Ask Me Anything – Photography Mentoring Online

October 25, 2017

Over the last year, I’ve been leaning more heavily on my email list to connect with my audience (that’s you!). I send regular updates and time-sensitive announcements about my business along with photography lessons that I’ve learned the hard way. I also occasionally will invite my readers to send me their most pressing questions. The Ask Me Anything emails are my favorite! Below is a round up of some of the best questions I’ve received (and yes, I’ve included the answers). If you still need convincing to join my email list (you get free stuff!), look through this collection of questions and imagine some of the conversations we can have together when you join!

How do you photograph your special occasions when you also have to be a parent?

  • If there’s a special day or trip that we’re going on, I try not to have any expectations. For me, if I go out with the hopes of just getting one good picture, then I find that I’m not preoccupied with my camera and getting the whole event documented. I end up shooting more or the same amount as I did when I tried to shoot everything, but I don’t stress about what I’m getting because in my mind, all I really want is one good one. This helps me be able to really stay present in the moment too, instead of constantly looking for the next shot (which is a good skill to have for client sessions, but not so great for family days). Oh and yes, my husband has hundreds (actually probably thousands at this point) more photos with the kids than I do. When I have the creative energy to devote to setting up for self-portraits, I do that, but again, I’ve lowered my standards. If we’re traveling, I’ll ask my husband to take a picture of me with the kids just to have something. No, I don’t always get the most amazing pictures that way, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

How do you handle shooting fussy kids?

  • It depends on whose kids they are. If they’re my kids, I will just put my camera down and tend to the issue at hand. Usually… Depending on the circumstances, I may take a quick picture and then put my camera down (especially true if Dad is there and solving the problem). I like to photograph all ranges of emotion, so I don’t worry about my kids looking upset in my images. If I’m at a client session and one or all of the kids are just not having a great time, then I’ll do a few different things. First, I remind the parents that it’s all totally fine. Fussy kids won’t ruin their session. I have yet to have a child cry for the entirety of their session. Second, I focus on how the parents respond. I have gotten some great images of parents comforting their kids during a crying fit. It’s connection, it’s emotion, it’s real life. Third, if the parents are still worried about how the session is going and their little one is still upset, I’ll try interacting with the child. Sometimes having a new person talking or showing them something will confuse a kid just enough to forget what they were upset about. But mostly, I don’t worry about it.

How do you juggle having one or both of your kids at home and get any work done?!

  • This one is a doozy. It’s super hard! But there are a few things that I’ve found that work for me. I can count on Arlo (2yo) being entertained by a movie or snack or some activity for about 30 min so when I sit him down with something, I get straight to work. I also do as much work as I can on my laptop in the living room so I can keep an eye on him (like right now), except he is crying in my face. I do client and video editing on my iMac in my office so when I have work to do on that computer, I make sure he’s happy and occupied, getting up to check in on him every 5-10 min (I can usually see him from my desk). I can’t get much done during the day though, that’s for sure, especially since he stopped napping. I used to just work as much as I could during his 2hr nap. It’s hit or miss when Silas (5yo) is home. They play with each other, but they also fight a lot and feed off of each other. I had to do a bit or rearranging of my schedule when Arlo cut out his nap and now I work for a couple of hours around dinner time a few days each week. I have a really hard time falling asleep if I’m on the computer past 7pm so I don’t work at night after the kids are in bed. That also helps to still give my husband and I time alone without kids. If I have to work on the weekends (pretty common), unless I’m on a deadline, I will only work one day so we can still have a family day. Oh! And I recently bought noise cancelling headphones so when I’m working in the evenings I can still concentrate with the noise going on in the living room. All of that is to say, I can’t really get much done without extra help. I scale back when I notice my patience running out with the boys or if we haven’t gotten out of the house in a while. And every couple of months at least, something in someone’s schedule changes so I have to adapt and figure out a new schedule to get my work done.

Do you use a prime or zoom lens and why?

  • I use both. I use mostly a 35mm f/1.4 and a 24-70mm f/2.8. If I need a wider lens and I have a lot of light, I’ll use the zoom. If I’m shooting a party or an event, I’ll use the zoom. Otherwise, I’ll typically use the 35mm because it’s a bit sharper and opens wider. Here’s a post with all of my equipment: What’s in My Bag?

