Ask Deb ~ Answers to Your Photography Questions From a Professional Photographer

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Have you ever wanted to ask a professional photographer your photography questions? Deb Schwedhelm will answer some questions posed on the MCP Facebook Page, in this installment of “Ask Deb.” If you have more questions, please leave them in the comment section for a future installment.


How do you handle clients that want to see more than what is in their gallery because they know you took more than that?  Or requests to view unedited pictures to “save you time”?  I get this all the time and I don’t know how to deal with it tactfully without peeving someone off – especially when you’re dependent upon word of mouth for business (and the client is always right)?

  • I have an online client information site that details as much as possible of my business (pricing, session information, forms, etc.), as I want to make sure communication is clear and there are no questions.  Before I launched my client information site, I shared the information via PDF documents, after client inquiry.  I make sure that my clients know exactly what to expect before, during and after a photo session.
  • Regarding how to handle requests, I am just honest with my clients about things.  I explain to them that editing the photographs is part of my artistry and that I’m not a photographer that releases unedited images.  I explain that if they want unedited images, I’m sure there’s a photographer out there that can provide them with that, but I don’t offer that service.

Let’s say you’ve done a shoot, then you get home, take a good look at the pictures and realize they are not great.  Honestly, you just whiffed it with a wrong camera setting or something.  Do you ask the clients for a re-do or post-process as best you can to try and fix things?

  • I would edit what I could and see how many photos I ended up with (I typically show 30-35 images).  And then yes, I would definitely offer a re-shoot to the client, if I didn’t have enough quality images.  Again, I would be as honest as possible, in explaining what happened – and apologize profusely.  Hopefully, it’s a session that can be photographed again.
  • This is a good time to stress the importance of mastering the technical aspects, so something like the above doesn’t happen. No one wants to go through something like that – where you have to offer a re-shoot because of an error on your part.  Re-shoots do, on a very rare occasion, still happen but it’s typically due to a sick or tired child…or something along those lines.

Your thoughts on photographers who give a full resolution digital copy of photos to clients, included in the session fee.

  • Unless their session fee is priced really high, it makes me really sad.  I feel that they’re not only doing a disservice to the photography industry, but also to themselves.  I feel the photographers that do so need to take a long hard look at their true costs of doing business.  Jodie Otte wrote a great article, How to price portrait photography, here on MCP, which I highly recommend.  Another great article that addresses this subject is So You Call Yourself a Professional?

I’m an on-location, natural light photographer, who lives out in the boonies…so no studio.  I was recently told by an “expert” that I would never be able to run my business by only doing online galleries for clients to sell prints….I needed to do face-to-face to make sales.  Thoughts?  Opinions?

  • There’s many different thoughts out there regarding proofing and ordering models and I’m happy to share my personal experience.  I have never offered anything other than online proofing and ordering and have been very successful with it.  I am available for in-person proofing upon client request, but that has only happened twice in over four years.
  • So I can say, from first-hand experience, yes – you can run a successful business using only an online proofing / ordering system (although my business was located in San Diego and not in the boonies).  My typical sale is currently $1500-$2000.
  • I know there are many photographers that swear by in-person proofing and/or projection (for increased sales); however, I just haven’t been in a place that I could offer either.  Now that I’ve moved to Tampa and all three kids will be in school, it’s something that I am considering, although I’m still undecided at this time.

How do you handle a client that is super pushy, acting like they know the business better than you (the professional)?

  • Breathe!  Educate them.  And then kill them with kindness.  :-)  Honestly, that’s exactly what I try to do.

What are the best tools for a beginner to learn on (besides the camera)?

  • Besides a good camera, you need a good lens.  You’ll also need some editing software.  Then, if self-teaching, you’ll need to learn, study and practice as much as possible – books, forums, online articles, blogs, workshops, peers, etc.  Take advantage of as many resources and education avenues as possible.  And then give yourself time!!

What makes a photographer a “professional”? I know a stupid question, but I really want to know.

  • I also did a Google search and found these articles with interesting insights on what a pro photog is:

What Makes You a Pro Photographer

How to Become a Professional Photographer

What Makes a Photographer a Professional?

I’ve never learned how to solve (or what causes) shadowed eyes.  I’d love to hear more about lighting on faces and how to get that perfect shot in any situation.

  • Practice, practice, practice!! You have to teach yourself to see the light.  Shadowed (raccoon) eyes are caused by overhead light (light is above, causing the brow to shadow under the eyes).
  • In general, for outdoor sessions, I prefer to shoot at 8 AM or 1 ½ hours prior to sunset time.  I also look for open shade (from a tree, building, etc.), especially when trying to do portraits in mid-day light.
  • A great way to practice lighting is to have your subject stand in one place.  Take a shot and then turn them slightly.  Take a shot and turn again.  Keep repeating until the subject is back in original position.  Look at the light on their face.  And then notice that same light in the image.  This could be done both indoors and outdoors.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know your light – and all it can do for you.

