September 2017 Q&A – Kirstie Marie Photography Mentorship

September 2017 Q&A

September 25, 2017

What are your most frequently used settings for taking portraits of horse and rider?

Most of the time my aperture is set at f/2.2. I try to keep my ISO between 250-400. I will always keep my shutter speed over 1/500 (if it is getting dark, I will open my aperture wider and turn my ISO higher).

I shoot in manual white balance (typically starting at 6500 Kelvin and somewhere in the 5000-7500 range depending on the light).

How do you keep the horse engaged in the shoot?

A highly-skilled assistant (aka… my husband!!). I always bring an assistant to my sessions and it is his/her job to keep the horse’s attention.

What are your best tips for getting the best quality and sharpness on a photo?

Find the best light. I will forever choose great light over a great background. I think that using back-button focus helps me nail focus, but it is my Sigma 85m Art lens that deserves credit for the sharpness.

Do you supply the props for your shoots? For example, the flower wreath and chairs you sometimes have – or is all of that strictly up to your clients to provide? Also do they let you know they are using them ahead of time?

I do not provide props. I know of several local florists who make amazing floral wreaths that I will suggest to my clients (if they inquire), and I know some people offer fake arrangements for sale (here).  Some of my clients make their own fake arrangements using flowers from Michaels or Hobby Lobby.

If a client brings/uses a chair it generally has a sentimental value to them! Sometimes they tell me ahead of time, but other times they don’t.

What’s your typical turn around time for photos? And what do you do when you get pressure from clients to deliver photos?

My contract states that images will be delivered within 4 weeks. After the session, I tell my clients to expect the images within 2-3 weeks. I generally deliver within 7-10 days.

I post several previews on social media within 2-3 days of the session. If a client needs 1-2 images immediately for yearbook or advertising deadlines this is typically sufficient. However, if they need the entire session by a certain deadline they can pay for a rush fee.

Where do you get your USBs, delivery boxes, and prints from?

USBs are from Amazon

Boxes are from Ryan’s Denn

Prints are from WHCC

What are your number one recommended lens for all around photography?

I’m not quite sure what you mean for all-around photography. In general, I think the 50m lens is the most versatile.  For equine photography I would recommend an 85m, 135m, or 70-200m.

What do you think is the number one marketing tool for equine photographers?

Without a doubt, it is word of mouth referrals. An incredible client experience will generate enough buzz to turn all of your clients into evangelists for your brand – talking about you to their friends and posting about you on social media.

What filter do you use for your photos for that soft golden effect? Do you sell it or can you buy it?

I don’t use any filters or presets! The golden effect is a combination of the shallow depth of field from my lens, the sunset, and my editing style!

Best software or method for managing finances and “knowing your numbers”

I use GoDaddy’s bookkeeping solution. It is inexpensive and gets the job done for me! However, the “gold standard” for small businesses is QuickBooks, and they have seemed to come down in price over the years.

I also use several self-made excel spreadsheets in Google Docs (so I can access them everywhere) that keep track of revenues/expenses by session, cash flows, monthly revenue goals, and a mileage log.

What is one of your marketing techniques? Aside from social media and having a distinct style

I have about 30 marketing strategies going at any given time – BUT one of my most effective is my newsletter!

Do you have any tips/tricks for helping an older (30 years old!) horse look her very best?! I’d love to take photos of her and her person, and want to make sure they’re done right.

I would recommend the same preparation for a horse show! A bath (or two!), some shine spray, scrubbed hooves, a close shave, etc. I would want to capture her true essence, so I would have her looking her Sunday’s best without worrying about any marks/scars/graying.

Do you allow your clients to print from their USB wherever they would like or to a certain website only?

I include a print release that allows them to print anywhere! I recommend several high-quality labs, but if they need an image in a pinch they are more than welcome to use something local to them!

Favorite settings on your D750?

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

Could you give some tips on how to capture light in the golden hours?

If the sun is very golden, auto white balance can have a hard time trying to compensate. I shoot in manual white balance (Kelvin) to control the temperature of the image no matter the lighting condition!

How do you get the natural black background in your photos?

I take these images at the end of a barn aisle with the lights turned off and every door behind my subject closed.

Here is a tutorial I wrote on black backgrounds!

Do you change the lighting as you take photos with your camera or with your computer?

I adjust my exposure throughout the shoot in my camera and then make small adjustments (if needed) in Lightroom while editing.

I am an aspiring photographer and I want to know the best angles of a horse?

This depends on the horse! Just like a human, each horse will have great features you want to maximize and some features you want to minimize. Generally, I photograph each horse straight ahead, angled about 45 degrees away from me, and their profile.

When is the best time of day for pictures?

This is completely up to your style! I recommend practicing in all lighting conditions so you can find what suits your personal style (which will help develop your brand).

I try to shoot at dusk or dawn for a soft, glowing light.

What camera/lens do you use?

I have a post about what is in my bag here!

How many sessions do you have time for per month and how much time do you spend editing one session?

This changes based on the season and my personal schedule!

When I was part time, I tried to book about 4-6 sessions per month (though sometimes it was more). This spring I did 2-4 sessions per week.

Each session takes me about 1 hour to cull, 2 hours in Lightroom, and 2 hours in PhotoShop.

I really love doing the black background photos, but I find myself doing them with mostly just head/chest shots only because I haven’t found a way to have the ground they are standing on look like it blends perfectly into a black background. How can I do that in photoshop?

A lot of people do this differently! Some people use gradient filters. Personally, I use a large brush with the hardness set to 0.

How do you make your subject so crisp with the black background? 

I usually set my aperture between f/2.8 and 4.0 to get more of my subjects in focus. Additionally, I have their eyes on the same plane.

What is your best marketing strategy for reaching your ideal clients?

Keep a consistent message! I have boiled down my entire brand down to one sentence – and that is the message that I am trying to communicate to my ideal clients with every social media post, every poster, and every interaction that they have with me.

How do you always keep such a consistent editing style? I struggle when the lights/background changes to make it consistent with my “brand” look.

There is a certain light that I am attracted to – so I am always on the hunt for the light that fits my style and brand. I expose the images consistently so that I can edit them in a very consistent manner. I think it comes with a lot of practice shooting in various locations and conditions.

The process to creating albums….do they select images? How many? Do they choose from their online gallery? Outsourcing?

I upload the entire session to PixieSet, where my client can choose the images to include the album into a “favorites” folder. The number of images depends on the number of spreads they want to purchase. Drafts of the album design are proofed in AlbumExposure.

What bookkeeping software would you recommend and/or Do you do your own bookkeeping and give all that information to an accountant, or do you do everything on your own?

I use GoDaddy’s bookkeeping solution, and do all bookkeeping myself. Some years I have given this information to an accountant to file taxes, and some years we have filed taxes ourselves. It depends on our circumstance for that particular year!

Have more questions? I offer Skype sessions if you want to chat!

Fill out the contact form on the home page to book.