August 2017 Q&A – Kirstie Marie Photography Mentorship

August 2017 Q&A

August 03, 2017

How do you get clear & large images to Instagram?

I email myself the high-resolution file, save the image to my camera roll on my iPhone, and upload to Instagram!

I am starting a social media marketing business. How did you go about getting started and finding key clients?

At the very beginning, I targeted key people that I wanted to work with and reached out to them directly! I would suggest identifying the types of brands/companies you want to do social media marketing for and contacting the entities that fit well with your services. Perhaps you could offer them a “trial” or no-risk/no-obligation period so that they can experience your services.

I know you LOVE your 85mm lens (and the Sigma Art 85mm 1.4 is my next purchase)…but, are there any others that you take with you on every shoot?

I bring everything in my bag to each shoot, but I don’t take the 85m off my camera. Ever. Seriously!

You can see what’s in my bag here.

Do you outsource your editing?

Last year during my busiest season I outsourced my LightRoom editing to a wonderful editor I found on Edit-Source.

Since going full-time, I haven’t needed to outsource editing this year!

How many shoots a month do you allow?

This completely depends! When I was part-time, I considered myself fully booked at 2-4 sessions per month. This spring, I averaged 3-4 sessions per week. My schedule depends on my personal obligations, the needs of my clients, the weather/season, etc.

How did you know you were ready to take photography from part time to full time?

This is a very personal decision, but I felt comfortable going full-time when I felt there was enough demand to support me at the session price I needed per client.

When you were in the beginning stages of your business, how did you prioritize what you offered? I’d love to be able to put money towards marketing, my own website, client goody bags, etc., but that’s currently out of the budget.

In the beginning stages of my business I did this part-time, so I re-invested most profits into advertising and marketing. However, as my business grew I found out marketing strategies that worked the best for me and most of them were free! The best marketing/advertising items I have tried required no budget at all, just a little time and a whole lot of creativity!

How do you know when to increase your prices?

Assuming that your current prices support the profit you need to maintain a healthy business, I think it is appropriate to raise prices when you are consistently fully booked or overbooking yourself.

Many people I know raise prices when their top package is purchased 3-5 times.

What about getting the target market in the beginning stages when you don’t want to undercharge or overcharge? 

The most important part of pricing is having a really solid understanding of your costs and the profit you need to sustain your business. Once you have those numbers, you know the price you need to charge. From there, I personally think it is up to your marketing efforts to make sure you are attracting your target market and consistently booking those prices!

What is the best way to keep your clients’ poses looking natural?

First, I never go into a session with a “game plan” or pre-determined poses. Ever.

I pose each client based on what I have in front of me: I want to find what is most flattering for my girl and for her horse. Every horse and rider is going to have different angles, positions, and expressions that speak to their strengths and features.

Second, if anything ever gets stiff or isn’t working I add motion. Send people on a walk away from you or towards you. Take a water break. Change locations, change wardrobes, change anything! If a pose isn’t working, don’t force. If something is stiff or uncomfortable, leave it completely. Don’t try to turn a negative into a positive, just give it up!

How long do you allow from the shooting until you deliver the photos to your clients?

My contract says the images will be delivered in 4 weeks, but I tell my clients I do my best to get them back in 2-3 weeks.

I usually turn the images around in one week, but sometimes it reaches 2 weeks when I am backed up.

Did you ever have difficult clients and how did you react?

My clients have been absolutely amazing, but I also do my very best to make expectations very professional, polite, and thorough.

First, my contract is very detailed. Next, my client communication workflow (template emails before and after the session) do a great job of setting clear expectations of what will be delivered and when.

I have found that the majority of conflict among people comes from mismatched expectations. The more information that you can clearly communicate, the less chance you will have for a difficult client experience.

How do you edit the skin? It looks very natural and glowy. 

The first thing about great skin tones is finding flattering light sources during your session. You want the subject to be evenly lit with no color casts reflecting back up at them. The second thing is shooting with an open aperture. The shallow depth of field will give your subject very smooth, buttery skin. Other than that, I simply edit out any acne marks or un-even tones, but I don’t doctor my images intensively.

Do you have any advice on how to offer “barn/stable” options? I would love to be able to offer a mini session option for barns where I can do a few sessions together but I can’t quite figure out the best way to word it. I want to make it worth my while and not come back to bite me in the butt! 

