Meet Betsy, a wedding photojournalist who shoots a Canon 5D Mk. II with her right eye. She shoots in RAW with mostly manual settings, but occasionally uses aperture priority. She uses mostly Lightroom for post processing, but loves Kevin Kubota’s Essentials Pack, especially the Magic Sharp action.
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
It’s taken a while for me to get here! I’ve always been the nerdy art kid… in college I was torn between Computer Science and a Studio Art degree, but because people kept asking me, “What are you going to do with an art degree?” I chickened out and went the computer science track for college, and then for a few years after school. A few years ago my sister-in-law was engaged and asked me to do some engagement pictures. I had a lot of fun during the session and the pictures turned out decent for someone’s first try. I somehow mustered up the courage to write her wedding photographer an email asking to tag along to a shoot. Bless her heart, she hired me as an associate shortly after. If it was not for her, I’m not sure where I would be today. It didn’t take long before I realized this is what I was meant to do. Even though for a while I was working a ridiculous number or hours between my computer day job and photography – I started to have more energy and enthusiasm about work, life, and everything. Getting to be creative, and doing something I love for a career has truly affected all areas of my life in a positive way!
50mm, 50mm, 200iso, 1/1250, f/1.8
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
I know this is probably an obvious statement for photographers to read, but understanding the technical part of photography – and getting composition/exposure/lighting correct straight out of the camera really makes a big difference in the work… At some point I realized a creative eye can only go so far. When I started I’d have clients push to have photos taken in places where the lighting was bad – like next to a statue or fountain or other setting during a time where the sun was harsh and not flattering. While I knew the photos wouldn’t look great, I didn’t always have the confidence to take control of the situation. I’ve learned to develop a trust with my clients where I work with them to photograph in situations that yield the best results.
70 – 200mm, 155mm, 500iso, 1/1600, f/2.8
What makes you as a business person different from everyone else?
For me, wedding photography is so much more than photographing and delivering a product. I hope I can offer photography with heart… through my work and interactions with others. I truly am passionate about the craft, but I also genuinely care about the people I work with. I enjoy connecting and developing relationships with clients – so by the time the wedding comes around it feels like we are old friends. I hope it also makes everyone very relaxed in front of my camera. I also care about the flow of the wedding day – so while I do my photography in an unobtrusive way, in the background I’m working with vendors and staff to help everything go smoothly. For the bride, groom, family and guests – a wedding should only be about love and celebration – leave it up to us to worry about running the show!
16-35mm, 16mm, 1600iso, 1/20, f/2.8
Who is your one favorite up-and-coming photographer?
I can only choose just one? I admire and follow several including Jasmine Star, Melissa Jill, & Jennifer Bowen…. but my favorites are right here in the Twin Cities- my peers, who support me, challenge me, and who are creating fantastic work.
One item you can’t live without?
My iPhone. It’s pretty sad, but I’m so addicted… but I actually purchased it primarily for my business. Having my email, calendar, online access, and a GPS has been invaluable for my business.
Your favorite bokeh image and why?
50mm, 50mm, 1600iso, 1/80, f/1.6
The bokeh makes this picture pretty… but the moment between Mindy and her father makes this image special.
Why did you want to be included on The Bokeh Pot?
I have this magnet on my refrigerator that says, “It is never too late to be what you might have been” (George Elliot). That phrase has inspired and helped me push through this career transition. I’ve been working to get here for about three years now, and I’ve been a full time photographer for about two weeks. I’m so ridiculously excited to be doing this, that I feel like a completely different (and better) person for it! I’d like to encourage anyone who wants to do something artistic for a living to go after it.
I also am completely in debt to a handful of photographers- as most of what I’ve learned has been with the help of FAQ blogs (Lawrence Kim, Melissa Jill, Jasmine Star, Jessica Claire) and online forums (OSP). The more I learn, I hope to be able to give back and share with others starting out.
50mm, 50mm, 1600iso, 1/50, f/1.4
I’m embarrassed to say I’m not much of a reader, although I’d like to do more of it. When I spend time with books, they are mostly picture and photography books. The Harry Potter series is good, as is World War Z.
