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Archive for September, 2013


Dear Adobe,

Can you please add in an “I have body issues” filter?  You know, the one that takes away back fat, double chins, big asses and armginas on my clients?  For that I will happily pay your cloud fee for LIFE.

Love and kisses,


(Armgina.  No photo credit by the request of the maker)


It’s happening more and more lately.  I walk into the getting ready area with the bride and she squints at her reflection in the mirror and says to me ” I hate my arms.  But you can Photoshop them, right?”

FFS.  If you hate your arms why for the love of all that is holy DID YOU GET A STRAPLESS DRESS?  Seriously, don’t these girls have ONE good girlfriend that is going to tell it to them straight about that dress at the Bridal Salon? Or better yet, a gay man?

It’s not just limited to the brides, either. Moms ask to have double chins removed.  Parents ask to have children’s shirts changed from blue to red in the family photos. Everyone knows that with Photoshop, anything can happen.

My standard response has always been a smile and a nonchalant “Oh sure.  Anything can be altered for a fee”.

Lately there’s been some discussion on forums about what is our role as photographers to make sure the client is “okay” with their appearance? Do we have to be stylists, wardrobe assistants, hairdressers as well as photographers?

My contract spells out what I do and do not include as standard retouching, but when we are dealing with peoples fragile egos (and in my case often a bride, which is a double whammy) then I think some extra communication is the key.

A few years ago I had a very buxom very pretty bride. Her dress was  one of those ill-fitting $99 David’s Bridal numbers (strapless, of course) and she was spilling out all over. I’m talking back bacon, side bacon and major boobage. There must have been a dozen nip slip photos I had to delete.  I knew she was self-conscious about her appearance and during the formal photos I used every trick I knew to make her look fantastic.  However, what I could not control were the un-posed spontaneous moments.  At one point I did something I would normally never do, I signaled to her to “sit up straight” at the head table because she was slouching making matters SO MUCH WORSE.

A few days after the wedding she called me in tears.  She had seen photos from friends and family and she was horrified.  She wanted my assurance that I could “Photoshop” her so that none of my photos would look like that.  I assured her I’d do my best.  During the edit, I was frustrated.  Do I delete all these really great interaction moments because of her wardrobe malfunction?  I ended up doing a very tight edit and telling her that anything that she put in her album I would retouch to her hearts content, but anything else, she would have to pay for.   She was thrilled when she picked up her album, but told me she would delete the rest of the photos if it were up to her, but her husband wouldn’t let her.

That still bothers me.  I know it’s not my shit, but it bothers me that she doesn’t treasure those photos.

Now when I deliver the proofs, this is now included. It’s talked about in the initial consultation and again, it’s in my contract… but a gentle reminder never hurt anyone.

Standard Retouching
(Included only in prints ordered through the studio or album prints. Your proofs are balanced for color and tone and cropped for the most pleasing outcome)

Smoothing of skin, whitening of teeth/eyes, under eye circles, flyaway hairs, glasses glare, removal of distracting elements such as exit signs, etc.  Complementary head swaps for group photos.  I do not as a rule remove anything that is not temporary on your body. For example, if you have a mole or birthmark or tattoo, that will remain unless you instruct me otherwise.  Blemishes and other skin imperfections are removed.

Deluxe Retouching
Altering of body including but not limited to:  Tan lines, Double chins, underarm or back excess skin, tummy rolls, love handles, braces removal, slimming of any body part.  These are quoted on a per image basis.

I do my best to catch things on the day. I look for necklaces askew, I check pocket squares, make sure the groomsmen are buttoned up correctly and I physically remove those blessed hair bands off the bridesmaids wrists.   I ask people with transition lenses if they want to take off their glasses for outdoor photos so they don’t  look like a bug.   I have no issues telling a bridesmaid her bra is showing or tucking a stray hair into a bobby pin.

The less I have to deal with after the fact for retouching the better, but if you don’t smile at all during your wedding day, Bridey…I cannot make you look less bitchy.



