BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Alicia McMahill
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/19/2005

Out in the light with out any shadow:}

Ok so I am from a small town,(one stop light small) I am on here all the time looking and reading, trying learn/study to do it better from those that know and are learning just like me. So I go to the local pro and ask to shadow him and to try to improve what I have learned on my own. And he huffs at me and walks the other way. This is a guy I work at the same 'job' I do now. I was wanting to work under him and learn let up and some of the on the 'job' things that you just don't get from the books and online.
So I am getting back up off my duff and putting a bandaid on and getting in the muck anyways...maybe that bump did something to my head too:}?
But I am going to do a family setTing with some friends of mine. A mom and three young kids. How do I go at this? Do I only charge them film and a bit of time? I want to start doing this as a side thing from teaching, not as a full time thing yet if ever. I have always loved going potography as all of you here and I am going to do it maybe not the rite way first but I am going to get it done. So I am going to charge them something for film and time but.... it is my first paid sort of thing. So I don't know what!?
If/when I get some good shots I want to put together a photo book to show as what work I have done do I have to have a model form? How long do I need to plan for this. I know with young kids that it could take some time and all but I also know that early in the day or late is the best time....
I really wish that I had someone to guide me or at least to work under befor I just jump but since that is not the way this is going to work ....I have my pack on and out the door I go!
sorry so long....I still have so many questions that I know I have read here so now I am on the look out again for all the how do you's and what do I do when's.
Thanks for your time and all the info you can help with.

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9/25/2005 7:51:15 PM

Stephanie M. Stevens   The best way to learn photography on your own is to experiment. Try new things, new settings, new angles, see what you come up with. If you are shooting digital, and I dont think you are, the possibilities are endless. you can shoot as much as you want and change settings from shot to shot, and see right away what works and what doesn't. Having friends to experiment on :) makes it that much easier. Dont let that guy mess with your head. There are lots of great books out there to learn from, both the technical and business sides.
Anyway, what you charge them is up to you. You can charge just for film and time, or you could charge them a bundle, or charge them nothing and call it a learning experience. You could even just charge them for prints if/when you get decent pictures. If you intend to keep some for your own use, you probably should have your friend sign model release forms, for her and the kids. As for time, plan enough so that you wont be constricted, and maybe do it on a day when you dont have anyhting else going on, so if it takes longer than you planned it wont be a big deal. yes early or late in the day is best, but open shade, such as under a tree, works well in midday. I'll be happy to help any way I can!

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9/26/2005 6:05:31 PM

Carolyn  M. Fletcher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/6/2001
Contact Carolyn
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  I have a neighbor who is the local portrait photographer, and thinks he is GOD, so I know what you mean. He totally dismisses digital and claims to be able to see every pixel in every shot.
We have 2 stoplights here, so I'm one up on you. LOL

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9/27/2005 5:41:14 AM

Justin C. Keys   Hi Alicia! I am alos from a little town, about 6,500 people and two stop lights. I just started doing photography this year and I have ways to go but I am charging people a small fee per photo and not by the hour, because I am not the best ( yet! )but I want to give the people what they want and then some. I did two weddings and I charged about $350 for my one friends wedding and the other it was per photo ( $12.00 8x10, $5 5x7, $2 3x5). What ever you do do not undercharge people!! Yes people want a good deal but you have to cover your cost and give your self room just in case, and then when you fell that you are getting to the point that you fell that you can charge more then do so.

As for kid photography remember that they have a short span of paying attention. Having the perents with helps but don't just let them sit there, you can do some cool shots with the kids playing with a toy along with perents. Or if they are young, you can do something like have the perents holding them in their arms asleep, ect..
Just have fun!

