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outtakesA whole bunch of you emailed and commented wanting to know the outcome of my hysterical “I want all the outtakes” clients.  It took me this long to follow up because, well, nothing really happened!

I delivered the outtakes as high res files via digital download.  A few days later, two of the outtakes that I had deemed sufficiently pornographic and/or unattractive, showed up as profile and timeline photos on the bride’s Facebook page.  I don’t know if it was a purposeful jab at me, or if they truly loved those awful blurry shots enough to display them.  I just know that there they were, yellow cast and light trail spookified eyes, glaring at me on my timeline.  I hid her profile after that.

I did add one line, bolded, to our contract that states “RAW images and outtakes are never delivered” under the “Release and Usage” clause.  This line is in addition to the many lines throughout the contract that state my ultimate control over determining which images are suitable for release, which would be b&w versus color, and so on.  I could probably expound on the outtakes specifically, but frankly this has never come up before, and with more careful pre-booking discussions and a better FAQ, I doubt it’ll ever come up again.

Scratch that.  I’m SURE it’ll come up again.

So let’s talk about this.

How do we prevent our clients from micromanaging the editing and release part of our jobs?  We know that most of them don’t really read their contracts or the FAQs or the client information sheets and pdf files and brochures we hand out.  Having policies in place is fantastic, but when you have a client who just refuses to acknowledge your policies, and wants what they want CONTRACT BE DAMNED… well, what then?

One thing I have considered is ADDING the outtake/discard release to our pricelist.  For like $2,500 for the high resolution, print-ready discards and outtakes.  That way, there IS a monetary value attached to the outtakes, and if they really really want them they can, you know, just order them!  Hey, I’m happy to hand over my motion blurred, one-stop-over, mid-blink Exorcist shots.  The ones of the floor, the ones of my feet, the ones of the ceiling… they can have ’em!  $2,500, please.

Would you consider adding the outtakes to your pricelist?  If not, how do you plan to tackle this demand if and when it ever comes up?  Post in the comments, or email us through our contact form.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


“We’re so disappointed.  We feel like you missed so many things, and we thought we’d get more pictures.”

I’m gonna admit right now that my initial response wasn’t good.  Even though I know better, I wrote back immediately, a tad defensive and very confused as to where the hell they were coming from.

It was a nine hour coverage with two photographers.  We promise an average of 50 edited and delivered images for every hour of coverage.  They received a total of 1,106 images – roughly one shot for every thirty seconds we were there.  That wasn’t enough?!  What are they smoking?  What on EARTH could we have missed, we were there from the first popped Xanax in the dressing room to the stumbling, drunken, whirlwind clusterfuck of a grand exit.

When I got the first email, the bride was specifically asking about some of the more unflattering photos – moments they wanted memorialized forevermore, moments that I would KILL my daughter for acting out, they wanted to see those parts.  I explained rather defensively that these moments were not flattering and didn’t turn out very well, which escalated the email exchange in a hurry.

They wanted every nip slip, every simulated act of fellatio.  They wanted it ALL.

The bride stopped talking to me and sent her mom in to deal with it. Mom had more complaints than her daughter.  Not only were the X-Rated parts missing, but so were pictures of Great Aunt Sharon.  Who the hell was Great Aunt Sharon?  I’d never gotten a list (even after requesting one from them NINE TIMES), and when we shot the formals I asked repeatedly if we’d gotten everyone.  Great Aunt Sharon wasn’t very important in the moment, but now that she was only in “a couple” shots, she was the most important guest at the wedding and she was SURE there were photos of Great Aunt Sharon in the outtakes.

Mom wanted me to just send over all the discards.  I explained patiently that the discards were not an option and that was when the shit hit the fan, and the groom was called in to deal with me.

Dun-dun-DUN.  When the groom is summoned to “deal with” a problem, you KNOW it’s bad.

It was then that I realized these people were not going to be happy until they got something from me.  All the effort I’d spent explaining and re-explaining the contract they signed, my editing philosophy, the state of their discards, was getting absolutely nowhere.  I could spend the next six months in a heated email exchange or, worse, find myself slapped with a frivolous lawsuit demanding that I turn over the discarded images that they “thought” would be included.

