Holy Smokes! You guys are truly amazing! I can honestly say that I am blown away by the incredible questions that came in last week! Over 50! Needless to say, this might take a while, so grab a yummy cup of Joe and let’s get started!
How long have you been a pro photographer?
The short answer 3+ plus years. (I’m basing that on when I started my photography business.) I’ve been doing photography for at least 10 years. Self-taught and continue to learn almost daily.
Do you have a photography business?
I did for 3 years, however I decided to enjoy it as a hobby again. It became very busy actually and I was booked most weekends and evenings. Of course there were plenty of ‘behind-the-scenes’ hours of involved in both post-production as well as running a business, I was feeling it was taking away from my time with my family. I also started to miss out on opportunities to photograph my own family and those are memories that I certainly didn’t want to miss out on.
What is your niche?
While I had my business, I focused mostly on families, couples and women’s portraiture. By the end I was primarily working with women. In my opinion, I believe a niche market is an excellent way to brand a business that specializes in one specific area. When you are an “expert” at children or newborn or birth photography, there is an opportunity to be sought out because you are the ‘pro’ in that field. Some photographers only photograph high school seniors, and they make an excellent living at it because they are the “go-to” that know all they need to know about how to manage that age group. If I were to do it all over again, I would definitely have a niche. It’s not for everyone however.
I have a 35mm 1.4 and 17-55 2.8 lens, what would you recommend I try next?
Great question and not an easy answer unfortunately. Depending on what you are shooting (landscapes, portraiture, macro). When you know what type of photography you wish to focus on, that will greatly narrow the scope of choices. Also, some places allow you to rent lenses, which is a great way to test drive before you commit!
What style of home are you building?
So exciting!! We purchased a home in a resort community just outside of our city called Friday Harbour. It’s a town home located on a little peninsula and we can park our boat in front of our home. Being an outdoorsy family, we are looking forward to all the outdoor amenities this place has to offer. We are hoping to move in by Spring 2017!
How do you balance working from home?
Work hard. Play Hard. I was the kid that had her homework done by 4pm on Friday so I could have the rest of the weekend to enjoy. Not much has changed in my adult years. I’ve been working from my home office for about 7 years.
Now that I am focusing on my main job, it is much easier to find balance. I try to get as many chores as I can out of the way the night before, so I can start my morning with less hassle. I make sure to limit distractions like tv, telephone and social media throughout the day so I can plow through my work.
We also plan our meals ahead, so that in itself creates less stress when getting dinner ready. I’m spending far less time trying to figure out what to make, which used to be a real time waster, as I was often running to the grocery store, feeling stressed. It’s less food and money wasted, which is a great added bonus!
What skincare do you use for your amazing skin?!
Wow! Thank you for such a lovely compliment!! Oh geez, I wish!! First, I know good lighting when taking photos, my friend, haha!
I’m going through this really awkward phase of breakouts and wrinkles, good times! [insert eye roll here!]
I’m actually ashamed to admit that I wear my make-up to bed [gasp!!] yup, it’s true. I use a make-up remover wipe in the morning. That’s it.
What does your husband do for a living? Do you have a job outside of photography?* *(I figured I would group these two questions together to keep it simple)
My husband and I own a financial planning firm, Walton Financial Group Inc., here in Barrie, ON.
My husband is a Financial Security Advisor, and I’m in charge of all things creative. I design all our greeting cards we send to our clients [about 4000+ cards a year], and bake our clients chocolate chunk cookies! [click here and visit ‘our team’ You’ll see the handsome man in my life, and yup, yours truly! ]
What is your fave go-to quick dinner?
If it’s just for me? Cereal. Hands down. Cooking for the family? Homemade pizza. Love the many variations of this awesome food!
How do you stay creatively inspired?
I have to give a huge shoutout to Beth of Beth-a-Dilly for her daily prompts. Her photography challenge has been the perfect boost I needed when coming back to being a hobbyist. I’ve picked up more inspiration and skills in 6 months by being accountable to pick up my camera and step outside my comfort zone by shooting things I would have never considered in the past! Yup, it’s a challenge and I’m definitely feeling the burn of the creative stretch!!
I’m struggling with marketing my photography business, do you have any tips?
Being a marketing coordinator, my best advice is to treat your clients like gold. They are always going to be your walking advertising, good or bad. Thanks to social media, they will be recruiting lots of prospects for you, it’s up to you to make their experience remarkable enough that they bring the referrals in. It’s about small details too. I’ve always made sure that my clients felt 100% comfortable with me. Find ways to be remarkable. My packaging always made a great impact on the delivery of my products. I invested in my packaging and design. Quality speaks volumes when delivering a luxury item.
