Yes, I did just use Smeagol in a photography reference. This is my website and I'll do as I please.
Today I want to briefly touch on RAW camera files, and why it's not typically something you'll find included in your price package with your photographer, but also why you may not want them anyway!
So far during my time as a working photographer, I think one of the most uncomfortable questions I've had to answer is "We love them! Hey, can we also get our RAW unedited files too? We want all of them!" It isn't a question I get asked often, and just to note, this isn't to hate on this client at all. I'm happy they asked, because there's a first for everything and it's helped me formulate a more clear and concise answer for future clients, if I ever get this question again.
First, I want to start off by clarifying that in general, you'll find that giving away RAW/unedited files is not a common practice among most portrait and lifestyle photographers. An exception might be if a company is hiring a photographer for commercial purposes, but they have their own in-house design team. In this case as a photographer, you might sell them the complete buy-out rights to the files, so they can edit and use them as they need.
But when it comes to your average family and wedding photographer, these files aren't usually going to be part of the package deal. You might be wondering, why not; isn't this what I paid them for?
Before we talk about the "whys", let's talk about the "whats".
What is a RAW file, and what is the difference between a RAW file and an unedited jpeg? A RAW file (.raw) is a type of file format that you'll find almost all pro photographers have their cameras set to shoot with. These files are extremely large, as they contain unprocessed and uncompressed data, and also require special programs to be able to edit and even just to view them. Understandably, even if the photographer did give access to these files, most average clients would not have the software to even be able to open them anyway.
From there, photographers retouch and edit these RAW files using this special software. This means cleanup, adjusting the lighting, coloration, balance, as well as designing the images into one cohesive style and tone for the final album. The selected files are then processed and saved into the user-friendly jpeg files that are delivered to you.
Now, the new question that may pop into your head is wait, "selected files"? But shouldn't I be getting all of the pictures that were taken?
So during your photoshoot, it's understandable that when you hear your photographer's shutter click 500 times, you expect at least 498 photos. But let me explain why you aren't getting cheated out of your money's worth!
Before a photographer even gets to the retouching, our first job is to go through the culling process. It may sound a little counterintuitive, but that is actually part of what we are being paid to do – get rid of a lot of your photos. Now before you get freaked out, I want you to understand that the files we're getting rid of are not files that you want. Here's a couple of reasons why some files may qualify for getting culled:
Now, the last note I want to touch on is, if we don't give out RAW files, and we don't provide the culled photos, why won't we give you unedited jpegs?
This is where it comes down to a bit more code of conduct than anything else. When you hire a photographer, it's safe to assume that you liked their style and that it's a big part of why you've chosen them. When you hire a creator or freelancer of any sort, you're giving them your trust to use their professionalism and expertise to deliver you something that is reflective of their current portfolio.
An analogy I've seen used several times while researching RAW files, is to imagine you've just booked a reservation at a high-class restaurant with a renowned chef. Except when you go to order the chef's special, you ask if you could instead just get all the separate ingredients brought to your table.
This would obviously be a bit unorthodox and upsetting to the chef, for several reasons. Do you not trust him to cook it properly? You'd be paying a lot of money for all of these separate raw ingredients, most of which you could probably purchase at the store yourself. But when you go to a fancy restaurant, you aren't just paying for the ingredients – you're paying for the skilled and experienced way in which they're going to be prepared for you by a professional.
In a way, this is a little similar to asking a photographer for completely untouched files. These files are rough drafts, and poor examples of what their work truly looks like; they were never meant to be viewed this way. It's good to keep in mind that most photographers view their work like an artist or musician would, and don't want to associate their name with it until it's completed, and much less want them to be edited by someone else.
In the end, what we want you to know is that we aren't keeping mysterious files hostage with any miserly intents. Now, if you have any reason to believe your photographer is actually withholding something that was meant to be a part of your written agreement that you paid for, discuss with them to find out if there was a problem. Otherwise, our only goal for you is to make sure that we gather up as many moments as we can from your shoot, and edit them together into a harmonious collection that you'll want to cherish for years to come!
Morgan Ofsharick specializes in proposal, engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, and family portrait photography, servicing New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut! –MEO Photography
Just a short post (I think?) about a couple tips and things to keep in mind to help you achieve a great newborn shoot with your photographer!
While I've only done a couple of newborn sessions so far, I'm already picking up on what sort of things can be really helpful and really hindering to making a great infant photoshoot. I want to touch on a few of these here, to help you prepare for your session and have it go as smoothly as possible!
First and foremost, I've found the number one goal should be to annoy Baby as little as we can. This may seem obvious, but it's easy to overlook if you have too many ideas and goals in mind for the photoshoot. While I love Pinterest and all the adorable little setups and costumes you'll find there, with newborn shoots it's important to not get too caught up in all of them – Less is more, especially when it comes to Baby's patience!
