Are you looking for that perfect gift for the photographer in your life? There are some smoking deals going on right now and I thought I'd put together a little holiday gift guide for photographers. All of the gifts on this list are things I use myself and they are tried and true.
So here is my 2013 holiday gift guide starting with the most affordable gifts and increasing in price so you can easily decide how much you love that special someone and pick your gift accordingly - haha :). No -- love does not equal money. But sometimes thoughtfulness is all it takes to express tremendous love, regardless of the price. Maybe one of these gifts would be the perfect thing for someone to receive in this stage of their business journey!
#2 -- Gary Fong Lightsphere -- $43.95
I love how this diffuser softens the light coming out of my flash. It's a must for all photographers who shoot receptions.
#3 -- Lexar 16GB CF card 2 pack -- $76.00
16GB is a great size in my opinion -- large enough so you're not having to change cards constantly and small enough that you aren't having to depend on one card to hold an entire event's worth of images.
#7 -- One Hour Coaching Session with Me -- $150
If the photographer in your life just wants to soak up as much knowledge and know-how as possible, this may be the perfect gift for them! And distance isn't an obstacle! I've done many-a-session over Skype!
#9 -- Canon 50mm 1.4 lens* -- $299 after an INSTANT REBATE of $100
This used to be my favorite lens before I upgraded to the 50mm 1.2. It is hands down, the best bang for your buck when it comes to lenses -- the perfect lens for someone just looking to get into photography.
#10 -- All of my Workflow Forms & Resources -- $379.99
Over the course of 9 years, I have developed a very organized and efficient wedding workflow that offers my clients a high-end experience. All of my workflow forms and resources are available for purchase, and are a great way for the photographer in your life to jump-start their way to an organized workflow or to take their current workflow and client experience to the next level.
#12 -- Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite -- $499 after an INSTANT REBATE of $50
THESE ARE AMAZING! Check out my review here! These are great flash units with radio transmitters built in -- so you don't need pocketwizards! -- and B&H is offering a great rebate for a limited time!
#17 -- Canon 5D Mark III -- $2,899 after an INSTANT REBATE of $500!
Love this camera for so many reasons -- it's performance at high ISOs and full-frame sensor being two of them. If you're a Canon shooter, you can't go wrong with it!
Know your special someone would love something on this list that is just too expensive for you to buy in it's entirety? You could get them a B&H gift card to help towards purchasing it at a later date!
With over 150 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!
We get photographers at all stages of their businesses at the MJ2Day and Tina was just starting out. She had shot a few portrait sessions and had four weddings booked. Only one week after attending the workshop, she shot her very first wedding of her own. Even though she was a newbie when she attended, she knew deep down that she wanted to make a business out of wedding photography. But at the time, she was working full-time as an accountant and wasn't sure which steps to take to make her dream a reality. It turned out to be the perfect point in her journey to attend the MJ2Day and I'm so glad she did! It was such a blessing to get to know her and to be a part of seeing that dream become a reality!
I interviewed Tina for this post and I appreciate what she shared in answer to my first question:
Q: What is the biggest difference in your photography since attending the MJ2Day?
A: My photography has improved SO much since the MJ2DAY. There were two big changes for me. First, it gave me a lot more confidence as a photographer. Also, I learned how to look for light and use light to my advantage. I used to just run for the shade and not experiment with beautiful light. I was pushed out of my comfort zone when I saw MJ shoot!
Here are some examples of Tina's work before the workshop:
And here are some examples of her work since attending:
Gorgeous work Tina! Way to have mastered the art of backlighting! :)
Q: What is the biggest difference in your business since attending the MJ2Day?
