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My advice for an aspiring photographer

You may remember some of my editing pointers from a previous post. I’d like to share some pointers to any beginners contemplating the pursuit of a professional career in photography.

  1. Do not quit your day job. Not right away. It may be tempting because after all, lots of people buy a camera and are photographers. Do not join the band wagon. Be a hobbyist, learn your craft. Take lots and lots of pictures in all sorts of different settings. Night, day, action, low light, bright light. Get to know your camera. Shoot at least one roll of film. If you’ve never done a photo shoot on film or slide film, you are not a photographer and you are not paying homage to the art. You should be able to capture an excellent shot in one take that does not require any editing after the fact. Shoot in raw, in manual, bracket your exposure settings. Take a class or two, just know as in all subjects, some teachers are better than others but the general information should be the same across the board.


2.) Develop a style. This is a competitive field and it’s an art, you need to bring something unique to the table. You can copy the ideas of other work you’ve seen done all day long but it’s already been done. If you have your own style it will set you apart. If you seem to not be able to find your voice, keep practicing.


3.) Do not work for free but do not charge if you are not yet at a professional level. That’s right, if you are calling yourself a professional photographer do not advertise free sessions, it’s unprofessional and sets a lower standard of expectation on the industry as a whole. You can have a model rep program but be choosy. Choose models that will benefit your portfolio. I have never just done free sessions for anybody and everybody for “experience”. If you need experience practice on inanimate objects, places, pets, even yourself. Don’t make a photo shoot of a family be where you are learning aperture, ISO, white balance, etc. Know what’s up with your f-stops before you start shooting people.


4.) Do not give all your work away. In no universe is there a version of me that gives away images on disc. This is generally frowned upon in the photography world, especially by those who have been involved in it for some time. This is a fairly new trend and it really should stop. Charge for digital images. Your price for full resolution with printing rights should be much higher than your price for prints. Why? Because you are giving away a lifetime of unlimited printing. Just something to think about, Disney charges $169 for a cd of digital prints from your park visit. These are not full resolution files.


5.) Limit what you put out there. There has long been in place a practice of the photographer choosing the best images to show their clients. If you’re bracketing settings and trying to catch certain moments, you’ll likely end up with several very similar poses. People don’t need to see a hundred images of the same pose, they get overwhelmed. Wow them in a good way.

6.) After you’ve learned actual photography, then you can worry about photoshop. I’ve been taking pictures a long, long time but I’ve only fairly recently started using photoshop. It always seemed like cheating to me. I knew how to get certain effects in camera or with filters on the camera. It was quite a while after I switched to digital that I started using Lightroom for minor color adjustments but that was it. I prided myself on knowing I could take a photo that was good enough that it needed no extra work. But I’ve found there are ways to utilize editing tools without compromising the original composition. I am always careful to compose a shot so that minimal editing is required. I mainly play with color and filters in post processing to give an extra little pop. I never have to make drastic changes to an image. The biggest thing I realized I needed to be able to do in people portraits is touch up skin discolorations, blemishes and other imperfections. A photo can be absolutely gorgeous in all technical components but people tend to be their own worst enemy. They will hate your beautiful picture if they don’t like the way they look in it. It’s not your fault in any way but you can fix what they don’t like pretty easily. That’s what I use photoshop for, I don’t go crazy with it. The original image and edited image are never really that different.


7.) Be careful when it comes to mixing business with family and friends. I’ve been burned here. It’s touchy but don’t let yourself get into a situation where friends are taking advantage of having a photographer friend, getting free sessions, free prints, maybe even telling their family members you’ll do free shoots for them also. You’ve got to survive and your time is worth something.


8.) Don’t put yourself in a bad situation. Get legit. Register your business. File for a tax ID. Find out your state’s tax rules. Usually there are no taxes required on services such as the session but actual products you hand over (prints, discs) must be taxed. You can get into serious trouble here if you really start making the bucks and aren’t registered as a business or filing taxes. Plus, it just makes you look better and makes your clients more comfortable. I know that I feel good in knowing that I have a tax ID number for my business.


9.) Resize what you post online and use a watermark. I’ve had people print what I post on Facebook instead of going through me for prints. Protect your work.

10.) Sales and marketing. This is probably the one thing that will ultimately determine the fate of your photography business. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you can’t make money, you will not stay in business. You really have to sell yourself as much as I hate to say it. I’m shy and I’ve never been a good salesperson which is not a good combo. Just keep at it, even if it’s little by little, keep getting your name out there. Network, make connections, build relationships. Create a brand for yourself and create awareness for it. Send emails, newsletters, brochures, and whatever else you have to. And don’t stop.


I am always open to helping anyone out. If you have questions or want to collaborate, just send me a message.
– Mysti

additional new products

This is an example of the image folio in use. These are great for newborns as your personal birth announcement keepsake, or for seniors and graduates. They’re so much fun and a beautiful way to display your portraits in yet another unique way. This is my pricing menu and studio sample. I always have it on hand along with my other studio samples so that you can see them in use and in person. Hope everyone has had a very happy Spring!


Making my own props

As a photographer on a budget, I’ve decided the one way to overcome my desire to have a stockpile of cute props and accessories but less of a desire to spend a lot of money on them is to make them myself. Here’s the first post of my creative endeavors. I now make my own tutus. Last October I contemplated selling them also but didn’t get around to it. Maybe eventually.


