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What were we thinking?!

Gosh, we don’t even know where to start!  I guess before we go into the pictures, we’ll start off with how we got into the whole photography business.

Being twin sisters, we’ve ALWAYS wanted to work together.  At the time, Cecilia was in Des Moines, IA, and I (Niña) was in Peoria, IL.  We didn’t enjoy our current jobs and were thinking of ways to start a business together, but how could we possibly work together being in two different locations?  Well, we heard about lifestyle photography and were big fans of it.  Then the light bulb came on….hey, we should go into photography!  If we go into lifestyle photography, we wouldn’t even need a studio!  😉  Our husbands thought we were going “coo-coo” with this whole idea, but surprisingly they supported us!

Well, like everyone else that thinks about going into photography, you think ‘oh this is a piece of cake’…I mean all you have to do is buy a camera and take pictures right?  It’s actually not that easy…when we look back now, we feel like we did everything wrong.  Here are some of the things we don’t recommend YOU doing from our experience 😉

1.  We got super excited about the idea and totally rushed into it – TAKE.YOUR.TIME!  It’s so easy to get caught up in the whole idea and the planning process like figuring out a name, a logo, colors you want to use, website, etc….but calm your a$$ down and take your time. 😉  I’m sure the first thing you want to do is create a facebook fanpage and start requesting your friends to start liking it.  I’m pretty sure we did that 😉  Now we look back and think that we should have had our portfolio going before doing any of that.  Have a good portfolio on your website and/or facebook fanpage before making your first appearance to the public.  You don’t want to start a fanpage with just a few pictures.  First impression is everything.  There are a lot of photographers out there, so you want to “wow” them when they see your work for the first time.

2.  We didn’t do our research – We bought a camera (Canon Rebel and Canon 50D) from Best Buy that, you know, came with EVERYTHING…haha…the bag, the 2 kit lenses (ooOoO it comes with a zoom lens!)…pretty much the best deal for your money we could possibly find.  We have to admit, we thought we were SO cool carrying that Canon camera bag 😉  Please do your research on your camera and lenses.  Know what you want in a camera and a lens.  These are big investments!  As most starting off photographers, you think about the money, but don’t buy a camera just to buy a camera.  If you need to save up for that lens or camera that you really want, then do it!  You know those kit lenses that came with our camera?  Well, let’s just say we don’t use those EVER now.

3.  We had no idea how to use our camera – Like most amateur photographers, we had no flippin idea what we were doing.  I mean at the time we thought we did!…don’t you just put it on “auto” and take a picture?  Wasn’t it the norm that the built-in flash would automatically pop up at any situation? 😉  We always wondered why our pictures didn’t look like the pictures that the ‘other’ photographers took.  Looking back at our pictures from when we first started, we realized that the camera controlled US, and we had no control of the camera.  Put that bad boy in “manual” and you’ll see a big difference!

4.  We were clueless about post processing – How much is Photoshop?!  Well dang, we’ll just stick with picnik for awhile.  Admit it, you used picnik or any type of free editing software 😉  We actually had Photoshop Elements, but we didn’t know too much about it.  We also used Lightroom a little bit.  Picnik was more user friendly, so we edited some of our images using that program.  Eventually we got into Photoshop, and saw a HUGE difference!  Now we know why it’s so expensive, but it’s so worth it.

5.  Photoshop actions at 100% – We remember when we first found out about Photoshop actions.  It’s seriously the best thing that someone came up with 😉  Again, being clueless on Photoshop in the beginning, we noticed our images still didn’t look like the other photographers after using Photoshop actions.  Rule #1, don’t keep the Photoshop action at 100%.  Today, if we use a Photoshop action, we don’t keep it at 100%.  We either tone it down to around 25% or adjust something within that action to get the look we want.

