The weather this time of year is always so unpredictable, which means it’s usually a lot slower shooting wise. Case in point, we had to reschedule Saturday’s engagement session because it was freezing and raining all day! Luckily, the next day was perfect shooting weather (at least, for January) so Amy and Mike didn’t have to reschedule too. These two chose to have their session in downtown Annapolis, which is where they live and where Mike proposed!

Here are a few of my favorites!!

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Style is something that’s incredibly important for photographers. It defines who we are as artists and sets us apart from other photographers who are similarly talented. You’d think that finding your style would be pretty easy…and maybe it is for some people, but personally, I struggled to find my style in the early days of my business. I got caught up in the idea that my style should be X but the images I was producing were more like Y. I constantly felt like I was trying to push a square peg through a round hole trying to make a certain style “fit”. I think more often than not, your style will find YOU. Style is based on so many elements outside of just editing. I think everything you do as a photographer lends to your style…so much so that I would consider editing only a fraction of it.

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Because I’ve totally been there, struggling to find myself as a photographer, I wanted to blog about all of the different elements that I feel go into creating a style. Here’s a few of the things I think are key to creating your own!

  • Light. The kind of light you prefer to shoot in directly affects the look of your photographs. I personally love flat, even lighting…overcast days and open shade are my favorite types of light because they’re very clean and flattering. I also prefer a slightly cooler image, which is probably why I choose that kind of light to shoot in. I’m always seeking out open shade or some kind of even lighting on wedding days and at sessions, and this lays the foundation for how my images will look!
  • Consistency. Part of the key to creating a “signature style” that people recognize and say “Oh, that’s a Katie Nesbitt image” is consistency. Really honing in on what you do well and doing that consistently will create brand recognition for you, but it’s also important from a client’s standpoint. Your clients are hiring you based on the types of images they’ve seen you create before. Couples who hire us can pretty much tell the types of images they’ll receive, because our work is very consistent. Keeping our style consistent ensures they’ll be happy with their images since they’ve seen the quality of our work and obviously like what they see.
  • Types of lenses you’re shooting with. I tend to shoot almost everything with one of two different lenses. I just love these two guys (my 50 1.2 and 35 1.4) SO MUCH. My images tend to take on a certain look since I use similar focal lengths for a lot of them. I’ve also noticed that images I’ve taken on some lenses just look SO different because of the optics of the lens, the color and clarity, etc. I prefer the look of my two favorite guys over almost anything else in my bag and I think my images reflect that!
  • Compositions. The way that we compose our photos has a lot to do with creating the look of our style. You might like lots of negative space or prefer closer cropped images. We all have a tendency to prefer certain compositions over others and over time this will lend a pretty consistent look and feel to your work.
  • Posing. The same with how we choose similar compositions, the posing has an effect on the overall style and mood of the photos you create! I personally like to use poses that convey joy and romance. So you don’t see many of those “angry bride” images in my portfolio :)
  • Editing. Obviously how you edit has a direct affect on your style, but it’s the last thing you do to your images. I personally think that you can’t start really digging into your style until you’ve mastered both how and why you shoot the way you do. Why is that? Because editing a properly exposed photograph is a lot different from editing something that needs work. I think it’s also important to sit down and learn how each control in Lightroom (or whatever it is you use) directly affects each image so that you can learn to edit consistently.
  • Things that inspire you. I also feel that who you are as a person strongly affects your style as a photographer. Quiet, introverted people take different types of images than extroverts who have punchy personalities. Where you came from and your personal story also affects how you see things and interpret each couple that you work with. I personally draw a lot from my relationship with John as inspiration for my work. Our friendship turned sweet romance definitely colors the way I see things and how I approach photographing weddings! That’s why happiness is such a key theme I feel runs through my images. A feeling of being at peace with the one you love also is something I feel I bring to my photography because I feel like John brings that to my life. You have things that affect how you shoot too! We each have our own little things that affect how we shoot and contribute to our styles. Defining them will help you better understand yourself as an artist.

