Top 10 Photography Questions I Get Asked

photography tips

What kind of camera should I buy? I can’t tell you what to buy, but I can tell you what I use. I’ve used Nikon and Canon gear and I prefer Canon. I love the image quality, the crispness of the images, the colors, the low light compensation. I shoot with a 5D Mark iii and Mark iv, but I honestly think any DSLR body can get you started. It’s a lot more about the experience level of the person holding the camera than the camera itself. That being said, lenses can help a lot, too. I love the 50mm and the 24-70. Start playing around and see what you like!

Why is hiring a photographer so expensive? I’m glad you asked! It’s expensive because we’re a business and we incur other costs besides just paying for the camera. Here are just a few annual costs photographers have: the Adobe Suite, computer updates, external hard drives, cloud storage, memory cards, seamless backdrops, lighting equipment, props, insurance, lenses, flashes, website yearly hosting and domain costs, accounting services, legal fees for photography contracts, workshops and classes. Not to mention the time and expertise you are paying for when you hire a photographer. A lot more goes into it than people think.

What’s the difference between an iPhone and a DSLR? Don’t get me wrong, you can take awesome pictures on your iPhone. But not quality ones. I use my phone every day to capture the city and document the world around me. But to really get quality images, I use my DSLR. There are so many more pixels and the file is so much bigger on a professional camera, so you can do more with the image. Higher quality and more options for lenses and depth of field creates more room to explore and experiment. But at the same time, start exploring with photography on your phone if you don’t want to buy a camera just yet. It’s supposed to be fun and creative!

How can I get the blurry background on my photos? That’s called Bokeh. You can learn all about it and how to get it on my article right here.

Do I need to learn manual mode on my camera? Yes! I think that Manual mode is key to understanding your camera and photography. You have a lot more room for creative expression if you are aware of the technical side of photography and can adjust it on-the-go. I learned by playing around with my camera, but a good place to start is with YouTube tutorials (or Linda.com if you have a library card!). When you know how to change the lighting, white balance, ISO, aperture and shutter speed on your own, you can be really sure you’re creating the types of images that you want. In my experience, learning more about my camera has only helped make my images more fun and creative!

Is editing photos important? I think it’s the crucial second step after shooting the image itself. To me, capturing the shot is a special art that takes practice and intuition, but editing that photo to your final vision is like sculpting the final details of an art piece. I use it to remove unnecessary elements from the shot, be it distracting spots in the background, wrinkles on a shirt, or cropping out space that doesn’t add to the focal point of the shot. Then I fix the white balance and adjust the color, usually making the shot more vibrant and punchy. The last thing I do is smooth out skin, whiten teeth, remove stray hair, and any other soft adjustments to enhance the subject. That might sound pretty simple, but it’s taken me years and years to perfect my editing style and find a balance of enhancing without overdoing.

How do you get paid to do photography? It’s a long process that won’t happen overnight. First you need to build a portfolio in the area that you want to produce work in. That might mean doing free or trade shoots with other vendors. For example, when I first moved to NYC, I produced styled shoots for wedding photography to build my portfolio. I got makeup artists, florists, and dress designers to lend me their products or skills in exchange for the photos to add to their portfolio as well. Other times I did free shoots for people to build my portfolio and gain experience. Once you feel you’re at a point where you have the knowledge and skillset to charge people, start doing it! Talk to other photographers and learn their pricing structure so you have something to base your rates off of. Increase as you become more skilled. It might take a few years, but your client base will grow as you do!

Is being a photographer hard? Yes and no. But mostly yes. It’s a career that you have to be really passionate about, and it will take a lot of work to be successful. I put in work almost every evening and weekend because I want my photography business to succeed. I reach out to potential clients and collaborators every week because I want to progress my brand. I shoot day in and day out and edit every free chance I get because I want to get better. So I guess no, on the surface being a photographer isn’t hard. But wanting to be a great photographer is. You have to put in the work to see results.

What do you use to edit photos and do you make your own presets? I do a base cull and edit in Lightroom and then I do all my final retouching in Photoshop. I generally make my own presets, but I also have some from photographers I like that I play around with on occasion. Presets are really nice when you have a lot of photos to edit at once–like a wedding for instance, but I like to mix things up for beauty and styled shoots. I find that I usually have a bit of a vision when I bring the raw photos into Lightroom, and I explore from there. Once I find a color and balance that I like, I’ll apply the preset to the batch and then go in and do adjustments per image.

