Category Archives: For Photographers
This one is for my fellow photographers out there. Not the most exciting topic for clients, so you may want to skip right on past this one and get back to drooling over the beautiful images over there on my blog!
Why I Dumped My Studio Management Software, And How I Got More Organized in the Process
A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany. For months I have been battling with my studio management software, trying to make it be what I needed and do what I wanted. And then one day I realized, I was trying to make it do the part of my job that is most important to me, building relationships with my clients. I was taking the personal service that I pride myself on, and handing it over to a website which, quite frankly, was not doing the best job. I was trying to automate everything to the point that I was not taking the time to interact with my clients prior to their sessions and I felt like I was arriving more unprepared than in the past. Little details that I should have asked about or picked up on during the onboarding process were missing, and as a result I was not giving my clients the best experience possible. #fail
I was also falling into the trap of trying to funnel everyone into one place to contact me and get information, by filing out a form. No Facebook messages, no emails, no phone calls, please. But when I really thought about it, as a potential client, maybe I don’t want to fill out a form just to ask a question. Maybe I want to pick up the phone and *gasp* TALK to my potential photographer, get to know about them and decide if they are a good fit for my family, and not just a price for a service. And this is really what I want my clients to do! I want to them to hire me for ME, not because I am the lowest price (I am not) or because I came up first in a Google search ( don’t I WISH!)
So I started doing some digging. Hours of reading through blogs, and Facebook groups and examining different organizational products. I brought my onboarding process to a screeching halt and went back to… wait for it… phone calls and written notes. Like on paper. By hand! I made lists and sticky notes and dove headfirst down the rabbit hole of examining what exactly I wanted my process to look like, and how best to achieve it, while still actually communicating with potential clients. After getting back to the basics, I developed a list of what I really needed to help me stay organized, and what I really didn’t need.
Things I determined I didn’t need included the studio management software that had been driving me batty for months. I have used some version of it (ShootQ, Pixifi, and most recently Dubsado) for several years. There is such a push to automate, streamline, and automate some more. Auto emails, workflows, auto contracts, auto invoices, and none of really working right 100% of the time. Sometimes it even made me look DISorganized, rather than like I had it all together. I also came to the realization that the very process of inputting client information into a planner or spreadsheet or Google contacts MYSELF, was part of the process of preparing for their session and getting to know them. When a client simply fills out a form and the software sends them back a contract and they send the contract back, I am not INVOLVED enough. I am not getting personally invested in their session.
After spending some time looking at how I wanted to serve my clients and how to give them the best experience while still keeping some semblance of organization (I do love a good spreadsheet!) I removed the auto messages on Facebook and my website instructing potential clients to fill out a form or go here or there and instead welcomed contact any way that was convenient for them. I whittled everything down to the basics. I needed a way for clients to schedule and pay for their session. I needed a way to organize my clients’ contact information and session details, and I needed a way to track the progress of tasks and due dates so nothing slipped through the cracks. And so, my new process includes Google contacts for, duh, contacts (free!), Asana for task management (also free!), and Acuity for scheduling and booking (not free, but super affordable). Here’s why I chose what I did…
Acuity Acuity is the bomb for busy photographers! With Acuity you can set a regular schedule, a special one-off availability, open up based on appointment type, and more. I have dates open for regular client sessions, dates for mini-session events, and the ability to add any custom date and event I want as needed. It syncs with my Google Calendar, utilizes Square for secure payments (Square is the BEST payment processor I have ever used!!), and then zaps the session info over to Asana, my Google Calendar, AND sends their session info to Google contacts, to the contact I have already created for them.
Asana is best described as a digital sticky note board. In Asana, I store a “task” for each session I book, and then within that task I have subtasks for things like follow-up, reminders, payments due, editing due dates, and more. I have a column for Interested, Booked, In Editing and Complete and I drag my little stickies right across the screen to the next status as I finish them. I can also pull up a task view by due date, color code my sessions by category, and so much more! I don’t know how I lived without Asana, I am such a visual person and this lays it all out for me to see.
I should probably also explain all of the Zapping that is happening. I also use a site called Zapier. With Zapier, you can set up Zaps to perform functions connecting various websites that you use. I have a Zap which brings session info from Acuity into Google contacts, a Zap which sends payment info from Acuity to Quickbooks, a Zap which brings session info over from Acuity to a new Asana task, and a Zap which takes the client info from Google Contacts and adds it to a Google Sheet for safekeeping. And the best part, Zapier is free. So Zap away, friends!
