Questions – Photography Questions

You asked.  I’m answering.  It’s lookin like a marathon of everything under the sun!  So in order to consolidate, I’m organizing all your questions into groups and answering them that way.

  • How do I start a photography business?

There are some great resources out there on how to officially start your business.  They cover everything from insurance to taxes to how to deal with deal with new clients.  But I think that most of the questions out there about starting a new photography biz are from folks who think that it would be a great way to get additional income doing something they love without sacrificing the 9 to 5 of everyday.  Let me tell you something I learned this past year.  You are right.  It’s not a 9 to 5.  It’s a 8am to 11pm type job.  At least it was for me starting out.  I put more time into photography than my past ‘normal’ office jobs and it takes more from my darling family too.  I don’t want this to discourage anyone out there from pursuing photography – because I truly do drink the taking-photos-can-change-your-life koolaid…but I hope this brings some awareness to those out there thinking photographers have this glittery unicorns in a meadow type life.  There is a great deal of sacrifice starting any business.  Same applies here.  And there are times that you won’t love it.  All that to say….if you are interested in starting a photography business, I would encourage you first to learn your camera.  I am still learning mine.  And then second, build a portfolio.  Would you want to pay someone your hard earned dough if you didn’t know they could give you some great shots?  And 15 good photos of your own kids don’t count….because dealing with someone else is a way different dynamic than dealing with your own offspring.  So that’s my two cents…learn and build.

  • How do I get clients?  (versions: how do I advertise?  how can I grow my new photography business? what do you do to get people to do photo sessions?  get your name out there?)

Advertising is something that I have not had to do yet.  I don’t advertise outside of posting on Bower Power so it’s really tough for me to encourage folks on how to successfully grow their business.  However, my dad has his own business (it’s computer software for the medical field so not quite the same) and something he taught me was that your product should speak for itself.  He always said that fancy bells and whistles will only get you so far and then it comes down to 1.  is your product great.  2.  do you deliver what you promise  3. word of mouth is the best advertising there is.  I truly believe that those three things can help any business.   And if I struggled with booking clients, I probably would consider making sure my photos were the best that I can make them (by comparing them to photos that I love, asking for reviews from photographers that I admire, joining photographers chatrooms to get input), joining forces with local businesses (like holding a cutest kid contest at a local gym, or contacting bounce houses to see if their parties ever needed photographers and also considering doing some pro bono work to get my name out there.)

  • What can I invest in to become a better photographer?

Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Invest in your weakness.  If you can take great photos but your editing needs work, take a class on Photoshop or Lightroom.  Struggle with perfect exposure?  Read some books about how to get it and practice, practice, practice.  Is the personal dynamic or connection where you fall flat?  Come up with some cheat sheets for jokes with kids, shadow a veteran photographer to see how them make folks feel comfortable, or just simply come up with some talking points for all shoots.  Great shots don’t come from great cameras…they come from great photographers…so work on your weakness to improve overall (heavens knows I am working on my ten weaknesses all the time!).

  • What is your workflow like?  (versions: how do you manage the time to edit?  what is it you do to backup your photos?)

I probably have the worst workflow…so you don’t want to be like me here.  After shoots, I come home and download.  All my images are backed up on Carbonite (an online service I pay for that backs up all my files just in case my house burns down) and also on an external hard drive.  That gives me three copies of each original file.  Then I sort through each image and copy the ones that I want to edit into a separate folder.  I try to give a really well rounded package – so of the 20-30 final images, they are usually different orientations, different backdrops, poses, etc.  Then I edit.  After editing, converting and watermarking, I upload to their online gallery (I use Zenfolio).  Then I back up again all the finalized images.  After that, I burn the cds (1 copy for the client and 1 for me to keep) and remove the original unedited ones from my computer.  That leaves me with 3 copies of the originals (Carbonite, external hard drive, cd) and 5 copies of the edited (Carbonite, external hard drive, computer, cd, online gallery).  It’s probably not the smartest way to do it but until I run outta space, it works for me.

As for time to edit – it happens at night.  After I put Will down, I settle in for some reality tv with Jeremy and I sit and blog.  After I get my post done, I edit.  Usually that means that I am up till 2am.  It’s terrible to be so sleep deprived but I know that I have a really deep passion for photography so its worth it to me as I build my portfolio and grow my business.

  • How did you learn photoshop? (versions: what books did you read?  what classes did you take?)

I am one of those freaky girls that loves self-teaching….must be the homeschooler in me.  I taught myself photoshop.  I look at photos of other photographers and try to figure out how to make my photos look like that.  It’s like a puzzle.  You have to try to figure it out.  And I follow a lot of other photographers blogs.  I never really got into the forums out there but I know that some folks find them enormously helpful…I just don’t have time right now.  The internet is an amazing vast resource and if you know how to google you can find folks that are willing to help you improve and learn when it comes to photoshop.

p.s.  For more answered questions a la homeschooling – check out this post.