I’ve got lots of projects going, the pace hasn’t been what I’d like it to be but I have to remind myself things take time. Especially with all the medical issues that have been ongoing. One day at a time. I’m excited to share these projects with you though. I can’t wait to show you the next thing I’m crafting, they’re really cute!

Fine Art Storefront

I have posted another print up for sale in my etsy shop. Check it out at

Hope everyone is having a happy start to Spring! I need to find and photograph some new blooms and blossoms. 

Behind the scenes preview

I couldn’t help but put together some of the Spring/Easter portrait scenes tonight. This is the first set-up of a couple I’ve thought up. It took a lot of scouting to have everything come together. It seems like it’s always difficult to find everything you’re looking for in one place. In the end, this is exactly how I envisioned it. The photo will show a pull-back of just the backdrop and then the final set-up. Of course I had my little mascot Charleigh model it for me. Getting excited for the upcoming Easter sessions!





There are changes in the works and change can be exciting, maybe a little scary at first but it’s for the greater good! I recently went to a mixer hosted by one of the professional labs I work with. It was nice mingling, seeing and holding all the different products, and also tasty Italian food was involved. It made up for not being able to make it to the WPPI conference (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International).  Met fellow photographers in the local area and got to see a lot of nifty photo products in action, many of which were new. I absolutely loved what I saw and left knowing that I want to complete a photo session experience with unique, high end products. Going forward, regular session fees will be accompanied by a print credit instead of a set amount of prints. This lets the client pick and choose what they’d like. In addition to print packages I will offer specialty packages filled with unique photo products. I really want to incorporate these new products that I know people will love.

I also utilized a cost of doing business calculator and “wow” is all I have to say. That being said, my prices are going to increase a little. In comparison with other photographers in the area on the same level and having figured what I’d need to make in a day of shooting to earn a living and keep up with the cost of equipment, it only makes sense that I can no longer offer anything below a $75 session fee. I know in the past I have had “specials” but unfortunately that is now a thing of the past. I will still offer mini sessions every now and again, around the holidays mainly. There is a sign-up sheet in progress right now for Easter mini sessions. My new price and package lists will be posted soon.

I have samples on hand for these exciting new products, here’s a sneak peek:

New photo blocks!

fine art canvas studio samples

Presentation Folios

Deluxe hardwood frames

Lots more to come!

the time has come

There’s a lot of talk about this “timeline” business. It’s not going to change how I use the particular site associated with this new style change so I’m pretty indifferent. I’ve seen some strong reactions from others, however. Really, it just gives me an excuse to play around with more designs and templates. Here are a couple timeline layout samples from recent photo sessions.



A surprise in the park

A surprise in the park

Getting Legal

This is a great resource for any photographers starting their business in Florida. Session fees are not subject to sales tax but tangible products such as prints and discs are.

All the links you’d need to become legit in one place. Believe me when I say it is incredibly easy to do.

Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur

Maybe  it’s a matter of taste or maybe it’s experience but I’ve started a list of things “not to do” while editing photos. Most of this comes from looking at the work of others, as does being inspired to try new things, in my own way of course. I can’t stress enough how strongly I feel about composition but that’s been something I felt compelled to take seriously long before I took a photography class of any kind. If you compose the photo well as you take it there will be far less you need to do in post processing. You shouldn’t really ever have to crop a photo. And if you’re spending a significant amount of time having to polish up a photo after the fact, there’s probably an issue at hand.

It bugs me that people often give the camera credit for a photo being bad, or good for that matter. The camera only does what we tell it to. Some of my best work was taken on film in manual camera settings. Digital is making me a little lazy and I’m well aware of that which is why I still have a camera on the side loaded with film, eventually I’ll use up that roll. Anyway, the list I’ve started:

1.) Do not color splash (aka spot color). I’ve been guilty of this in the past, only once or twice and the colors were muted, not super bright. It still doesn’t excuse it. This has become overdone and well, all the samples I’ve seen has made me decide to not ever do it again.  I’ve seen lots and lots of bad spot color.

2.) White vignette. It usually does nothing to improve a photo.

3.) Too much dark vignette. Although a little dark vignette can enhance mood imo, too much will ruin it.

4.) Super-imposing ultrasound pictures on a baby bump. It’s just creepy. And should not happen. Example:

5.) People in HDR. Why? Old rustic barns and vintage cars maybe but people?

6.) Going overboard with the faux sun-flares. I wish I could post a sample here but I’ll be nice. Plus, I refuse to do it to one of my own pictures. People actually buy actions that add lots of fake sun-flare to their photos. And it’s A LOT of flare. Oftentimes it blows out the faces of the people in the photos. You can get this same effect for free using the sun but I prefer to be able to see people in my photos unless I’m going for silhouettes.

7.) Crazy eyes. Over-brightening the whites of the eyes makes people look pretty crazed.

8.) Over-smoothing the skin results in a pretty obvious plastic effect. I do agree with softening up a bit but moderation is key.

Exhibit A: An instance where the smoothing is a bit on the heavy side and then a second example where it is much more subtle and natural.


I’ll add to the list but that’s enough for now.