When we see all of these numerous ideas, something to keep in mind is that each photographer probably really only utilized about one setup and theme per shoot. Meaning, they likely didn't dress Baby like an elephant in a circus, and then change them into a fairy in the flower bed, and then place them in a hollowed out pumpkin in a barn scene. These are all individual photographers with separate photoshoots, and they're only really doing one at a time – Baby would be too stressed for all of those!
My main point here is that you may have to narrow down your options by quite a lot if you're looking to have complex outfit changes or staged sets. Remember, as cute as costumes are, that's not really what a newborn shoot is about. We don't want to jostle her around too much, and try to force too many ideas on her – Baby just got here, and mostly wants a nap and some peace and quiet!
Now, let's talk about what sort of props will be more agreeable to Baby. As cute as costumes are, they demand a lot of Baby's energy and patience. But that doesn't mean we're stuck to only one idea! A couple of things that are easy to utilize that don't require so much from our little guy are props. In the photo above, I'm so in love with this blanket Mom purchased ahead of time to lay him on. Blankets and spreads like this are so easy to utilize without interfering too much with Baby, and we can even do multiple. The name tag is such a simple touch too, and he doesn't even know it's there! Other easy props to use are fairy lights, mini pumpkins, faux flowers, and anything else that can be posed around Baby without disturbance.
Another easy thing to change are hats – usually, baby may not notice this too much as long as the transition is smooth. The same can go for swaddle wraps, but it's good to consider that you may not want to be committed to too many colors and patterns, as after a few changes Baby may notice that the temperature keeps switching from warm to cold, and may get sick of it!
And finally, let's talk about my favorite type of newborn scene – the one that doesn't require any staging at all.
As much as I love all the cute themes and outfits we see on Instagram, I don't think they capture what having a brand new baby is really about. I don't have anything against these costumes and stages, I'm sure I may even do more of them myself someday, but I feel that these intimate moments behind the scenes are what you're really going to want to hold onto.
This could be candid photos taken in Baby's nursery, or yes, even at the hospital the day after he's born! In short, the most memorable moments aren't going to be the aggravating minutes he spent struggling to free himself from an itchy monkey costume – but the first moments he spent interacting with you!
Final thoughts – comfy outfits, easy-to-use-props, a couple simple themes/colors, and most of all, lots of beautiful, intimate candids. Also, it doesn't hurt to have a full belly, and I recommend a week or less old for true newborn shots. The sleepier, the better! With that being said though, all babies are different; if you know your baby isn't much of a crier and has a high threshold for nonsense and shenanigans, then we may be able to be more flexible with outfit changes. What it comes down to is this: Keeping Baby comfortable for as long as possible, to get as many successful photos as possible, and especially capturing those special moments you'll want to cherish forever.
Morgan Ofsharick specializes in proposal, engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, and family portrait photography, servicing New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut! –MEO Photography
As November quickly approaches, I thought this was the perfect time to make small talk about the weather. No, really! A widespread misconception about booking a photoshoot is that you need a perfect, sunny day for them to look amazing – so what if the day of your session arrives and it's overcast, and you feel disappointed. Believe it or not, what you see as ugly gray clouds is actually your photographer's silver lining!
So let's talk about lighting – is sunlight really the ultimate key for a great photo session? You're probably assuming I'm going to say no; the truth is, I'm only going to say half no.
In reality, it depends on the degree of brightness of the sunlight which determines whether or not it's going to be helpful, or hindering. The most common time I try to book most of my photoshoots is during what we call "Golden Hour", which is roughly the hour or so before sundown. This is when the sun is lowest in the sky, and will give us a soft, flattering glow at any time of year. I'm assuming this technique would also work well around sunrise – but there's no amount of money that could make me want to do a photoshoot that early, so I couldn't tell you.
Now, what about a sunny day, in the middle of the day? The honest truth is, your photographer may cry a little inside when asked to do a shoot at this time, and will likely be hunting for some shade, or praying to the rain gods for some clouds. You're probably thinking, clouds? Why on earth would my photographer want a perfectly good sunny day to be ruined by clouds?
The reality is that, for one, direct and harsh sunlight is actually a huge pain in the rear to us! It can really mess with our exposure, meaning anything that reflects or bounces light is going to be ten times brighter than usual – which in turn, means that the shadows may be darker than usual as well. We do have ways to combat this extreme overhead lighting in our camera and editing, but generally we try to avoid it when we can, whether that means finding a shaded area to photograph in or possibly even finding a better date or time for our clients.
In the photo above, I shuddered when I heard the wedding was going to be at one in the afternoon, especially on a beach; reflective sand on a sunny midday is my worst nightmare. You can imagine my relief when, yes – it turned out to be overcast and almost a little drizzly!
So really, what it comes down to for the photographer isn't really about the weather, but about the strength of the lighting. Midday sunlight is almost like having a giant flashlight being blasted down onto our clients' faces, creating washed out highlights and harsh shadows. What the clouds do for us is act as a giant flash diffuser – they take all of that strong light and act as a buffer, letting it gently filter through for a soft glow.