How do you get the perfect shot? There’s really no perfect shot, just the right movements at the right time. I think being patient helps. For example, when I shoot concerts, I usually have an idea of the type of shot I’m looking for, and then I just wait ready to shoot when the artists is moving around stage. Framing is key for good shots, as well as being able to change the exposure in camera quickly. Being skilled at Manual mode really helps with this. Also, practice helps. As many times as I’ve gotten a really cool shot, I’ve also missed the shot because it was out of focus or overexposed (this happens with concerts a lot) or I just framed it wrong. The good news is that the more photos you take, the bigger chance you have of getting “the shot.”

How to Properly Store Your Digital Files

photography tips

Moving into the digital age, film isn’t the dominate photography medium anymore. We don’t have physical negatives that can be kept in a filing cabinet for when we need to make copies. Instead, we have thousands of digital files that don’t even exist outside of pixels and file extensions. Just like in life, it’s good to have a back up plan. And with photography, it’s not just a good idea, it’s entirely necessary.

Think of all the money invested in your gear, your time, and your photo shoots. But more than that, think about the images that are simply irreplaceable. The big production beach shoot with six models that cost a fortune. The bride and groom’s first kiss right as the sun was setting. You can never recreate those moments. And you can’t take the risk of losing them, either.

Backing up and storing your digital files is definitely not the fun, flashy part of photography. But it will save you if anything were to happen. You know that horrific moment when you realize that you just formatted your SD card without checking to see if all of those files were backed up? When you are searching for that one edit and you can’t find it anywhere? What do you do when your memory card becomes corrupt, as they occasionally do? Your Mac crashes, your laptop gets stolen? This is to protect you from all of that.

My philosophy is that it’s way better to be safe than sorry. So, here’s my photo file storage workflow. To start, every year, I get two matching 2 Terabyte hard drives and label them with my name and the year. Then I make a folder for every month. Then, after each shoot, I make a folder with the name of the shoot and the date and copy the files over. No matter if they still have a lot of space left or not, come December, a final copy gets made onto a separate (third) drive. Then, one copy stays with me, and the other drives get archived into storage in the safest place in my house: a fire proof room.

So let’s start right after the photoshoot. You have memory cards full of huge files, all waiting to be sorted, processed, and adjusted in post. First, before going through any images, I copy all the raw files onto both of the external drives. They are identical back ups. If I dropped one on accident, the other one would have my back.

Then, I edit. Lightroom, Photoshop, Bridge, whatever your workflow is. After the white balance is correct and the curves layers are adjusted to perfection, it’s time to back up the final shots. I upload those to my website, which functions as an online backup, as well. The client gets the files, too, depending on the contract we have agreed on. And then, the final images are copied within the folder of the raw images on each external drive. That’s a minimum of four places that the files are stored.

I also make sure to do a Time Machine backup of my laptop every week, because I’m constantly keeping my current projects on my desktop. Last year, my Macbook Pro died after living a long(ish) six years of life with me. But when the screen went black for the final time, my contents were backed up and everything was saved once I restored the new computer as a Time Machine back up. This will be a lifesaver one day, I promise.

The external drives work best for me as a backup system because they are small and portable, and don’t need to be plugged in, so I can take them on set or throw them in my backpack when I’m editing. Lots of people do more online backup, or a second computer drive, or flash drives, or CD’s, or memory cards. It doesn’t matter how you back up your files, as long as you aren’t leaving them in just once place (you’re making me nervous). Because technology will inevitably fail, or crash, or die, and along with it will go your files.

Some people keep their images randomly, one on a drive, some on Dropbox, others online, just the final edits here, the raw images there, etc. Don’t do that. It’s crucial to your workflow to be organized and dedicated to backing up files. No matter if it’s a bride you photographed five years ago that’s calling to ask for a canvas print of one of their wedding photos, or a magazine that wants to include one of your old shots in high res for their new issue, you have to have the files stored and you have to know precisely where they are. No exceptions.

In this digital age of photography, having a backup AND a backup of the backup is essential. Technology is amazing, but it can also delete all your years of hard work in a matter of seconds. It might sound like I’m being a bit meticulous with all the backups, but I promise you that you will exhale with relief when just one of these backups saves you just one time. It’s worth it, for the peace of mind when you are formatting your memory cards. For when you power down your laptop at the end of the day and know that the images you care about, that you are working so hard to make, are safe and secure.

PS: It takes time to keep everything organized and backed up, and it’s part of the job. So don’t feel bad about including an archival fee when sending an estimate to your clients.