Category Archives: Photography Tips

Tips to improve your photography

Great Location Great Options

If you are shooting weddings, portraits, or stock – the venue you choose will have a significant impact on both the style and variety of images you can produce. Some venues only allow for one style of image, while others will allow for multiple different styles. For maximum variety and impact, I’m looking for the double – Great Location Great Options.

Winter portrait

Take time to research your venue. It will lead to more successful shoots.

For this shoot with Ayona we were shooting with a dual purpose – the images were going to be used on her fashion blog (Her Style Saga) and also in my stock portfolio.


Woman on stairs

Large stairways always provide options and the leaves add to the wintery feel

I had wanted to shoot at this venue for some time, as I love the old architecture and building facades. I visited the venue twice before the shoot to check which locations would be suitable, and to see how the light would fall in the late afternoon when we were shooting.

That research made me realize there were a wealth of different options within short walking distance.

There were areas which showcased archways and classic architecture, others with beautiful building facades, some with park backgrounds, and yet others with fallen leaves which highlighted the late autumn, early winter time of year.

This was a venue with lots and lots of options (I liked it so much, I’ve already done another shoot there!)

So, what should you look for in locations?

Point 1 – Backgrounds which will add impact. I look for buildings or landscapes or architecture which will give a real sense of presence to the image. I want to add to the impact. This set of images was about a young woman and her passion for fashion. It could be shot in the studio, but there was more impact shooting outdoor. And in an outdoor venue, I wanted to be able to create a set of different images in a short space of time. That leads us to point 2.

Woman walking

Arches, classic architecture, fashion, and an overcast day are a great combination

Point 2 – look for venues with variety. I don’t want all my images from a shoot to look the same. This is particularly the case for wedding photography and stock photography where I am expecting to shoot and use a large number of images. So I don’t want all the same backgrounds.

I want to be able to easily move (ideally walk) between different areas which will give me different looking images. In this case, all the venues we used were within 5 minutes walk of each other. For me, that is perfect! The entire shoot lasted for less than 90 minutes and we produced a wide variety of images.

Point 3 – the location needs to be free from over crowding. To be able to shoot in a public space, you need a venue which will not be overcrowded. I didn’t want people wandering through the background of my images, so we chose to shoot on a Sunday afternoon on a fairly cool early winters day.

It was cool, but the wintery conditions meant we didn’t often have to pause for people to walk through the background where we were shooting. All the people were inside keeping warm!

Boots

Fallen leaves and leather boots added to the wintery feel.

Point 4 – choose venues with good accessibility and parking. This venue is about 25 minutes drive from where I live, which I would call fairly close to home. It is in a built up area and parking can be difficult during the week. So we chose to shoot on the weekend when we both had availability, knowing that the location would not be too crowded and we wouldn’t have much trouble finding a car park.

If you haven’t been putting much time and research into choosing locations, perhaps you should take a lesson from the advertising industry. In planning for TV commercials, ad agency staff spend hours and hours researching the perfect venues to support the story they are looking to tell. If you are a photographer shooting weddings, portraits or stock, perhaps you should spend more time researching venues to help you produce really strong images?

Architecture

Architecture can add impact

As well as Great Location Great Options, you need a good model to work with. Thank you to Ayona who was a very easy person to work with, and the shoot was a lot of fun.

If you would like to check out the images Ayona selected for her blog, or if you just love fashion – visit her blog out at Her Style Saga.

Thanks for taking the time to read Great Location Great Options.

5 Tips For Managing Your Event Photography Client

Event photography is a common way for photographers to make the first step into paid work. It could be a birthday party, a christening, a promotional event, a corporate day, a wedding, or another event. Being able to produce the photographic results is one thing – and being able to deliver what the client wants is another. Here are 5 tips for managing your event photography client.