Lastly, I wanted to end the post by reminding you guys that styles will constantly grow and evolve over time as you change as a person. I feel like I’m in one of those growth spurts right now and instead of feeling kind of scared and apprehensive about it like I did back when I first started out, I feel excited for growth and change! Don’t be too hard on yourself as you discover your own style. Remember that the journey is often as much fun (or more) than the destination itself, and that you’ll get there!!

If you like these posts, check out my workshop and mentoring site here! The 3/8 workshop is sold out, but sign up for the mailing list to get first dibs on a seat at the next one!

 

01.26
2015

EVERNOTE

Ever used Evernote? Haha. I was dying to type that! Now that it’s out of my system, I can act like an adult.

Maybe.

Anyway, jokes aside, I recently signed up for Evernote and downloaded the iOS apps onto my phone and computer. I had heard so many wonderful things about it from friends who use it, so I decided to give it a try. I am huge on organizing my life in the “cloud” so to speak because I’m terrible at keeping paper notebooks going. I don’t carry a big enough purse for a planner and I’m always on my phone anyway. I’m a tech girl. I can’t help it!

I’m already a big fan of the plain ole’ “notes” app on iPhone and of the Clear app (which I blogged about here) but I’m still working on figuring out how to incorporate Evernote in what I do. Right now my favorite feature is being able to sort my notes into “Notebooks”. I have several right now, which is awesome. I used to scribble notes on every page in my paper notebook and then frustratedly flip through it looking for something specific related to my business…or to find my grocery list or something. Evernote reminds me of a Kindle, but for notebooks. Instead of carrying seven notebooks in my bag, they’re all on my phone, which I already take everywhere!!!

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Now I need your help! I’m in search of tips on how to use Evernote better. Tell me what you use it for and why it makes your life better and I’ll give one random commenter a $10 Starbucks gift card in return. Make sure you comment with a valid email, because that’s what I’ll be using to contact you!

I’m just now starting out on my third week of training for my second half marathon and all of the time I’m spending running has given me a LOT of time to think and let my thoughts run wild. (Pun intended). One thing I’ve learned about running, or really, training in particular, is that there are TONS of metaphors for daily life (especially my business) everywhere I look. It’s kind of funny actually…a lot of the lessons I’ve learned as a business owner have appeared again and again to me on my journey as a runner.

View More: http://katienesbitt.pass.us/personalimages

Yesterday I got to thinking about something people say to me all the time. When they hear I ran a marathon, they say “That’s AWESOME. How did you do that? I could never do that!” Which, I mean, makes me feel like I’m amazing and that I really accomplished something special (which, I did), but it reminds me that like every big accomplishment that you work really hard for, people think they couldn’t do it too because no one ever sees how hard you really worked to get there. From the outside, you always just look like you’re super talented, badass, hardcore, etc. When people think about running a marathon, they think “Wow, 26.2 miles. That’s REALLY far. I can barely run three!”. But what they forget is, no one started out being able to run 26.2 miles. Even Olympic athletes started from somewhere. Drake made a whole song about starting from the bottom! All of the amazing people that surround you? They weren’t born able to book 100 weddings a year, or (insert whatever accomplishment you want here). They worked HARD for those things. They struggled and fought for them.

The struggle is real. Like, really real.

