Photography 101: 4 Tips to Get You Started

 
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So you want to get into photography, but aren't sure where to start... 

We've been there, believe me! It can be intimidating to love something a ton, but not be 100% sure (or even 50% sure) how to get started! We've put together some tips for beginners that will give you a great jumping off point! 

Tip # 1: Getting Started with Equipment 

Our philosophy on photography equipment for beginners is largely that you should focus on practicing with what you have, rather than falling into the trap of thinking better equipment will automatically make you a better photographer (spoiler alert: it won't). That being said, there are some things to think about when it comes to what equipment you might need, and some questions to ask yourself. 

Are you a Nikon or a Canon person? 

Not sure? That's okay! They're both wonderful! We happen to use Canon, so this post will largely feature Canon recommendations, but both have great starter options! B&H Photo, Amazon, and Best Buy all have periodic sales and specials to look out for when it comes to getting started with a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera! B&H Photo is also a reputable source for used camera equipment, including DSLRs. 

Starter DSLRs for Canon Users: The Canon T6 and up (also known as the Canon Digital Rebel)

Starter DLSRs for Nikon Users: The Nikon D3400 and up

Will you be photographing people, landscapes, or close-up macros (flowers, bugs, tiny things, etc.) or a mix of things? 

The answer to this question will determine which type of lens could be right for you. 

For People and Portrait Photography: A 50mm 1.8f lens is a GREAT portrait lens, does well in lower light, and is an affordable prime lens (prime lenses do not zoom, except the old-fashioned way, which involves you moving closer or further away from your subject).

For Landscape Photography: A wide angle lens is going to work best, generally anything 28mm or wider, with a 2.8f or lower capability.

For Macro/Close-Up Photography: A 60mm or 65mm 2.8f macro lens is a great introduction to macro/close-up photography! I would definitely recommend going used on this one, from a reputable source, such as B&H Photo, and if you're purchasing the Canon 60mm 2.8f macro lens, please note that this lens is only compatible with Canon's crop-sensor camera bodies, and is not compatible with full-frame canon cameras (such as the 1D, 5D, or 6D). 

For Mixed-Use Photography: Just can't decide between what type of photography you like? Something like a prime lens 35mm or a zoom lens that can maintain a consistent fstop (aperture) throughout the zoom are great 'all-around' options! We would generally recommend avoiding zoom lenses where the aperture changes depending on how far in or out you are zoomed. 

Will you be primarily photographing indoors or outdoors? 

This will determine if you might need to invest in something like a simple speed-lite or can go without. If you're primarily photographing outdoors, don't worry about off-camera flash for now! If you're primarily photographing indoors, a small speed-lite flash that you can use to bounce flash off of ceilings, and maybe a diffuser could be a good investment. The Canon 430EX Speed-lite is a great place to start! 

What is your equipment budget? 

If you're a beginner, it may be on the smaller side, and that's okay. What that means is you'll want the best lens for your intended use that fits within your budget. We do not recommend going into debt for your photography equipment. A great way to save is to purchase used equipment from reputable sources. It's a win/win! You can potentially afford "nicer" gear for less money by buying used. A great source for used equipment is the used section at B&H Photo! Check it out here. 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you'll be well on your way to determining what gear you need to get started, and how to budget accordingly. Just remember, just like buying a guitar doesn't make you a great musician, buying all the great gear in the world doesn't make you a photographer if you don't put in the hours and work necessary to hone your craft. There are no shortcuts with art, just passion. 

Tip # 2: Getting Started with Editing

Hey, we get it, editing software is not cheap, and a lot of it, even the professional stuff, isn't all that user-friendly. But editing is a great way to really make your images stand out, and to take your photography to the next level. Our first tip for editing greatness? Shoot in RAW! Then, if you can swing it, Adobe's Creative Cloud offers a subscription that includes Photoshop (not particularly user-friendly if I'm being honest) and Lightroom (freaking amazing, super biased) for under $11 a month. This is a great deal, but it is a subscription model, so if you aren't ready to commit to another monthly bill, then check out free RAW editing software, such as Darktable, which is a great, and free opensource alternative. Last editing-related tip; Try not to go too nuts on filters (But if you do, it's okay. We've all done it). 