Wedding couple

Be clear with your client about the hours you will attend the event

Tip #1 – Know the hours you are expected to attend. You need to be clear on the hours you are expected to attend an event. Be direct and ask your client “what hours would you like me to cover?” This is a small part of making sure you are on the same wavelength as your client. It will also be a component of what you charge for a job. It’s likely that you will charge more for a 4 hour shoot than a 2 hour shoot. Once you know the hours you are expected to attend, make sure you are early and stay through until the finishing time. If the client is at the event, check in with them before you leave (this is also a great time to ask “would you like me to stay longer? My rate is $XX per hour and I am happy to stay another hour”)

Tip #2 – Be clear about the key moments of the event and be ready to shoot them. Make sure you ask your client “what are the key images you would like from this event?” If it is a birthday party the client might want images of the child blowing out the candles on the cake, an image including the child’s parents and grand parents, and one of the next door neighbor who has baby sat the child over the years. You really can’t deliver the images the client needs without a good understanding of the key moments. It’s about knowing what is important to your client. Once you know the key moments, be sure you shoot all of them and more.

Tip #3 – Understand your client’s key deliverables. Often your client will have a deadline to meet and it is important you understand this. Let’s use the example of a corporate event. The client may need the images to be used in a brochure which will go to print in 2 weeks time. This is critical information so that you can agree with the client when you will deliver the images. There is nothing more frustrating for a client to have organised a photographer to be at the event, and then not have the images delivered to meet their deadline. (If your client has a really short deadline, you may consider charging more to give that client’s job the highest priority in your workflow).

Business woman

Ask your clients how the images will be used and deliver the files in a size and format which is appropriate

Tip #4 – Understand how many images your client is expecting and how they will be used.  This tip is also to gain clarity about the client’s expectations and to some degree will influence your pricing. If you attend a full day corporate event, your post production time will vary greatly if the client is expecting 100 images compared to 500 images. Ask your client in advance so that you both have clear expectations.

It is also handy to know how the images will be used. If they are going to be used only on a website, you can deliver low resolution images ready to be immediately uploaded to the client’s website. If they are going to be printed, try to deliver the images in the appropriate resolution which will make things easy at the client’s end.

Tip #5 – Get payment in advance wherever possible. Event photography is rife with situations of the photographer not getting paid in a timely manner, or not getting paid at all. To minimize your risk, get payment in advance wherever possible.

If you are shooting a wedding you are making a big commitment of time and effort. For weddings it is standard to be paid in advance. Wedding venues asking for payment in advance which makes it easy for the photographer to request the same.

If you are shooting a corporate event, be sure to submit your invoice early. Corporations sometimes take time to pay their suppliers, so the sooner you have submitted your invoice, the sooner you will get paid.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for managing your event photography client. Good luck with your event photography.

Can I Make Money in Stock Photography from Landscape and Cityscape Images

I participate in several photography groups on Facebook. This week I posted a reply to a group member who was exploring stock photography. After several messages, he asked me – can I make money in stock photography from landscape and cityscape images?

My response to him was that – yes, you can. But the reality is that simple landscape and cityscape images are highly competitive. There are hundreds of contributors submitting this type of material, and millions of existing images. So, it won’t be easy to create unique images that continue to be downloaded.

Bolte Bridge

Bolte Bridge, Melbourne, Australia. A specific scene shot in dramatic light.

So, if you want to generate an income from stock photography with this style of image, what is the best chance of success? Here are five suggestions for giving you the greatest chance of success.

  1. Shoot in the best light. There are likely to be hundreds of competing images to your own. Make your point of difference images shot in excellent light. This will likely mean sunrise and sunset shoot times.
  2. Shoot tourist highlights. There is ongoing demand for images which capture the icons of a city or a well known landscape. Take the time to shoot the tourist highlights of your city, or well known landscape spots.
  3. Shoot like a local. There is increasing demand for images which capture the essence of a city in a way only a local would know. Shoot the back laneways, cafes, popular meeting places. Use your local knowledge to shoot places that only a local would know.
  4. Develop an expansive body of work. What does that mean? It means you are going to stick at this. You are going to shoot different elements, in different conditions, at different times of year. It is not a random shot taken here or there, it’s about developing a range of work.
  5. Document the city or landscape year round. Cities and landscapes look very different at different times of year. Take advantage of the different seasons to add a new look to your work.