A: The MJ2Day made an impact on every single area of my business. Before attending the workshop, I was all over the place. There is SO much to think about and learn when you’re starting your own business, and it can be completely overwhelming. I found myself jumping around a lot – one day I’d think “Oh my gosh I need to research web design! And start an awesome website asap!” Then the next day I’d be thinking “I need to start thinking about albums, and figuring out how to design them!” I was constantly jumping from one project to the next, never really completing anything I was working on. "Overwhelmed" doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. After the MJ2DAY, I had this amazing sense of confidence and calm. It was a HUGE relief leaving the workshop feeling like, “I can DO this!” I think that was the best part of the workshop for me. Melissa puts thing in very real, attainable terms….she explains everything in a way that gives you the confidence to go out and do it on your own. She definitely doesn’t hold back!
Q: What are some of your goals that you set after attending the workshop that you have since completed?
A. When I attended the MJ2DAY my goal was to book more weddings in an attempt to maybe….possibly….making wedding photography my full time job one day. As much as I hate to admit it, I never thought I’d be able to do this full time. Even when I was at Melissa’s workshop I kept thinking, “Is this possible for me?” By the end of the workshop, I had concrete steps to take to further my dream. I’m SO happy to say that I’ve been a full time photographer for 3.5 years now (I left my day job 1.5 years after the workshop), booking 20-25 weddings per year. Sometimes I still can’t believe that dream became a reality. That “I can DO this!” feeling is something I’ll never forget, and I truly believe Melissa’s workshop was instrumental in my success.
Q: Have you raised your prices since the workshop and/or seen a change in your booking rate?
A: I have absolutely raised my prices since the workshop! They’ve just about doubled since that time. In our one-on-one chat at the end of the workshop, I distinctly remember Melissa telling me she thought I could charge $3,000 for a wedding. I thought that was CRAZY and didn’t think I would ever have anyone willing to pay me that amount. All of my weddings are booking well beyond that price now…..I wish I would have had a little more confidence & belief in myself way back when!
My bookings have definitely increased since the MJ2DAY as well. Like I mentioned, I had 4 weddings on the books when I took the workshop. The following year I booked 11 weddings, and the year following that, I booked 22. I have been consistently booking 20-25 weddings per year since that point, which is my happy spot. Melissa also taught us the importance of being ourselves. When you put a web presence out there that truly focuses on who you are, and not someone you’d like to be, it’s amazing what kind of people enter your life. I honestly feel like I’d be friends with just about every couple that I have the pleasure of working with. Being yourself is such an important part of the business!
Q: What relationships did you build as a result of the workshop?
A: As much as I absolutely loved soaking in all of the information Melissa provided at her workshop, I can’t talk enough about the relationships I’ve gained from the workshop as well. That’s one of the best parts about attending workshops – forming relationships with people all over the country. I met one of my very closest friends, Gail, at Melissa’s workshop. Her and I clicked instantly, and I’m so glad the MJ2DAY brought her into my life. To this day, we still email each other and Skype as regularly as we can. We’ve also made it our goal to visit each other once a year, switching back and forth between Pennsylvania and Indiana. You can’t put a price on a friendship like that! I’ve also kept in touch with Allison of Allison Marie Photography, who is one of the sweetest, kindest women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She also runs an amazing full time photography business for herself, and I absolutely love that her and I can bounce business ideas off of each other, or just give each other advice when any issues come up. It was SUCH a great group of attendees at the workshop, which made the experience even better than I could have anticipated.
Speaking of Allison and Gail, one of the coolest experiences was that we all reunited about two years after the workshop for Allison’s wedding. Allison hired Gail as her wedding photographer, and Gail in turn hired me to fly out and second shoot with her! It was a perfect wedding, and I was SO much fun that we were all able to have that experience together!
Q: Are there any other changes or exciting developments you'd like to share?