The groom’s email was kind and well written, unlike the bride’s and MOB’s rather hysterical submissions – this told me that he was prepared to long-haul it, and that I needed to figure out a way to swiftly end the conversation. Rather than responding right away (which was my mistake in the first exchanges with bride and mom), I sat on his email for about 24 hours.  Didn’t think about it too much, other than to call Kim and get her take on the situation.

The way I saw it, I had two options: stand my ground and keep arguing ad infinitum (potentially ending up in some weird legal battle), or concede, but at a price.  I chose option #2.

Dear Groom,

Thank you so much for your kind email.  I am sorry that you and your bride feel the coverage was incomplete.  As stated previously, we delivered over 100 edited images for every hour of coverage, more than double what you anticipated, and we do feel as documentary photographers that your wedding story was told beautifully and fully.  I won’t pretend to understand why anyone would want to see the “outtakes” from a shoot – the images we discard are technical failures (out of focus, motion blurred, etc), unflattering (subject caught mid-sentence with mouth in weird shape; subject’s eyes half lidded and Exorcist-y; dresses falling down, bits of fat where fat shouldn’t be), or duplicates (when we photograph details and formals, we choose the best one or two images from the set and deliver only those, as most people don’t care to have seventeen shots of their cake).

Your contract includes the edited selection of images that tell the story of your day, and as stated in the contract, we are the party that determines which images make it to that final cut.  Outtakes and discards are not included, but may be purchased for an additional fee.  If you feel strongly that you need to see the images that we purposely excluded from your take, I’ll be glad to invoice you our fee for processing and releasing those files to you.  They will be lightly edited, exported, and delivered in the same fashion as your original wedding files.  Our fee for this service is $1,000. Please let me know if you would like to proceed.

 I wanted them to recognize that their request was completely outside of the norm, was not worth what they’d potentially have to pay for it, and that their delivered images were plenty.

To my utter disbelief, they bit on the offer.  An hour later and I had their payment in hand.  What?

Right now, about 927 of our dear readers are thinking “I would never do that. That’s my ART. My name is on those images and they shall never see the light of day!!!”

And another 927 of you are thinking “1K? Fuckyeah, I’d do that”

In the course of our 30 some years of combined business Kim and I have run through so many scenarios where we’ve played out the pros and cons with each other where we boil it down to the nitty-gritty to figure out how to resolve issues. And two things that we find that come up over and over and over are these:

What does your contract say? (Mine said nothing about outtakes…it does now)

Is this a hill to die on? (Hint: it rarely is)

Thus was born our new e book “The Proven Awesomeness Formula: Preventing and Dealing with Difficult Clients”

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We have an interesting job – we’re invited into the homes of our clients, allowed to see them naked, vulnerable, self conscious, elated, on the verge of new life paths, with wonky nerves and insecurities all rolled up into one bride, one new mom, one nervous father, one aggravated groom, one insecure teenaged girl and her mother who is having trouble dealing with her leaving the nest. We get to visit with our clients on a personal level that very few other service providers in any industry do.~Charo


This book is a comprehensive guide on how to handle clients at their best and their worst, and how to handle yourself at your best and your worst.  We’ll walk you through scenarios with clients that will help you form strategic ways to handle client relations with proven results so that you can spend time doing what you actually make money at: shooting.


Here’s a sampling of what you can expect

Setting yourself up for success: Handy every day usable procedures to follow in your business that will just make your life a lot easier (and make your clients happier, too)

How to identify a problem client: There’s a difference between a problem client and an uninformed client… do you know what the difference is?

Now what? How to handle that email that rocks your world, and not in the good way.  How to respond, what to say and the steps to resolve the problem.

What to do when they really are a psycho:  How to break up with a client and the aftermath you can expect personally and professionally.


To show our love for our ACAD readers,on this, the one year anniversary of our blog we offer you a kick-ass discount of $20 off this comprehensive guide by entering the code ACADLOVE at checkout

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Stay Sane, Happy and Profitable!





I get in an email that says “I love your blog and I am so happy to hear that someone so successful is helping other people!” and I think “Successful?”  I just gave my children a lesson on how to use only one hand towel when washing their hands so I could save on paper towels this year.  (Seriously, watch’s brilliant and my new party trick)

I remember our friend Zack Arias saying years ago that success to him was being able to pay for new tires without draining his bank account. I really can’t think of any more fitting analogy.