How do you handle the ‘business stuff’ (accounting, marketing, taxes, legal stuff, contracts, etc.).  Do you do it or does someone do it for you.  Do you earmark a certain day of the week to be strictly ‘business’ in order to get it done?  I have an extensive customer service background, but know nothing about running a business, the accounting / legal side of it and it’s intimidating!

  • In the beginning, when I didn’t know any better, I tried to do it all.  I’m sure that there are photographers out there that can do it all and do it well, but I am not one of them. Different photographers outsource different elements — RAW editing, Photoshop processing, SEO, social media, book keeping, etc.
  • I decided to outsource my book keeping and accounting. As a mother to three kids and husband who travels often, there is just no way that I can do it all.  I think it’s important that every photographer look at their business individually and evaluate what you can and can’t do. In the end, it’s important to remember that each photographer / photography business is unique.  Do what is right for you.

Is it important to have a blog as well as Facebook and Twitter, to attract business or are you just providing other photographers with ideas?

  • A blog, Facebook, Twitter can all be powerful tools for promoting your business, if used correctly.  But I also know how challenging it is to keep up with everything.  Again, I believe you should do what is right for you (as a person and photographer) and your business.
  • I’m not one that is concerned or worried about providing other photographers with ideas via my blog, Facebook or twitter.  It’s just not something that I  worry myself with; if they’re looking for ideas from other photographers and they don’t find it from me, they’ll more-than-likely find it from someone else.

After graduating college, Deb spent 10 years as a registered nurse in the US Air Force.  It wasn’t until she left the military that her career as a photographer began.  In 2006, with the support of her husband, Deb decided to pursue her dream – she purchased a DSLR camera, began teaching herself photography and never looked back.  Today, Deb has a successful child and family portrait business and in partnership with Leah Zawadzki, and they host the Wallflower Friends photographer’s retreat.  Deb recently moved from Kansas to Tampa, Florida.

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 Ask Deb ~ Answers to Your Photography Questions From a Professional Photographer

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12 Comments and 0 Replies



  1. 1

    LOVE it! Thanks for all the answers!

  2. 2
    Jill E says:

    great article. thank you deb those are some great questions and even better answers. i am going to head over and read some of the articles. i am all about the killing with kindness while it can be hard it seems to work 99% of the time.

  3. 3
    Randi says:

    From someone who lives in an area that has very few professional photographers, articles like this are INVALUABLE to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions like this! I’ve got one more quick question: I live in a seasonal climate, and do not yet have a studio. I know that winter months will be very slow – any tips on how to boost things up a bit before I get my studio (I tend to prefer natural light, but I have a feeling that I’m going to HAVE to have a studio around here)

  4. 4
    Barb Subia says:

    Thanks so much for these great answers Deb. I have a question that I would love to hear your answer to in a future post sometime – we are considering moving to a new state early next year. I would love to hear how you built new clientele in Tampa after moving there from Kansas. Our plan is to get involved in the community as much as we can, and maybe an introductory special of some sort, but would love to hear other ideas or things that worked for you. Thank you!

  5. 5

    Wonderful post. I love interviews so much! This was great, helpful and well written. Thank you for sharing and being an awesome photographer!!

  6. 6

    Awesome post! I always like to visit your blog & read your nice post!

  7. 7
    Sharon says:

    What are good sites for getting prints made? I have used Nations Photo Lab based on my professional photog brother’s recommendation, but I am curious to find out if there are better alternatives.

  8. 8
    Nanette Gordon-Cramton says:

    Hello,
    Deb talks above about “outsourcing” Photoshop processing. I would love to know if anyone knows of a great, reliabe resource for delegating my post processing work??
    Thanks so much!

  9. 9
    Jessica says:

    I just got my first professional photography job and I was told to go out and get a professional grade camera, but I do not know what that means. What are some specifications I should look for when buying a professional grade camera and equipment?

  10. 10
    Soeie says:

    I was just asked to photograph a child’s birthday party. I’m just starting out in photography and wasn’t sure what to charge. I normally charge $100/hr for a portrait session. Should I charge the same amount?

  11. 11

    I live in a rural area and love to drive the back roads. I am fascinated by old barns, run-down buildings, unique houses, and the like. I am thinking about taking a lot of pictures of these things, and maybe doing a book.

    My question is about property releases. If I am taking the pictures from public streets, and not trespassing, do I have to get property releases from each barn or building owner?

    Thanks,
    Dave

  12. 12
    Houa says:

    This post answered some of the questions I have. Thank you for a great post.



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