Tip # 3: Getting Started with Community

Since we recently did a post on how to connect with other creatives (check it out here), I won't reinvent the wheel here, but suffice it to say that it's easier to stay engaged and enthusiastic about your craft if you've got a good creative community around you! Word of caution though, comparison is the thief of joy, so definitely do surround yourself with an awesome creative community and definitely don't do too much comparison, lest you accidentally discourage yourself. 

Tip # 4: Getting Started with PRACTICE! 

Okay, so, this isn't a sexy tip. I get it. I, too, want to be an awesome rock star without practicing. BUT... That's not how reality works. Or dreams, that's also not how dreams work. And the truth is that you don't get better at something without practicing, and as I mentioned above, having the best gear in the world doesn't mean anything at all if you're not using it. Having the best editing software in the world doesn't matter if you're not figuring out how to use it and experimenting with it, and having a love of photography without actually taking photos makes you a fan (which is also cool), not a photographer. If you want to be a photographer, go photograph stuff. Seriously, it's that simple. Photograph things every day. Find beauty in the overlooked. Figure out what you most love to take photos of, and take more of those kinds of photos. Figure out what scares  you to take photos of, and then take more of those kinds of photos. Take photos of EVERYTHING, and then take some more. You got this! 

 

Hopefully that gives you a good place to start! These tips are (obviously) not all-inclusive, but stay tuned because we are working on a 'leveling up' version of this post to talk through next steps once you've worked on the items above, and if there is anything at all that you'd love to see us write a future post about, please email us at robandsamphoto@gmail.com and let us know! 

--Sam 

 

 

5 Reasons to Switch to HoneyBook

 

Want a one-stop-shop for organizing your business? 

In the immortal words of Amy Poehler, "Yes please!" 

It's easy to find reasons to put off switching to a new organizational system. We've also been guilty of sometimes thinking too short-sightedly when it comes to business processes, and having an "If it's not broken, don't fix it" mentality to things other than the actual photography part of our business. But friends, let me tell you, we love HoneyBook for managing our business, and are so happy we made the leap! We even updated this post because HoneyBook has introduced new features that make it an even more amazing tool for small business owners! 

What is HoneyBook? 

While HoneyBook is used by lots of different types of vendors, our review will be largely written from the perspective of a Wedding & Portrait Photographer. HoneyBook streamlines and automates your client's experience from inquiry to final invoice. The HoneyBook system keeps your clients moving through the workflow with automated reminders and notifications. Your pipeline helps you visualize where you are with your clients and what you need to work on next, all in one place. Email clients directly from HoneyBook (both the app and the internet browser version). Create and manage invoices, service brochures, and proposals , with the ability for clients to seamlessly select services, sign agreements, and make payments online. You can even send your clients customized timelines for their projects to help keep everyone on track!  

Here are 5 reasons to make the switch! 

1. Use the Pipeline View to Manage Workflow

The ability to view all of your projects (weddings, portraits, etc.) in one place and easily determine what needs to happen next, depending on what stage the project is in is invaluable in keeping up with your workflow and staying on top of deadlines. 

 

2. Create an Integrated Contact Form To Send Website Inquiries Directly to Your HoneyBook Workflow

This right here is a game changer! Customize your perfect contact form through HoneyBook and embed the code onto your website's contact page, and just like that, every inquiry that comes through your website is automatically in your HoneyBook workflow! 