Let's take a look at the examples above! Now coincidentally, both of these photos were taken around the same time in the morning, and both of them were taken on the beach. The main factor here is simple – one is from a very gray day, and one was in bright sunlight. You can see what a difference this makes! The photo on the left remains to this day as one of my favorite photos I've taken. They were both wearing black, and against the gray sea with a gray sky, the black and white filter looks stunning. Their skin looks so soft!
The photo on the right took place right after he proposed to her. The main issue I was having at that point in the day was how aggressively the sun was beating down on us; you can see how much the light is glaring off of their shirts and skin, and then how it's cutting dark shadows over their facial features. I did eventually have to move them to a more shaded location to take some photos with softer lighting, which is what you can see in the third photo. Much less harsh lights and darks!
In the end, what I'm trying to get at here is that sun doesn't mean better at all, it just means a different. Sunny days (around sunset) can yield very beautiful photos – but so can cloudy, and even damp days! And not to mention, overcast days can make the timing of the photo session more flexible, as it doesn't matter if we book midday.
This is especially for those of us who live in New England, particularly around this time of year; sometimes we have to get engaged in the rain, or have family photos of jumping in mud puddles. Personally, I'm a big fan of dark and moody photography, so while a client's impulse might be to turn and run when they see a storm coming, I'm actually running towards it and hoping someone will come and join me!
Morgan Ofsharick specializes in proposal, engagement, maternity, and family portrait photography, servicing New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut! –MEO Photography
When you hire a photographer, you might think that getting that Instagrammable aesthetic is all about the location and your photographer's skill. But, as with most relationships, it takes two to tango! Here's some tips on what you can bring to the table to help your photographer get you those Pinterest-perfect photos.
While location can somewhat play a role in the aesthetic of your photos (and I have a whole post about locations here!), what can really make or break a photoset is often out of the photographer's control – what you choose to wear. In the photos above, there's two factors that really stand out to me from this wedding. Can you guess what they are?
The colors of the bright scarlet flowers pop out so beautifully against the white sky, white sand, and her white dress. I got lucky, because this bride is a florist herself, and designed all of her amazingly stylish floral arrangements. They also chose to bring those adorable, clear umbrellas – not to mention the little flower girl's rose gold shoes!
But as photographers, we don't always get so lucky. Typically, when we receive bookings, we only know who we're photographing, and where. What we don't know, is how you're planning to dress for your session, or what props or decorations you might bring; those variables are, to an extent, out of our hands.
"I'm not very artistic, I don't have the eye for this sort of thing!"
One thing you are always welcome to do, and I encourage it, is to start off by asking the opinion of your photographer. Trust me when I say, a lot of us would kill to have our less-than-sure customers ask our advice! For me, I would likely propose the idea of coordinating outfits. Whether it be a couple's shoot or a family photo, you can't go wrong with matching colors! Let's say for a fall family portrait shoot, there's a mother, father, son, and daughter – a sweet idea might be to have dad and daughter wear mustard yellow, and mom and son to wear black with yellow accents. Just with these small outfit tweaks, we're already halfway to Pinterest fame! Now just add in a beautiful sunset glow filtering through some autumn leaves, and we're golden.
Now picture, on the other hand, if we didn't put any thought into outfits. Mom shows up wearing Uggs and Lululemon leggings, son is sporting a Giants jersey, daughter is dressed in unicorn attire from head to toe, and Dad has got on his trusty blue flannel. While there's nothing wrong with this, our fear as photographers is that you'll pay for a session and be left scratching your head as to why your photoset just isn't singing that tune you thought it would – did the photographer mess something up?
If you're looking for inspiration for an upcoming photoshoot, my biggest piece of advice is to check the ultimate source of Pinterest aesthetic – Pinterest itself!
It's probably where I, as a photographer, spend quite a lot of my time searching for ideas. Whether you're getting maternity, family, or even wedding photos done, it's a great idea to spend just a couple extra minutes online to see if you can find any examples that catch your eye. Once you've saved a few of your favorites, I want you to spend a moment asking yourself what it is that grabbed your attention about those photos. Study what they're wearing; do you like their clothes? Do you like the decorations? And even yes, take note of location. What I've noticed quite a lot of the time, is that a big part of what's grabbing our attention is color, contrast, and coordination.
Remember that wedding photoset up there with the colorful flowers? These spots of bright red really catch our eye, especially because the rest of the coloring is very flat and white. Something to consider is adding a pop of color to your photoshoot, so that it stands out and contrasts with your surroundings. Also consider that sometimes the eye also likes a little bit of repetition and coordination. Maybe everyone wears white, or everyone wears flannels and boots! Remember, if a family of four dresses with two people wearing one color, and two people wearing another, our brains enjoy seeing the pattern – yellow, black, yellow black.