And like anyone using stock photography to generate a meaningful income – you need to treat this like a business. Set a goal for how many files you plan to upload this month and this year. Work at it. Keep adding to your portfolio. Develop variety in your images. Study similar images which have been successful as stock. What are the elements you are going to emulate in your own images? And keep working at it. Stock photography is based on the idea that you will do the work now (shoot, edit and upload) and be rewarded later (downloads and income). So keep working at it.

Beach

In my experience generic scenes like this don’t offer good returns as stock

Landscapes and cityscapes are very competitive areas, but it is possible to make money in these areas. My experience is that cityscapes and specific landscape images provide better returns than very generic landscapes. Look for your image to tell a story of a specific place.

Thanks for reading ‘can I make money in stock photography from landscape and cityscape images?’

Use Recognizable Backgrounds to Add Impact

There has long been a place (and a market!) for images shot in a studio on a plain background – just ask any established studio photographer. Studio images on plain backgrounds help to focus you entirely on the subject. But what if you are looking to bring a more contemporary look to your images? Have you tried to use recognizable backgrounds to add impact? And by backgrounds, I don’t mean studio backdrops – I mean real locations.

Why do recognizable backgrounds help to make a strong image? Recognizable backgrounds add location and meaning to an image. They create a connection with the viewer who will often know the exact location the image has been shot at, and may have even stood in the exact same location.

Flinders St Station

People who know Melbourne will instantly recognize this location

In this image, people who know Melbourne, Australia will instantly recognize this as the front entrance to the Flinders Street Railway Station on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. The location adds a distinct local flavor, and creates a connection with the viewer. Many people have stood in this exact location.

Why is this an opportunity for your photography business? Demand for images shot in the studio and isolated on white is falling, and demand for real people in real locations (including recognizable locations!) is booming. It is about creating genuine images which the viewer can relate to. Real people, real locations.

Parliament buildings

It’s possible to shoot in a variety of locations in a single shoot

Here are seven quick reasons why you might want to catch this wave.

  • clients love to shoot images which connect them to the location. Whether it’s permanent residents or travelers, people have an emotional connection to their home town, whether it’s a permanent or temporary home town.
  • locations look different at different times of year. Use the seasons to your advantage and shoot different styles in different seasons. Think how you could use this to shoot different images of the same client at different times of year?
  • if you are starting out, you can shoot this style of image with minimal cost. You may want a reflector or two, but you won’t incur the costs of setting up a studio when you shoot this type of image. This can be a very cost effective way to build a portrait business or stock portfolio.
  • demand for ‘local’ stock images is growing rapidly. Stock buyers are moving away from images which could have been shot anywhere, to images which clearly have context and location. If you are interested in driving your stock photo sales, shoot local and make it clear that the images have context and location.
  • shooting images on location is fun. I find it really enjoyable walking around my hometown finding new locations and shooting interesting local images. Often you can generate a very wide variety of images in a short period of time.
  • there is an almost limitless range of possible locations. I am shooting a stock photography series using locations in my home town. I started by writing down some locations to use, and ended up with a list of ideas three pages long! You won’t run out of locations to shoot at. Think creatively and you will be able to generate a huge range of shoot locations.
  • clients love to share location images on social media. This can only be good for business.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you can use recognizable backgrounds to create some cool images and benefit your photography business. Happy shooting.

How to Find Models to Work With

Making the step from working with friends and family, to photographing clients, through to working with models are big steps in a photographers career. They are also challenging steps unless you have a network of appropriate people to shoot with. This post – How to Find Models to Work With – details ways for you to source models for your shoot.

basketball

Facebook groups and specialist sites are great places to connect with other creatives

Facebook. If you are a Facebook user and live in a place with a reasonable population, there is likely to already be a Facebook group set up which will help you.

As I’m writing this post I’ve gone to the Facebook search field and entered “Sydney models” and it has proposed a series of relevant groups.

