January 2020 Q&A - Kirstie Marie Photography Mentorship
Dramatic sunset lighting showing the legs of a girl in a skirt and the horse's front feet

January 2020 Q&A

How do you know what a good price is when starting out?

If you are still building your portfolio, I personally don’t think you should be charging for your services. Other opinions may vary, but I think this is the time to practice your skill, create content, and thoroughly understand the costs associated with running your future business.

When you are ready to create a business entity, analyze the costs you have recorded per photoshoot along with your desired salary to determine a profitable price you need to charge. Every person’s price will be different depending on their costs. There is a good calculator here.

Click here for the course with the calculator I created for my own business pricing!

Best camera and lens for starting out?

I started with the Nikon kit from Costco and I think that the entry-level cameras from Canon and Nikon are great to start with! I have a post about it here. 

When do you know it is the right time to raise your prices?

If your current prices are not profitable, it is time to raise your prices to make the profit you need to sustain yourself in this business.

If you are drowning in too much work, it is time to raise your prices immediately.

If you are priced profitably and taking on a comfortable amount of work, I have heard people suggest raising prices every 3-5 times someone books your highest package.

Young blonde girl with palomino horse in a field

How to start your business and create a business plan?

To start your business, I would consult with a local lawyer and CPA. There are different steps necessary to create a business in each state and country. In Texas, I used LegalZoom to file for my LLC and went through the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to get my Sales + Use Tax Permit. Your local government entities might have resources online to walk you through the steps necessary to create a business in your area.

As for the business plan, I find it valuable to be able to (a) define the market you are entering and (b) define where you fit inside of that market. I go into great detail about how to do this in my marketing course. Once you know this, you will be able to identify the target audience of your marketing efforts, also known as your ideal client. Next, it is time to build a marketing strategy for how you will deliver your message to this person.

Your marketing plan is a key piece to your business plan, but it is not the only component. I would also identify where you stand financially at the moment, list the investments you want to make by their priority, and set forth monthly revenue goals or targets you want to him in order to make those investments.

If someone needs extra skin smoothing, what method do you use?

It depends on the type of blemish I am trying to correct, but I like Spot Healing Brush Tool, Clone Stamp Tool, and Blur Tool for skin. Many people use frequency separation to retouch skin.

What camera/equipment do you recommend for equine photographers in particular?

First and foremost, a long focal length lens to minimize lens distortion on the horse’s head and body. I do not own the 70-200, but it is certainly the most popular lens among equine photographers because of how versatile it is. I choose to use a 135m lens because I like to shoot at a shallower depth of field than the 70-200 allows for.

As for camera bodies, I think that depends on your goals. If you are shooting indoors or at night you will need an emphasis on low-light capabilities. If you shoot a lot of action, you will need higher frames per second. For commercial work, you might need larger image files.

Person riding a western horse with dramatic lighting

Do you teach black background posing and editing?

I recently launched a course on Black Backgrounds that covers posing + editing! Check it out here.

Do you allow growing photographers to come shadow you?

I do not have a shadowing program. I bring a paid assistant to each of my sessions.

If you are interested in learning from me, I offer one-on-one mentoring programs in Dallas, Skype calls, or my online courses.

How do you learn about your potential clients before a session since most of your first interactions are via email, social media, or over the phone? How do you best prepare the photo session for what they want, especially for clients that don’t know what they want out of a photo session?

I send a questionnaire that gathers some of the information prior to them booking with me. As soon as they sign the contract + pay the retainer, I send a welcome magazine that answers questions and helps them prepare for their session. I have a course on what to include in a magazine here.

I check in with my clients regularly the weeks leading up to the shoot to ensure all of their questions have been answered. I also arrive 30 minutes early to each shoot to ensure I have a full understanding of every outfit/location/pose they have in mind.

How do you choose your Kelvin settings?

I eyeball it! I generally start around 6250 and increase or decrease based on my test shots at the location. I shoot in RAW so I am able to fine-tune the white balance in Lightroom.

Young girl side hugging her black horse

What is your computer and digital storage like?

I have all of my RAW images on two external hard drives that are back up by BackBlaze, a cloud-based storage system.

My finished images are on two external hard drives backed by Backblaze, and on Pic-Time, my online proofing site.

RAW and finished images are both sorted by year and then client name.

How do you advertise your business when you are first starting out?

I created free pages on various social media channels: Yelp, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. and I also created a website and started blogging. I hung posters at local horse shows, tack shops, and feed stores. I created my email newsletter list. I submitted my work to be featured in magazines, blogs, and websites within the equine-industry, and I started to collaborate with other companies who complimented my brand well.

I’m a photographer who has a hard time finding a niche and takes whatever comes to me. How do I narrow my focus?

I think it is important to take everything that comes to you and then analyze what you loved + hated about each job. Keep taking on the jobs you love and perhaps stop accepting the type of work that you don’t enjoy doing. With enough analysis of your likes and dislikes, I think your vision will become more clear over time and you can narrow down to the session-types or client-types that set your heart on fire!

Gray horse on a black background in a western bridle

How do you price your worth in an oversaturated market?

You have to understand, first and foremost, that photography is a service. And no one on this planet can deliver that service in the same way that you do. The more different we all are, the more we will succeed.

Next, you have to understand your numbers inside and out to know how to price yourself profitably. You need to know how much your personal expenses add up to in order to cover the cost of living at your desired standard – this will be your salary. You also need to know how much it costs you to run your business: both the fixed and variable costs. Coming up with the cost per session is easy… that is just math that I can help you with (course is coming soon!)

Attracting the right people and convincing them to pay those prices is where your marketing strategy comes in!

Do you accept/implement payment plans for sessions or product orders? If so, how do you typically handle them?

I require a $500 retainer for the shoot to reserve the day, with the balance due the day that we shoot. Some people choose to pay the balance in installments leading up to the shoot, which I welcome, but the entire session fee is due on our session day regardless.

As for print orders, I require the full amount to be paid before I order + deliver the products.

Is it in your contract that clients can not distribute images to be used for advertisements?

Yes, it is in my contract that the images from portrait sessions are for personal use only. If a business approaches my client about using an image, they are instructed to have that company contact me directly to license the image.

Black and white photos young girls and their horses


Have more questions? I offer Skype sessions if you want to chat!

Fill out the contact form on the home page to schedule a session.

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Kirstie jones

fine art equine photographer

A lifetime horse enthusiast, the Texas-based equine photographer has experienced first-hand the immeasurable bond between a horse and a girl. She strives to capture that special relationship for each and every client.

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