  1. Kim says

    You are amazing Katie! And you definitely have a gift for photography – I wish we lived closer to you! Happy Valentine’s Day to the Bowers!

  2. Sarah says

    Katie, do you plan on sticking with newborns, family shoots, and engagements, or would you be willing to get into weddings given the opportunity?

  3. Lauren says

    Ohh what photo blogs do you love?? I do the same self teaching thing! More with rooms I like but I want to improve my photos so I’ll start there too.

  4. says

    Katie- just an FYI, Carbonite only keeps deleted content for 30 days. I learned this the hard way when I got Carbonite to free up some space on my computer and when I deleted a bunch of my beloved photos, they were gone forever after 30 days. I called Carbonite on many times to see if they could get my pictures back but they let me know that they delete everything that you have deleted off your computer after 30 days. It was very sad and I am still upset to this day (I love my photos more than most). I know you have an external hard drive so you are safe but I just wanted to inform you. Carbonite does a bad job of telling customers about that and believe me when I say I yelled at them for not putting that in larger font on their website :)

    • says

      Yeah…thanks for telling me. I guess I will have to download them all to another place just to be safe. Thanks for the headsup…I obviously didn’t know that either!
      xo – kb

  5. says

    Hi Katie,

    What a great post for photography. I like that you warned people of the working hours. They are long, but if you love everything about photography it shouldn’t bother you.
    You mentioned Photoshop in this post and I wanted to let you know(and everyone reading this) that B&H Photo has a BIG TIME sale on Lightroom 3, today only. It’s $69.95! That’s right $200 off. So, if you’re starting your business you will need some form of post production software. Hell, at this price you can use it to enhance your “everyday” photos.

  6. says

    Your photography is beautiful & I totally admire your drive & dedication!!

    Not sure if you’ve heard of her, or if she’s on your list of blogs/photogs you follow but if not, you should check out Katelyn James ( – She is a fabulous, young wedding photographer out of Richmond and has great insight on workflow & why she uses what products/services for her business. And she has an amazing eye for interior design/decor! I’m definitely not a photographer but I read her blog probably every single day because she’s so inspiring.

    You made through your first (official) year! Keep up the hard work, girl!

  7. says

    I didn’t ask about this, but I wanted to thank you for answering these anyway. Great info! It’s way too soon for me to start my own photog biz, but it’s definitely a dream of mine. Right now, I’m working on my portfolio. Like you said, I doubt people want to see a hundred photos of my kid. :) Thankfully, I’ve got lots of willing friends and family who don’t mind getting their pictures taken for free. ;)

  8. Lynn says

    If Ive said it one Ive said it 100 times…everything Ive learned about photography has come from you!:) I actually thought you used Lightroom. I started using it around Christmas and am in LOOOVE with it. I got it for about 150.00 and was so happy with that price and now look at it. Lightroom is AMAZING! Ive never felt proficient at PS but LR seems so natural to me. Thanks for another great photog post for us!

  9. Christina says

    Which version of photoshop would you recommend for the recreational photographer? Do you know if Elements has most of the features that you regularly use or should I get one of the more expensive ones?

    • says

      I have elements and cs4 and both are able to edit great for a beginner. I always recommend starting with elements just simply because the cost difference.
      xo kb

      • Lynn says

        Not to butt my nose in (but I AM anyway) I asked the same question on Katie about a year ago and she gave me the same answer. I bought Elements 9 and seriously..have been able to do ANYTHING I needed with it. Theres SO much to it. Theres a lot I dont even know HOW to use yet and Ive been reading books and blogs and tutorials for a year now! I definitely agree that PSE ( I think theyre on version 10 now though) is MORE than sufficient for us starter-outters. :)

  10. Karen says

    I’m a newish (and faithful) reader and wanted to let you know that I’ve really enjoyed reading these Q&As so far! I’m sure they take some time to compile and answer, and I hope that you know we appreciate it! Keep up the good work.

  11. julianna says

    I was wondering what you do with Will when you do your photoshoots? I can’t imagine my little guy staying out of trouble while I paid attention to another child — how do you handle him?

  12. Alison U. says

    Just wanted to throw out another thank you for this. I’m faking my way (hopefully!) into a photography career and I appreciate your tips :)

  13. Cindy says

    Can I ask — 1) what zenfolio package do you use? 2) Do you print out images for your clients and if so, where from? 3) Do you calibrate your computer? 4) Do you use a web- or print-sharpening action? If so, could you tell us which one you use? THank you Katie — you’re awesome. Kept checking back on the website this week — missed your posts!!

    • says

      I use the professional Zenfolio package…I do give the option of printing images through the online gallery (they print through MPIX)…I do calibrate my computer…I do use the Pioneer Woman sharpening tool and my own homemade one…hope this helps!
      xo – kb

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