Am I “successful” as a photographer?  Sure, I guess.  I’ve won awards, I know how to work a camera, I’ve been in business a long time, I’m well respected and referred often in my market, I’ve taken some nice photos in my day and in general I make my clients happy. I really, really love my job.  If sucess is defined by loving my job and the fact I work from home and wear yoga pants 90% of the time, I am rich.  But in terms of numbers?   Line item 37 on  IRS Tax form 1040 tells me that I am not rich.

I talked about a really bad year in this post.  After that year, I decided I was really tired of not being rich. And by rich, I really mean “making a decent living wage” but for the sake of dramatic license, let’s just keep calling it “rich”. That shit sells better on the blog.  So I decided that I wanted to be rich, and decided to figure out what I was doing that was not making me rich.  I made all sorts of lists like

Not enough  money!

Not enough clients!

I should be blogging more!

I don’t know what SEO really means!

I should maybe have a goat farm!

The problem was I was not budgeting well.  I knew what my  COGS and CODB and FU were (that last one was to see if you were paying attention) and I really did price myself for profit, I knew that much.  I might not be rich, but I am not DUMB.

My problem was that when things were good, I had plenty of money and I didn’t pay attention to my money. I was at least smart enough after the “great tax debacle of 2007” (that’s a post for another day, but let me leave you with this number…17K) to put away for taxes and money in savings for the slow season, but I never really BUDGETED.  I mean I thought I did, I kinda did…

It took me so long to wrap my brain around the business side of all that whole CODB, COGS that I just wanted my bank account to STFU and figure it out for me.   Turns out, that doesn’t happen.   And every year I feel more like a failure because this shit just does NOT come naturally to me.

The good news is Wedding Wire just sent me a badge saying that I am one of the Top Photographers of 2013 so YAY ME!  I can’t wait to send that badge to my mortgage company in lieu of my February mortgage payment!

Every “Successful” photographer has something that they just don’t feel so successful at. In 2012 and 2013 I made huge strides in facing my fear of accounting, but it’s not over.  This year, I am going to lick it.


What’s your not so successful thing?


P.S.  I’m now a big fan of the P.S.
P.P.S  Speaking of issues, Charo got a passel of emails in response to her post about ostriching when things were bad.  Seems like us artist types are a special kind of special and this is more common-place than we realized.  She’s working on a response , but as you can imagine that kind of post takes some retrospective thought and a lot of Jack Daniels. So stay tuned for that.
P.P.P.S   Marketog Ends TODAY.  If your something that you don’t feel successful at is marketing, then this is the course you need. Period.   If you’ve got a limited budget to work  with on your marketing, this course is designed to show you all the best ways to be using that small budget. Get on it, control your marketing and improve your business.  BAM!







I spent more time contributing to photo forums than working on my business: Hey, when you work alone, you’re LONELY… and the photo forums of days past were my water cooler.  I spent most of my working hours reading, writing, and socializing on those boards, and wrongly believed that all the time I was spending there was fruitful.  But instead of gleaning knowledge from other photographers and applying it to my own business, I just got swept up in drama, social cliques, and the relentless quest of proving how much smarter I was than everyone else.  Even after quitting all the photo forums, I still found myself wasting days away on Facebook, caring WAY TOO MUCH about what some guy ten states away was doing with his business (or how someone I wouldn’t recognize on the street stole something from someone else I wouldn’t recognize on the street), and letting the mechanics of my business fall by the wayside.

I let my clients become friends: Now, this isn’t evil in and of itself, but we all know that lines get blurry once you move past a business relationship and into one of friendship.  Because they were my friends, I was lax on policies.  I gave away my time without compensation.  I was vague on terms and conditions.  Clients had a longer rope, and I let them pull on it because FRIENDS.  And, worst of all, those friendships I’d cultivated turned quickly back to business-only when I was late on an album design, or when I didn’t get a shot on their stupid shot list (that I claimed not to accept, but FRIENDS do stuff for friends, right?)  I still have client-friends, and I’ll never treat a client like a “prospect” – but I’m a lot more careful to set the boundaries right from the start of the relationship, and to complete our contractual arrangements before considering them to be my “friends”.