This is not something I currently offer – or ever plan to offer – so these ideas are completely conceptual and based on what I would do.

First, I would call it a mini session and emphasize special pricing with my offer. Be very clear about what is included and make sure you have a contract.

Second, I would require a minimum number of sign-ups to make sure that I’m earning enough profit to make it worth-while.

Third, you could offer the organizer of the event some type of incentive (if you get X amount of people to sign up, you get X free!)

Fourth, you could advertise online or by reaching out to large barns directly.

How often do you travel for shoots and how did you organize your time and travel expenses?

In the past, I have traveled about 4-8 times per year for sessions. There are many different ways to account for travel. A common way is to add all of your actual expenses together, divide it by how many people you photographed on the trip, and bill them after the session. Personally, I estimate the cost of my expenses, divide it by how many people there are, and add it to their invoice before the trip so they know exactly how much the fee is and there will be no surprises.

Do you have a favorite place to get marketing/branding materials and when did you realize that your marketing tools affected your business (obviously in a great way!)

Most of my printed branding materials are through WHCC. My welcome magazine is through MagCloud.

I get my t-shirts through a local printing company and other items from all areas of the internet (I just google “custom ____” for what I am looking for!)

This probably isn’t the answer you were expecting, but I think that a really consistent editing style helped my marketing in the best way. In 2014, a lot of enormous Brazilian instagram accounts started sharing stealing my work and people who were complete strangers (to me) were recognizing my images and tagging me every time they saw my pictures. That made me feel like my images had a strong enough brand to be recognized without my name attached to them!

Did you submit your photos to magazines in the beginning or did publishers contact you first? Any publishers to look into for first time submitting?

At first, I submitted my work to photography blogs (Let the Kids, Lemonade and Lenses, Seniorology, Beyond the Wanderlust, etc). Then, I started submitting to printed photography publications (Mozi Mag, Denim + Grace, Lemonade & Lenses, etc). Within the equine industry, most editorial publishers would contact me with specific items they needed. Occasionally, I have reached out to editors to get an idea of the type of content they are in need of.

What picture style/picture profile do you use in camera?

I shoot in manual and don’t use any type of profiles in-camera.

What’s your most valuable marketing tool? 

Word of mouth! Glowing testimonies and organic buzz from past clients will always be my best marketing tool.

Can you do a quick rundown of shooting in RAW vs JPG? Advantages? Drawbacks?

Shooting in RAW produces a much larger file size because of the information being preserved from the camera. Shooting in JPG processes & compresses your image according to the settings you have your camera set to. The main advantage to shooting in RAW is that you can manipulate the image considerably while editing. The main disadvantage is the larger file size to store.

I strongly recommend always shooting in RAW. You can recover almost any image!

Do you use presets or PS actions to edit?

I own every single Mastin Labs preset, but I rarely use them on my images. Instead, I have used the presets to learn LightRoom a lot better to edit the images on my own!

I use Replichrome presets from Totally Rad for black and white images.

I don’t own or use any actions.

About how long does each shoot last? Do you do more than one session a day? Morning or evening? 

I offer 1, 2 and 3 hour packages. I try to only book one session per day at sunset, but it depends on the needs (and deadlines) of my clients. If I need to book multiple people in a day I will do one at sunrise and one at sunset.

Have you ever or would you ever put on some sort of clinic? Or allow someone to shadow you? 

I have considered workshops! It isn’t something I have time for right now, but make sure you sign up for my newsletter to see if I am offering anything online or in-person in the future!

I do one-on-one sessions with photographers – and you can find more info about that on the home page here!

Where do you order your boxes with prints and the cute flashdrive? I’m looking to find stuff like that for my clients.

Boxes are from Ryan’s Denn

Proof prints are from WHCC

USBs are from Amazon

Did you ever have to market yourself or have you always had lots of clients? Any advice for those of us struggling to find a client base? Also, how have you perfected your online presence?

I have always marketed myself! At any point in time, I am usually using 8-10 different marketing tools to stay in front of my ideal clients and I rotate new ideas in constantly. I consider social media just ONE of those 8-10 tools, and social media includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, Yelp, YouTube and Vimeo for me.

If you are struggling to find a client base, you really need to narrow down who you are trying to reach. Have a very specific target market in mind and find very direct ways to get in front of those people in as many ways as you possibly can!

Once again, I think that my online presence/brand is a result of a very targeted message to a very small group of people. I certainly wouldn’t say it is perfect, but every single thing I do is trying to send the same message to the same people!

How do I make a black background without it looking cheesy?

I have a tutorial here!

Where or how you designed your logo. Any suggestions? That is my next step. 

My logo was hand-lettered by a calligrapher. I have heard good things about 99 designs and Etsy, but you could always look for a graphic designer and have one custom made for you!

Why do your photos seem like they are so clear? Do you add any clarity when editing or is the clarity straight from the lens?

I do not add any clarity or sharpening. I shoot with the 85m & D750 to get sharp images!

What do you normally have your aperture set to? Do you keep the same aperture during the shoot?

If I am shooting a single subject, I am usually at f/1.8

A horse and rider are usually f/2.2

Multiple horses/riders might be f/2.8

Black backgrounds are f/2.8-4 depending on available light

I change my aperture during the shoot based on what I am shooting and what I need to accomplish!

 How do you edit your black backgrounds reason I ask is how do you blend the floor and the background so well?

I have a tutorial here! The blending is done with a super large, feathered brush.

Do you have a set schedule for your social media posts? Do you find that certain times of the day work better than others? Or is it more that a certain photo just connects more with the audience?

I love social media and I never want it to be a job/chore. I post what I want when I want to. I don’t schedule anything out, and I never try to stick to a schedule. I might post 3 times in one day, and not again for 3 days. When I have something I want to share, I share it. I don’t worry about the time of day or time of week and I never plan ahead.

There are apps like “Prime” that show you the “best” time of day to post, but I can’t imagine that actually works with the new algorithms. I think great content + engagement is the only thing that will help you out!

What platform do you use to host your website?

I used to use BlueHost. Honestly, I still might use it? Or it might be hosted by my website designer now, I’m really not sure!

Is there any way a non client could order your welcome magazine for inspiration?

If you book a shoot I would be glad to send you a welcome magazine!

A LOT of people have asked what is inside of that magazine, so I might offer something to y’all soon. Sign up for the newsletter to stay tuned.

What made you choose 85mm? I use my zoom a lot, is it hard not having zoom?

I have never used zoom lenses, so I can’t say one is harder than the other. I love prime lenses because of how sharp they are! I love my 85m because I am far enough away from a client to not be up in their grill, but I’m close enough to step in to fix hair/clothes/makeup.

My next lens purchase would probably by a 135m.

What was your most effective method of advertising when you first got started?

Consistently posting new content on social media.

You take really great detail shots. Photos of the owners hands on a horse or of the saddle. How did you develop that skill?

Points of connection are something that matter to me, so I am quick to notice any natural connection the horse and rider have to each other. It could be a touch, a scratch, a pat, an expression… those are things I love to photograph!

Would we be able to see a few of your first shots verses now? 

On the left were some of the very first images I took with my first DSLR in 2012. On the right are images from 2017.

 

After using LightRoom on a monitor that is calibrated and exporting as sRGB, I’ve noticed that when I view the photos on my iPhone they look drab. On a Samsung they are very rich toned. I feel that your photos and other photogs don’t have this issue and all the photos look amazing on all three platforms. Should I be editing to add more saturation in LightRoom?

Personally, I use my Datacolor Spyder to calibrate my monitor to the prints from my lab. My highest priority is high-quality prints.

I have never seen my images on a Samsung, so I have no idea what the difference is from an iPhone!

I see you use an 85mm lens. I have tried an 85mm and I have to stand fairly far back from subject. Just wondering why you use this lens vs a 50mm or zoom lens to be able to be a little closer.

Great question! Most equine photographers shoot with lenses 200m+ to reduce lens distortion. When you shoot with a short focal length – 35m for example – the horse’s head will be HUGE and disproportionate to his body. A 50m lens has a very noticeable distortion, as well.

An 85m still causes distortion, but it is less obvious to the average consumer. I have had publications turn down my work because they want horses photographed with a lens 200m or longer. But the general public won’t be able to notice the distortion.

My favorite lens for humans is the 85m. I think it is the most flattering portrait lens on the market. Because I want my girls to look amazing first and foremost, I will sacrifice a bit of distortion on the horse.

Have more questions? I offer Skype sessions if you want to chat! Fill out the contact form on the home page to book