And okay, let’s be honest. For some people, the struggle isn’t really as hard as it is for everyone else (and I wrote about that here), but for most of us, it is. And let me tell you something that is so true that it makes me tear up still to watch the video of myself crossing the finish line: the struggle is what makes it all worth it. I know there are some days where that sounds like the biggest load of crap you’ve ever heard in your life. It especially feels like that when you’re right in the hardest part of the struggle. I know, I’ve been there MANY times. But all of the training miles that I logged, all of the long ass runs in the freezing cold, in the rain, til my legs hurt so bad I could barely bend them anymore, the blisters, the windburn, and all of the other challenges made finishing 26.2 so much more worthwhile than it would have been if I just woke up and was able to do it. When my feet crossed the finish line that day, I wasn’t just finishing the marathon, I was finishing months of hard work and lots of sweat and tears. Another thing I realized was that although I HATED the struggle of training (does anyone like running in the freezing cold and then taking an ice bath??) without it, I wouldn’t have been able or prepared to run the marathon. So, as much as you hate the struggle and how real it is, it’s a necessary part of life. You might as well make peace with that now.

So, the moral of this story is: if you’re watching other people achieve crazy awesome things and feeling like you could never do that? Guess what? YOU CAN. You just have to be willing to put in the work and go through the struggle like everybody else. Secondary moral: When you DO get there, it’s important to remember every single mile you ran to get there and appreciate the struggle for preparing you to make it through the marathon. Without struggle, we wouldn’t get very far at all. It’s like the saying says, “No pain, no gain”.

 

 

If you’re a wedding photographer who shoots with all prime lenses like we do, having a shooting bag is pretty much an essential. It’s nice to be able to carry a lens or two on your person so that you’re ready to swap them out when you need to make a quick change. In addition to our Pelican case, which we take to every wedding, we also both have shooting bags. A couple of years ago I reviewed my shooting bag here on the blog (I have a Kelly Moore B Hobo…you can read the review here, if you’re interested!), but I never blogged about John’s bag! Last year at the end of WPPI, I was able to get an amazing deal on an UNDFIND bag on the last day of the conference. I had no intention of buying a bag while I was in Vegas, but after seeing one of their bags that one of our friends had bought, I went to check out their booth and was super impressed by the bags and their attention to detail. The bag that John has (the 10 inch One bag) has about a bajillion different little features that make it so practical and so wonderful to have handy on a wedding day. My favorite is probably that the cover (which you can swap out if you prefer a different look, or want to match your outfits or something) has pockets for CF cards and doubles as a lens cloth! SO handy. Especially for when we travel with this bag!

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Another handy feature if you travel a lot, like we do for weddings is the amazing luggage strap on the back. Being able to slide the bag onto your suitcase and secure it is awesome for when you’re lugging a lot of things around. I can even see this as being nice on a wedding day if you shoot alone a lot and carry a shooting bag and a bigger roller bag with you.

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(It’s also Cat-Approved, if that matters to you!)

One thing that John’s bag has that I wish my camera bag had, is the incredibly comfy, squishy, shoulder strap! My bag doesn’t have the most comfortable strap…which isn’t a huge deal, but towards the end of a long day, I get really jealous of John’s squishy strap.

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The only small negative I can think of is that the clip that attaches the strap to the bag has a tendency to squeak. John sprays his every once in a while with WD/40, which definitely helps. Honestly, if we had known the hinges would get a little squeaky, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for us, because the bag suits John’s needs in every other department!

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 All in all, I feel like this bag was an excellent buy for the price. It’s versatility alone is what convinced me to buy it (and one of the things that makes us love it more and more with every wedding!) but we’re also really happy with the quality! Wedding photographers’ bags definitely take a beating, so having a bag for an entire year that still looks new is a win in our book!

It’s been three years and we finally have a wedding album! I always encourage our couples to order albums with their package ahead of the wedding because as I know all too well from personal experience, it’s really hard to dedicate both the time and money into it AFTER the wedding day. Regular life seems to have a way of getting in the way! We finally decided to give each other the album for our anniversary last Spring, and I’m so happy we did. There’s nothing quite like seeing your pictures in print!

Since I love to show off our couples’ albums here on the blog, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to share ours too! Here’s a film of it I made recently:

Wedding Album from Katie Nesbitt on Vimeo.