And yes, it is always worth thinking about where you're planning to do your photoshoot! If you're planning on shooting on a cool gray day near some water, a pop of sunny yellow might look amazing. When starting the wedding planning process, pay close attention to the color schemes of the inspo photos you save – what are the color tones in the bouquets that catch your attention the most? If you see an engagement photoset that really speaks to you on Pinterest, and the woman is wearing a bold red dress in an evergreen forest, all you need to do is wear your favorite piece of red clothing and find yourself some pine trees – your photographer can do the rest!
And that concludes my tips on achieving your Insta-famous dreams! If you're looking for any proposal, engagement, maternity, or family portrait photography, contact me today. I service New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut!
Hi there! If you're here, you're either about to hire me for a photo session, or are considering me. Either way, thank you! Please scroll below to understand what you will be receiving for your price, and what I need from you.
If you've already reviewed my price page, you'll know that my pricing model is based on an hourly rate; $100 for a 30 minute session, $200 for a 60 minute session, and so on. I also have a $50 mini session for 15 minutes, which is available exclusively to select locations in New Haven (and Hamden).
Excluding the $50 mini session, my price includes up to 25 miles of travel from my home in New Haven. For distances outside this range, travel fees may apply; for example, for 25-40 miles, I charge an additional $15. Travel fees may vary for distances beyond this range, and I will discuss with you on a case by case basis. (Wondering where to have your photoshoot? Check out this post for ideas, and you can always ask me for suggestions! Need inspiration on what to wear? Click here!)
As well, my price includes your chosen session time, of course, as well as fully retouched images. I guarantee roughly 25 photos per 30 minutes, or 50 per 60 minutes, however I am notorious for often over-delivering more than my promised minimum. Also included with your price is a beautiful online viewing gallery on Pixieset like these. This album allows you to share your gallery with friends and family online, and you can also download all images with your PIN number for high-res image files to print as you like!
While I do my best to deliver your photos as soon as possible, I cannot guarantee exact delivery dates, as they are based on how many clients are currently in my queue. If there are currently no clients ahead of you whose photos need to be processed, turnaround time is usually only 1-2 days. However, if I have had many appointments that week, I process and edit photo sessions in the order I receive them. Thank you for your patience!
I give you permission to print your photos for personal use and I reserve the copyrights. Of course, you can still share them on social media. If you do remember, I always really appreciate being tagged/credited (Please don't put filters over them!)
Refer a Friend! To receive 15% off a future session, you can now refer a friend! To be eligible, your friend must tell me that you referred them to me, and they must officially book a session date with me.
Next up: Boring legal stuff that I want you to read and understand anyway!
First and foremost, in order to book with me I require a retainer fee upfront, which you can read all about here. The retainer fee is half of the final total (excluding the $50 mini shoot, which is paid in full), which reserves the Client's appointment in my calendar, and prevents me from scheduling any other customers for their slot. The retainer fee is non-refundable if cancellation occurs 7 or less days before the appointment, to account for monetary loss to the business.
Postponement and date changes are based on future availability at the time of notification, and also require a $30 fee if notification is under 8 days (for standard sessions). For weddings, postponement requires a $50 fee if notification is under 30 days. After the first postponement, retainer fee is no longer viable for refund due to cancellation.
The Client will obtain all permissions necessary for Photographer to photograph at the event location (i.e, churches, cathedrals, museums where photography is sometimes not prohibited). Photographer has no duty to obtain permission of reception centers, churches, buildings, private properties, or other locations to operate thereon. Client understands and agrees that any failure to obtain these permissions resulting in fines to photographer, or which prevent photographer from photographing the event(s) is not the fault, liability, or responsibility of photographer.
The Client agrees to reimburse the Photographer for any necessary parking fees or entrance fees if the photoshoot location requires them, which will be added to the final balance for the session.
The Client agrees to be no more than 15 minutes late to appointed shoot. In the case that Client does not arrive on time Client will be subject to a late fee of $30 if the Client still desires the full shoot time. If the Client is more than 25 minutes late, the session will be cancelled and the retainer fee forfeited by the Client. If the Photographer fails to appear at the photoshoot appointment, the retainer fee will be refunded to the Client.
I the Photographer, retain the copyright to all photographs taken, and allow the Client limited and non-exclusive, rights to use and print said photographs for personal use. I retain the right to use said photographs within my own portfolio and advertising. I do not provide RAW files or unedited files to the Client.
Hello! If you're reading this, you may be either currently commissioning me for a pet portrait or considering commissioning me: either way, thank you! Scroll below to read all about my portrait policies.
First, let's talk about prices. If you've already discussed this with me and just need to review my terms, please scroll down to the next section!
My current price list is as follows. Prices are subject to change over time, and will be updated accordingly. Prices are also subject to change on a case by case basis (though this is uncommon!) Listed prices do not include shipping fees.
5x7 – $100*
8x10 – $125*
10x14 – $150
What is included with my watercolor portrait?
