October Assignment and September Meeting Wrap-Up!

Hope you are all out enjoying the fall leaves and the harvest season! I can hardly believe that we only have two more meetings left for the year! Where did the time go??

So without further ado, I want to get everyone going on our October assignments, that will be shared during our monthly meeting on Monday, October 25th. This one should be a fun one!


OCTOBER PHOTO ASSIGNMENT: “Personality Portrait”

Ok Mamas, this one may take a little planning (or luck) but it will be worth it! Plan a shoot with your little one where you visually capture ONE ADJECTIVE that describes your child’s personality. When you print the picture, write the adjective you were going for on the back of your photo. Now I know your little one may have many different traits– in this assignment you are only trying to capture one. And the trick is, that you have to get the other mamas to guess the word you are going for without telling anyone what it is. So it is all about the picture! Think about hands, eyes, the setting, the angle, clothing, aperture, shutter speed, any items they might be handling- everything can tell a story to communicate. And in 50 years, when THEIR children are looking at this picture, the picture will tell the whole story. I hope you enjoy this one!!


And now for the notes on our September meeting. My pen was flying all over my notepad when we were listening to Janet Klinger give her presentation on the Business of Photography.

What are licensing and legal requirements for a photography business?

For people just starting their business who have legal questions about licensing etc, Janet set up this page on her blog which has several useful links including how to apply for your WA state business license.

How much should I invest in equipment?

Janet’s advice: invest as much as you are able to on your camera body, on a great flash, and at least one prime lens. She believes it is worth it to get the best camera you can possibly afford, especially with how popular DSLRs are becoming, a higher end camera comes with a certain “cachet”. She currently shoots with a Canon 5D Mark II.

If you can’t afford to purchase new lenses, she recommends renting from Glazer’s Camera for an individual shoot.

Moving into paid shoots, thinking about pricing

Janet talked about being in the photography business in the 1990’s, and all I have to say is that I wish that we were all in business in the 90’s. It sounded like a hoot. Now, since the economy has slowed, and digital SLRs are all over the place, it is a completely different marketplace. Janet’s pricing has gone up and down throughout the years and she has experienced the perils of both extremes.

Janet says you have to know yourself, and determine who your clients will be. A memorable quote to illustrate this was: “I don’t want ME as my client. I can’t afford me!” She stresses the importance of networking beyond your own circle and networking with the type of people who you are looking to shoot.

It is very easy to underestimate the value of your services, and to devalue photography as an art form, when you underprice your work. Especially in the current market that is so saturated with photographers, the pressure to lower your prices is high. But it is important to calculate how much actual time and money you are spending on a shoot. Beyond the hour of the shoot itself, there is likely at least 2 hours of editing and post-processing, the time & cost to travel, not to mention your equipment. [SIDE NOTE FROM MARY: This is a great link, if you are wanting to read more about pricing, and even includes a link to a “freelance” worksheet that helps you calculate your target rates.] Factor in your time and how busy you realistically want to be as you price. You can be really busy, and shoot all the time for low prices, or do fewer shoots at a higher price. Rule of thumb is if you are getting too booked, you’re probably not charging enough. Raise your prices, and you will be surprised at how you retain (and even attract) clients!

To DVD or not to DVD?

With social networking being an important part of people’s connections, a lot of clients would like to have the digital files for their own printing and file sharing. Janet recommends that if you DO shoot and give away the DVD (she will only give digital files of ordered prints at web resolution marked with her studio logo), to make sure that you do something to make the photos stand out. If you give away the images straight out of the camera, they won’t look any different than anyone else’s, so take the time to edit down the images (to ~40 top images) and add your own post-processing touches.

Should you ever shoot for free?

Janet advises that when you’re just starting out, even if you are scared to charge, you should at the very least offer a service exchange, or charge even a nominal amount. You have to value photography as an art form, and you don’t have to charge $$$$ but you should charge something.

The WOW factor

Spend time to wow people because the “wow” factor is huge. Blow up your best images onto large canvases, put them on display in galleries, cafes, etc, get your “wow” work out there in the world!


Your image and your marketing is just as important as shooting. Blogging is a great marketing tool, when Janet was blogging regularly she noticed a 4x increase in her inquiries.

Invest more in your blog that you do in your website, IF you are going to update your information. HTML has better search results than the flash pages that you get in many of the “canned” photo websites that you can build.

Your best marketers are your existing clients, they are the people whom you should give a lot of love and attention to.

General Expenses

Some business expenses to think about/factor into your pricing:

Fixed expenses-

1. Insurance on your camera (get some!)

2. Studio space

3. Website expenses (hosting, development, maintenance)

4. Portrait Photographers of America (or other) professional membership-highly recommended by Janet.

5. Admin (bookkeeper, assistant)

6. Display items

Cost of goods sold- (variable)

1. Shooting time, cost of prints (Janet likes Millers and Panda Lab for b&w), albums etc.

2. Outsourced post-production (Janet recommends Shoot Dot Edit to cull & post process)

If you can, have a security fund that will take you through 6 months in case something happens.

Other notes:

-Janet uses Pro Select software to do ordering appointments with clients. She helps them visualize their images in their home by setting up a picture of their -wall with sample images on them.

-She won’t print at low quality print houses. Going to Costco is fine if you don’t want to set yourself apart from the rest of photographers, but when you aren’t trying to compete on price but rather on service, quality is most important.


Feel free to post a comment if there is anything I missed! And mark your calendars for our October Meeting- we have a fun speaker and topic lined up, stay tuned for more details next week!


One response to “October Assignment and September Meeting Wrap-Up!

  1. Pingback: October Meeting: Posing your subjects with Laura Totten! | Mamas With Cameras

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