Photos in album by Jodi Miller Photography

 

If there was ONE thing I would say that all wedding photographers should be doing to make the wedding day run more smoothly for them, it would be client questionnaires! (And maybe carb loading the night before….or having band aids at all times. Band aids can be crucial on wedding days.) In all seriousness though, implementing a questionnaire has been one of the best things I ever did for myself and for my clients! And this is something that I think would benefit ALL wedding vendors, not just photographers.

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Here’s why:

  • The questionnaire helps ensure I’m on the same page with each of my couples. After I get a completed questionnaire back from a client, I go over it and then set up a time to have a conference call with them to discuss anything I might have had a question about. That way, on the wedding day, we’re both on the same page regarding our game plan (family formals, etc).
  • All of the important info is in one place. Specifically, I like having all of the family shots I know I need to get, as well as any other random tidbits of info all in one place in my bag on the wedding day for me to reference. Since we photograph between 20-30 weddings every year, it can be kind of tricky to remember some of the finer details from week to week, but printing a copy of the questionnaire and keeping it with me makes this a breeze!
  • I never forget to ask things. In the days before I had an online questionnaire, I used to call my clients and ask them a lot of the questions on the questionnaire. The problem with that was, it was super disorganized and sometimes I would forget to ask a certain question and have to email back anyway. Having a questionnaire is easier because everything is in the same place! And I can’t forget to ask any of the questions! Thank you computers. And Al Gore, for making internet.
  • I feel more prepared. For me, preparation is the key to success. I like being able to look at the questionnaire and timeline the night before and being able to think up a game plan in my head for how I envision myself photographing the day. Maybe that’s weird, but it helps me!
  • It helps me manage expectations. One of the biggest components to making your clients happy, is managing their expectations. Using the questionnaire to gauge their expectations will help you have certain conversations in advance. For example, if your client booked a wedding collection that has 7 hours and they also answered YES they will be having a sparkler exit at midnight (And their ceremony is at four!) you’ll definitely want to have a chat with them about adding hours to their package ahead of time. That way you can handle any potentially awkward situations ahead of time, such as if they forgot how many hours were in their collection, etc.

While the content of everyone’s questionnaire will be different based on how they run their business, how they shoot, etc, I think there are some important things to have on your questionnaire. Here are a few of the ones I consider really important:

  • Time and place of the wedding. Duh
  • Driving distance between locations (getting ready, ceremony, reception, etc). This helps me determine whether or not the timeline that I’ve been given is realistic. If I think it isn’t, I’ll bring it up with the couple so we can make changes before the big day.
  • Vendor names and contact info. I share the images with the vendors so the couple doesn’t have to worry about it. Asking for their wedding vendors with the questionnaire works really well for me because they’re already working on something for you anyway! I keep this information for submissions and for sharing after the wedding.
  • Bride and Groom’s phone numbers. I also ask for an alternate wedding day contact so I can bug that person instead of the couple if I end up needing to get in touch with someone.
  • When the reception decor will be set up. This also helps me determine what suggestions to make about the timeline if necessary. I photograph the space before guests are allowed in, so making sure there is time for this on the timeline is key.
  • Whether or not there will be an exit. If the couple has only booked us for eight hours, normally coverage will last until about an hour or so into dancing. So if they say on the questionnaire there will be an exit, I will ask them if they’d like to add time to their package if those photographs are important to them.
  • Are there any surprises or special traditions happening (Also, are there any special family situations I should be sensitive to?). These are important to be aware of ahead of time so you don’t miss anything or create any awkward situations with family who might not get along.

Like most things in relation to my business, my questionnaire is constantly evolving. I re-evaluate the questions all the time. Sometimes I’ll add new ones or change the wording on the old ones if I think it makes sense to, or if I see the need for a new question to add to the list. When I’m ready to send my questionnaire, I use Pixifi, which is an online studio management software (check it out!! You’ll thank me, I promise!). I love Pixifi because I can very easily create templates for the questionnaires and sending them is simple as well. Before I was using Pixifi, I did a PDF that clients would print out and mail back or fill out and scan back to me. Pixifi is a lot easier, but there are all kinds of ways to do a questionnaire, including Google Forms and other things! You can do questionnaires a million different types of ways. The key is to find something that works for you.