You will be receiving a completely original hand-painted portrait of your pet (head&shoulders) with a color wash background and a half-inch white border.
For an additional pet, $75 will be added to your total. *indicates that the smaller sizes have a limit of 1 pet per portrait. 10x14 watercolors can accommodate up to two pets (when horizontal).
16x20 with Classic Background – $200
16x20 with Illustrated Background – $250
For each additional pet, $75 will be added to your total. 16x20 canvases can accommodate up to 3 pets (when horizontal).
What is the difference between the Classic and Illustrated Backgrounds?
The Classic background includes simple elements. A solid colored background, or a color gradient with a few different shades. Or, simple patterns like stripes, polka dots, stars, etc.
The Illustrated background includes more complex designs with line art, such as floral or botanical patterns, dog bones, fish, pizza, donuts, a mandala design, etc. You can get creative! This also includes options like a realistic marble backdrop or galaxy with nebulas.
Gold-leaf detailing is also available; prices vary.
Again, prices are subject to change if your desired background requires more intricacy. Next up: Terms and stuff!
So now that we've reviewed prices, let's get into policies.
Before agreeing to a commission, I must approve of your reference photo to continue. I always advise to provide me with several if you can, that way I can assist you when choosing which one would allow me to create the best painting for you! Remember, I only do head&shoulders in my portraits, no full bodies (unless of course, your pet is a fish or a hamster or other small animal.)
When it comes to reference photos, what I need is a good, sharp image of your pet's face. I need good lighting, which means natural light is best! If you can take your pet outside, please find a nice area in indirect sunlight (to prevent glare and overexposure). If your pet cannot go outside, please photograph them near a window wherever lighting is best in your house. I cannot accept photos taken in incandescent lighting! As well, I also need your photo reference to be of good resolution. This does not mean it needs to be taken with a professional camera by any means, most smartphones work just fine. However, I cannot use photos of low quality that appear pixelated, as I need details to complete your portrait.
Booking Your Portrait
Before starting a painting, I require a booking fee (half of your final payment) upfront, which reserves your spot in line and time in my schedule (Please click here to learn more about booking fees!) This booking fee is absolutely non-refundable once work on your portrait commences. Cancellation of a painting after work has begun means you agree to forfeit your booking fee. Your booking fee guarantees you a place on my waitlist, which is on a first come first serve basis. Sometimes you may be the first and only person in line, but sometimes (around holidays) this waitlist can be a little longer! Once your painting is complete, you will receive a preview of your painting and be asked for the remaining balance of your painting as well as shipping fees. Once payment is received, your painting will be shipped out within 3 business days (not counting Sunday). I accept commissions to be shipped outside of the U.S. on a case by case basis, so please be sure to let me know that you are planning to have it shipped internationally, and please note that the shipping costs will be greater than they are in the States.
Copyrights and Courtesies
I reserve the copyrights to my paintings to use the images as needed in my portfolio and advertising. I do not permit the reproduction of my paintings, especially for sale. Of course, you are more than welcome to take pictures of your painting to post online and show your friends. I'd love to see it hanging in your home, and it's super cute if you take a photo of it sitting next to your real live pet!
And finally, (and this is more of a courtesy than anything) what I need most from you is patience and autonomy! I don't often have much trouble in this department, however it happens on occasion. What's truly important is that you understand that I do my best to complete your portrait within 1-3 weeks, depending on size and complexity (and not counting other clients who have booked ahead of you). In the art world, this is a fairly quick turnaround time for a painting! However, please note that I do not guarantee end dates and I cannot work on your painting every single day. I also have a part time job as an art instructor, and as a photographer, and I also generally need time for myself as well! If it is a birthday gift or time sensitive, I always do my best to make arrangements to get it to you in time.
I do make progress posts on my Instagram @meofsharick.illustration where you can watch me post updates of my paintings. While I do my best to post a couple times a week, I cannot guarantee to post every day.
Lastly, please note that I do need a certain level of autonomy when completing your painting! My purpose as an artist is to make thoughtful decisions for you about how to deliver the best portrait possible. If I have a client who is overly controlling about the end result or hounds for daily updates, this can be a hinderance to the painting process. Also, I cannot "make portraits like this other artist" – I am me! If there is another (living) artist whose work you enjoy, please commission them. However, I can make exceptions for say, a Van Gogh-inspired portrait. Please take a look at my work to get the best idea of what your end result will look like. In short: I need your trust to paint in my style!
And that concludes my terms! If you have any questions for me, please reach out and let me know, as your questions may be helpful to others, and will help me revise my policies. Thank you!
I need YOU! Photography season often slows down a bit for us in the winter months, and I find this so sad; who says the cold and snow means a less beautiful photoshoot?
I'm going to be very candid about this — I don't actually have much to show for winter photography in my portfolio. There's no particular secret reason for this, other than I simply haven't gotten any gigs for it! But I'd truly like for that to change this winter.