I ostriched myself when the shit hit the fan: I had a bad year.  I really hate the overuse of the word “epic”, but 2005 was bad in EPIC proportions.  By October of 2005, every last client from that year was mad at me.  I’d received no less than five letters from attorneys demanding things I was contractually obligated to provide, but too poor/depressed/fucked-in-the-head to work on.  And rather than facing the bad year head-on, I hid from it for months, letting clients get angrier and angrier, and digging a hole so deep it took me till 2008 to fully dig out.  I couldn’t muster the will to make a single phone call to an angry client, because I was afraid of being told that I was awful.   Hiding from my clients when things got bad was a natural response for someone who was raised by a woman who wouldn’t open the bills because that would mean she actually DID owe money that month; but it was the most damaging thing I could do during a critical time in my personal and professional life.


I believed other photographers on the internet were more successful than me:   Because really, who wouldn’t based on what they said?  Truth: anyone who has been in this business for a decent amount of time has had days where they questioned their worth.  Worried that they were going to be found out for not knowing off camera lighting (or whatever).  Worried  that the IRS would come after them.  Had a consult where they knew that clients retainer would make or break their rent payment that month. The ones that tell you it’s never happened to them?  They are lying, or they have another source of  dependable income.  Living on a variable income is HARD.

I thought it was all about the photos: It’s not. It never will be just about the photos, not anymore.  Yes, your photos have  to be decent.  How many photographers do you know that you see their work and you shake your head?  THAT photo got 3000 likes?  It’s not just about the photos, it’s about the marketing, the customer experience, the way you make people feel about your photos.   Anyone can make what the public now perceives as a great photo. You can rail and call the name of Ansel Adams in vain, but the truth remains that unless you can use both sides of your brain, the creative and the businessperson side, you will struggle.

I asked for help way too late:   Pride is such a shithead, and I thought it was just me who was struggling.  Once I opened up my  mouth to ask for help from some colleagues  that I had known for years I found out that they were having similar issues. From that point on, it became like Team America in my town. I know you are saying “Oh, the competition in my town is way too fierce for that, no one would ever share their stuff “. You know what?  That’s bullshit. Last month one of my competitors Riitta  gave a  super low cost seminar on In Person Sales for weddings to any photographer in our Facebook group who wanted to come.  Why?  Because in her view if we all required this it would set the bar high for photographers in our town. If you don’t have a Riitta in your town, you be Riitta.  Make some calls, plan some coffee dates and make some photographer friends. My frenemy Doug (who I talked about in this post)  put it this way ” The better we, the professional photographer community, are collectively, the less likely we’ll lose work to non-professionals.”  

(Awww.  He’s so cute with his million bajillion Facebook fans. Too bad he doesn’t know how to use a comma)

Here is the thing we want you to most understand about why we are here with this blog:  WE GET IT. Gah, so trite.  But really, Charo and I both landed lucky 13 years ago when we hooked up with a group  of professionals that to this day we can reach out to online, on the phone and by IM.  Many of you are telling us that you don’t have that.  That you feel isolated, alone and like everyone else gets it and you don’t.

That. Has got. To suck.

Join us, and let’s talk. We’re going to be implementing more interactive things like Google Hangout chats and podcasts and hell, who knows what else.

P.S.  Last days for our friend Jamie’s class on Marketog. By the time this  post goes out, it might even be sold out, because  it usually does and when Jamie posts stuff she blows up the internets :)  If there is still room, we URGE you to consider this class if you need to change the entire face of your business.   It will rock your socks, guaranteed, or Jamie will give you money back.  We will not give you money back because we are giving you this shit for free.

You’re welcome.



Nichole Louise Photography, Wilmington NC
Meet my friend Nichole.  She can drink me under the table, has a smart-ass response for damn near any topic, and is currently pretty disappointed in me because I STILL haven’t watched the DVD she loaned me of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, even though I totally promised I’d watch it THAT NIGHT.NicholeisprettyWEB

When Kim and I started kicking around the idea of spotlighting Real Working Photographers, Nichole was the first person that popped into my mind.  She’s the real thing, y’all.  She works.  Hard.  She is serious about her craft, and serious about the industry that she belongs to.  She protects it like a mama bear, understands it from the inside out, and if you’re ever in need of a good kvetch session, she’s there for you.


