Highlight of the week: Sweet friends spontaneously stopping by one evening and then peer pressuring me into getting Five Guys for dinner and Bosa donuts for dessert. They basically had to roll me back into my house at night's end. But ya, it was fun.
Yes, I did this:
1 -- Spent Mother's Day morning at the emergency vet. The paw that I thought had healed, turned up hugely swollen that morning to the point where poor Dixie couldn't even walk. It was heartbreaking.
2 -- Set alarms on my iPhone so I could slip my dog medication four times daily. This week she was on two antibiotics and pain meds. I had to get creative with my methods and disguise them in treats, and at this point she's turning her nose up at peanut butter, so it's a challenge. At one point I thought I had fed her an antibiotic successfully, only to find it two hours later in her whiskers. It reminded me of the days when I used to spit my Flintstones vitamins into the toilet without my parents knowing it.
Celebrating: My poor mom has a birthday that falls on or very close to Mother's Day every year. So we celebrated both this past weekend. We try to do it up right, though, so as not to gip her. Birthday dinner, Mother's Day lunch, shopping and pedicures were all part of the festivities. As you can see, I decided to go the florescent orange route. I felt like I was embracing summer in the choice.
I went to a movie in a theater for the first time this year. Great Gatsby. It was really well done. I loved the cinematography. But what a depressing story. I hadn't read it since high school, so I'd forgotten. But yikes!
Feeling Blessed: It was a bit of a rough week -- and not just Dixie-wise. I felt like everywhere I turned I was putting out another fire. BUT, God is good and he carried me through. My favorite thing was watching Dixie run around the backyard last night like a rabbit until her ace bandage (which I had apparently poorly wrapped) fell off. My sweet dog, who couldn't walk just 5 days earlier, was sprinting. And I knew everything was going to be all right.
With over 140 MJ2Day alumni now taking over the globe, I thought it would be fun to do a series on my blog to check in on past attendees and see what they're up to now and how their businesses, lives and photography have been impacted by their experience at the workshop. I've heard so many fun stories from past attendees that leave me beaming with pride at their coolness and I can't wait to share!
Here's Michelle in action -- and a shot of her smile!!
We get photographers at all stages of their businesses at the MJ2Day and Michelle was a newbie when she came to the workshop. She had been slowly trying to turn her passion for photography into a business for about a year at that point. She was shooting anything and everything for experience and was struggling to bring any type of organization to her business.
I interviewed Michelle for this post and I love what she shares in answer to the first question:
Q: What is the biggest difference in your photography since attending the MJ2Day?
A: Where to start?! Before the workshop, shooting and editing were two completely different entities -- they were unrelated, separate from each other. And I needed work with both. I learned to see light during the mock shoot! I had no idea that light, alone, had so much power to affect a situation and image. I also loved that Melissa showed us how she interacted with her clients -- it was so natural and effortless! I had been grasping at straws to pose my clients in the best ways possible, which was limiting their raw emotion. I was also really into tilted horizons and awkward angles. It was awesome :).
I was also over-editing all my images, and had tried countless actions and formulas to figure out what "my style" was. I definitely wasn't consistent, either, even within a single session. When Melissa showed us how simple it can be to edit photographs it changed my life! After I started using light to determine how I shot, editing became a cinch and my style became much less edited, and way more natural and filled with light.
I also started narrowing down what style I loved and stuck to it. I had been following WAY too many photographers and artists, but I made a decision to be more selective and to learn only from those whose style matched where I wanted to be headed.
Here are some examples of Michelle's work before the workshop:
And here are some examples of her work since the workshop:
Incredible! Michelle has mastered the use of natural light and I love how it has shaped her photography -- creating a consistent style.
Q: What is the biggest difference in your business since attending the MJ2Day?
A: Systems!! Systematize, systematize, systematize! I was really terrified of the business part of being a wedding photographer -- I could never keep anything straight, and even with my mediocre systems I was misplacing client information and feeling like a mess the whole time. I was stunned at how much Melissa loved having a business, and how easy she made it seem! I have truly fallen in love with running my business. I've since implemented Pictage and ShootQ, which have both drastically improved the way my business runs. I use email templates for common responses, have a strict blog schedule, and have solidified (and systematized) how I package all my client's images. It's so peaceful to wake up every day and know that the way I run my business is consistent.