What is your favorite room to shoot in at home and why?

  • Anywhere! In my own home, I get sick of shooting in one room all the time (usually the living room since that’s where we spend most of our time) so I try shooting in other parts of the house. I like each room for different reasons. The light also changes in each room throughout the day so I find myself avoiding certain rooms when it gets dark and preferring to shoot in other rooms when the light is hitting through the windows just right.

How do you keep so much variation in your daily photos?

  • If I start getting bored by my pictures, it’s usually because we’re doing the same thing everyday so I will first just try to do something different. If we read everyday, then tomorrow we’ll paint or do puzzles. I’ll also try to get us out of the house. A change in scenery can do wonders for variety in your daily shooting. Sometimes I will pick a time of day that I haven’t shot in a while and start shooting then or I will choose a different room to shoot in. I’ll also write out a list of our daily routines or things the boys do often and start working down the list; I can usually find some interesting moments or sweet connections when I do this. Even if I’ve shot a particular activity in the past, I’ll shoot it again if it’s been a few months. If I photographed my boys brushing their teeth in February, then I’ll shoot it again now because they’re older and the moment will look different. This blog post might help too: Staying Motivated During a 365 Project.

How do you get good shots of the kids without them trying to engage with you?

  • I think my boys are just used to me by now, but I still deal with this. I will say that it happens a lot less when I’m not trying to just shoot Arlo by himself. Silas doesn’t really do it, but Arlo is still young enough and attached to me enough that if it’s just the two of us, he’ll come to sit on my lap when I’m trying to shoot him. If he’s playing with Silas, most of the time he’ll keep doing whatever he’s doing long enough for me to get a shot. And when the boys are playing with Dad, it’s even easier. I did deal with it a ton when Silas was younger and an only child though. It gets better with age! Of course, there are plenty of times that I just have to put my camera up and try again later.

For client sessions, do you recommend any clothing or location options, or do you tell your clients to dress as they would naturally?

  • I advise against big logos on clothes and bright neon colors, but otherwise just tell them to wear what they’re comfortable in.  For locations, they can plan a session in their home or out and about. I don’t really mind where we end up shooting.

In my personal style I really love the wide-open aperture of 1.4 & 1.8, do you shoot that wide or do you limit yourself to more closed aperture when shooting clients?

  • I typically stay around f/2-2.8 to give myself a bit wider of a focal plane when I’m shooting clients. Kids move fast and unlike shooting my own kids, I’m not always familiar with their habits and typical patterns so it’s harder to predict their next move. One of my lenses also needs to be micro-calibrated still so I don’t trust its focus at f/1.4.

Do you allow any posed or lifestyle shoots into your sessions for your client?

  • I grab everyone together at some point during the session for at least one group shot, but I don’t spend more than 5 minutes on it. Newborn sessions are a bit more hands-on and will include shots of the baby alone on the bed and with each family member (if I can’t get these shots naturally during the course of session, I will arrange them myself toward the end).

What are some marketing tips to get the word out about how awesome storytelling photography sessions are?

  • First, find out who your ideal client is. If you know who she is, you can start looking at the things she values and the places/products she uses. If you know what she finds important, you can think about how to explain the value of your sessions in those terms. If she values family mealtimes and reconnecting during each day, you can talk about documenting those moments so everyone in the family can look back when they’re older. Think in terms of the benefit these sessions provide for the client. Why should they choose a storytelling session over a portrait session at Sears? What makes the experience with you different from Suzzy down the street? Answer these questions and it will be easier for your potential clients to see how hiring you will benefit their lives.

What do you do with pictures from a storytelling session?

  •  Albums! Storytelling sessions look beautiful in albums where the images can be laid out to tell the full story. I also really like printing my pictures and hanging them on my walls in groups. You can hang one large image of a great moment and several smaller related images of details or supporting moments. I also love printing my images in calendars. If you love a photograph, print it and hang it in your house! It doesn’t have to be a portrait to earn a spot on your wall. I absolutely love walking down the stairs each morning and seeing one of my favorite pictures of my yawning newborn or changing the calendar every month and being reminded of a different moment from the past year.

Interested in a Storytelling Session or online mentoring? Email me at to find out more and be sure to follow me on Facebook.