One of my favourite marketing books is “The Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. It talks about the importance of being remarkable.
What is your fave camera bag?
Sadly, I do not own one at this time. I use my purse.
What are your favorite pens?
Microns and Tombow
Favourite editing app?
Enlight. I use it for the white borders on my IG images
How long did it take you to find your photographic style?
This is question is so good! I think we are all wanting to find that style that defines us. You know, the one that people look at and recognize right away. Finding style can be confusing. I know I would see other photographers work and think “Wow! I wish my style was like that” but it wasn’t coming from the heart when I tried to edit with that style in mind, because it wasn’t my style.
I believe there are a few factors that lead me to find my way. Composition, crop, depth of field are a starting point for me in camera, followed by editing my images with certain tones in mind to keep it true to my style.
I think that once I discovered what I loved about my work, I built on it from there. I’ve always loved simplicity in imagery (our living environment is more on the minimal/simplistic side, so I assume that what draws me to that photography style), I just honed my editing to match my shooting style and it all started to fall into place. I often tend to edit my images to match the mood or moment, all while trying to keep it cohesive with the tones of my work.
Don’t be afraid to try new things, it’s a huge part of growth. Although, if you’re in business, make sure that your is cohesive and consistent, whatever your style may be. Most clients want to know that they can depend on the outcome.
I wish finding a style was as simple as walking through a door, but it’s something that you will develop, and continue to develop over time, so hang in there and be patient, it will happen!
Do you like Thai food?
I’ve actually never tried it, but I will certainly get on that!! Sounds great!
Have you been to California?
Yes! We visited San Fransisco and it was amazing! I would definitely go back in a heart beat!
Did you both purposely only want a single child since you were?
Short answer- yes! We never discussed a big family, probably because we both only know small ones. I was really sick with Ulcerative Colitis while our dude was young and it was challenging being in and out of hospitals while caring for a young kiddo. We are so fulfilled with our family of three it actually feels complete! We are so blessed too, he’s pretty amazing!
I would love to know how you started out and the things that you found most useful throughout your photography journey.*
I’d like to know about how you started out with photography.*
Which was your first DSLR, first few lenses you played around with.*
I would love to know what gear you started out with and how you decided what camera to buy.* (*I will answer these at once, since they’re kinda tied in together.)
I started with a Canon Powershot, good ol’ point-n-shoot. My husband and I traveled a lot and I was always carefully documenting our adventures together. He saw my love for it and took me out to get my first DSLR. It was a Nikon D300 with a 18-200mm 4.5-5.6 lens that was recommended by the sales guy. I had done zero research back then. I was so thrilled thinking this fancy camera would just make my photography explode, but that wasn’t the case. I found it hard and often frustrating, but the rewards of embracing the learning curve paid off! I focused mostly on Landscapes and Travel and slowly immersed myself in family portraiture, which lead to me starting a little business. At first it started with friends and family, you know the drill! Then, I continued to build my portfolio until I decided it was time to look at starting a business.
Which is your favourite or go to lens now.
Ooh… right now, anytime I can play with my 85mm, it’s game-on! I LOVE the bokeh and it’s pretty tack sharp! Unfortunately, not great in tight spaces. I use it for about 70% of my IG photos.
How you get your images so white and light?
I use an ExpoDisc (I think they are around $100) that helps me achieve a beautiful white balance in camera. It has made such a huge impact on my photography. My skin tones have improved so much, and the post-processing is tremendously easier! If you wish to try out a different method, (which is free!) change your WB mode to Kelvin (on your camera) and switch to ‘liveview’ so you can adjust the temperature to warmer or cooler by eyeing it up on your LCD.
What is your best childhood memory Dana?
Eesh… I don’t know if I have just one. I was lucky to grown up with some pretty amazing parents. I think my fave memories are of when I would get to hang out with my parents one-on-one. My mom LOVED being in the kitchen, so we would bake, or cook and she would always be sharing stories of what she was like as a kid or talk about what I was like when I was younger and we’d laugh for hours! With my dad, we would drive around our small town, and he would listen to all my school stories about ‘who liked who’ or what boy was being mean to me. He always had some great advice too! My parents always treated me like a grown-up and they always made me know that I was important to them.