A: I can’t speak highly enough about the MJ2DAY experience. I’ve attended many workshops, but Melissa’s is one of two that I recommend to anyone I talk to. If you’re in the beginning stages of your business, or feel like you need to step up your game, don’t hesitate to sign up. It had SUCH an impact on my personal life and my business, one that I can’t put a price on. I left the workshop with confidence, concrete goals, and steps to achieve those goals, as well as amazing friendships. Those were the huge takeaways I had from the MJ2DAY. It also improved my workflow so I wasn’t constantly chained to my computer, and I’ve even been published on a few wedding blogs (Delancey and Penn, Wed Loft, and Bayside Bride) since that time! I’m so glad there are people like Melissa in the photography industry. She runs an AMAZING and impressive business, and she’s an open book when you attend her workshop. Besides that, she is such a sweet, warm-hearted person, and you can truly feel that she wants to help everyone succeed. Keep doing what you’re doing Melissa!!
Wow Tina -- thank you for your kind words! And you have SO MANY exciting things to celebrate!! I'm so proud of you and blown away by your growth!! I can't wait to see where the coming years take you! Thank you for sharing so openly with us.
If you're a photographer and would love to take your photography and business to the next level like Tina has, join us at an upcoming MJ2Day! The Phoenix workshop in January is sold out with a waiting list, but we still have spots open for June in California! It promises to be beautiful and life-changing!
Caring for your gear is an important part of a professional photographer's workflow, so I thought I'd include what I do to care for my gear as a post in my current workflow series. If this is your first time tuning in, click below to get caught up on the series so far:
If you don't systematize the care of your gear into your workflow, it will likely get pushed to the back burner, and you will end up with issues. So, like anything that you want to do regularly for your business, it's wise to systematize it in such a way that it happens regularly without a whole lot of extra effort.
There is a section of my Wedding Workflow Checklist for each client that is dedicated to pre-wedding prep -- all the tasks that need to be done the day or two before the wedding in order for me to be ready. Included on this list is battery charging, reseting my camera settings back to a default baseline, formatting CF cards, writing checks for assistants, and making sure all my gear is in my bag, just to name a few. Also on this list is cleaning sensors and lenses. My office manager, Sara, is in charge of this section of my workflow checklist so she runs through these tasks starting two days before the wedding.
I love my Canon 5D Mark III, because it has an automatic sensor cleanor built into it. Despite this fact, we still manually clean the sensor before each wedding using these handy sensor swabs you can purchase on B&H. The combination of the automatic sensor cleaner built into the camera and using these swabs before each wedding keeps my sensor spotless. I seriously never have to clone stamp dust spots off my images when shooting at high apertures, like I used to.
I've had a few photographers ask me if I send my gear in regularly for cleaning or calibration. The answer is no. I have a Canon Professional Services membership (just the basic, free level) and I send my gear in only when I notice an issue. If I notice a focus issue, I make sure to test both the lens and camera body to try to isolate which piece of gear is having the issue, and then I send in that one lens or camera body.
It was a great group and we packed the two days full to the brink. If you missed the mock engagement shoot I posted yesterday, click here to get caught up! On day two we covered business topics like the state of the market, workflow, album design & sales, vendor relations & networking, blogging & social media, initial client meetings, pricing, websites and branding. Phew! In essence, I poured the full contents of my brain on them. In the midst of all this learning, connections were made and relationships were formed. I think that's one of the best things about going to workshops! You come away with a whole new set of friends who share your passion!
Even though every square foot of my living room was filled, Dixie still found a spot to snooze:
If you've ever heard me speak, you know I LOVE talking about business, so I'm all about day two of the workshop!
And here's the whole stinkin' cute group:
Such a fun crew! To see more behind-the scenes fun from this workshop, check out my instagram feed and the search tag #mj2day.
I'm thrilled that once again, the MJ2DAY was a huge success! I love that I know 12 more photographers from around the world who are working hard to bring their photography and businesses to the next level. I can't wait to see where their individual journeys take them!
Photographers - if you're interested in attending an upcoming workshop, we have two open for registration right now. And the Phoenix workshop in January only has 3 spots left! There's for sure going to be a waiting list for this one so don't delay and end up stuck on it! Click here to go to the workshop website for all the details!