they work over 95% of the time.” And then last weekend happened. Over the course of two weddings, three of my eight wizards broke.

One of them – a Mini TT1 model – broke during the rainiest and most humid wedding of the year. I accidentally overtightened the plastic shoe and by the time I realized it, the humidity and overcranking combined to cause the Pocketwizard‘s plastic shoe to jump off its track. Over the next day and a half, I managed to drop a Flex TT5 model, snapping the plastic off of its shoe, and then the battery door on another Flex TT5 snapped off completely. I’m still not sure how that happened.

Thankfully, I had backup gear, and aside from some minor frustrations, the shoots continued without a hitch. I shipped the …

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Tips for Instantly Improving Your Next Engagement Session

Engagement sessions are great ways to get to know your clients and to boost their confidence in themselves so that they’ll know their pictures will be beautiful when you show up at their wedding. Here are some simple, practical tips for instantly improving your next engagement session.

Have them start in a sitting position. People often talk about not knowing “what to do” while they’re being photographed. If they’re standing, they can start getting nervous and move around a bit. I try to put people in a position where they don’t feel stiff and they don’t have the option to move around too much. Having them sit is a great way to accomplish that! My favorite sitting position is to have the groom sit while the bride sits right in front of him, between his legs. If you ask them to look at each other, they’ll be pretty limited in where they can …

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The Professional Photographer’s Facebook Strategy Handbook by Lawrence Chan

Are you leveraging the world’s largest social network for your photography business?

Start fine-tuning your Facebook strategy with practical tips and insight from marketing strategist Lawrence Chan in this in-depth guide created exclusively for The Photo Life.


One overlooked feature about Facebook Insights is Engaged Users. I’m not talking about just looking at the number. If you click on the number of Engaged Users, it’ll show you how many people gave “negative feedback.”

A Negative Feedback is not an Unlike. It’s just as bad though. It’s when people decide to hide your posts. So, use this as a measure to see what posts work and what posts don’t.

To see your Insights, follow these instructions:

Go view Insights. Hit “See All.” Under the graph, find the fourth column – Engaged Users. Find the individual Post you want to examine and click on the number of Engaged Users. A window should pop up with the information you …

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How to Select the Right Light and Cameras for Every Shoot

All photo shoots were not created equal. To select the best camera equipment for every shoot, consider a few important details. Here’s my gear selection process:

Determine the shoot location Identify the lighting scenario Research the subject thoroughly Storyboard the desired mood and select the lighting that will best convey that feeling. Carefully consider which camera body and lenses are necessary to capture different angles desired for each shot.

Controlled Light in Studio or On Location

If I am shooting in studio or I simply want more controlled light on a location shoot, I have a variety of lights that I pack. Much depends on the mood I am trying to achieve. I use Broncolor and Profoto heads and packs as my main light sources and use a variety of softboxes, umbrellas and diffusers to mold and shape the light to my liking. I sometimes use strip lights because they produce a very narrow output of light …

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How to Donate Your Photography Services to a Cause or Charity

Everyone has a story, and every photographer wants to tell stories. But it’s not that simple. Some stories are difficult, but they still deserve to be told. How do you photograph mental illness, autism, cancer?

With compassion, respect, kindness, dedication…and patience.

Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer, so it was natural for me to get involved with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and even more so after I spoke to breast cancer survivors about Boudoir Photography. After volunteering at the Susan G. Komen Gala, I was inspired to organize a fundraiser. Even though I had volunteered for other charities, I had never organized anything this extensive! Regardless, I decided to jump right in, to the deep end!

So how did we organize and host a successful fundraiser?

With lots of generosity! We were fortunate to have many great companies involved who wanted to collaborate to make a difference. We held the event …

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