Thanks MOM AND DAD, you guys were pretty cool parents! xo
How do u get ur images so ‘clean looking’ (colour tones)
I try to keep my colour tones soft these days. I think that type of consistency of tone makes a difference in achieving a uniform, clean look. Imagine looking at paint swatches from a paint store, you know, where the tone ranges from light [almost white] and gradually gets darker [very deep rich tone] I try to aim for my tones to stay within a couple of shades of each other, one the lighter side of the spectrum.
What is the key to sharp photos?
Such a great question! The most important factor is to get it sharp in camera. No amount of editing will fix a missed focus or blurry photo. I love to sharpen in LR using the ‘Sharpen” slider at 100 and Luminance slider at 20 [I feel like the luminance takes the ‘crunch’ out of the photo while keeping it sharp]. Once I finish my edits in PS, I do another quick sharpen using the unsharp mask. Just be careful to not overdo it. Sharpen too much and your photo will look way too crisp! I was absolutely guilty of this when I started editing. I thought the sharper the eyes, the better. Not a good idea. It makes the photo, in my opinion, look far too unnatural. Less is often so much more!
Do you use any presets?
Yes! They can make a workflow so much easier. Just beware, not all presets are going to have the same effect on each image. I think it’s really important to have a handle on hand editing so you can not depend on presets or actions. I bought several actions when I was first editing because I thought ‘whoa! these things are awesome!’ but it didn’t teach me how to use all the wonderful tools that I needed to know to take my photography to the next level. I found a lot of them very ‘cookie cutter’ and was often overwhelmed with the many layers and combinations and in the end I found my photos looked didn’t feel timeless anymore. I still use them, but more as a minor tone enhancement and not as a one click and presto! They are fun, just again, less is more 😉
Your current Camera?
Nikon D750 [the lead] and Nikon D7100 [the understudy]
Do you do a lot of baking? Who do you bake for?
YES! I would never want to own my own bakery, but I would LOVE to work in one! I bake about 100 chocolate chunk cookies every 10 days for our company. That, so far, has added up to at least 30,000 cookies!! Each one of our clients receive a warm cookie [we have a warming drawer, so they are ooey, gooey good!]
I also love to bake banana bread or buttertarts for my family.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Elliot Lake, a small mining town in Northern Ontario, that was known at one time as the Uranium Capital of the world. The population plummeted from 24,000 to 8,000 when the mines shut down and became total ghost town. I left when I was 18 to go off to college. Unfortunately, our town made global news a few years ago when the roof on the mall collapsed.
How old is your beautiful kitty cat model?
Miss Abby will be 9 in August.
Do you have a favorite color?
If we are talking clothing, my closet is about 80% black! It’s always in style, haha! As far as home decor, neutrals. Beige, cream, grey, white with a pop of colour. Our current accent colour is lime green.
Who is your favourite photographer?
Oh, of course Beth of Beth-a-Dilly is on my list! I think we ALL love her!
I also really like artists with very different editing styles, such as Meg Bitton and LJ Holloway, their images are enchanting and very colourful.
I often love to sit down with a photography book and study the relationships between light and shadows and colour tones.
A favourite of mine is called ‘Capture the Moment’. It’s a beautiful coffee table book with a fantastic collaboration of artists.
I admit, I’m inspired by so many of you wonderful artists that I’ve met on Instagram also. So much talent out there! Bravo!
Is there a piece of equipment your dream of owning?
hmmm… good question. I think I would like a 24-70mm. I feel like that’s a great soon range for travel, and I’m missing that one. Maybe one day 😉
How do you edit your black and whites?
Great question! I’m still on a fun learning curve for this. I’ve experienced that there is so much more to creating a beautiful B&W conversion than through post-processing alone.
I’m learning more about light and shadows, the tone scale and textures which elevate the black and white to a new level of wow!
As for right now, I usually edit them in PS with a B&W conversion [found in the adjustment panel] and adjust the sliders until I reach my goal, or I desaturate the image and add a matte finish using curves.
I LOVE all your self portraits – How do you come up with the ideas and what is your process of taking them. I always look weird and fake and BLAH!
Thank you! Firstly, I know first hand how uneasy and simply awkward it can be to do a self portrait! It gets easier with time, patience and practice. My best advice- keep your hands occupied, and secondly, have fun and don’t take it too seriously! I wrote about this topic in far more depth here, and it includes a video which I’ve been told has been helpful, so hopefully you find a few tidbits that will work for you!
I see you have a son….I find it interesting how the majority of your images are not of him. Was this always the case or did your subjects change over time?
To be quite honest, I don’t really post too many personal photos online.
Our son is almost a teenager, and quite frankly prefers to not have me post many photos of him, so I respect his privacy. I always seek his approval first when I do post. [For instance, the images below were Mason approved, thanks buddy!]