Now, of course there is no one right or wrong way to do all of this running a business stuff, so this wont necessarily work for you or fit your business model at all. But if you are looking for a way to connect with your clients, get back to basics, and feel more involved with your work and less like an IT guy with all of that tweaking your studio management software needs, feel free to follow my lead and dump yours too!
This post includes affiliate links to products that I use and LOVE. I would never recommend it unless I use it myself ❤️
You guys, listen. The struggle is real when you are a photographer. You spend countless hours, meticulously shooting and editing amazing portraits for your clients, and over time you start to expect that level of perfection from every. single. photo. that you take. Of your kids, of the dog, of your vacations, everything. It is so hard for a perfectionist to let it go! My family was recently blessed to be able to go on a Make-A-Wish trip for my daughter, who was born with a congenital heart defect. What I knew would be a once in a lifetime trip for her made me want to take all the pictures, of everything, all the time. But I also wanted to BE there. Do you get me? I didn’t want to get home and have to relive it through the photos because I forgot to put the camera down and experience the trip along with her. This I am often guilty of, as you’ll usually find at least one member of my family telling me to put the camera DOWN already! I ended up taking 1405 pictures of the 5 day trip. Oops.
I think as photographers we also feel like we have a standard to live up to. Like we can put out only our very best work, even in our personal photos, because otherwise it may be judged. (I see you nodding there!!) Hear me – a quick snapshot of an amazing memory is better than not remembering. Give yourself grace to capture the memory and then go live it without the guilt of worrying about how perfect the picture is! And if you are so lucky that your photographer is also afriend, and you get to enjoy all of her awesome personal photos too, just keep in mind… giving your undivided attention to a photo session is a WAY different ballgame than trying to grab a decent snapshot of 3 kids boarding a plane while dangling luggage from a stroller, hunting for the dropped paci, and waving frantically to get the middle child to just look at you for once!
So, I’m admitting the truth… my vacation photos kinda suck. Ok, maybe that’s going to the extreme, but they aren’t amazing, they aren’t perfect, and THAT’S OKAY!! They are crooked, sometimes blurry (on purpose, artistically right?), and often only 2 of my 3 kids are cooperating. They are full of photobombs, chopped limbs, bad lighting and odd composition. I’m usually either wearing a baby (who loves to grab everything!) or waving to said baby with one arm while trying to keep a steady hand with the other. And I never take my best gear on vacation, heck I shoot a lot of my personal shots with my iPhone! But I am not going to weed out only the best, and I am not going to hide the less than perfects from friends and family. Because I remember being there, and enjoying the moment, not just shooting. And you should too! So the next time you want a really cool shot of your 18 month old with airplanes in the background, but she’d rather run around the terminal carrying a banana and refuse to look at you, take the shot anyways. 😉
Every time I see it I cringe. A photographer posts a photo on Instagram or Facebook of an adorable little kid, baby, high school senior, or even a whole family, sitting on railroad tracks. My first Mom instinct is to yell Get off the tracks!! Sometimes among the hundreds of likes and oohs and aahs someone will comment that railroad tracks are dangerous. To which the photographer replies Oh, its ok, they are abandoned. It’s still not ok!! I will never, ever take a client to shoot on railroad tracks, abandoned or not. And here’s why.
Did you know, it takes the average train a whole mile or MORE to come to a complete stop after the emergency brake is applied? So the engineer would have to see you a mile away in order to sound the horn and stop in time to avoid hitting you. Could you see clearly a small child sitting in the road a mile away? Around corners, through intersections? Not likely. What’s that you say? You’d obviously hear it coming and move out of the way? You’d be surprised. Trains can travel up to 125 mph, that means it would take that train about 30 seconds to travel one mile. If there are other city traffic sounds around you, if the train is coming around a corner, or if that conductor cannot see a mile ahead and never sounds the horn, you may not realize one is coming. Now picture a baby sitting on the tracks, someone has to see or hear that train, run to grab the child and run out of the way before that train barrels through. Is that really a chance you’d be willing to take? What’s more, if that train conductor does apply his emergency brake, which he has to if he sees someone on the tracks, there is always a possibility of a pileup of train cars, cars buckling and overturning, and injuries or even death of any passengers or crew on those rail cars. So you aren’t just risking your own lives, you are potentially risking the life of anyone on that train as well. Another fun fact… train cars can hang over the edge of the track 3 feet or more, and people have been killed simply standing too close. Don’t just stay off, stay clear.