As I scan down them I can see one called ‘Sydney Models / Photographers / HMUA’ which currently has 3716 members. So what is this? It is a group of models, photographers, and hair and make up artists (HMUA) who participate together in the group.

They make requests for relevant services, share work, put forward their name for shoots, and use the Facebook group as a place to find other creatives to work with.

Specialist Sites. There are also specialist web sites which create communities of creatives. The two that I am most familiar with are Model Mayhem and StarNow. Go ahead and check them out. It is free to set up a profile on each of them, and like the Facebook groups, they are a place for creatives to come together.

How should a photographer use these communities? Start by setting up a profile and include details of what you are looking for from people visiting your profile. I am a stock photographer, so my profile includes details to let people know the projects I am working on, and the type of creatives I would like to contact me.

Secondly, there is the opportunity to share your work. Add images to your profile so visitors can assess the style and quality of your work.

Thirdly, each of these communities have the ability to post a ‘casting call’. That is, you put forward details of your shoot, and ask people who are interested to get in contact with you.

Pilot

Include all relevant information in your casting call to help get qualified responses

What information should you include in a casting call? The short answer is – as much information as possible. Consider these points as a minimum:

  • when is the shoot? Include the date and time
  • where is the shoot? Be specific. A suburb is better than just the city name.
  • how long do you anticipate the shoot will go for?
  • is it indoor or outdoor? Studio or natural light?
  • is the shoot paid or TFP (time for print, or time for portfolio)?
  • what is the shoot concept?
  • what special requirements do you have? (for example, if you are looking for a model of specific cultural background and with long hair, be sure to specify that in the casting call)
  • who is doing hair and makeup? A HMUA? or do you want the model to do their own?

If you were not sure how to find models to work with, I hope this post has helped you.

If you already use these sites or others, what is your experience? Which sites generate the best response for you?

Thanks for reading – how to find models to shoot with. Happy shooting.

5 Tips for More Compelling Wildlife Images

Wildlife  photography is a hugely popular field for both amateur and professional photographers. Here are 5 tips for more compelling wildlife images.

Pademelon

Look for pairs of animals to add a new dimension to your images.

Tip 1 – Look for Pairs of Animals. Solo portraits of animals can make compelling images, but pairs of animals add a new dimension. There is the relationship between the animals and the interaction between them. Look out for pairs of animals.

Koala

Baby animals are great subjects for wildlife photography

Tip 2 – Photograph baby animals. If you want people viewing your images to “ooohh and aaahh” then build a gallery of images of baby animals. There is something about the cute, vulnerability of baby animals – as well as the connection with the parent that is guaranteed to create compelling images. Koalas, like in this image, spend the first few weeks of their life in their mothers pouch. When they become too big, they are transported on their mothers’ back. This period is an ideal time to shoot images which include both mother and baby. Inevitably the baby will be looking small and cute, and mum will be alert in protecting her young one.

Flying fox

Animals in action. A flying fox carrying its baby.

Tip 3 – Look for animals in action. Animals in action, engaging in natural behavior are always more interesting than animals doing nothing. This is particularly why you get very different types of images when you photograph animals in the wild compared to animals in captive environments such as zoos.

In this image, the grey headed flying fox is flying through the air. If you look very closely you can see that it is carrying its baby at the same time. The baby is clinging to its mothers’ chest and will continue to do this until it is large enough and strong enough to fly alone. This image also emphasizes one of the key features of this animal – the spooky vein structure which is visible in the wings. When you are planning your wildlife shoot, consider what feature of the animal you are photographing you want to highlight.

Duck

A very low angle makes a compelling image of a common animal

Tip 4 – Shoot from unusual angles. Ducks are very common birds where I live in Melbourne, Australia. In creating compelling images of common animals, look for different angles to shoot from. In this case I lay down at the edge of the lake, to shoot an image from the duck’s eye level. For more about this shoot, please see this post.

Tree kangaroo

The Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo is an endangered species from New Guinea

Tip 5 – Photograph unusual wildlife. Unusual wildlife make compelling images. This image is a Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo. They are native to New Guinea and are now an endangered species. Images like these are compelling, not only for the beautiful colors of the animal, but also because most people will never have seen this animal. Look for unusual wildlife for more compelling images.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for more compelling wildlife images. Good luck with your wildlife photography.