Plus, I know some of the girls from his school follow my IG, so I’m sure he’s happy that mom isn’t embarrassing him too much! But don’t worry, I have a ridiculous amount of photos of our family, and yes, I do make it a priority to be that embarrassing, dorky mom, just not [always] online, lol
What is in your camera bag?
All kinds of goodies I’ve collected over the years, click here to learn more about what I love each lens and what some of the disadvantages are of them also.
When shooting indoors, do you ever use auto-ISO or do it all manually?
Yet another awesome question! I would say that I 100% shoot manual, including ISO. I remember thinking that high ISO=Grain and thought, yuck! Why would I want grain in my images? [welcome digital age of photograohy] but the biggest tradeoff to noise reduction was motion blur. Because my shutter speed would have to dip so low to let in more light, I was feeling frustrated with blurry images. So I say BRING ON THE GRAIN!! With film making a big comeback, grain is so much more cool, especially when it means no blur!
Was there ever a part of photography (like manual mode or using natural light) that use to confuse you?
Heck Yes!! Manual Mode! Understanding that exposure triangle was like trying to get a wad of gum of out my hair, or learning to ride a bike, it might seem impossible, but eventually it just happens !
Knowing how to operate in Manual mode has opened up so many creative doors, it’s mind blowing!! Think- low key, high key, intentional blur, tricky lighting… etc… the list goes on and on and on and… Learn manual. seriously, you’ll thank yourself so much for it!
What was your photography journey like, why are you drawn to inanimate objects?
It started with a love of travel and landscapes then I got swept away in working with families and did so professionally. I decided to change directions and come back to being a hobbyist once again because I really missed out on time spent with my own family. I’m drawn to all areas of photography, however, for the sake of my 365 on IG, I decided to enjoy capturing the everyday objects in my little world. It’s been fun to find the beauty in the mundane! When it comes to shooting my own family, I prefer more of a documentary/lifestyle approach. I love details and candids!
How do you typically style an ordinary object to make it simple and beautiful?
Thank you! It’s hard to believe a sink full of dishes can turn into art, too bad washing them wasn’t as glorious! haha! I think the best tip I have here is to move around your object and shoot at a wide variety of angles. You will notice how the light and shadows change and create different looks with each new angle. Sometimes I have an idea of what my outcome will look like, but once I see it through the view finder, it might not be as exciting. That’s when I try from above, or get down to a really low angle, those subtle movements change the feeling of that object and its environment. Give it a try!
I’d like to know what tips you would give someone who is thinking about taking their hobby in photography and turning it into a business in the future?
Oh boy! This is yet another fantastic question! I think I will write a separate post for this because there is so much to know! The quickie answer for now- recognize that taking beautiful photographs and running a successful business are two completely different animals! A great amount of businesses struggle without being prepared with a strong business plan and a genuine understanding of the CODB (Cost of doing business).No matter how great you are at photography, if you are unable to make a profit, the business will fail. It’s harsh, but it’s so true, and I am always sad to see great talent make this crucial mistake!
Did you write up a contract to use with your clients right from the beginning?
I’m not sure I know the right answer here, but in my opinion I would say: YES. Having a contract is beyond wise, especially if your planning on pursuing a photography business. Don’t be intimidated having a client sign one. Friend, family or other. I’ve seen some of my peers go through some serious headaches as a result of not having a formal agreement. I think this also establishes so much more professionalism and accountability between both parties.
What things do I need to be thinking about? How do you work out what your images are worth/pricing?
Rule number 1: don’t look at another photographer’s website to determine your worth. There are so many factors that go into CODB (Cost of doing business). It’s imperative that you know that it’s not just about the cost of printing an image. It’s far beyond that. The biggest mistake photographers are often guilty of is not putting a value on their time. Just because you love taking photos does not mean you should feel guilty charging for the time you take away from the ones you love. Let’s think of it this way… the Barista loves making coffee, she gets paid for it too, and I’ll bet she doesn’t feel too guilty about it either!
I think this will require a whole other post, there is so much to know about this topic 😉
What essential equipment do you recommend?
Definitely extra battery and memory cards!
As a Pro, I found it to be a lifesaver to have a body that had dual memory card feature. Over halfway through a family session, my one card died completely and ALL photos were lost. THANK GOODNESS for being redundant and have an exact duplicate on the second card! That would have been so heartbreaking and unprofessional to have to explain to them that all was lost. They had no idea and were none the wiser 😉
Also, I recommend a screen calibrater. Spyder Pro 4 is one that I use. This ensures that when you are editing, what you see on your screen will best match your prints. I’ve sometimes noticed that when I upload an image from my Mac and view it from my phone that my image tones are WAY off, and then I realize that I had not re-calibrated my screen, whoops! It really does make a huge difference, especially when I print any of my work.