 

3. Create and Send Brochures, Proposals, and Questionnaires

HoneyBook makes it super easy to send brochures of the services you offer, where your clients can select the service they're interested in. You can then send them a proposal (agreement/contract - pictured above) with the info they need to review and sign your agreement electronically, and they can make payment online immediately! I can tell you for us, this has made booking and getting paid a considerably less cumbersome process, and has created a lot less work for our clients too! No more finding checkbooks or locating stamps to send in paper agreements. What this also means is that not only are all your messages, from the initial inquiry to the last thank you, all in one place for each project, but so are the files you send them, including their signed proposal and any event questionnaires you've sent them! It truly is a one-stop-shop to keep track of all activity associated with each client. 

You can even create the following types of templates, each fully customizable, to help you better streamline your client communications so you're providing consistent and complete information every time! 

  • Email Communications
  • Services and Packages 
  • Brochures 
  • Agreements 
  • Questionnaires 

 

4. Online Invoicing and Payment Made Easy

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I'll admit it. Before HoneyBook, I was terrible at invoicing. I mean, I had the payment info in the contract, and I'd email people or follow-up, etc., but I did not have a good process in place for tracking amounts due, due dates, and following up with clients. Which made every interaction about it kind of awkward, and no one wants that. Now I can easily create an invoice and send it, track due dates, and HoneyBook will automatically send out payment reminders on past due balances (making it less awkward and weird than emailing myself)! Clients can even add a gratuity right through HoneyBook if you have that feature enabled. It's great! Once payment is made, the money is automatically deposited into our business account and available within 2-3 business days. If a client prefers to pay via check, you can manually mark the invoice paid. Easy as pie! Mmm... Pie... 

 

5. Create Project-Specific Tasks & Workflows (in Beta) 

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Who here couldn't use a friendly reminder to keep us on track from time to time (or literally all of the time)? With HoneyBook, you can implement automated, project-specific workflows (still in Beta) to help make your life easier, and your client's experience even better! You can also create tasks, either as a part of a workflow or standalone, that make sure you never miss following up with a client, sending an invoice, or anything again! Here's a brief overview of these two features:

Tasks

  • Create and manage project-specific tasks to keep yourself on track (and receive reminders when you have overdue tasks)
  • Tasks appear both in the Task Management area (all tasks) or within each project (project-specific tasks) and can be arranged by what's due next so you always have easy access to what your next steps are

Workflows (Beta)

  • Create workflows based on different types of projects, for instance, a Wedding workflow and a Portrait workflow 
  • In workflows, you can automate, on a pre-determined schedule in relation with the project date, things like creating a task, sending a questionnaire, or sending an email (and you can turn on approval if you don't want emails to send without your review)
  • Important Note: This feature is currently in Beta, but if you sign up for HoneyBook, I highly encourage you to sign up to be a Beta tester so you get the first access to all sorts of neat features and can provide feedback! 

These automation features are an amazing way to stay on top of your workflow easily, so that you can spend your time focusing on better serving your clients!

 

BONUS REASON! 

Just for our readers, get 20% off of your first year with HoneyBook (or your first month if you choose a monthly subscription) when you use the link below! 

Dutcher Photography HoneyBook Discount! 

Enjoy friends, and here's to streamlining processes, perfecting your workflows, and getting your life back! 

--Sam 

 

How to Connect with Other Creatives

 
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Where to get started

When you're a creative and a small business owner, or looking to move into one or more of those categories, it can feel a little isolating. Doubly so if you're in a season of your entrepreneurial journey where you're struggling or unsure of the next stage in your business. 

Reaching out to other creative entrepreneurs can help you to feel less alone, and like there are folks out there who understand the unique struggles you're going through, and who can celebrate successes with you! 

Here are a few ideas on how to get started: 

The Rising Tide Society

The Rising Tide Society provides affordable small business education opportunities, support for small business owners, and a sense of community the size of an ocean! The mantra of The Rising Tide Society is #CommunityOverCompetition based on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. If that weren't enough, their organization facilitates hundreds of Tuesdays Together meetings across the country, which is a chance for you to meet up with local entrepreneurs, talk shop, network, and most importantly, be around other folks who really get what you're going through. Check out both The Rising Tide Society and your local Tuesdays Together meeting, and start connecting with a supportive community of creatives! 