In fact, I’d say that of all the people I know, she’d be in my Top Five List of people I want on my side in a rumble.  And, yes, in my mind we’re still living in The Outsiders, and I don’t care if that’s stupid.

Nichole is the kind of photographer who DOES love what she does, but she doesn’t talk about inspiration and passion.  She talks about lighting and exposure.  Business models and pricing issues.  Contracts and model releases.  She’s a businesswoman who happens to be an artist (and a damn fine one at that).  I’ve watched her work grow exponentially over the years, and every day I’m even more proud of the strides she’s making in the niche she is carving out for herself in our town.

So, let’s have a chat with Nichole, shall we?

Tell me about yourself, as a person.
My name is Nichole (duh). I just turned 30, I have a degree in psychology, and spent the first 3 years of my adult life working as an insurance


agent. I am a fan of black coffee, sleeping in, and most music typically enjoyed by tween girls. I met my husband of 7 years in college, and we got married in the mountains of TN. We have two tiny spawns, Finnegan, 5, a brand new Kindergartener who is pretty sure he has life figured out, and Atticus, 2, who is prepping for a life of smashing beer cans on his forehead and tackling people. We live in Wilmington NC, and I drive a mom-mobile minivan shamelessly. This is apparently the perfect recipe for becoming a photographer. Next question :)

Now as a photographer!  How long have you been in business?  What is your primary focus photographically?
My 5 year photographer anniversary is this October. Although if we look at the work I did 5 years ago, I think I should possibly reconsider that time frame. My focus was initially children, expanded to families, then moved into the maternity and birth world. Seeing as that encompassed approximately 97% of portrait subjects, I have refined my focus to children. Of course I still love families, and newborns, but if I had my pick of any subject in the world, I would pick a 9 month old first (sitting, but not walking, laughs at peek-a-boo), followed by a 3 year old (possibly the best jokes you’ve ever heard, and a fantastic workout to photograph thanks to their penchant for running). I also do photograph the occasional wedding, but I’ve never done more than 5 per year to date, and they are almost always friends, or referrals from friends. I bow down to full time wedding photographers, I could never do it!Finnegan

Do you have a studio space, or do you primarily shoot on-location?
I do not personally have a studio, but I am a member of a local studio space that offers memberships to professional photographers. So while I didn’t get to decorate it, I also don’t have to pay the electric bill. Its a fantastic option while my kids are little, and I plan to open my own studio after my two year old heads off to Kindergarten. That said, I do less than 20% of my work in the studio. Living at the beach, the overwhelming majority of my work is waterfront (don’t be too jealous, sand is a bitch to clean out of a camera), with some parks, and urban locations sprinkled in the middle.

What’s the most challenging part of your job, today?  How has that changed over the last several years?
Hmmm…. I feel like my challenges vary based on the month. The summer (read non-school) months are tough because I am juggling two kids, a husband in his busy season (he manages a local restaurant that beach goers LOVE), and my busiest season as well. I work from home, I put in about 3 hours during the day, and depending Children6on how busy I am, between 2 and a bazillion more hours at night. My clients frequently get 1am emails in the summer. Baby-sitters, bedtimes, and only shooting at the beach in the hour before sunset make for quite the jenga game of life. In the winter I think I probably have the same challenges as any working photographer  – no one wants portraits 3 weeks after the holiday season, and until Easter things can get SO slow. And at times even scary slow. The biggest change I’ve seen with this over the years seems to be my growth. As my business has grown, my family becomes more dependent on the income, so in the summer burn out is not an option, I must.keep.going. And in the Winter, I better have budgeted down to the last cent to make sure things will be ok until I pick back up in March.