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9/27/2005 12:55:17 PM

  You're worth what you are worth. If you are just getting started, then do them a favor for the practice and the negatives to advertise with and to learn from. Cut them a 'cost only' deal for helping you out. When you see your work, your attitude, your exposures and prints becoming professional, then begin to charge professional prices. And this can be the hardest thing for a beginner to do. When you start charging, don't sell yourself short. If you charge to little, people will ask around and they will here 'never heard of'm' and move on. If you charge to much, people will ask around and hear 'never heard of'm' and move on. So do some research on pricing before taking the pro plunge.
As to the quality of images, practice makes perfect and if you're like me, you know that there is the perfect book out there that will open your eyes. Good news, there is such a book. A series by Ansel Adams of three books called 'The Camera', 'The Negative' and 'The Print'. Highly recommended!

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9/27/2005 5:31:56 PM

Adam L.   Alicia, I'm also in your shoes. And they're tight. I think I'll swap back to mine for the moment.

I'm also just starting out. I was fortunate to have a photographer allow me to follow him for three weddings. I didn't have to butter him up too much, because he really is great. But most of the time you really need to butter them up. I tried with another photographer so I could get a different perspective (enjoy the pun), but he was an a$$. So, I know what you mean.

Since then, I've begged anyone for a job that I thought would hire me. (At first it seems like begging.) I've done a mother's day out program, 3 kid shoots, a few family shoots, a cake shop's opening, and a internet business owner's product shoot. Anything to get my name out there.

I've based all my prices on prints plus a small fee to cover gas. I'm doing alright by quantity by offering a low price at this time. But Christopher is right about under pricing yourself. I've lost several jobs that way.

Also, I've found that the customer respects your intergity. If you have a finished print that didn't come out to your own standards, tell them your not happy with it and don't charge them for it. Give it to them, but don't charge them. And don't do this as a gimick, because they will see through it, and the word of mouth will kill you in the end.

Also, your in the right place. These people on this board have given me some great ideas to help my work out. And I've only been a member for a short time.

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9/28/2005 6:37:29 PM

Adam L.   Oh, and we have three lights (but one of them is outside the city limits).

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9/28/2005 6:38:41 PM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  Re 'shadowing', why should anyone show you how to become a competitor? What's in it for them?

The answer here is: your labor. I can't imagine a profession where I'd take time out of my schedule to teach someone else without getting something else of value. Offer to work FOR FREE for the pro in your town... doing anything that he needs including scut work like helping clean his studio, etc. In return, you get to accompany him on his shoots, you stay out of his way, you act as his assistant (which means you DON'T photograph unless he wants you to) and ensure that his shoots go as smoothly as possible, and the work you do while assisting him is his, not yours.

Yes, this will cost you. Getting training SHOULD cost you... otherwise the training probably isn't worth it. This is called "paying your dues."

Not many people are willing to tutor others for free, especially when that tutelage takes time away from their livelihoods. Just about everyone is willing to take on an apprentice who will benefit them as much as the apprentice is benefited.

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9/30/2005 2:51:14 PM

Alicia McMahill
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/19/2005
  Thank you all for your input,
John - that is just what I had in mind...doing the 'gunt' work...learn while I worked...not doing the photos but watching and set up and...'putting in my time'. I want to do the loading and the battery charging and the cleaning and..... whatever! I really respect this guys work, I am not trying to get in on his sets or take jobs away from him. There is just such a large devide here in my town (as I am sure there is everywere)and I would like to do pict for the people that can't afford it/or have the time for it like me most of the time:} No really I would like to go out and do the stuff that he is not doing now. The farmers and ranchers, riders and just things that I find truely worth capturing on film. If I can sell the work great. I like doing portate work but I am not into the 'set up' look - I want the moment to be about the person and what they do not the perfect background and lighting and angle and .... all of the other stuff that I still know I need to learn more about. I know it is all important but do you know what I mean?
I have been on here looking and lurking and reading and learning almost everyday for the last few months.... and I have gotten so much more info that I didn't even think about befor and I thank you all.... I will try to get a few picts here and keep my head up and camera loaded:}

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10/9/2005 9:09:36 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  You know, I was going through some old threads I had responded to and I came across this one about helping each other out. Now this is not to pick on the point and shoot techies with their PHD's but We, as craftspersons need to stick together and pass on what we learn and encourage each other to be the best photogrpaher we can be. Everybody fears that film will go the way of the Filko. If we don't breed more interested and talented photographers like us it will. So when someone asks you for help or needs some clarification, give it. You're not creating competition, you're ensuring the future of photography. What if Ansel Adams had Grinched his Zone System? That is not the way to go. We must be honest and open and even we mat receive a little something unanticipated yet invaluable in return.