Now we’re talkin’. It’s so hard to pick just one! Star Wars (episodes 4 – 6). And What About Bob. And Little Women. And Best In Show. And The Royal Tenenbaums. I could go on and on… I’m definitely a movie person. 🙂
16-35mm, 16mm, 1600iso, 1/50, f/2.8
Favorite songs to work to?
Sufjan Stevens, Sea Wolf, Regina Spektor, Rosie Thomas, Michael Jackson, Passion Pit… lots of Indy music. I’m also a public radio fanatic and love listening to ‘This American Life’ while I edit.
Where do you find inspiration?
Cinematography. I can’t watch movies or television without constantly looking at the lighting and composition. Often when I photograph I shoot scenes like I’d imagine them to appear in a movie.
Aside from yourself, what do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
My husband, Pete. I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for him. For the last couple of years, with having two jobs I was working way too many hours a week. I regret putting him in this position- he served me dinner while I worked at my computer, cleaned the house, did the chores and pretty much ran the household because I was over-committed. He encourages me when I’m down and completely supports me in every way. Thank you Pete for all that you have done for me!
50mm, 50mm, 640iso, 1/1250, f/1.4
Do you use a second shooter?
This season I offered a 2nd shooter as a package addition, but I see the value of always having one. From now on I will always be shooting weddings with a 2nd.
How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
The portfolio needs to be photojournalistic in nature, and they need to show that they understand how to use their equipment (or at least that they have the desire to learn the techie stuff)… but equally important is personality. I only want to work with people who can provide my clients with the dedication, kindness, enthusiasm, and professionalism they all deserve!
50mm, 50mm, 640iso, 1/1250, f/1.4
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to work with Jasmine Star??!
Have you won any awards?
In college I won an award for some polaroid work I did… but nothing for wedding photography yet!
16-35mm, 35mm, 800iso, 1/500, f/2.8
What did you have to do to actually take the leap? Did you have any hoops to jump through?
It was a long process. The idea of being self-employed kind of freaked me out. I worked two jobs for a couple years, so I was able to purchase my equipment as I went without creating any debt. I also built up a decent client base, so by the time I was full time I was pretty sure I would book a full season. Last year I also worked on getting a handle on the whole business thing – taxes, organization, finances, etc. I still have tons to learn about being a business woman, but I feel like I’m off to a good start.
50mm, 50mm, 125iso, 1/1250, f/1.2
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
Get a handle of the business thing before you make the leap. Being a photographer is equally about the business as it is the photography itself.
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
Because I just started doing this full time, I keep it pretty simple at the moment… do the best job I possibly can and provide my clients with great customer service. Most of the business I have has come from referrals.
70-200mm, 130mm, 400iso, 1/1999, f/2.8
Are you for or against advertising (paid or free)? If for, who have you had the most success with?
I could go either way. I have an ad on theknot.com, but would love to be 100% referral based in the future.
How do you go about networking with other wedding vendors?
I enjoy meeting vendors when I work weddings… and am always happy to donate a couple of photographs for their portfolios. The way I see it, all of us vendors have a common purpose of giving a bride and groom a beautiful, stress-free, smooth running event, so I typically work and coordinate with them before and after the event. Over time, if I develop a relationship and trust in a vendor’s professionalism and quality of service, I’m happy to start recommending them!
16-35mm, 16mm, 1000iso, 1/30, f/4
What does an overview of your typical workflow look like?
Shoot – download – backup (a couple of onsite and offsite backups), edit…. nothing too unique here! I can’t stress backups enough. I think my background in computer science adds to my paranoia and I try to be as safe as can be.
70-200mm, 200mm, 160iso, 1/320, f/2.8
How do you stay organized?
I organize and file everything – emails, papers, files, purchases, income, by date. I keep electronic copies (sync’d offsite as well) of most of my paper documents.
16-35mm, 16mm, 400iso, 1/1000, f/11
What’s your idea of the perfect photographer networking “date”?
A great start is anything involving a cup of coffee… I like getting to a person first before the conversation launches into anything business related.
Anything else you would like to share?
Thank you for kindly sharing your blog with me! 🙂
70-200mm, 78mm, 160iso, 1/125, f/2.8
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