Children5 If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?  How would you better it?
OMG – can I be real? Of course I can, that’s why you ladies have this kick-ass blog. I would change the lack of education and understanding in this industry. For everyone. I would like to educate people who think this job is easy money about the realities of it – taxes, insurance, licensing, taxes, business management, and taxes. Lets not forget client management, marketing and my own continuing education. I would like to educate new photographers as to WHY you can not run a profitable business for $100 a session. I would like them to learn the basics of photography (and I mean basic – exposure, lighting, composition) in an educational setting, and not passing off their consumer level work as professional. I would like them all to know it is not a $25 etsy logo, an entry level DSLR, and a wix website. Lastly, I would like to educate the general consumer driven public on what quality photography is. I would like them to understand why it costs so much. I would like them to value and appreciate the art at the end. And I would love it if they all then HUNG said art on their walls. I mean, why pay a professional to hide files on what is sure-to-be-obsolete-in-5-years-technology in a desk drawer. Ok, sipping my wine, moving on to the next question :)


I know that you’re a mom, with two darling little boys.  Atticus is still at home with you every day while Finn goes to school.  How do you cope with kids running around while you try to conduct business?  Any tips or tricks for other moms?
It is a balancing act. A very very delicate one. Finn is gone from 7am-almost 3pm, 5 days a week, Atticus is with me full time. We’ve created a balancing act that seems to work well for us. I work while Atticus naps, trying to be sure to make any phone calls I need to make, because for reasons I have yet to understand, the rest of the world doesn’t usually function late night. The kids go to bed at 7pm, and my husband goes to bed early because of work, so by 8pm I’m back to the grind. Some nights I work until 10. Some nights I work until 2. I do what I need to do to get it done. I schedule sessions week nights (2-4 a week), with the exception of newborns which I aim for Tuesday or Thursday mornings. I do try and mandate days off for myself, I have to for my sanity. I have found over the years that a schedule or at least a plan helps. I keep to-do lists, I prioritize everything I can. And like I said – days off. I need them, and I take them – without apology.

If you could start your business all over again, knowing what you know now, what are three things you would have done differently at the beginning?
My two biggest lessons learned the hard way were scheduling my time, and pricing. I didn’t schedule my time, I was working around the clock, and was at my clients beck and call 24/7. It’s not a successful business technique, and I am forever thankful I managed to figure it out, without burning out entirely. As far as pricing… well… I did exactly what I said I wish people wouldn’t do. I charged pennies, and I didn’t budget for squat. Again, it’s a small miracle I came out on the right side of it all. I’d say my third start over lesson is super trivial in the grand scheme of things – but I wish I had used a logo with less colors. Random, right? But can we talk about 6 color screen printing? For crying out loud! I don’t want to re-brand at this point, I love my logo and branding, and it is (luckily) incredibly recognizable in this town, so instead I just suck it up. But for real – never use 6 colors in a logo.Children3

Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
In five years I plan to have a studio of my own. I see my happy face sitting at my desk – AT MY STUDIO. And when I pick my kids up from school, I will leave my studio and be done with work for the day. Business hours. A dedicated office. I may even cancel my internet at home and go back to a Zach Morris cell phone so I can’t work outside the office… aaahhhhhhh… one day :)

What do your order at the bar when you don’t have to play designated driver?
Gin and tonic. Always.

What were your main resources starting up (forums, blogs, magazines, etc)?  How has that changed over the years?  Do you still have any go-to places for industry information, trend watching, or just bitching with other photographers in the same boat?
I have always been a forum girl. I started on lovingly known as ILP. That is where I gained the majority of my photographic education. I have a firm policy about wearing big girl panties at all times, and appreciated and loved the honest and at times harsh critique I received there. I eventually moved on to Knock it if you must, but there were some inspirational women there in years past. It was more of a social setting than an educational setting for me, but I enjoyed the opportunities to discuss things with my peers, and it was wonderful for following trends in the industry. From there I moved to This was a small private forum, exclusive to women, and restricted members by a 45 mile radius – meaning I could talk about business and Children7marketing strategies without one of the other 457 local photographers reading it. Currently I am a member primarily of facebook groups. Some local, some not. I also attended the PPA convention – Imaging USA – this last year. At this point, when I have a desire toChildren9 learn something, or have questions, I go to the appropriate group and seek out the answer. I appreciate the time everyone puts in to these groups, and have nothing but respect for the professionals I have access to in my life and business at this point.