Then there’s the little issue of trespassing. It is illegal to be on railroad tracks of any kind, in use or not. Railroad tracks are never abandoned, they may be out of service but they are still the property of the railroad. And even if a line looks abandoned, you never know when it may come back in service. Perhaps a major repair farther down the line caused the track to go out of service for a period of time, maybe even years, but with weeds growing up over the tracks it sure looks abandoned to you. Until one day it’s not. All rail lines have strict trespassing regulations with penalties ranging from fines to seizure of camera equipment to jail time just for setting foot on their tracks. They take rail safety very seriously, and so should you. Check these links for more information Union Pacific Railroad Amtrak Operation Lifesaver
It’s all in the perception. Let’s say you are a professional photographer and you have tracks near your house that you know for certain are no longer in use, not even physically possible that a train could get to them, now it’s ok to use them right? WRONG!! You may know that, but that budding new photographer a few towns over who admires your work and kisses the ground you walk on sees you shoot on the tracks and thinks, Hey great idea! Only he or she doesn’t know those were out of service, nor does he know the dangers of shooting on tracks, so off he goes with a new client to do a railroad session just like yours, only the tracks in his town are not out of service and along comes a train… (If you wouldn’t feel the least bit responsible for that scenario occurring then see reasons 1 and 2 above.)
As professional photographers, we have to be the change and quit shooting on railroad tracks once and for all. There have been too many senseless tragedies lately highlighting the dangers of shooting on tracks. Everyone from amateur hobbyists to full-on professional film production companies making a big budget movie have been killed shooting on railroad tracks. No one is immune to the wrath of a train, and even able-bodied adults have failed to clear out of the way in time.
As a client, I hope this has given you some insight into the dangers of shooting on railroad tracks and helps you to understand why many, if not most, professionals will not agree to shoot on or even near the tracks. And why I would never risk putting those who mean most to you in harms way. ❤️
That’s a wrap folks! 2014 is officially in the can. Your Facebook feeds have likely been jam packed with those fun little Year in Review type slideshows with everyone reliving, and sharing, the best and worst moments of their year. It is a great time to look back at the photos you’ve taken and set some goals for the new year. Do you wish you captured more of something? Do you want to learn to use your camera better this year? Do you struggle with remembering to get the camera out at all?
One of the best ways to improve anything is to practice, right? Practice makes perfect – so they say! A personal project is the perfect way to get lots of practice, and also hit some of those goals at the same time. Anyone can do a personal project, whether your only camera is an iPhone, or you shoot professionally and have tons of gear, or fall somewhere in between! A personal project can be something you do on your own (lucky you, self motivated people!) or something you do as part of a group (this would be me!). It can be structured with a theme every day or week, or a “document your days” type of open theme. Some projects are weekly projects, called a P52 or Project 52, and some are daily, called a P365 or Project 365. However you choose to do it, at the end of the year you will look back at your images and (hopefully!) see growth, improvement, and better yet lots of pics of your favorite people and things.
This year, I have committed to 2 projects. Looking back at my 2014 photos, I decided my goal for 2015 would be to capture more of the every day moments and not just special occasions. I want my kids to look back and remember their favorite stuffed animal, book, or toy, their favorite spot to curl up on the couch, and the precious moments in between the milestones. The first project is a weekly, Project 52, and I joined up with a great group of gals to complete it. There is a new theme every week, and lots of camaraderie and encouragement through a Facebook group. The second is a daily project, called Document Our Days. I am super excited about this one, as I am hoping to put together a fun little photo book at the end of the year with each of my 365 images in it. This one just has one theme for the year – capture your day in a photo. Only camera phones allowed, this one is shared through connections on Instagram. If you don’t already, be sure to follow me at @aseatrempphotography so you can follow my 365 throughout the year!
Are you ready to start, like right. this. minute? Come join me! It is never too late to jump in! Below are a few of my favorite projects to follow, including the ones I’ll be doing this year. Leave me a note below with the project you’re following, your Instagram hashtag, your blog, etc, so I can follow and encourage you all year too!
Document Our Days | #M4HDOD #M4Hp365 This 365 daily project is hosted by Sarah Cornish of My Four Hens Photography, an amazing photographer, and mom, based in Colorado. You can get more information by checking out this blog post on her website Be sure to follow me on Instagram and my hashtag #ATP2014DOD to see a glimpse into my 365!
Project 52 | #M4HP52 This weekly theme based project is also hosted by Sarah. You can find info at the link above and see the incredible images when you join the Facebook Group or the Flickr Pool. Each week a new theme is released for you to interpret and make your own!