Workshops and Retreats

Having only been to one, I certainly can't speak to all workshops and retreats out there (and I'm willing to bet they're not all as amazing as the one I went to), but I can say that the experience was such an amazing way for me to connect with a group of like-minded badass ladies, and I think making a commitment to dedicating time to your craft, and to connection, can do wonders for your business (and mental) outlook! 

Co-Working Spaces and DIY Clubs

While this might be harder to come by in rural areas, most mid to large sized cities have co-working spaces where you can rent a desk or office space, even as a solo entrepreneur or at-home worker, and get some valuable human interaction time with similarly situated individuals! Or there are also places that are geared towards the maker-scene. In Madison, we've got Sector 67 and the Bodgery as two amazing places for makers looking to connect, and have access to awesome tools and work spaces! 

Online Communities 

Online communities are an amazingly effective and easy way to seek connection with other creative folks, but become crucial for those in more rural areas, or for those that are just dipping their toe in, and aren't quite sure about in-person meet ups. Though to that I say "Come on in! The water is fine!" Still, online communities, including Facebook groups, etc., allow you to connect easily, and on the go, in whatever way you feel most comfortable, with as little or as much commitment as you are able to do, which is nice for those that might make a habit of telling themselves they don't have the time. 

 

In summary, connecting with other humans is important. And if you're a creative person, and/or a small business owner, it's going to be doubly important for you to connect with folks who really get what you're going through, and the unique challenges that come along with owning a small business or working in a creative field. Do yourself a favor and get out there, even if it's a little out of your comfort zone. I promise it will help you feel more connected not only to a community, but to yourself and your craft. And that's worth leaving the house for! 

 

Equipment Review: Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 Lens

 

Equipment Introductions with Rob

Today I'm introducing the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L.  We call it a Walk Around Lens; Walk Around Lenses being our favorite lenses for multiple conditions.  At a little over two pounds, the 24-70 is not our lightest lens, but its versatility makes it worth the haul for weddings.  It syncs well with our Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes (look for a future review), but as a f/2.8 it does well in lower light situations as well, and also has some macro capabilities when at full zoom.

Great For The Following:  

  • Wedding Photography
  • Portraits
  • Family Formals or Large Group Photography
  • Macro Photography (if you can't yet invest in a Macro lens) 

Would Not Recommend For:

  • Street Photography (too bulky) 
  • Sharp Wide Angle Shots
  • Super Low Light 

Outside of the convenience and quality afforded by this zoom lens, it's worth noting that the focus is sharpest when zoomed all the way in.

I took this picture of a dried flower on my Field Notes, zoomed all the way out to 24mm:

 
 

 

However, as shown in the picture below, the sharpness does not lend itself to cropping during editing:

 
 

Keeping all other things the same, I zoomed to 70mm:

 
 

The refinement gained really pays off in editing:

 
 

There's no definition to those hairs at 28mm.  Are tiny hairs on a dried flower often important during a wedding?  No, not really, but you can only edit what you record.  If the subject of photograph is the details, you are better off if you keep in mind to shoot at 70mm with this lens.  Rarely when moving within crowds am I looking for that level of detail; the ability to pull back to 28mm allows me to capture more of the spirit of things without being obtrusive.  The ability to slide back and forth between these strengths is what makes this such a fantastic lens for weddings.

Stay tuned for more equipment reviews from me in the coming weeks, and check out the album below, all taken with the 24-70. 

--Rob 

 

What's In Our Camera Bag?