How to Reward Repeat Customers

I recently met with a photographer here in Melbourne, Australia who is in the early stages of his photography business. He has made a good start and is clear on his target market (head shots for actors). Interestingly he was considering offering discounts to clients who update their head shots regularly. That led me to consider the broader client issue of how to reward repeat customers?

Let’s start by considering what a customer goes through before a shoot.

Often for actors or business people, they are going to use their images as part of a pitch for a job or a role. The images are part of the impact their application will make, and it is important. A strong, well lit image can assist in making a first impression and helping to get a face to face meeting. Ultimately it helps in whether they get the part or job.

Now let’s think about the mental questions the client goes through before a shoot. The following things will be going through the clients mind either consciously or subconsciously – is this photographer any good? do they know about lighting and can make me look good? will this be value for money? will this be fun? will I get a range of images which I can use in different situations? will this be an ordeal which I regret? is my hair and make up ok? They are not very positive questions! Most of my clients know they need good quality images, but start the process with this range of concerns and doubts.

client

Put yourself in your clients shoes to determine what additional service you can provide

So what about after the shoot? The most common feedback I receive about the experience of the shoot is – that was fun, that was easier than I expected, and I felt relaxed in front of the camera. And of course, the client receives a range of high quality images to use.

So, should you offer a discount to repeat customers? Everyone will have their own opinion on this, so please take this as just one point of view. I don’t offer discounts to repeat customers because they already know and have experienced that:

  • they will receive high quality images
  • the shoot will be relaxed and fun
  • the shoot experience will not be difficult
  • I can adjust the length of the shoot to meet their needs on the day

So why would I offer a lower price to people who have that peace of mind? They already know the process of the shoot and don’t have the concerns of someone you haven’t worked with before. I want my business filled with repeat customers, but won’t be able to afford to do that if I am always offering them a cheaper price than new clients.

save time

A short, stress-free shoot may be more important to your customer than the price

So how to reward repeat customers? As I’ve outlined, I don’t use price as a reward mechanism for repeat customers – I use service. As an existing customer of mine I look for all possible ways to offer a high level of service. Here are some examples:

  • short notice bookings. If an existing customer needs some shots done at short notice, I will move other shoots and appointments to meet the time frame they need.
  • prints. Often my clients need printed images. I will do all I can to help them with prints. Again I don’t discount these, but I save my clients the time and inconvenience of doing it themselves.
  • on location. If we have already done a studio shoot, I offer to do the next shoot on location. It might be at their work or home (usually their work place) so that their image can be taken in the context of their business.
  • file sizes. I ask what the images will be used for and make sure the images I deliver are ready to use. If an image is urgently needed for a LinkedIn profile, I will email the image in the correct dimensions at 72dpi ready to be uploaded to my clients profile. I aim to make life easy for my client and to deliver a level of service which is worth paying for
  • family portraits. I find that most people intend to do family portraits but never quite get around to it. For clients where I have shot business portraits, I offer to shoot family portraits for them too. I make it easy. They know and trust me, and know I’ll make the shoot fun and light-hearted

I hope this has given you a different perspective on how to reward repeat customers. Leave your prices and look really hard at what additional services you can provide. Thanks for reading how to reward repeat customers.

5 Tips for Photographing Models

Working with models is different to working with non models. Models are used to being in front of camera, and have often worked with a wide variety of people. They are generally not self conscious or shy, and they want to keep shooting until the right look has been captured. It is very different to shooting portraits or weddings for non models. Here are 5 tips for photographing models.

Tip 1 – Provide a Pre-Shoot Briefing. The model wants and expects to be a part of a creative team fulfilling a brief. Don’t expect the model to understand the look you are trying to achieve without discussing it with them first. Take time to explain the shoot and the desired outcome, and be open to input from the model.

