June 2019 Q&A - Kirstie Marie Photography Mentorship

June 2019 Q&A

This post contains affiliate links.

I’d love to see some pictures with setting (SS, Aperture, ISO) and lens length on them!! And why you picked those settings? Do you set aperture first and go from there?

In most situations, I use f/2.8 for a black background and f/2.2 for portraits outside. If there is no horse, I might go down to f/1.8 or f/2.

I do my best not to go above ISO 500. I try not to go under 1/250. In very dark lighting situations I will go as high as I need to on my ISO.

I will describe the settings for the photos I upload to this post! The image above is ISO 250, f/2.2, 1/1250s and 135mm.

When do you decide to have your camera gear serviced and where do you send it to?

Every year I send my gear into Nikon to be serviced. I send my lenses to Sigma for calibration as necessary.

Do you do competitive pricing for commercial shoots or any product licensing images?

Commercial projects – both shoots and image licensing – are priced based on the scope of the project. My licensed images are priced comparably to the market.

ISO 320, f/2.2, 1/1600s and 135m

How do you determine travel cost for out of town sessions and how it is paid between clients?

I have a flat rate travel fee that each client on the trip pays: $650 for out of state and around $350 in Texas.

Do you use a contract?

For every single shoot – paid or unpaid – I use a contract.

Click here for ALL of the contracts I use.

Click here for the equine photography contract I use.

LLC or Sole Proprietorship?

My business is registered as a Limited Liability Company, and I suggest other photographers consult their lawyers when forming their business. An LLC offers a lot of advantages (tax-wise and legally) over a Sole Proprietorship.

ISO 320, f/2.2, 1/2000s and 135mm

What is one line of advise you would tell an aspiring business who is growing?

Photograph what you are passionate about and love your clients well! Customer service is king in any service industry. I would also say that marketing sets the foundation for the health of your business.

Do you ever get nervous sending clients their galleries? Have clients ever told you they were unhappy with their images? If so how did you deal with it?

I still get nerves sending client galleries! I had one instance where I re-edited a gallery in a different style by the request of a client.

Advice on getting clients in your area?

Have an experience people rave about. Word of mouth is by far your strongest marketing effort. I go into great detail about my marketing strategies in this video.

How to come up with pricing?

This isn’t an easy answer, but it is the only answer.

The first step is to go through all of your shoots thus far and track all of the expenses per shoot. Mileage, your time, paying assistants, outsourcing editing, product costs, shipping, miscellaneous fees, etc. My local sessions cost around $300-500 per session, and traveling sessions are $800-1,100.

The second step is to calculate the fixed costs of your business. Things like subscriptions (17Hats, PixieSet, Adobe Cloud, BackBlaze, etc), insurance, marketing and advertising budgets, gear upgrades, education, and everything throughout the year that you pay to keep your business going. This could be $10,000 or $100,000 per year.

Next, you need to decide the salary that you want to earn. What do you need per week/month/year? Calculate what you will need to make per session based on how many sessions you want to take each month. If you need to make $10,000 per month to earn the salary you want, that would mean you need to book ten $1,000 sessions, or twenty $500 sessions.

ISO 400, f/2.2, 1/1250s and 135m

How to blog?

My website and blog are through WordPress and I use BlogStomp to resize and name the images for each blog post.

How did you pick what gear you wanted?

The first camera I bought from Costco was the Nikon kit. I kept upgrading bodies throughout the years. As for lenses, I followed the advice of photographers whose work I loved, and great reviews, and purchased many prime lenses from the Sigma Art line.

How do you handle weather? Specifically bad weather? Rain & Mud?

If we can reschedule, I do. I will reschedule for wind, rain, cold, heat… any reason conditions might not be ideal. If we can’t reschedule (tight advertising deadline, travel, or the forecast changed on us) then we make the best out of what we have!

How did you start marketing your business when you first started?

At the beginning of my business I moved from Oregon to Texas. When I got to Texas, I selected several girls that I wanted to shoot to model for me and begin advertising my services on Facebook, Instagram, my website, several magazines, my blog, and in-person.

ISO 320, f/2.2, 1/1250s and 135m

When did you start creating products like the photo albums?

I added products to my offering as I was comfortable, and as I fell in love with them. I started by offering proof prints, prints, and canvases. I started offering albums as soon as I found a company that I loved to make them (Madera Books) and a designer to lay them out.

What are some of your favorite poses? I feel like I always struggle with what to do with my hands.

*insert Ricky Bobby quote*

In general, I start with a strong head shot. My posing from there is dependent upon the subjects: mostly how compliant my horse is being. I love to do poses where the girl is sitting on the ground or on his back if he will allow it. If not, we can do motion shots of her walking him, snuggling him, or petting him.

What are your tips for starting out in photography?

Your first 10,000 pictures are your worst. Take way too many pictures, all the time, in every condition, to find and refine your style. Discover what you love to photograph and keep shooting it.

Do you have any advice for starting your own blog?

I love WordPress, and there are many templates that make it easy to customize it!

ISO 320, f/2.2, 1/2500s and 135m

How do you achieve such great skin tones on your human subjects without sacrificing/messing up colors everywhere else in the photo? Is it photoshop?

The first step is to get the subject in very flattering light. I try my best to have natural reflectors keep their skin tones true (white walls/buildings, gravel driveways, etc). I try not to go too deep into shade where green would reflect back on them, or have something like a tree cast a dark shade back onto them.

The second step is the way I color correct in LightRoom.

How do you combat shadows when shooting early morning or late afternoon pictures?

I like to bring my subjects at the edge of open shade to provide a soft, even light.

How do you do this glow and soft effects?

The glow is from the setting sun and the softness is the bokeh products from the lens.

ISO 250, f/2.2, 1/2500s and 135m

Do you outsource editing during your busiest seasons?

I always send my black backgrounds to ReTouchUp to clip. I used an editor during a busy season in 2017, but haven’t needed to since.

What does your post-shoot workflow look like as far as backing up images and storage devices go?

I back up each session’s RAW images to 2 external hard drives, which are both backed up to BackBlaze.

Once the images are edited, the JPGs are saved to both external hard drives (backed to BackBlaze) and on my proofing site.

What kind of image storage gear do you use for out of state/destination shoots?

I use WD external hard drives at home and for traveling.

ISO 320, f/2.2, 1/1600s and 135m

When clients want to use pics for ads do you charge additional fees for this or is that included in your print release/normal contract for sessions?

Advertising for personal use is included in my normal contract for sessions!

Tips for beginners?

Get a great contract. Work on refining your workflow. Keep practicing in every single lighting condition so that you can have confidence no matter the situation.

What are your favorite prompts to use to get riders to engage with their horse in beautiful and emotional ways?

I like to give open-ended prompts that are up to interpretation so I can capture the unique way they interact together!

“Snuggle with him, give him a big bear hug, scratch his favorite spot”…etc.

The images you sell on your new site, are they from client sessions or did you do the session with the purpose of selling the images?


ISO 320, f/2.2, 1/1000s and 135m

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.

This post contains affiliate links


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.

search the site


As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

See our Legal terms + Privacy Policy here