April 2017 Q&A – Kirstie Marie Photography Mentorship

April 2017 Q&A

April 20, 2017

How do you deal with sun dapples when you are shooting in open shade under a tree?  Perhaps I am positioning myself wrong, but it always seems that I’ll get a great shot and there will be a sun spot on the horse or owner!

When possible, I try to avoid shooting at high noon. However, certain situations will require me to shoot when the sun is high. In this case, I look for open shade or some way to clip the sun. If I am shooting beneath a tree, I try to position my subjects so that no sunspots are on their faces. Dappling is bound to happen on their bodies, and that doesn’t bother me as much, but I want to make sure their faces are evenly lit.

Here is an example of images taken at high noon. The faces are evenly lit, but the back of the horse is dappled by the sun:

Especially when shooting during the magic [golden] hour, how are your subjects not getting eaten alive by flies and insects?

SO MUCH BUG SPRAY. I make sure that the horse is completely covered in fly spray before he leaves the barn, and make sure that we bring some more fly spray along with us. Honestly, I re-apply fly spray to the entire horse’s body 3-5 times during the shoot. I wear bug spray, as well, so I’m not eaten alive by mosquitos.

Must-have client management software?

I use – and love – 17Hats.

Crop Sensor vs. Full Frame

While I am not completely certain what your question is here, I shoot with a full frame. I am certainly not a gear expert to explain the differences between the two, but you can do plenty of research on Google!

How do you battle lack of faith in yourself or fear of not being good enough? I’m a very shy person with a fear of failing.

When my young and insecure horse was going to his first horse shows, we made every effort to make everything a positive experience for him. I wanted to set him up for success so that enough small positive experiences would boost his confidence level. The same should be true in your photography venture. Set yourself up to succeed. Start by putting yourself in comfortable, familiar places and let everything grow organically. Let every experience be positive so that you can slowly build your confidence in your work.

How do you fill your calendar ahead of time and resist the urge to discount shoots?

When I was part time, my schedule filled very quickly (often 4-8 months in advance) because I had limited availability. There was virtually no urge to discount shoots because my weekends off were coveted. Eventually, my schedule started filling to the point I was able to take my photography business full time.

I would like to know which recommendations do you give your clients before the shooting? For example: what to wear, cleaning the horse, some kind of time schedule. I believe you have some kind of welcome magazine/ information?

Yes! I have a private page on my website to help prepare for the shoot: what to wear guides, articles I’ve written on how to get everything ready for a session, etc. I also have a 30-page welcome magazine that I ship to clients that includes: what to wear for your body type, what to wear to coordinate with others, what to wear to coordinate with your horse, how to prepare your horse, what to expect at the session and shortly after, FAQ, products, etc.

Do you recommend any books on photography? What was your main source of learning knowledge wise? Reading, working with a photographer, etc.

In college, I assisted Arden Prucha Photography and learned an enormous amount. I also frequently watched Creative Live episodes and soaked up a lot of information from Facebook forums. The only books I purchased were from Jonathan Canlas and Jose Villa.

Do you let the clients decide what to wear and decide on their hair/makeup or offer help/advice on that?

My welcome packet offers a lot of advice for hair, makeup, and clothing. Additionally, I offer my phone number if they have any questions or need advice. Some of my clients rely on me for information, but most of them choose to do their shopping and styling on their own.

How do you grow a photography business? I want to go into it career wise but I’m not 100% where to start as far as growing clients. 

When I first started, I built a photography portfolio using my contacts in the equine industry. From there, the growth was very organic as word spread over social media and throughout barns.

Do you tend to shoot on the cooler or warmer side of kelvin?

I like a lot of warmth in my images, so I would say I shoot on the warm side.

Do you instruct your client to bathe, groom, clip the night before & stall their horse with a sheet? And what about for clients who don’t show their horse(s) and aren’t super savvy on preparing their horse(s) & tack for a shoot?

My welcome packet instructs how to prepare the horse, but most of my clients go to horse shows and know exactly how to get their horses “show/photo ready”.

Combatting green reflections – you shoot in a lot of green grass, but your skin tones are still creamy as can be!