When we think of portrait photography, we think of matching flannels for an autumn portrait of a family of four. We think of a beautiful sunset wedding on the beach in June, or a sweet maternity session below a canopy of cherry blossoms.
What we tragically overlook is the sheer beauty of winter. It's a blank canvas; ethereal white light, naked tree branches, and maybe the opportunity to add a pop of red, in a dress or some shoes.
Click here to check out my discussion about photoshoot locations!
And why shouldn't there be more winter photoshoots? I'm not just talking Christmas photos. I want you, my dear winter children, my little rosy-cheeked babies turning one after New Years. I want you, my lovely bride, who wants an elegant wedding surrounded by shimmering icicles. I want you my dear friend, to propose to the girl of your dreams below a snow-covered forest. And I want you, my sweet mom-to-be whose first child is due to be born in February. I want you to come bundle up with me and come take some fun, magical photos this winter to prove that this season has a beauty all of its own!
If you're looking for any proposal, engagement, maternity, or family portrait photography, contact me today! I service New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut!
"Location, location, location" - the mantra of realtors, the golden rule of what determines a property's value. This may be the case when listing a home for sale, but is location really so imperative when it comes to getting Pinterest-perfect family photos? I'd like to talk about the pros and cons of scenic venues, and how there could even be "prime real estate" for photographers right outside your door!
I think one of the most common questions I get is "I don't think there's anywhere nice near me to take photos. Should we travel to Kent Falls?" Ah, yes, Kent Falls State Park, Connecticut. It really is beautiful! I have no problem shooting there (I've shot a whole proposal there, read the story here!), but the trouble is that when I name the final quote for me to travel to it (at 60 miles away!), more often than not my clients shy away from the extra distance fees. Not to mention, they come to realize what a journey they would have to make to get there themselves.
"My town isn't very scenic though. Do you have any recommendations?"
The key word I want us to focus on here is the word "scenic". I think quite often, we interpret scenic to mean majestic mountains, golden beaches, the tulip fields of Holland, and so on. Obviously these are beautiful, but not very practical for a family of four with toddlers! So what can we do when limited to the ecosystems of central Connecticut; is Kent Falls really the only place worth taking photos?
I'd like to take a little detour to talk about these business headshots for a moment taken in front of warm, bourbon-toned bricks.
Would you believe that these photos were taken on the edge of a dirt driveway, the brick wall is the side of a crumbling garage, and to both the left and right of him are city garbage bins? I'd be willing to bet that wasn't your first thought. The reason the viewer can't see any of this information is because it's not provided in the photo.
As a photographer, my job is to only include in the frame what I want the audience to know. If you're a newly engaged couple walking around on the beach, I don't want the audience to know there were other people there with us. If you're a model posing in a bush of wildflowers, I don't want the audience to know that we were actually on the side of a busy highway. And if you're a businessman, trying to look sharp and professional in a suit and tie, I don't want the audience to know you were surrounded by garbage bins.
Enjoying this post? You might also like my topic on Retainer Fees and why they're important!
Again, this is another fantastic example of photo versus reality. In the photo above, we can easily imagine my maternity client is sitting on the side of a grassy hill in an open meadow. Amazingly, not ten feet behind her there is a boardwalk of a hundred people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, and pushing strollers. In fact, this patch of grass is no more than just that - a patch. In reality, we are on the Savin Rock Beach in West Haven and this cluster of grass really stretches no further beyond what you see here. But you don't know any of that, because I didn't want you to.
So what does this have to do with Kent Falls State Park? Again, I have absolutely no problem photographing there. It's a gorgeous location, and if you're okay with some mild travel fees we could get fantastic photos. But the point I'm trying to make here is, just because you don't live near Kent Falls, and neither do I, that doesn't have to mean that all is lost!
The point that I'd like you to focus on more than anything as a client, is that I'm coming to take pictures of you! Both figuratively and from a technical standpoint.
On one hand, the subject of my portraits is not going to be the location, but the people in them. As well, portrait lenses are built to focus on intimate poses. They will capture some of the ambience and backdrop of the setting, but overall the viewer's eye is going to be drawn to the figures.
That's why, at the end of the day I like to say that "trees are trees". Whether I take your photos in the forests of Kent Falls, or the forest of a more local New England park, you likely won't be able to see a difference. The same can be said for the coast; we can pay $25 to enter Lighthouse Point Park in East Haven, or we can go to Savin Rock in West Haven for free – your photos will come out the same! This is because for our purposes, most Connecticut beaches are all very similar to one another. So when debating about where you'd like your photos taken, you don't have to feel like the more expensive, famous locations are going to be better.
The best question to ask yourself is, what sort of ambiance do I want my photos to communicate? Take a little hike around Pinterest and see what scenery catches your eye. Do you like meadows of wildflowers? Golden hay fields? Evergreen forests? Cool grey rocky coastlines? Once you pinpoint the type of setting you want, then you can ask around and take a peek around your neighborhoods. You might be surprised – the ordinary wheat field you pass by every day on your morning commute could actually be prime real estate to your photographer! (Another thing that can really impact your photos is what you choose to wear!)