6.  Cheap pricing – We can’t believe people actually paid us even when we had no idea what we were doing.  Thank you to our friends for believing in us and spreading the word about us!  When we first started out, we were charging $75 for a session which came with a TON of images on a cd.  Yes, we were pretty cheap, and I’m sure most photographers that found out about us wanted to kill us for being that cheap 😉  We’re sure that they rolled their eyes that we were that cheap.  For us (and probably most of you), we knew we had to start off somewhere and get our portfolio going.  We were surprised with all the inquiries that we got!  It was one busy summer/fall season for us that’s for sure!

We always said that we never wanted to be those photographers that charged an arm and a leg for a photo session, BUT we came to realize that we didn’t want to be getting paid less than Sears or Wal-mart photo studios either!  Hello?!…we actually edit our pictures 😉  We also realized that TIME.IS.MONEY.  This wasn’t a hobby for us, this was a job {a dream job} for us.  Like any job, you want to make money.  Working is time away from our family.  Also, photography isn’t just all about taking pictures and editing.  There’s administrative stuff that goes along with it.

7.  Scared to lose clients – I’m sure we’ve all been there…you want to raise your prices, but you don’t want to lose your clients.  We were there!…we thought ‘if we raise our prices, no one is going to book us!”  It obviously sucks to lose clients that you’ve been photographing and have a good relationship with, but you can’t satisfy everyone.  Here’s a reality check for ya…if you raise your prices, you’ll stay ‘sane’ and…. raising prices = less photoshoots = making the same amount or more money.  We raised our prices from $75  –> $50 sitting fee, $100 cd –> $50 sitting fee, $175 cd –> various sitting fees, $225 cd –> various sitting fees, $250 cd –> today it’s various sitting fees, $300 cd.

Before, we felt like people went to us because we were inexpensive, and now we feel like people go to us because they truly love our images.

8.  Yes, YES, yes all the time – Your client wants to book you at this time, YES!…another client wants to book you the same day, YES!…and another that same week and another and another…your answer is always YES!  Here’s a thought…learn how to say ‘No!’  Can you really handle that many photo shoots in one week, or are you just afraid to say “no” and turn down a client?  If you need to turn down someone, do it and don’t be afraid to recommend a different photographer.  Do you really want to go crazy and lose your mind with how busy you’ll be, staying up all night, and all the editing you have to do?  We’re telling you…it’s not worth it!  We think it’s hard at first,with any photographer starting off, on balancing your time.  We used to say ‘yes’ all the time to clients, but we noticed that we were getting burnt out.  There was a point where we wanted to throw down the towel and say ‘I quit!’  Now, we have a set amount of photo shoots we book in a week or month.  If we’re booked that week, sorry!  As my husband says “you snooze, you lose” 😉

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’…if you’re already booked, the client will adjust their schedule if they really want to book you.

The moment you’ve all been waiting for 😉 ….a blast from the past of the images we first took in our photography journey.  These are the images where we thought we could have improved on.

we thought selective coloring was so cool…not our style anymore

can you say SEPIA?!

Remember when we told you about how our built-in flash kept on popping up since we had no control over it?

Flash was obvious on the left image, and should have brightened the image on the right.

Look how dark his face is (image on the left), and the coloring/tone was off on this one since he looks bluish (image on the right).

Our first newborn session…don’t judge us 😉

Looks like images that anyone can take. 😉 Wish we would have brightened up the face a little more (image on left).

Our editing was different here…used Lightroom.

When we first started off, not all our pictures were horrible.  I mean we could have definitely done better, but some weren’t those ‘oh my gosh that’s embarrassing’ pictures!  

To end this post, you can see how we’ve definitely grown and improved throughout the years 😉



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  • Anne Warwick - Ugh, I love this! I relate with all of this, except I’m just a little past that beginner stage! Do you guys have any books that you found really helped you?

  • Emily - Great post ladies!

  • Katherine - What a wonderful brutally honest post! Its great to be reminded that we all come from somewhere! I hope lots of new photographers read this post!

  • Mone - Inspiring as always! Love you two!

  • Rachel Anne - Agreed! These are some of the headaches with starting from scratch. Reading your article reminded me of my journey and it is so exciting to see how far I’ve come over 7 years! Might just do my own blast from the past blog post for our studio 😉 Thanks for the inspiration!

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