Business Woman

Providing a briefing about the look you are trying to achieve

How do we do this? If this is self commissioned work, its about being able to explain the look you are wanting to capture. If it is client work, it is about being able to translate the clients brief into a vision for the model to understand. Take your time. Share sample images. Discuss what you are, and aren’t looking for. Allow time and space for discussion.

Photographing models is different than photographing non models. Tip number one, provide a pre-shoot briefing to the model. Share your vision with them. Let them add their good ideas to yours.

Shopping

A relaxed and confident persona will be picked up by the model

Tip 2 – Be Confident and Genuine. Reality check! This tip is the same whether you are working with models or non models. Being confident means being well prepared. Your gear is in order. You equipment is laid out near the shooting area. You have practiced before the shoot and are not making it up as you go. You know what you are doing, and the shoot is going to be a success.

Being genuine is about treating people with respect. If you are starting out and have limited experience, don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Tell your model. We have all been in the same position and 99% of people will treat you well. Some will even go out of their way to help. Be confident. Be genuine. People respond well to these traits.

Tip 3 – Work in a Collaborative Way. Working with a model is having a partner in a shoot. It’s about working together to achieve strong images. It’s not about you working alone and achieving results despite your model.

I like to make sure the model is well briefed and it is clear we are working as a team – one (or more) in front of the camera, and one behind the camera. I like to share images during the shoot. That’s reviewing images together and discussing what’s working well and why, and what’s not working well and how to fix it. This works really well when we have ‘nearly’ got the look we want and just need some minor adjustments.

It’s a team effort. It’s about achieving strong images together. Tip number 3 work collaboratively.

Female portrait

Provide sincere feedback about what is working and what’s not

Tip 4 – Provide Sincere Feedback. Tip 4 goes along with tip 2. It’s about the relationship of different parties working together for a common goal. Models are not camera shy and don’t need insincere praise of everything they are doing. Everyone enjoys some positive feedback, but remember you are working with a professional. Give feedback on what’s working well and what’s not. Be specific. Work together to achieve the results you are looking for. You’re there to achieve a result, not to be a cheerleader. Tip number 4, provide sincere feedback.

Tip 5 – Relax. All people being photographed will be influenced by the mood and behavior of the photographer. If you are uptight, tense and irritable – expect the model to pick up on that. Your model will feel and look uncomfortable. If you are positive, confident and relaxed that will also translate to your model. Work on preparing well, so  that everyone can relax and enjoy the shoot. You’ll produce better work this way.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for photographing models. Happy shooting!

 

 

The Benefits of Working in a Photographic Series

It’s not a single picture here and there. It’s not an image or two, it’s about leaving a trail which tells a story. It’s a body of work which speaks to the subject and the photographer’s vision. Many are ongoing. They get better with time. The total body of work is more important than any individual image. That’s a photographic series. If you have never tackled one, read on for the benefits of working in a photographic series.

I read an interview with Annie Leibovitz which highlighted the view of someone who understands the benefits of working this way. Of all the celebrities she has photographed, she was asked which was her favorite image or images. Her answer was that none of them were her favorite, but that the most important thing was the body of work she has built over time and continues to build. She understands building a body of work, and the series being more important than any individual image.

What are the benefits of working in a photographic series? What is in it for the photographer?

Koala

Shooting extended series gives greater opporunity to capture unique images

(1) More unique images. More exposure to one subject or one series increases your chance of getting unique images of that subject. In the images on this post I have used wildlife images, but this principle applies to any subject. With repeated exposure to the same subject you are going to be able to create more unique images than if you only shoot that subject once. It took time to get a shot of a winking koala.

(2) Shooting a series forces you to find different ways to capture your subject. Shooting a series is not about building a large collection of similar images. It is about focusing on a subject and producing a diverse range of images. Producing different images is where your development as a photographer comes from – as you find new, different, unique ways to shoot your subject. You get the chance to experiment with different lenses, different lighting, different angles, and different exposures.