 
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A Look At The Photography Equipment We couldn't do Without 

If you're like me, you probably love looking at what equipment other photographers use! I find it endlessly fascinating (although admittedly, I'm a photography nerd). So, since I totally dig it when other photographers share what equipment they're using, I wanted to do the same! I also wanted to let everyone know that we're super excited to start doing camera gear reviews in the near future! This post right here will be the first step, laying it all out on the table, and then we'll do a deeper dive into some of our equipment, the pros and cons, and what you can expect when using it! 

Camera Bodies

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
    • This is a badass camera body, and it's the one I use day to day. Both the 5D Mark IV and the 7D Mark II have excellent low light performance, and redundant memory card slots, so are great for the photographer on the go! 
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
    • If you don't need a full frame sensor, the 7D Mark II is the way to go! It's a workhorse camera with excellent low light performance and so is perfect for wedding photography! 

    Lenses

    • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Lens
      • This is such a versatile lens, particularly for wedding photographers, and my go-to for formal portraits in particular, or tight spaces where you need a little more wiggle room on focal length 
    • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Canon
      • I have barely taken this lens off my camera since I got it! It's sharp, fast and accurate auto-focus, and has the dreamiest bokeh imaginable (seriously gorgeous) and the focal length also makes this a very versatile lens as well
    • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Canon
      • Okay, this is also an amazing lens, and I just love both of my Sigma lenses so much it's not even funny - this and the 35mm are my go-to when I'm shooting on the 5D 
    • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens
      • We call this lens The Beast, and with good reason! It's not for the faint of heart, or weak of arm! It's a heavy but magnificent lens that's sharp, great for getting that close up feel I love during moments where perhaps we can't get that close (wedding ceremonies anyone?) Be prepared to have sore arms the next day! 
    • Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
      • While this is a lovely macro lens, I actually love it for all sorts of things, but especially portraits! This is also my go-to ring shot lens *heart eyes* Word to the wise though, it's only for crop sensor cameras! 
    • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 Lens
      • This is a great portrait lens as well, though the auto-focus is a little slower than I would like. It's a great prime lens to use during wedding ceremonies! 
    • Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX Lens for Canon
      • Admittedly, I don't show wide angle very often, as I tend to like to get up close and personal, but this lens is really fun to play with, and in particular, I love it for wide outdoor shots. The auto-focus is very slow though, just an FYI

    Lighting

    • Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT
      • I cannot say enough wonderful things about this flash. We have 4 of them, and coupled with a wireless transmitter, they create the easiest and quickest to use wireless lighting setup for off-camera flash imaginable! 
    • Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter
      • See above - this coupled with the Canon 600 Speedlite flash is a miracle-worker in tough lighting conditions and super easy and quick to setup and carry! 
    • Two 32" Convertible Umbrellas with Stands
      • While not every occasion calls for umbrellas, the ones that do really do, so I keep this kit (that goes with our 600 Speedlite flashes and Wireless Transmitter) at the ready at all times, just in case. No need to plug anything in, and can be set up in under 5 minutes

    Accessories

    • Watson AA NiMH Rechargeable Batteries (about a million of them) and Charger
      • You can never have too many rechargeable batteries, and unlike when we first starting shooting, rechargeable batteries have come a long way and are now a very viable option for powering all manner of gadgets, such as those handy speedlite flashes mentioned above. The charger even has a car plug-in option, for charging on the go
    • SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO Memory Card
      • You can also never have too many memory cards, and these are our favorites 
    • Peak Design Camera Bag and Straps
      • I just ADORE this brand! It's stylish, unisex, and sturdy. <3 

    Photo Editing Software

    • Adobe Lightroom 
      • Lightroom for LIFE! I've been hooked ever since the Beta came out back in 2006, and although I've shopped around, nothing beats it for intuitive workflow

    In Closing... 

    I am so excited to share our camera bag info with you, and if there is anything in particular you'd like to see a review on, leave us a comment and let us know! 

     

    How to Rock a Rainy Day Wedding

     

    "It's like rain on your wedding day...."