In the end, my takeaway for you is this: If you have the money and time to travel to an extremely epic location, do it! Any photographer would obviously love to take iconic photos in the Salt Flats of Utah or the turquoise waters of Puerto Rico. But understandably, not everyone can afford that! Which is why what I want you to see, my dear New Englanders, is that you're not restricted to the infamous Kent Falls park as your only worthy venue. Sometimes the locations around our own neighborhoods that we deem as "ordinary" can be turned into the extraordinary with our photographer.
All of the photos in my albums can attest to this. I've photographed in locations like Edgerton Park, East Rock State Park, Lake Wintergreen, and College Woods in New Haven, as well as Elizabeth Park Conservancy and Wickham Park in Hartford. As far as beaches, I've worked with clients at Lighthouse Point Park in East Haven, Savin Rock in West Haven, Silver Sands Beach in Milford, and even shot a small wedding at Walnut Beach, also in Milford.
And my biggest venue of them all? Backyards! Would you believe that a large percentage of my galleries takes place on my clients' own properties? In the end, sometimes all you really need to get those Pinterest-ready photos is your neighbor's field, some matching sweaters, and a nice crisp sunset!
Photography may look like a sunshine-and-rainbows job from the outside, but sometimes there are less comfortable topics we have to bring up with our clients. However, does that mean these conversations have to be awkward?
So you're looking to have an engagement photoshoot and have found a photographer whose work you love, and you think they'll be just perfect for the job. Except when you go to book the date with them, they ask for a "retainer fee" upfront - what's that all about?
A retainer fee, sometimes called a session fee or booking fee, isn't something we mean to scare you with. We get it! Doling out a hundred dollars upfront to someone you've never met in person is uncomfortable and daunting. What if they were to take your money and ghost you? What if you end up not fully satisfied with your photos? Though most of my posts are usually warm and fluffy, I want to take a second to talk about the back side of the business. Again, not because I want to scare you, but quite the opposite - I want to make you feel more at ease about what your photographer's policies are all about!
Liking this topic so far? You might also like my blog post on photoshoot locations!
The easiest way for me to explain what a retainer fee is for, is to put you in the shoes of a photographer. Let's say in this scenario, you are a photographer that doesn't take a booking fee upfront.
You've just been reached out to via email by a client (or worse, you've been reached out to on a freelance platform like Thumbtack, which charges you a fee for each Lead you get!) and they're looking to book an engagement photoshoot with you. You talk through pricing options and locations with them, they've picked out a date and time, and everything really seems to be all set.
During the week leading up to your appointment with them (it's on a Saturday, which is popular!) you get a couple other customers interested in booking you for that same date. One of them was even a small wedding ceremony, which could've been a higher price tag! Unfortunately you had to turn them away for the date that they needed, as you already had someone scheduled. The day before you have your photoshoot, you check in with your client. They reply back that they're all set and they'll see you tomorrow.
Tomorrow comes, and at 4 p.m. you head out to a town which is 43 miles from you and about an hour drive with traffic. You arrive at the park address they gave you, and text them to let them know you're there while you find a bench to sit on. You don't get a response, but you're not worried; they're probably just on their way and can't text while driving. About fifteen minutes go by, and at this point they're definitely cutting into their session time. You try calling, but you're sent straight to voicemail, so you leave a brief message letting them know where you are in the park and that you'll stay a while longer in case they're stuck in traffic.
After about a half an hour, which is basically what their entire session time was supposed to be, you realize they aren't coming. You've just driven an hour out of your way, spent a half hour waiting for them, have an hour to drive back home, and have wasted about 80 miles of gas.
It's not a pretty picture, pun intended! Maybe your client will eventually get back to you in a couple days with an excuse, or maybe you'll be ghosted and never hear from them again. Maybe they even decided their cousin could do it for half the price. Regardless of the reason, you've just suffered a lot of monetary damage and a lot of valuable time wasted.
As scary as we realize it is to collect an upfront retainer fee from you as a client, we hope you can see why it's just as scary for us to not take one! There are countless possibilities of how our business can suffer without booking fees. As seen above, a photographer can lose miles worth of gas traveling to a client who decides to bail. We can also lose a lot of our time on several different levels - the time we spend driving to clients and waiting for them, or even the time we spend chatting with them about their plans and ideas for the shoot. Some photographers even schedule complimentary meet-ups with their clients for bigger events like weddings!
And finally, it's important to take note that what a retainer fee is doing is reserving a specific time and date slot for our clients. Remember in the example above, the photographer actually had other customers reaching out for that same time slot, but were turned away. Imagine that maybe one of those other clients would have followed through with their appointment, instead of disappearing!
So from the photographer's end, you can see that the retainer fee is a big part of what protects us from having our gas, our time, and our money wasted. But what about from your end, as the client?