(3) You develop a greater affinity with your subject – and a greater affinity helps you to produce better images. Again, this applies to different subjects. If you are shooting images of a toddler, getting to know the child and making images of them over time allows you to develop an affinity with the child and to produce varied images. In the example is a flying fox image. This shoot location is near my home (details here) and after repeated visits in different wind conditions, I learned to better predict where they would fly, allowing me to capture stronger images. I’ve also come to know, that if I visit this area in early summer, there is a good chance of seeing baby flying foxes clinging to their mothers chests in mid air. A greater affinity with the subject lets you shoot better images. What do you have an affinity for? Where does your interest lie?

Fruit bat

Shooting an extended series on Flying Foxes has enabled me to capture a wide variety of images in different light conditions

(4) Different shoots, different lighting, different images. Shooting in a series will produce variety in your work as each shoot will be in different lighting conditions (unless you choose to keep the light the same in a studio setting). I have shot an extensive range of images of grey headed flying foxes, and the lighting conditions have a significant impact on the style of image produced on any given day. In this example with the sunlight behind the subject, it highlights the wing structure and the veins.

Flying fox

Shooting in different lighting conditions generates very different images.

(5) Shooting in a series allows you to select only your very best work to display. It gives a depth to your collection, and gives you options to select only your very best work to display. That leads to a high quality portfolio, not a mediocre collection of many subjects. It allows you to develop and display a photographic style.

Thanks for reading the benefits of working in a photographic series. If you have never tackled one, take up the challenge!

Featured Photographer Janet Hastings

Today’s featured photographer on Beyond Here is Janet Hastings. Janet lives and works in Melbourne, Australia and operates her business as Janet Hastings Photography. Read on to learn more about Janet, her business, and how she operates.

Janet, tell us about Janet Hastings Photography ….

Janet Hastings Photography was born through the encouragement of my family following the birth of my twin grand daughters. I have always had a camera in hand, and have honed my skills over many year producing stock photography. This had always been a hobby and a way to fund my photography equipment. When my grand daughters arrived, my love affair with newborn photography began. Within a few months I was following this new dream of developing a photography business specializing in newborns, maternity, and baby’s first year. To get my dream off the ground I went back to study to gain qualifications in photography. I never want to stop learning.

I am never happier than when I am creating beautiful memories for new parents of their newborn’s earliest days.

Baby

Janet aims to capture the essence of a newborn. Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography.

How do you describe your photographic style?

I love to capture the pure essence of a newborn baby. For me, this means minimal props, with a focus on simplicity. I love to capture real memories of these earliest days – the serenity of a sleeping newborn, the unexpected facial expressions, right down to the tiny squishy lips, little toes, fingers and the tiniest fingernails. I also love to capture the essence of the relationship between new parents and their tiny baby. I know the images I create will become treasured family keepsakes.

While you use minimal props, what are your favorites?

My main props include a large variety of backdrop throws – soft and snuggly blankets in various colors and textures which set the color palette for each part of the newborn shoot. I then select complimentary wraps, bonnets, nappy covers and sometimes a special keepsake that the parents would like included. I have a variety of wicker baskets and tubs that I layer with faux furs and other fabrics to make a snuggly nest for baby. Prior to the session, I discuss with my clients their color preferences and home decor to ensure that the color palette of the blankets and props compliment their style as well as my creativity.

How do you prepare for a new born shoot?

I have a home studio dedicated to newborn photography. It has a large posing pod, backdrops and continuous lighting using soft boxes to soften and diffuse the light. I shoot with a Canon 7D which is ideal for my style of photography. I particularly enjoy using my Sigma Art Series 35mm lens for newborn photography, but will swap around with my other lenses for variety.

Mother and baby

It is important to have a studio environment where parents and baby feel at ease. Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

It is so important that the parents feel relaxed and at ease during the photoshoot. I have a comfortable couch in my studio where parents can relax and generally feel at home while I photograph their baby. I provide a feeding cushion and privacy during feeding times. I do request that one of the parents assist when I am posing and photographing baby. I will never force a baby into a pose that they don’t seem comfortable with. Every baby is different as some are more flexible than others. Some curl beautifully while others like to stretch their little legs and my role is to work with the differences and still create memorable images. Baby definitely sets the pace and flow of my sessions which can last 3 hours or more.