Q: What are some of your goals that you set after attending the workshop that you have since completed?
A: I can't believe so many goals have been accomplished since January 2012! I went through a complete rebrand and gave my business an identity. I systematized my daily workflow, began using ShootQ, upgraded all my equipment, got officially registered as a business, began using Photojunction to design wedding albums (along with Melissa's album design templates), and completely restructured my pricing. I started to fine tune my shooting style, and have become really comfortable with my editing style, too. I realized that weddings really fired me up, while family and kids' sessions terrified me -- so I decided to specialize in weddings, engagements, and bridals. I ended up shooting 22 weddings in 2012 (including my first destination wedding!), a few of which were featured on wedding blogs, and I'm so excited for the rest of 2013 as well. I'm currently in the process of narrowing down the style of weddings I love, which I never even dreamed would be an option! But I'm excited to see where my business will be in another year or so because of that.
Q: Have you made any changes to your website or branding since the workshop?
A: YES. I tried for months to create my own identity, and finally realized I needed a pro! This is a screenshot from my old website to show you what it was:
After the workshop I hired Shauna Maness to give my business a complete brand makeover, and we changed my business name from Michelle B. Photographie to Michelle Boyd Photography. I'm very pleased with the online presence and identity my business has taken! You can see my current site by clicking here. And here is a screen shot so you can compare the new look with the old:
Later this year I will be going through the rebranding process again with Making Brands Happen, to refine my brand even better to match the style of weddings and clients that I am fired up by.
Q: Have your prices, booking rate and/or the type of clients you book changed since the workshop?
A: Definitely! Before the workshop I had been booking weddings for $1000-$1500. After the workshop I did loads of goal setting and running numbers to figure out what I would need to make to keep my business running and growing, and also considering the particular market I wanted to target. My prices have increased a few times over the past year, and my collections now start at $2,800, with the average client spending about $3,500.
When my prices were so low back before the workshop, I had practically a 95% successful booking rate, and then once I began to increase my collections I did notice a big drop -- BUT I began to book more and more of my ideal clients! As I've grown more, photographed more, blogged more, and shared more of the work that I truly love, I've booked brides that are more and more my ideal client, with my ideal weddings. While I have loved every wedding I've ever photographed, the ones that truly make my heart skip a beat are all outdoors, whimsical, artfully curated, and very joyful celebrations.
Q: Talk about the relationships you made as a result of the workshop. What relevance do they have for your business today?
A: The atmosphere of the MJ2Day was a turning point for me -- everyone who attended was so loving, kind, and had the same eagerness to learn, that it revolutionized how I view the photography industry. It is no longer a competitive place, but is instead a loving community. I learned first-hand that when you encourage and truly love your peers, you can build amazing friendships. A willingness to help each other and share knowledge is truly life-giving.
I was so nervous to attend a workshop on my own, especially in a different state! Both myself and one other attendee, Jessica Sowyrda, arrived early on the first day, and decided to grab lunch together... and as they say the rest is history. Jess has become an incredible friend, and I had the honor of photographing her wedding this past February! It has been such a blessing to be encouraged by her and to know another "sister" who is growing and building her business at the same time as me.
Q: Are there any other changes or exciting developments you'd like to share?
A: Being able to say that I love running a business is so huge for me! Having everything systematized has allowed me to start photographing more of what fires me up, while at the same time keeping me less stressed. I've had time to teach my sweet husband (pictured below) how to shoot, which means he's now my full time second shooter. I've also been able to start dabbling in shooting film, which is digging my passion for photography even deeper.
My time since the workshop has been an incredible learning and growing experience. I am so encouraged by the clients who have trusted me with a little snippet of their lives. I'm also really thankful for the encouragement of the wedding industry! I was named one of the top 15 photographers to watch out for in 2013 by Le Magnifique wedding blog, which totally blew my mind! I am so humbled and blessed by people who have supported me over the past couple of years, and I'm excited to keep learning and pursuing what I love in the years to come.
Melissa, I am so thankful for your willingness to share your knowledge, and to encourage photographers all over the world. I seriously cannot say thank you enough.