    Now that I have your attention, and a super catchy song stuck in your head, let's talk about rainy day weddings. If you're a photographer, particularly one who generally relies on natural light, a forecast of rain for your next wedding shoot may make you break out into a cold sweat. But never fear! Rainy day weddings can be fun, romantic, and intimate, so hopefully some of these tips and tricks will help you rock that next rainy day wedding with confidence! 

    PLAN FOR PLAN B

    When helping your couples plan their wedding day schedule, their formal shot list, and just generally getting ready for the big day, it's important to stress the importance of a rain day plan! Here are few ways you can help your clients create an inclement weather backup plan they can feel good about!

    • If your clients are having their ceremony outside, find out what the inclement weather backup plan is for their venue. Some great things to have them keep in mind are whether the backup plan has enough space for all of their guests (this is often overlooked but really important for everyone's comfort!) and what the lighting is like in the Plan B area during the time of day the ceremony will be taking place 
    • If you had to do formal family and wedding party photos indoors, would there be enough space for the size groups your client plans on having you photograph? If you're not sure, and it's looking like rain, then it's wise to have your clients make a 'good weather' formal shot list, as well as a 'rain day' formal shot list, to account for the likelihood of more limited space indoors for group shots
    • Help your clients build a little flexibility into their wedding day schedule, where possible, to allow you to seize opportunities that may arise for some quick rain-free outdoor pictures in between downpours, or to re-arrange the order of certain non-key events to accommodate changes in weather where needed

    THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB

    For the photographer that relies primarily on natural light, knowing how to prepare for less than ideal weather conditions can be a little overwhelming. Having the right tools for the job will go a long way to boosting your confidence to handle a variety of 'bad lighting' situations with ease, and allow you to deliver a fantastic final product to your clients! 

    • Unless you are a strictly natural light photographer, you're going to want to make friends with speedlite flashes. For real, they're a must-have accessory to get you through rainy days, dark rooms, and backlighting shenanigans! They're not as scary as they seem, and there are many wonderful and free tutorials out there , depending on what brand camera you shoot with. If you don't own speedlite flashes, no worries, you can rent! We shoot Canon, so we swear by Canon's 600 EX-RT flashes, with a wireless radio transmitter for tough lighting situations. Stay tuned for a post on quick and easy speedlite setups that work wonders for us in dark or stormy conditions! 
    • Practice, practice, practice. Even if you don't have a wedding coming up, if you're not yet comfortable with speedlite flashes, rent a setup that you can practice with over the weekend and grab a friend or family member to be your model. Try different rooms, different times of day, and different conditions, and just see what works best for you, so you get really comfortable with a few quick settings that give you good results! If you DO have a wedding coming right up, then it's even more important to rent or purchase a basic speedlite setup so that you can test it out no later than the day before the wedding - you don't want to be learning a brand new piece of equipment at a client's wedding if it is at all humanly possible to avoid
    • Unrelated to lighting, but definitely related to inclement weather, make sure you have coverings to protect your camera equipment from too much rain if you plan on shooting outside! 

    MAKE IT FUN! 

    Rainy day weddings and inclement weather don't have to be a huge bummer, and in fact, your clients can use it as an opportunity to have unique wedding day photos and just have fun with it! 

    • Encourage your clients (and their wedding party!) to bring umbrellas, the fancier the better! I personally love the clear umbrellas because of the endless opportunities they present for dreamy and intimate rainy day wedding photos of the couple *insert dreamy heart eyes here* 
    • Remember that your clients are trusting you not only to be the expert on photography, but also as an expert on weddings in general, so help your clients by being flexible, knowledgeable, and by seeing a rainy wedding day for what it is; something that only adds to the unique love story that your clients have to tell, and will be telling for years to come, with your photographs visual reminder of the most memorable day of their lives! 

    AND FINALLY... 

    Remember that just like any other situation you may not have encountered before as a photographer, rainy day weddings are a wonderful opportunity to get creative, and gain new skills! Happy splashing! 

    -- Sam