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


30 years and we ain’t dead yet.
This is amazing considering that  a few years ago Charo decided that wearing 4 inch heels to shoot a commercial shoot was a good idea.  After loading her gear outside her car she stepped out into the middle of the tripod she had placed next to the car and somehow wound her entire body around it as she fell out of her Honda.  Because of the angle, she feared impalement and twisted her body and her ankle around the tripod tearing her Achilles tendon. Too embarrassed to admit her vanity or her injury, she went and did the shoot while joking with the engineers leaning like a  saucy minx on counters while she shot the job as if she did this shit every day, no big deal.

My worst scenario was this:  The year was 1999, I was in my third year of business. I was shooting at St Mary’s Menomonee Falls and it was approximately 5000 degrees out and at the time the church had no air conditioning.   Every the intrepid newbie, I went up into the balcony for shots of the ceremony.   In the balcony, it was 6000 degrees.  I took a few shots and sat there with sweat rolling down my back into my ass crack and reflected that I had the greatest job in the world until the moment that I realized that the doors had closed behind me and I was locked in the balcony.

I panicked, I sobbed, and then I did what any professional photographer would do, I dropped my lens cap on to the head of a guest in the back of the church and frantically gestured to him to help me.  He did and the bride and groom never knew.

This is seriously the worst thing we can think of in our careers.  We’re really really lucky.

For many years we were both single. Then we married, divorced, remarried, etc and still we treated our business as a one woman show. Even when we eventually did have significant others we didn’t really think about how they would handle our affairs if we were suddenly gone.

I talked in this post about the impetus of this guide,  and realized that despite all of our posturing online about photographers half-assing their buisness affairs, we had neglected in our own businesses a really critical part: disaster management.  I asked Charo “If I died, would you know where to find my shit?  Because if you asked me right now, I would say you are the only one on the planet who would know” and her answer was “I’d have a good idea, but you do shit weird and I’d be really really mad at you and want to kill you all over again for making me work so hard to figure out your weird shit”

That’s pretty much how we roll as BFF’s.

So with that, we give you the cunningly named “Easy Peasy Master Disaster Oh S**t Kit”.  Designed for the tech-savvy as well as  the tech-challenged, but mostly designed for your family if they have to clean up your weird shit.

It’s easy.

It’s cheap.

And it’s awesome.

And because YOU are awesome, you get a discount code. I KNOW, you love us so much.  We love you too, and we want you to clean up your shit.

Check out the details here.  And enter the code ACAD2013 for your $20 off.  (Hurry – once 100 people get that $20 off, the discount code will expire)


P.S.  We really don’t want you to die.  Honest.





Ever done one of those Briggs Myers personality tests that describes your traits?  Pretty fascinating stuff.

Hey baby, I’m a ENFP, how ’bout you?

After being in the photography business awhile I’ve noticed similar traits with most of my friends who are in the biz who describe themselves as an “Artist” first and foremost:

Prone to periods of great bursts of activity and productivity, followed by periods of despair, self loathing, drinking and getting abso-fucking-lutely nothing done.

Read more…


This business can be isolating.

That was one of the first things I learned in my first weeks of self employment.  At first, it sounded so glamorous.  No time clocks, no “man” to report to, no asking for days off, no office politics to navigate, no godforsaken grey cube.

But what I missed, desperately, was the water cooler.  I missed having people to bounce ideas off of, I missed  that on my birthday no one brought me a birthday donut.

I started my full time business before Al Gore’s internet was a staple in most homes, and I missed people.

Enter the internet, and shortly thereafter, Facebook.

Read more…


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…


I am a Grumpy.

How do I know this?  I know this because I find myself saying things like “When you’ve been in business more than 5 minutes you can tell ME that Shoot and Share is a good idea for your profit margin” and things like that to photographers.  Usually shouted at my computer screen. Sometimes after a few beverages.

I know because I refuse to upgrade from CS4 and Lightroom 2.7 .  And no, I don’t care how much better the retouch tool is.   You can take your Content Aware where the sun don’t shine.

I know I am a Grumpy because I have flat-out been told so.

In a blog post a few weeks ago I talked about how to make some fast cash during lean times, second shooting being one of those ways.  I’m always amazed at how many photographers do not take advantage of this way to learn and grow as a photographer.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I’ve learned  more  practical applications for my photography second shooting than ANY seminar that I have taken AND I got paid to do so.

Read more…