Thank YOU for sharing with us, Michelle! Congrats on your amazing success! I'm blown away by what you've accomplished in one short year since the workshop. I can only imagine where the remainder of your career might take you!!
The Hall family is getting cuter by the minute, so I thought it was time to update you all before there is some type of cuteness explosion. Last you saw them, Aune (pronounced Aw-ney) was just 4 days old. Now she's a big 7 month old and there is no doubt she is a Hall baby -- both cute AND expressive -- through and through.
We warmed up with some family fun on the bed:
Arn is 2 years old and a master of "surprise" and "happy" expressions on-command:
He's such an expressive, happy child:
And just like her momma, Aune is gorgeous and super-animated:
O my goodness -- cuteness overload:
We also took the shoot outdoors for a few photos in the late-day light:
Love you guys! I can't believe it's been 4 years since your wedding! I'm so blessed to still be a part of your lives and call you friends!
Highlight of the week: Spent a blissful day outdoors with friends and dipped my legs in a pool for the first time this year.
Yes, I did this:
1 -- Commented to Sara in the course of conversation in the office one day that, "That sail has shipped."
2 -- Drove on a dirt road for an hour to shoot a personalized engagement shoot. Never have I been so thankful for pavement than when we got back on the freeway afterwards.
We've got five designers in training for Align to prepare for busy wedding season (for most photographers in the US -- Arizona not included). So our team will be doubling soon! Exciting! If you're a photographer and find yourself feeling overwhelmed and longing to get something off your to-do list this season, consider outsourcing your album design to Align. We're here for you and would love to be a part of your team!
Celebrating: Dixie-dog got her bandage removed and her staples taken out a few days later! Yay! Brand new doggie!
Feeling Blessed: Got a much-needed reminder once again this week (by my favorite devotional) that "self sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success." Ouch -- convicting! The truth is, we all desperately need God. We were all made to be in relationship with, and deeply dependent on, our Creator. That's why Christ said things like, "Blessed are the poor." And "blessed are those who mourn." Basically -- blessed are those who have needs; who are aware of their neediness. And who realize those needs can be met by ME. I SO need to hear this EVERY DAY.
I get asked all the time what the right aperture is to use when photographing large groups. I could answer this question, but aperture is only one part of the equation for depth of field. And oftentimes, I think photographers are using an adequate aperture but are still unable to get the whole group in focus. In this post I am going to explain why.
There are three components that impact your depth of field -- aperture, focal length, and subject to camera distance. If you want a tutorial on how each of these variables impacts depth of field, I've written that blog post here. In this post, I'm going to shed light on a simple mistake photographers often make when photographing group portraits. If you have ever looked at your images on the computer and wondered why the people on the edges of the group are out of focus, this post may clarify why.
As portrayed in the above visual aid, if I am focusing on the middle person in the group, a third of my depth of field will be in front of that person and two-thirds will be behind.
The problem arises when groups form into a typical U-shape formation with the people on the edges closer to the camera than the people in the center. This next illustration is a top down arial view (with the circles representing the tops of the group member's heads).
If the photographer focuses on the middle person in this group, as is typical, they are not making the most of their depth of field. Whatever is behind the group will be sharply in focus, but the front few folks on either edge of the group will likely be soft.
Here's an example image. My lovely models are attendees from my recent MJ2Day workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina. Cute bunch, huh? This photo was taken with my 50 1.2 at f3.5 -- which should be a perfectly sufficient aperture for this size group. Note that the red box in this photo represents where my focus point was. Also note that we can't tell how cute Leslie and Melissa are because they are on the edges of the group and didn't make the depth-of-field cut. :(
What if, instead of focusing on the middle person in the group, we focused on the closest person to the camera? In the common U-shape formation, that would be the person on the edge. We are using back-button focus, so we can lock onto that person and recompose. Notice how our depth of field shifts to encompass the whole group:
Here's the same exact group shot with the same exact settings as the previous image. Notice where I put my focus point in this photo:
And note how much cuter Leslie and Melissa look:
So simple and so effective! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
*Edited to add: When people get into a U-shape, I often ask those on the edges to step back so that they form more of a straight line. This allows me to use a lower aperture and still ensure that everyone is in focus. But regardless of the formation, I make sure to focus on the person closest to the camera.