Chris Walrath
Walrath Photographic Imaging

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1/1/2006 9:18:03 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Everybody fears that film will go the way of the Filko. If we don't breed more interested and talented photographers like us it will
What's that got to do with film or digital?

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1/1/2006 12:11:41 PM

Corinne M. Thompson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/31/2005
I am not a pro photographer; just in it for fun. However, if I were a pro, I would be "honored" that someone would ask me for help and I would bend over backwards to do so. Don't let his what I would call (ok...I know I will probably catch flak for this one) "snobbery" get you down. Since you are in a small town, he may also consider you a potential "threat". Keep your chin up...everyone had to start at the bottom! :)

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1/1/2006 4:00:35 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Alicia.

Whether snobbery or snubbery, whatever you want to call it, remember what Einstein (not Feldstein) said:

"Great Spirits Often Encounter Violent Opposition from Mediocre Minds".

I'm not from a small town, but as you may know, the world is a small place (although I'd hate to have to paint it). The scenario you initially described is somewhat familiar and not limited to small towns. Some folks naturally fear competition, which of course is unfortunate because that prevents them from sharing what they know and also from getting help from others when they need it.

Photography also encompasses a pretty large's not just for wedding and portrait photographers, and not limited to small towns. It's photojournalism to industrial to forensic to medical photography, ad infinitim. Lots of specialties.

So, what I suggest to you is that you continue to perfect your photographic craft, learning by doing, and being essentially self-taught (nothing at all wrong with that), read a lot, expand your horizons, participate in local photo clubs, associations, this site and others. But until you feel really ready to get a professional mit and get into the game, just charge people your actual expenses.

I suggest that for a few reasons, but primarily to help you avoid getting a local reputation in your small town as a "spoiler" undercutting rates of local pros who supposedly make a living as photographers. If you get that kind of reputation, which tends to follow you by word of mouth, then you may end up locking yourself into a lower end pricing system anyway and you want to avoid that, right?

Once other pros in your area see you as being a hard-working sincere individual who really wants to work and be among the professionals, and you charge accordingly (which is certainly not the only criteria for being a pro), then they'll also see that you're sticking around and learn to accept you into the fold, so-to-speak. Corinne is probably right in that that one guy sees you as a threat to his livelihood. Charging fair-market rates and delivering quality work product will either lead him to accept you...or just run the guy out of town if he can't compete with the quality of YOUR work. ;>)

Take it light.

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1/1/2006 6:34:07 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  I read this in a earlier post here.

"The answer here is: your labor. I can't imagine a profession where I'd take time out of my schedule to teach someone else without getting something else of value."

What a shame.
I will FREELY give all I have in skills, talents or advice to ANYONE who shows a real interest.
Teaching in my opinion is investing in our future.

As long as I have the time, I'll allow, (and have done so) anyone to shadow me within some guidelines of course.
When I give, I will receive w/o asking..It's the best way to live...what a shame the world does not operate on this premise.

I was not born with a camera in my hand, or the ability to travel at will for a shoot..I was blessed with gifts and talents, as have we all..No one charged me for these. These blessings have allowed me to be free, to shoot, to buy equipment etc...
Many corporations have learned the lessons of giving. ALL successful business people know this lesson well.....and biblically, weather one chooses to believe it or not, it is called "casting your bread upon the water..."
I know some will scoff and laugh at this, but it is hard to laugh at success and happiness.

All the best for a New Year,


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1/1/2006 8:30:45 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Uh, nothing at all Greg.

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1/2/2006 8:30:00 AM

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