If you’re not doing a questionnaire, try it out for a few weddings and see if it helps you feel better prepared! If you are doing a questionnaire, tell me…what questions are YOU asking that you feel are super important? I’d love to hear your best ones in the comments!

 

If you asked me two years ago what I felt about exercise in general, my answer would have been just to laugh. Fitness was never on my radar before I started running. Fast forward to today and I’m not only now an exerciser myself, but I had the opportunity to photograph a couple’s session for Southern Weddings at a Crossfit gym! Over the holiday break, John and I spent an afternoon with Sara (who is a wedding blogger at Fit For a Bride…check out her post about the shoot here) and Aaron at their home gym in Falls Church where they showed us the ins and outs of what they do there daily, and shared with us how Crossfit has changed them individually and as a couple. I’m excited to share a few of my favorites here today.

For the full feature and much more about the two of them, make sure you check out the post on Southern Weddings!

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After about a month off from shooting, I was so ready to get behind the camera again. Last weekend we wrapped up our holiday vacation and kicked off the new year by celebrating with Kelsey and Johannes! Their wedding was in Williamsburg, which is always a treat for us because it’s so close to home! Being able to get into the car after a long wedding day and drive thirty minutes home is such a rare occurrence that when it happens, we really get excited! That wasn’t the best part of the day though. By far the best part of the day was seeing this sweet couple tie the knot. After many years together, they finally became husband and wife during an intimate candlelit ceremony at the Williamsburg Winery! All day it was easy to sense how much these two are meant for one another. The way Johannes soothed Kelsey’s nerves at the first look and their sweet, heartfelt vows all reminded me how much I love what I do!!

Please enjoy some of my favorites from our first wedding of 2015!!

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Loved how cozy and candlelit the winery was! Johannes and his family are from Germany and I think the winery has such a German feel to it!

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After the ceremony, we snuck down to the wine cellar for a few portraits! Taking portraits with off camera flash is definitely not my usual style, but I love how these turned out!

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I recently read a quote from the commencement speech Shonda Rhimes gave at her alma mater last year that really resonated with me. She said “Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change. So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do.”

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That stuck with me because I feel like I am the kind of person who likes to take action. If you want to run a marathon? Just start running and work your way up to it. Want to host a workshop? Get a venue and sign some people up! Want to eat donuts every day all day? Haven’t actually figured that one out yet…but you get the point. For me, I want to swap “New Year’s Resolutions” for a “New Year’s To-do List”. I think that labeling yourself as a dreamer and thinking about dreams makes it all too easy for us to become complacent and never make them happen. Why? Because a dream (and in a lot of cases, a goal) isn’t tangible. It’s a theory or an idea, not a practical, solid thing you know you have to do. A to-do list is different. It basically implores you to get on it and start crossing things off the list. I want to encourage you guys to write those dreams (or, at the very least, steps you can take to make them happen a little bit more of a reality) onto your to-do list. What do you have to lose? Maybe you’ll only run five miles and not 26. But that’s still five more miles than you’d have run if you didn’t make it a “to-do” rather than a dream. Make this year your year! I’m challenging you!

So, after all of that, I’m definitely putting a lot of pressure on myself to accomplish my “to-do list” for the year. There are some smaller things on here, and some bigger ones that have been “dreams” for me in past years. But this year, I refuse to just dream. I want to do. So here I go!