In your opinion, what does the industry need, right now, to help photographers like you?
I think this industry needs rehab. It’s over saturated, it’s filled with people lacking in education, who are in it for the wrong reasons, and those who just follow the ‘rockstars’ you ladies are working so hard to help the industry take a step back from. I have no problem with talented and successful people who have a following. But people who are popular for being popular. They’re like the Kardashians of the industry. Gross. On an ever so slightly more serious note, I think when the economy fully recovers, a lot of the entry level ‘moms-with-cameras’ will fall by the wayside. Families won’t need that extra income, lessening the number pf photographers out there, and likewise families will have more disposable income and the ability to once again choose boutique and luxury services like the ones so many of us offer.

Will you be my date at the next swanky local studio soiree?
YES!!!! That needs to happen. SOOOOOON!!


Find Nichole online: Website | Facebook


Mike, Ellie and I just got back from an impromptu lunch date with former wedding clients who happen to be in town today.  They live a few hours from us, and have a newborn.  In the weeks leading up to their due date, she started calling and emailing around to portrait photographers up there, hoping to secure an at-home session when they brought the baby home from the hospital.


After her disappointment at being ignored by at least three different portrait photographers whose websites all indicate that they’re DYYYYING to photograph her new little one, she happened upon a photographer who actually DID call her back, and let her hand over some money for a (lovely) portrait session.

The point is, it shouldn’t have been that hard for her to get a call back.  We’re not talking about ignoring the call from the power company here.  The worst thing that could happen when you get back up with a potential client is, they don’t hire you.  The best thing that could happen?  Fucking MONEY.  Staying in business.  Having a great experience, creating beautiful images, meeting new people, getting referrals, making even more money.

What is wrong with people.

Read more…


It’s been a heady week here at ACAD.

This launch week has been amazing.  Truly.  For you very first beta testers who told us what sucked and what didn’t, we love you and want to have your babies.   And for those of you just joining us on the journey, thanks for your kind words and especially to Debbie from Lily Rose Photography  who sent us our very first piece of fan email that was not from our moms.

We want to talk to you about rock stars.  Not the kind that want to sell you plastic flash diffusers, not the kind that want to teach you to shoot and share.

The real rock stars.  The people who are working their asses off in this industry all around the country.

You might be one of those rock stars.  The one with the studio that you’re worried about paying the rent on this month.  The one who falls asleep on your keyboard editing after your kids go to bed.   The one who just had a huge fight with your spouse about all the hours you put in vs. how much money you bring in, and when you log on to your email  there’s another client asking you for a discount.

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wedding hipsters

How many times a year do we hear this?  Am I right?  And, half the time, the wedding they describe is the same wedding we’ve shot dozens of times over… the bridesmaids are all wearing different colors and carrying a single flower down the aisle; the ceremony is decorated with hay bales; there’s a signature drink and mason jars; the bride’s wearing Vans instead of heels.  Not that this wedding wouldn’t be fun to shoot; it’s just not the MAKE OR BREAK PORTFOLIO OPPORTUNITY.

Now, the thing about the “portfolio builder” bride is that she usually thinks her wedding will be SO COOL that you’ll discount your services for the chance to be part of it.  Sometimes they even want you to shoot it for free.  And, once in a great while, their descriptions of this enchanted event are SO FRIGGING AWESOME that you’re almost tempted to waive your travel fee, or throw in some huge extra to make it work for them.

See, this happened to me once.

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Today I committed to attending our town’s monthly photographer get-together for August.  My husband and I have attended exactly one of these in the last three years.  Here’s the thing: it was FUN!  There was beer and sushi and laughs, not too much posturing, and I got to spout off about things I knew better than they did because I’m a billion years older than almost everyone else in the industry (APPARENTLY).  I had a blast.

And then the announcement for the next monthly meeting showed up on my Facebook Timeline, and I was like “Oh. Ew. People and things.”

I’ve somehow spent the last twelve years of my career attending almost NO networking meetings, and very few conventions.  At the conventions I’ve been to, I ducked out of classes to go hang out with the cool kids at the casino or in the bar.  I spoke at a convention once (badly!  OH SO BADLY!), and that was probably the worst experience of my life.

I suck at networking.