Be careful not to get too deep into a field when the sun is still too high. I try to have a natural reflector in front of my subjects (pavement, sand, gravel, a white horse trailer), but you could also try carrying a reflector with you!  I use two tricks to get rid of green cast in Lightroom. The first is to slide up the magenta on the image. The second is to use split-toning. You will need to adjust this for the particular image, but here is a good starting point for split-toning:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.22.21 AM copy

Here is a before/after using both magenta (+14) and the split toning profile above. You can see a lot of green in her dress and on her face but I was able to eliminate it by increasing exposure, lifting the darks, and bringing in magenta.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.37.28 AM

What goes through your head when scouting a location? I’d love to get inside your head on the why and why not of where you place your subjects! 

I am always scouting light. I want the most flattering lighting both behind and in front of my subjects. I shoot at a very shallow depth of field, so I can blur out a lot of clutter in a background. As I scout, I look for places where the light is being filtered (preferably by a tree) but there is no color because cast back up towards the skin.

What would be a decent price to charge when just starting out?

If you are just starting out, I strongly believe you should be offering your services for free. Until you reach the point when you have a solid portfolio and you are comfortable handling all types of clients in any weather/lighting condition,  then you are still practicing. Once you are ready to start your business it will take an excellent understanding of your costs and living standard in order to set your prices.

What all should you include in a package? I know you include a USB drive and 4×6 prints, but should I include anything else? (Also, where do you get those cute little wooden boxes and USB drive containers? They would be perfect for storing my flash drives!)

Packages should include products you love, are passionate about, and are confident in selling!

The wood boxes I deliver are from Ryan’s Denn.

I have never ever done any wedding photography or family sessions and would love too, but how would I go about this? Should I offer my time for free to see if I would even be good at it or what? Basically, what would you do to gain experience in these two areas?

I would offer to assist other wedding and family photographers at their sessions. Start by being a third shooter at a wedding (for free) until you are comfortable and then you can be paid as a second shooter. Personally, I would second shoot for at least a year (or 15-30 weddings) before taking on my own wedding clients.

What all do you include in your welcome packet? Can you possibly go into detail about what you include and why?

I answered this above!

As you were practicing on friends and building a portfolio, did you ever worry that your friends or role would come to expect a discounted rate?

At the very beginning, it was a huge favor to have my friends act as models for me to practice on. I never worried that they would come to expect a discounted rate, and none of them carried that expectation forward.

What is involved in a model call?

“Model Call” means very different things to different people. Some photographers offer a model call to get clients into the door and sell them on products later, and some offer a model call to get more material for their portfolios or to practice new skills. Personally, I have only done one model call and it was to build a database of people to call on when I had corporate clients request specific images.

Did you ever feel discouraged- if so how did you persevere?

Naturally, I am a positive person so I tend to dwell on what is going right rather than what is going wrong. However, if I am feeling discouraged I take a step back and offer myself a break. Usually, I try to switch my focus on what is going well or how I can remedy what isn’t going well.

I’m having trouble identifying my “style”. How did you find yours?

When I first started… I ran into two quotes that helped me:

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

And this quote by Promise Tangeman, lettered by Lindsay Letters

Also, you can watch a fun video Promise did here.

Moral of the story – just keeping going. Just keep making more of it. Just keep shooting and editing and it’ll all come together.

I read on a photography blog that to make your clients comfortable, you should never stop talking when hitting the shutter…What are some things you say to your clients when hitting the shutter?

I will demonstrate a pose myself, and then watch my client get into that pose (and tweak as necessary) and then lift my camera up. As I’m shooting, I give a lot of positive feedback:

“That looks great!”


“Your eyes are incredible”

“This is sooooooo cute”

But then I also give more instruction, like:

“Now look at your horse’s eye”

“Now smile over your shoulder”

“Now bring your eyes down to the ground”

“Look back up here”

“Bring your hand to his bit”

And on and on and on. Not every client will need constant feedback, and if you are naturally a quiet, shy, or introverted person I don’t think you need to force feedback. But I have noticed that my clients relax the more that I talk to them.

Would you be willing to share the settings you export from LR for both web and print size?

 Most of my photos I export out of Lightroom are set to 10″ on the short side and 300dpi. I do not export for a web size. I use BlogStomp to resize my images for my blog and I upload high resolution images for social media. Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 7.46.22 PM