Newborns have difficulty regulating their body temperature so I always heat the studio. While it can become uncomfortably hot for the adults, baby will be cozy and more likely to drop off to sleep for those beautiful, serene, sleepy images I hope to capture. I also use white noise which helps an unsettled baby to relax and drift off to sleep.

What is your most memorable session?

I have had many memorable moments, both fun and challenging. With newborn photography you need to expect the unexpected. I let parents know that ‘little accidents’ are bound to happen, and when they do we simply clean up and move on. It is just a part and parcel of newborn photography. I remember, during one of my early photo shoots, when a dad ended up with a handful of the ‘unexpected’. He didn’t know what to do for a moment but handled the situation so well. After the clean up we moved on with a very successful session. I’m sure that will be one of the stories that comes to mind when his daughter turns 21!

The challenging moments usually relate to fractious babies – the newborns that love to be cradled in their parents arms and instantly become upset when laid down. The greatest asset during a newborn session is patience and time. I am a naturally patient person which assists greatly when I am working with an unsettled baby. I usually succeed in settling a newborn to sleep during their shoot. I employ techniques I have learned through being a mum and more recently a grand mother. I have often been asked by a new parent if they could take me home after their session! Have you heard of the baby whisperer?

newborn photography

Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

What are your keys to an efficient work flow?

My work flow commences before I even meet my clients. The first contact is usually by phone or email. I then provide information regarding cost and preparing for a newborn session. I ask my new client to complete a pre-session questionnaire which gives me insight into their style, their home decor and what they are hoping to achieve from their session.

After the session I use Lightroom to rate and short list the images to 30 to 40 of the best images which I present to my clients. I make basic adjustments to these images in Lightroom, and then export to Photoshop where I edit for skin tone, blemishes etc. My aim is to present images that truly reflect baby’s earliest days, so often I will leave flaky skin which is so typical of a newborn. The end result is a dreamy, serene style that parents love.

The parents return for a Portrait Preview Session approximately 3 weeks after the shoot. I use ProSelect software to conduct this session where parents choose the images they wish to use for their end products. That may be framed or block prints, canvases, keepsake albums and image boxes. Often clients will order enlargements or mini albums as gifts for grandparents.

How do you generate new clients?

Word of mouth is the best advertising – a happy client is always willing to refer you. I run a referral program so that the referring client receives a voucher for a future session if someone they refer books and completes a session with me.

The importance of social media cannot be understated. My website showcases my work, generates business and includes my blog (which is linked to social media). My facebook page is also an important aspect of my advertising program. With my clients permission I post one or two preview images on facebook following a shoot which my clients happily share with their facebook friends. I always watermark these images so that my business name is shared as well.

I occasionally offer model calls via my facebook page which are very popular. Participants receive a set number of prints for their time. During these sessions I can be free to work on new concepts and ideas and I use these as my professional development time. Model call sessions often result in further portrait sales and I make sure that my models and their parents enjoy the experience. These assist with word of mouth advertising too.

If you had 3 tips for photographers starting out in new born photography, what would they be?

Never stop learning – become a sponge to soak up all the information you can about your equipment, newborn posing techniques, editing software and marketing.

Don’t be discouraged if obtaining clients is slow at first. Persistence is vital to build your brand and your business. Be prepared for slow times at first, and use these times to develop your skill, learn something new, or develop advertising ideas.

Value yourself and your time. Make sure that you charge appropriately for your services. Take into account your time and talent for the photo shoot and the hours you put into post processing. You also need to cover your costs for website hosting, affiliations, public liability insurance etc. Most importantly, don’t sell yourself short.

What does the future hold for Janet Hastings Photography?

In January 2015 I gained accreditation with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) which has opened up a whole new world of inspiration and opportunities. I plan to continue to grow my business, to be a life long learner and an inspiration in my field of newborn photography.

Thank you Janet for sharing your story and your tips.

To see more of featured photographer Janet Hastings work please visit her website at Janet Hastings Photography.

newborn

Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography