February 2017 Q&A – Kirstie Marie Photography Mentorship

February 2017 Q&A

February 05, 2017

What settings is your camera on?

Here are the settings I have changed on my D750:

Image quality: RAW

Role Played by Card in Slot 2: Backup

White Balance: Kelvin

Focus: AF-C d21, with AE-L AF-L locked

How do you handle weather reschedules? Especially for travel

If the forecast is poor, we can reschedule or decide to shoot through it (in a barn aisle or an arena). In most circumstances, if we know the weather forecast beforehand we can make a decision about rescheduling or not. When I travel, I make sure that might flights/hotels/rental cars are refundable so that I can be flexible if the weather turns on us.

I guess my question for you is what do you normally have your ISO set at during the golden hour? Reason I ask is I try to keep mine around 160-400 so the noise isn’t terrible. The only problem I run into is that the photos are so dark, since I have to turn the shutter speed up so high. I worry with the shutter speed up so high and the images being darker I wont be able to brighten them up enough in lightroom without destroying the photo too much.

My ISO is normally about 250-500 (500 if I am shooting after sunset and there is very little available light). I underexpose my images and bring them up in Lightroom by lifting shadows and darks significantly. I increase exposure in Lightroom, but it is typically my very last adjustment.

How do you keep your photos looking soft with the lighting? I feel like mine always look over saturated in a sense even when I have the client in the shade.

Lifting the shadows in Lightroom can help soften the image. I find that it pulls a lot of the saturation and contrast out (so much so that I add more vibrance and saturation in). 

When you edit do you have any presets that you use or do you use the basic tool bar that Lightroom has? How do you edit, do you focus on the girl and her blemishes or touch up little things first or do you start with the exposure and work your way down into contrast? I am trying to decide if it is worth investing in presets or not.

I own Mastin Labs and Replichrome presets. However, most of the time I edit on my own using the adjustment tools. I start by adjusting white balance/tint, then contrast and colors, and end with exposure. I export the images from Lightroom and bring them into PhotoShop for retouching if there is something distracting in the background or there is a blemish.

What are the specifics of the high-res images you deliver to clients? How many pictures do you deliver?

I export my images from LightRoom at 10″ on the short side and 300dpi. I promise 75-150 images (depending on the package) and typically deliver 100-200.


How did you learn to edit? Was it slowly developed or learned from a conference/online course?

During college I worked as an assistant for Arden Prucha Photography. I learned most of my editing knowledge from her! The rest has been YouTube tutorials, photography articles, and several years of practice.

Question about black background images… How do you get a nice fade effect between the lighted foreground and black background in the full body shots?

If I shot in a barn that was completely dark in the back, this happens naturally. If there was too much light in the background, I create this effect by taking the magic wand to select my subject to separate them from the background. Then, I paint the background with a giant brush to get the fading. 

When you travel do you require your clients to pay for your plane ticket, lodging etc or do you simply go where there is interest?

 My clients cover my travel charges. I add up the total cost of the trip and split it evenly among them.

Any Marketing tips for photographers?

 Market to ONE person! Every campaign, every post, every marketing strategy should be tailored to your ideal client – a prototype that you create. Every single word should be directed to that individual.

I have trouble getting my camera to focus on specific parts of an image – if I want to focus on a horse’s eye, sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t. Any tips to make sure you’re always focusing your camera on the section you want?

 Your lens might need to be calibrated to your camera. There are several YouTube tutorial for this if you want to do it on your own, or you can send your camera in to have it done professionally. I use AF-C to track with my subject if the horse is moving. I also shoot between f/2.2-2.8 to account for any slight movement of the horse between the time I focus and the time I take the image.

Best time management for photographers? Workflow?

 I love 17Hats workflow system! Any lead from my website comes into 17Hats where I can send a questionnaire, start a client workflow, send contracts and invoices, etc.

Do you use your 85mm on all your action shots?

 Yes – the 85m is on my camera virtually all of the time.

Do you focus and recompose or do you toggle your focus point as needed? 

Both. If I don’t have time to toggle the focus point, I will focus and recompose in a rush. If I have time to slow down and change my focus point, I will. I also use back button focus which helps me lock in the focus before I shoot.

Please help with taking photos with back lighting then editing them.

The most important piece of backlighting is soft light. If it is a morning shoot, my favorite light is the hour after sunrise. If it is an afternoon shoot, my favorite light is the hour before sunset. When the sun is low in the sky there is a warm, glowing, even lighting that works well with my photography style. Even with soft light, I still do most of my work around trees to diffuse the sunlight. I like to turn my subject’s back to the sun so their faces are evenly lit. When I do this, I am very careful of where I place them (and what is reflecting back at them). If they are deep in a green pasture, they might have a green cast reflecting back up on their skin (EW!). Driveways, gravel, pavement, and white horse trailers make excellent natural light reflectors to keep skin tones beautiful! I underexpose my backlit images to keep some detail in the sky. When I edit the picture, I bring up shadows and darks in Lightroom to try to brighten the image without losing any detail in the highlights.

What is your best advice for the business side of equine portrait photography?

Because I want my business to offer exceptional customer service, I always try to see things from my client’s point of view. Nordstrom is my favorite store for great service, so my goal is to to treat everyone how Nordstrom treats me, haha. One of the most important ways to understand my clients is to put myself in their shoes. Several times a year I try to hire a photographer to experience everything from the other side of the camera. I then take the fears, insecurities, questions, doubts I had during that session and use all of that to help my own client experience.

Another way to see things from a client’s perspective is to ask them. A lot of companies ask customers to fill out a survey or some type of review to see how they can improve their efforts.

Did you have any obstacles when it came to marketing?

 A limited budget 😉 I would love nothing more than an unlimited marketing budget.

I took a strategic marketing class in college that stressed the importance of a well-defined target demographic before planning or running any campaign. I think in the class we were working on a marketing plan for Coca-Cola, but the first thing we had to do was very specifically define who we were trying to reach, and what we wanted the results to be. It is important for any company, no matter how big or small, to understand their target audience inside and out. To know not just facts and figures about the demographics, but intimate details such as values, motivators, influencers, and purchasing habits.

When I first started my business I didn’t know quite who my target audience was. But the more I was able to photograph, the more it became clear to me who I wanted to reach and that helped me get a marketing plan together to be everywhere my ideal client was.

What is the best thing you invested into your business?

Shortly after I bought my first DSLR, I bought a film camera and shot 100% film for over a year. In my opinion, this was one of the best investments into my education because of how quickly film helped me learn. My lab, PhotoVision Prints, helped me tremendously as I learned how to properly expose, compose and dial in my own aesthetic.