  • Utilize more forms of social media. Basically, you can no longer solely rely on Facebook for free marketing. The days of sharing things with all of your “fans” (or even all of your friends) are long gone. So, for me, this means utilizing other forms of social media just as much so that I’m a little more well rounded. I have been using Google Plus and Twitter in addition to Facebook, but I’d like to be a little more consistent and grow my presence in both places. I’m also planning to be more consistent with pinning my work to Pinterest, and continuing to share images via Instagram.
  • Promo Film. Yes! I am so pumped about this!! We are working with Josh Gooden on a film for the business. I’m so excited about it because my brand has always been very personal, and I think this film will be a wonderful extension of that.
  • Update mobile version of website. The website platform I use (SHOWIT, in case you were wondering) allows for a custom mobile site in addition to your normal site. I plan to update the mobile site this year because I’ve realized that more and more couples are searching for wedding vendors via their phones and tablets! So, definitely need to step up my game in this area.
  • Shoot one roll of film a month. I’m a big believer that personal projects and hobbies are important for anyone working in a  creative industry to pursue. There has to be something on the side you’re doing just for fun so that when you’re feeling really burned out, or just not creative at all, you remember exactly why you love doing what you do. I really enjoyed shooting film last year, but this year I’d like to push myself to shoot more often…even when it feels like there isn’t as much going on (like in freezing cold January!). I might even share my monthly film scans here on the blog!
  • Photograph a destination wedding (or elopement). Ah, so this is the big one. The one that inspired me to go on a two paragraph rant against dreaming. For a couple years now I’ve dreamed of shooting a destination wedding. But I think in the past, I wanted one for the wrong reasons. I’ve watched my peers shoot them and wished I could have those opportunities. I was so envious of their adventures! I even felt like there was something wrong with me or my business because I haven’t shot one yet. Like in order to be a respected professional photographer, shooting a destination wedding is a requirement or something! (It’s not, if you were wondering). Traveling last year for fun reminded me how much I love it and how inspired I am by travel, nature, and architecture. This year, I want a destination wedding, but not because I feel like it’s a box I need to check in order to be someone or something. I want to photograph a destination wedding because as an artist, I am yearning for the experience creatively. Putting it out there is kind of scary, because this is one thing on my to-do list that I don’t have 100 percent control over. I can’t guarantee someone will want to bring us with them or fly us out to them. But I do feel that there’s power in putting things out there into the universe, even if it’s just the magic of getting a fire lit under you since everyone who has internet access can see that you said you were going to do it. One of the things that kept me going through marathon training was knowing everyone on Instagram and Facebook was going to laugh at me if I backed out!
  • Set up and shoot a personal shoot. This one also falls under personal projects. When I went to Foster workshop last year I was inspired by how Ben and Katch are constantly coming up with shoots of things that really excite them and push them creatively. This is something I definitely plan to do for myself! Maybe I can kill two birds with one stone by shooting a roll of film at my shoot! Haha.
  • Streamline submissions process. Last year this was one of the things that didn’t work as well as I would have liked. The key to having a successful workflow is finding a way to get through all of the steps of the process in a way that makes sense to you and flows pretty simply. I’ve been trying to do this one way for the past three years and I really need to sit down and analyze WHY this isn’t working well for me and what I can do to simplify the process so it’s a no brainer.
  • Say yes. I get caught up in feeling like I need to protect my time…and it’s true that I should be making sure that I am not saying yes to every single thing, every question, or every opportunity. But, I think that this year is going to be about growth for me, and growth comes from getting outside of your comfort zone. If you always lift light weights in a manner that’s comfortable, you’ll never gain muscle. The same is true I think for the rest of life. So in that vein, I want to make it a goal to have an open heart and say YES to opportunities that might scare me, or that I might have hesitated over in the past.

Personal Things:

  • Take at least two trips.
  • Run a half marathon in the Spring and a full marathon again in the Fall.
  • Take a calligraphy workshop
  • Get wisdom teeth out
  • Get a second tattoo
  • Have fresh flowers in our home at least once a month (preferably once a week)

Well, there you have it! My “to-do” list for 2015. I can’t wait to see what adventures this year has in store! I’d love to see what’s on your list, too! Let me know what you’re planning to do this year in the comment section!