At first glance, it may seem like the retainer fee only benefits the photographer and not the client, but there are a few subtle things you can gain as well! For one, if a photographer takes a booking fee, more often than not it's a sign that you're getting a professional who knows what they're doing. They know their worth, they know the business, and they're not afraid to risk losing a client due to the retainer fee - meaning they likely are successful enough in their business to only be taking serious clients. That's a good sign of their quality!
As well, this retainer fee is, after all, a retainer. This fee is what reserves your spot for a specific date and time, so that the photographer halts all advertisement for it and turns away other clients. It also somewhat legally prevents the photographer from simply taking a better candidate over you, and ditching your appointment. It binds them to it. It's also good to note that the retainer fee is not an "extra" fee - much of the time, you'd be paying the same total price anyway for your shoot. Usually, it's just the photographer taking part of your grand total upfront. It keeps you both accountable to each other!
And finally, it's worth looking at all of this from a logical perspective. Assuming your photographer has a pretty established online presence - they have a website, a Facebook page, an Instagram, a Google business listing, or any other online profiles, it's likely that they want to keep their reputation clean. In today's online world, it's pretty easy to call someone out for bad business practices. We've all seen it - reviews on Yelp claiming a restaurant waiter never once checked a table, a contractor who did a really nasty job repairing a roof, or even Facebook users leaving comments on a product advertisement that turned out to be a scam.
Inevitably, if you have something bad to say about a business, it's usually not hard to publicize your experience. So if your photographer turns out to be a bit shady and tries to ghost you after taking your money? There's likely a place you can leave a public review, however it's also likely that this "photographer" may not have been a real business after all, as most established photographers want to give clients absolutely no reason to tarnish their ratings. Research thoroughly first!
However, in saying this I want to emphasize that, as a small business myself, please always make a good attempt to reach out to your professional before taking out your frustration in their reviews. On both sides, the photographer and the client should always make a fair effort in communication to avoid misunderstandings. This can lead to unnecessary stress, blame, and can hurt a professional's reputation permanently. If it can be avoided, it should be.
But I digress! I hope this blog has helped you understand a little bit more about your photographer's policies, and that retainer fees don't have to be scary at all. Ninety-nine percent of any photographers I've ever met just want one thing - to take pretty pictures and make our clients smile. We just want to be protected along the way!
If you're looking for any proposal, engagement, maternity, or family-related portrait photography, contact me today! I service New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut!
This one was a real climb. No, seriously! This is the story of how I hiked up a 1.5 mountain trail to capture this proposal.
I don't typically take shoots that are quite this last minute - it was late on a Thursday night when I received a message from a guy looking to capture his proposal to his girlfriend on Saturday near Kent Falls State Park. There's a hiking trail nearby that crosses the border between Connecticut and Wingdale, New York near the Housatonic River. The kicker: My very unathletic self was supposed to hike a mile and a half up a steep and winding mountain trail. Luckily for me, my boyfriend quickly obliged to join and make a day of it in Kent.
Also luckily for me, this would make it easier to camouflage myself; I wouldn't need to do any crafty hiding like I normally would, as there were other hikers on the trail, and my boyfriend and I would simply look like more inconspicuous hikers. Even the camera wouldn't look suspicious, as the top of the mountain was a very scenic view that overlooked the valley into New York.
The fact that I was told they would be bringing their corgi mix only helped to motivate me. So off we went, driving across Connecticut and arriving just about fifteen minutes before them to give ourselves a headstart. I'm not going to say it was easy! I'm by no means athletic in the slightest and was never in any sports in school, so I huffed and puffed my way up the mountain. Fortunately it was a cooler day, and there were lots of species of mushrooms and fungi on the way up to keep me entertained. We even conversed with a family along the trail about what we were doing there, and said they might even see the couple pass by them!
When we reached the top there was no one around, save for a single older man sitting on a rock nearby. Finally a young man and woman emerged through the trees and I immediately recognized the couple from their photos. The man briefly nodded at me and they continued over to the ledge with their dog in tow.
I made my over slowly, pretending to photograph various leaves and trees in case she glanced at me, but I never let them out of my sight. And then he did it! And it all went perfectly - the only thing inhibiting me being the somewhat harsh sunlight and the single man, who was briefly alarmed that I appeared to be secretly taking photos of a couple I didn't know. He laughed when he realized he had just missed their proposal and that I had, in fact, been hired to stalk them!
I loved that little Willow even looked back at me right at the perfect moment. Afterward, we officially greeted each other and continued to take a couple more formal shots. The family I previously mentioned finally reached the top of the mountain and applauded the newly engaged couple. And that's about where our story ends!
If you're looking for surprise proposal or engagement photography, contact me here! I'm local to New Haven, but I also photograph around Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Tolland, Middlesex, and even up around New London or down near Stamford and New York.
Just a little spot to give a bit of insight into my current projects.