Project 365 & 52 Link Up | #CIUAN365 Click It Up A Notch is a fabulous website for parents looking to better capture their little everyday moments! She has a great article over here with some tips on how to rock your project!
52 Week Project – A Year In Song Lyrics | The Photographer Within held an awesome 52 week project last year with each week’s theme being a lyric from a song. This was one of my favorites to follow, it is SO fun to see how women all over the country interpreted the theme and see the amazing images they came up with! Check out the year in review for some inspiration of your own!
UPDATE! I’ve moved to the Phoenix area and to a whole new world of locations! Check out my update to this post here if you are looking for Chandler | Gilbert area session locations!
We’ve all heard it, right? Location, Location, Location. Location is everything, and that is certainly true with on-location photography! A beautiful location can turn a portrait session from great to WOW. Although a great photographer can think on their feet and make the best of any situation, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an amazing backdrop.
Yesterday I had a very sweet family inquire about photos in a location I had never heard of, the Anaheim Packing House. Sounds intriguing, I thought! However, having never shot there before, I let the client know that I would need to do a little homework to find out if there was a permit required, what hours they were open, etc.
Wait, rewind! Hold. The. Phone. A permit? You mean we can’t just roll up to any location we please and start snapping away? NOPE! We can’t. And you wouldn’t want me to… here’s why.
Nothing puts a damper on a portrait session like getting kicked out of a location mid-shoot. Yup, straight up, booted to the curb by management or security. I’ve heard horror stories from plenty of friends, clients and fellow photographers who didn’t do their homework and, as a result, didn’t get the shot. Don’t let that be you! If you suggest a location to your photographer, especially one they have never worked at before, be sure to ask that they obtain the correct permissions from the site.
If the location you are eyeing is on private property such as a shopping center, museum, restaurant or hotel, or a private estate, your photographer should always be calling ahead to ask permission and find out what the photography policy is. A lot of locations are happy to oblige if asked nicely, and if the photographer abides by their requests. Some of the most popular OC locations such as the Anaheim Packing House, the Lab Anti-Mall and the Camp and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts require a signed agreement from the photographer agreeing to their policies, require shoots take place only during certain hours, as well as charging a permit fee for the date/time reserved ranging from $75 to over $100.
Have you set your sights set on a beach or park? That’s another permit! In Orange County, the OC Parks department requires an annual film permit for photographers holding sessions at any county-run sites such as Irvine Regional Park in Orange, and Harriet Wieder Park in Huntington Beach. Not exactly a park, the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana is also run by the OC Parks service and requires a county permit. In addition to the fee, photographers must also provide proof of business liability insurance to the county. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach have strict city permit policies for all sessions taking place on Newport or Laguna Beaches including the very popular Little Corona beach which carries a whopping $700 permit fee! Crystal Cove, along with all state parks, has a separate permit for use of their beach.
Is that enough to make your head spin yet? The good news is, your photographer should be well educated in the laws and regulations of the areas they offer sessions at, and will handle all of these pesky details for you. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of your photographer to know the rules and follow them. If the photographer you are thinking about hiring does not seem to be aware of the local rules and regulations, does not carry insurance or a business license, or cannot answer your questions, it may be time to look elsewhere.
So who pays this fee? Many photographers have a clause in their contract that any site fees are the responsibility of the client. This would typically apply to one-time fees for a specific time and date. A great way to save on this cost, and something I encourage of my clients, is to find a another family or a friend to book a session just before or after yours and split the fee with you. For county and state park annual fees, most photographers who shoot frequently in these areas will consider this annual fee a cost of doing business rather than passing it on to their clients directly, as they may shoot there dozens of times per year under one permit.
No matter where your session takes place, whether a permit is purchased or not, always remember to be respectful of others around you. Your photographer should be heeding this advice as well. Most permits require that photographers not block access to other guests, or obstruct walkways, which is just common courtesy. By respecting the facility, you help ensure the privilege of using it remains available for other families after you. Many a location has banned photographers or instituted very high permit fees due to bad behavior by others in the past. One person really can ruin it for everyone.
Orange County, and really all of Southern California, has some of the most unique and beautiful locations for a portrait session. Where else can you go from the beach to the snow in one day, from a world-class hotel to a beautiful gondola in a canal, and find modern architecture alongside historic Missions? We are so lucky to have all of this available to us, so the next time you are planning a portrait session think outside the box, get out of the studio, and find the perfect location that suits your personality and style!