We get invited to the coolest sounding parties and shindigs in town, almost weekly.  And, don’t ask me why, but when we don’t attend said cool parties PEOPLE ASK WHERE WE ARE.  As though we’ve ever been to a single party!  I don’t get it either.

And you know what?  This isn’t some shitty tactic to appear cool or mysterious or “better than”.  I really can’t stomach the thought of choosing which of my three pairs of jeans to wear (this should be easy – THE PAIR THAT FITS), or which side of my head to part my hair.  I can’t deal with the idea of small talk and chatter, or of listening to some blowhard talk about how he’s booked ninety-seven weddings in the last two weeks “at an average of twelve thousand dollars!  Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal”.  In my head, all networking meetings are exercises in bullshittery, and the thought of that makes my tummy hurt.

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Charo’s story:

The scene: a 6th floor hotel room at the Hilton in downtown Wilmington.  The bride’s mom and friends are arranging the wedding gown so the bride can step into it.

I’m standing on a chair, wedged into a corner, one camera hung over my left shoulder, slapping my hip every time I move; the other poised for the moment when the bride is “decent” enough to hear a shutter click and I can get those beautiful, window-lit, iconic dressing room images.

Up till this point, I’d been feeling pretty great about myself.  I knew I was getting some awesome coverage, the bride and I were getting along like old friends, and even her bridesmaids seemed like they could be personal friends of mine – we’d all have fun over beers at the bar, you know?  I belonged.

Bride steps into her dress, and her helpers pull it up and start zipping it.

Her boobs aren’t quite where they need to be in the cups.

It’s a pretty common problem, and one I happen to know the quick fix for (every wedding photographer does).  I say, “Hey, pull the bodice down real quick, and bend over – like this (demonstrating) – and let them just fall into the cups!”

Her mom looks at me with this knowing smile and says “Oh, she doesn’t need ANY help in the boob department… her boobs are young and perky, they’re not sad and saggy like OURS.”



It ruined my whole day.


 Kim’s Story:

I’ve just had an awesome meeting with a potential client.  She’s funny, irreverent, exactly my target bride.

 We’re chatting like old friends and she’s talking about her favorite photos of mine on my blog from the last two years.

After 17 years of being a professional wedding photographer I am thinking “Yessssssssssssssssssssssss. The non-Pinterest inspired bride is still out there!  The one who really CRAVES real moments in photography.  She gets me. I get her. ”

Pricing was talked about and discussed like grown ups.  She reiterated several times that photography was the most important thing to her and what she and her fiance were willing to spend good cash money on.

For just a little moment, it was like it was 2008 again.  *sheds a tiny tear*

She calls the next day as promised and after a few BFF niceties she says “ So here’s one thing I have to ask of you.  I’m Italian and it’s really important to me to have pieces of my heritage included in my wedding.  So one of the things we want to have is a Gelato Bar”

I squeal, she squeals, we all squeal for…Gelato. I assure her that’s a brilliant idea, the guests will love it.

“So, here’s the thing.  The Gelato Bar is going to cost us $600. So I’m wondering if you can reduce the cost of your package $600 to help us out.”

I’ve mentioned that I’ve done this professionally for 17 years, right?

I’m the one friends come to when they want to learn how to say something to a client in a professional manner.

I’m the cool headed, been around the block, ain’t-no-chick-in-a big-white-dress-gonna-scare-me-kind-of-photographer.

 I honestly thought that nothing, nothing would surprise me anymore .  All of my moxy went straight down the drain as these words flew unbidden out of my mouth:

“I’m sorry, did you just ask me to pay for your Gelato Bar?”

The conversation went quickly downhill from there.  And as you might have guessed, she didn’t hire me.


We’re two photographers who’ve been around in this industry for a long time.

That used to be a good thing, remember?

Now we’re hearing the same thing over and over from long time veterans; that they can’t figure out where their place is anymore.  They can’t reach the brides, the work doesn’t matter anymore.

We have old saggy boobs and brides wanting us to pay for their Gelato Bars.

This job is funny.

Funny ha-ha, funny weird, and funny are-you-fucking-kidding-me.

But those two awkward record scratch moments were our own funny A-HA moments.

We’d love to hear about some of yours as we navigate our way in this brave new Instagrammed world trying to do the job we love in a rapidly changing market.