Another, pro or not, is to make sure that you always have a way of backing up your photos, whether you use an external HD or online storage. Always be sure to back up your important memories!
I have been approached by family and friends to do some portraits/collaborations and feel a bit nervous to take the leap. Do you ever feel ready? Or do you just start small and build up?
Starting small and building your way up is, in my opinion, not a bad thing. I think we all feel nervous to put ourselves ‘out there’ and start asking for money. Totally normal! Let your friends and family know that you are thinking of starting a photography business, and that you would love to start building your portfolio. I did my first few for free. Then I did a few trades with friends. I wanted to make sure that A) I had several sessions under my belt. and B) that I was able to deliver a consistent end product. CONSISTENCY will be such a huge factor here, so make sure your work isn’t all over the map. Your paying clients will want to know that you are able to deliver a great product. If you’re not sure about your work, have a second (or third) set of professional eyes look at it. PROFESSIONAL. Do not ask your friends or family if they think you’re work is good enough, they will not be able to give you advice objectively, cause let’s face it, they adore you, and not only would they not want to hurt your feelings, they don’t really know what to look for in creating outstanding work (sorry uncle Bob!) A Pro will help you see your work with different eyes. Trained eyes. Be completely open to critique, this will be hard, yes, it’s true, we artists are very sensitive, but this is what will help you grow and stand out from being ordinary to taking your work to a professional level.
I’m doing the Bethadilly Challenge on Instagram. You do such a great job getting interaction from your followers. Can you give me any tips on how I can do that myself?
Wow, thank you!! A huge thank you to all my amazing followers as well, you are the reason I keep going with this 365!! I think that for me, engagement with my audience is key. I love to have a two-way conversation with everyone. I sincerely LOVE to read each and everyone of your comments, and I do my ultimate best to make sure I reply… although, sometimes I’m not always on my phone and I’m a little late (sorry!). Also, try asking a question that is easy to answer. I love to jump in on these. It’s fun to share what my favourite ice cream is! Why not?
Also, be authentic. I had no idea, or intention to grow my account the way it did since my 119 followers in January. When I started this 365 challenge, IG was all about accountability for me. Turns out, there is a whole world of amazing people on here, and I am grateful beyond words to have created friendships with to so many of you!! IG is not a numbers game for me, it’s a wonderful source of incredible talent with some pretty amazing souls that love creating images and to be part of such a community is pretty darn sweet.
What advice do you have for someone that is working on a 365 project? How do you stay on top of yours? I feel uninspired somedays and that I’m falling way behind, should I quit?
Definitely DO NOT QUIT!!
For me, this project is more about skill building and creative stretching. If I were to quit today, I would end up with just under 200 photos, which, reali really is pretty darn amazing! However, by quitting, I would be missing out on learning new lighting techniques, editing trial and errors, having a deeper understanding of light and shadows, not to mention all the other 165 images that would be so much better because my skills are always (hopefully) improving!
Another nugget to my daily post success? I do NOT actually take a photo every single day! (gasp!!) Yup, I admit it. No shame in my game.
While the truth is that I actually do take daily photos, they are often iPhone snaps of my everyday life, our son, a selfie with a girlfriend, my cat doing something silly etc…
I don’t always do the ‘prompt photo’ on the day of. Sometimes I do, but honestly, my creative ‘flow’ doesn’t work that way for me to shoot that particular prompt on that particular day. Knowing the month in advance allows me to keep my eyes open for creative opportunity for the whole month, not just one day! Which, when you think about it, is pretty great to be open to so much creative potential! Somedays the creativity just flows or a moment is just right and voila, I might get 5 or 10 images! My goal is to learn to be more observant of everyday surrounding and to improve my skills both in camera and post production. This is my method and it prevents me from getting stressed about something that is supposed to be fun. It’s not right, it’s not wrong, but it’s getting the job done and that works for me!
Whew! We made it to the finish line! Thank you so much for taking the time to “ask me anything”.
Perhaps you had to divide this read up over a few days, or you are a marathoner and did it all at once, either way thank you for playing along with me!
Your questions were all really fantastic, and so many of them I, myself, had when I was taking a bigger interest in photography!
Hopefully, you were able to walk away feeling that we are closer friends and that you have a better insight to my photography experience.
See you on Instagram friends!