q and a

You asked, I attempt to answer!

For real, thank you for all of your questions! I can only fit so many in one day, so I’ll get to some today and save the rest for a not-too-distant-future blog post.

Eric asked…What are your thoughts on Instagram for newbie photographers?

What are my thoughts on Instagram for new photographers? My thoughts are that Instagram is awesome for ANY photographer…not only for self improvement, but for business as well. I noticed that I was producing images from my little phone that I would have never thought of or tried with my big camera. I was seeing things from outside my normal portrait photographer’s frame of mind. That’s because 1) my phone is always with me and available, and 2) there are no right or wrong images in Instagram. It is our own personal artwork. With clients, you have pressure to produce certain images or looks, no matter how lifestyle or photojournalistic you may be. As silly as it sounds, Instagram has helped me to see things differently, and because I am technically limited with a phone, I pay attention to the details that are most important in photography, like light, angles, and composition. As far as for my business, I can use Instagram to announce contests, new sessions on the blog, workshops, favorite recent images, and network with other photographers, clients, makeup artists, hair stylists, etc.

Stacy asked…What is your secret to tack sharp images?

Goodness, so many factors can go into achieving a tack sharp image. What do I do? Here is my combination…elbows locked in at sides (to reduce hand held shake), lowest ISO as possible, no lower than 1/200 or 1/250 when working with children, I use both focus/recompose method and back button toggling, and I shoot in Single Auto focus (AF-S), except for when subjects are in motion and I shoot in Continuous Auto Focus (AF-C).

Heather asked…What lens do you use to get eyelash, baby toes, fingers, and ear pics?

Unfortunately, I don’t own a macro lens, but photograph tiny baby details with my 50mm 1.4 and I also use Kenko macro extension tubes. But, if I did get a macro lens, it would be the Nikon 100mm 2.8 macro lens.

Donna asked…I am in the beginning stages with a Canon EOS Rebel….I really want to learn about manual settings, and what I should start with.

I am a huge advocate of shooting in manual! By switching to manual mode, you are telling your camera exactly what to do, instead of letting it decide your settings for you (for example, in aperture priority mode, you are choosing the aperture, and your camera is deciding what shutter speed to make a proper exposure). So, the first and most important step in shooting manual would be to fully understand the three components that make a proper exposure…shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. If you are in the beginning stages, I highly recommend this book by Bryan Peterson, “Understanding Exposure.” After that, I suggest trying different combinations of those three to create proper exposures in different lighting situations. For example, f/1.8, 1/400, ISO 200 and f/16, 1/200, ISO 2400 in the same lighting situation may both be properly exposed, but they look different, depending on what you are photographing and how far away you are from your subject/object/scene. Lots and lots of practice and it will become second nature.

Carolyn asked…I need advice for starting a photography business, and how to find clients when you’re just starting out.

I am a huge believer in NOT opening shop until you are technically qualified. What does that mean? That means you could do an entire session and produce  30-40 images that are TECHNICALLY correct (lighting, exposure, composition, focus). Don’t stress about the creative aspect, that will come with time. Because, when you are ready to launch that website and announce that you are in business, you have to be 100% confident that you can give your clients quality images every time. So, if you have a goal to open a business, in say, 8 months, you should be portfolio building during those entire eight months. You want to attract a higher end market, so set your end prices high (when you open business), but offer a special portfolio pricing. Let clients know of your end pricing, but if they book you now, they will receive that special pricing. If these clients love you during portfolio building, they already know your end pricing and will be fine paying it later. Ideas to help spread the word…do free sessions (word of mouth is your best business), trade sessions with those who will talk about you on social media, offer discounted sessions on local Mom internet boards, do a giveaway with a local business. Good luck!

Kristen asked…Do you have any opinions on telephoto converters? If so any suggestions for a Nikon D7000 with Nikon 200mm lens or a Quanta Ray 70-300mm lens.

I don’t have a lot of experience with telephoto converters, but we have rented this one for our 70-200 lens, and were pleasantly surprised at well it worked and how SHARP it was!

Trina asked…What camera/lens would you recommend for shooting “flat” products (ie. frames, stationery, books)?

Goodness, I am no expert in product photography, but have used my 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.8 lenses and they worked beautifully. I would stay away from wide angle lenses for this 🙂 As far as cameras go, any SLR camera will do, as long as it can perform well in lower light at a high ISO, if needed.

Maki asked…What’s your absolute favorite lens that you use majority of the time?

I am a lover of lenses! But, I would have to say my all time favorite is my Nikon 85mm 1.8. And my Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 as a close second. And then my Lens baby and Nikon 70-200 2.8 as really close third placers 🙂

Jennifer asked…What is your approach when you are shooting clients in a new environment? What do you do first (how do you find the light) and how do you work around obstacles?

This isn’t something that came naturally to me at first. After a lot of shooting, and camera settings becoming second nature, it was easier for me to go into a situation, and look for two things…ideal light, and a clean background within and surrounding that ideal light. I get asked a lot about my indoor sessions with kids, families, and newborns. When I go to someone’s home, I ask to look around, and I literally scan their entire house to quickly find areas that are “clean” (not a lot of background distraction) and have nice light. And then I will work within those 2-5 areas I found. Often times they are very small areas (doorways, windows, couch, bed, hallway, stairs, etc). But, if there isn’t a lot of light, or I really want a certain spot, I just pull out the old flash and go for it. I think THAT is the trick. You have to be confident that you can walk into any situation and feel comfortable knowing that you can either find the light, or create it if needs be. Jennifer, you asked about the zoo session in particular, in which that location was FULL of background distractions. Again, I had to choose carefully as there were people, signs, and other things everywhere. Light first, location second. We just walked through the zoo, and shot along the way in areas that were people free. And then, of course, it’s sometimes fun to use those background distractions as part of some of your images (as seen in polar bear image below).jeansmith111.

Artisitc Inclinations asked…how do you feel about helping out new photographers who ask you for tips? Does it annoy you?

Giggle. But, no 🙂

Kim asked…When editing, do you feel it’s important to see a consistent style of editing when you skim all the shoots on your blog?

I don’t think editing has to be the same from session to session, but I DO think it is extremely important for all images within a session to be edited the same. I learned that early on, when I printed pictures for a collage on my wall (all from the same session), and there were different color treatments throughout the collage. Needless to say, it was FUGLY.




  1. kim says:

    LOVE this, thanks for sharing!

  2. Donna says:

    Thank you so much for the question and answer forum!

  3. Carrie G. says:

    Super helpful…thanks!

  4. Maki says:

    Weeee!!! Thanks so much for the Q&A!!

  5. Kristen says:

    Thank you so much! I don’t know if I want to invest in a teleconverter lens or not , I hadn’t thought about renting one. My son races motorcross and sometimes I can’t zoom in close, I’m not sure how the this kind of a lens works for action shots but I’ll see if I can find a place to rent one and give it a try

  6. Stacy says:

    Thank you SO much for answering these questions (one of them being mine)! Looking for more q & a in the future.

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