5 Ways to Improve as a Photographer

  1. Saturate yourself with art.  Whether you are looking online at other photographer’s work in your field of enjoying looking at painted landscapes at a museum it inspires your creativity.
  2. Do things that inspire you.  For me getting outside does wonders so when I’m feeling cooped up or lack luster I find a good long walk outside with the dogs loosens up my creative juices.  Maybe a good book or pursuing another artistic avenue for a little while helps reset your creativity.
  3. Do work for free on occasion.  Only creating work for a paycheck with rob your joy for the art of it.
  4. Stay out of routine.  A little routine is good to maintain some sanity and humanity but in your daily life be sure to keep some spontaneity and especially be sure to keep variety high when creating your work.  This is the best way to stay out of a rut, feed your creativity, and fuel your passion forward to advancement.
  5. Mark room for leisure.  There is nothing that bogs creativity down more than stress.  Make sure you are getting sufficient rest but the most recent important thing I’ve stumbled on is making time for nothing.  When you simply take some time to sit and think ideas start to pour out.  Sometimes even a long shower or drive helps do this too if you’re not comfortable sitting in the quiet right away.

10 Things a Photographer Should Not Do

Do not…

  1. Spend too much time thinking about your gear.  Equipment is important, but it is not the core of photography.  In fact, I think it is good for every photographer to learn how to work well under the challenge of cheaper equipment.  Remember, ultimately only photographing makes you a better photographer.
  2. Leave your camera at home.  To drive this incentive home for me I have committed to “a Photo a Day” and am working towards getting a Kelly Moore purse so I literally always have my camera on my person.
  3. Forget to fuel your creativity.  It is good to have a repertoire of “go to” ideas when you are stumped but you will only improve as you let your creativity continue to flow and the best way to do that is to be seeking for new ideas at every shoot.  If you need help I suggest trying new lenses, new locations, or do some online research for new poses and great artwork to get your juices flowing.  Remember, you want to separate yourself from your competition.
  4. Ignore the value of your copyright.  If your copyrights are not valuable, why are people working so hard to get them?
  5. Take every assignment.  The best photographers find their niche and build on that.  At the beginning I found it valuable to take a little bit of everything.  In my opinion, how else are you going to find our what you like and what you’re really good at?  But as soon as you find that niche hone in on it.
  6. Ignore the math.  Are your expenses higher than your income?  You can only do so much work so be sure you are charging enough per session.
  7. Ignore blogging.  Blogging is the most “Google friendly” way to get your material out there.  I’ve found frequency to be the key.  CLICK HERE for more info on how to blog for your business.
  8. Ignore social media. Social media are the best ways to share your work with the world, especially if you get a network of friends supporting your work enthusiastically.
  9. Think you can fix everything by editing.  The bottom line of a great photographer is getting the lighting and the settings right first and only using editing programs like Lightroom and Photoshop to spruce it up.
  10. Stop learning.  Always be researching your field and looking for new ways to advance your work.  Look at art, look at other photographer’s work, and look into all areas of your business and continually seek improvement.  You will never know everything.

Why so much for wedding photography?

I am tired of clients declining my services in favor of hiring a family friend or a company that doesn’t care about them or their needs for $750.  I am tired of feeling like I have to defend my prices to myself and others.  I am tired of feeling the weight of the financial burden of being a self-employed photographer.

The fact is, the joy of being a self-employed photographer is that I mostly get to work from my in-home studio and I’m doing what I love, but the woes are many.  I work until a job is done and when a job is done there is always one in line right behind it (this means 9-5 begins to look ideal as I often spend 10+ hours a day and a lot of weekends working).  While I work clients are calling upon me to finish faster despite the fact I’m still well within my deadline.  And with all of this I am scraping by to pay the bills because December – March is the SLOW SEASON.  This means $50 – $200 portrait sessions are attempting to pull the weight of all our bills (roughly 10 – 40 of these would satisfy that need), but there are business expenses to be looked after as well.

So, now I seek to educate my readers in hopes of more considerate client to photographer dealings. I hope I don’t sound angry or mean because I am not, I am just disheartened.

Before I divulge, thank you so much to my brides and other clients who love and appreciate who I am and what I do.  I am ever so grateful to you and the joy your support and encouragement brings me and my family!

Why so much for wedding photography?

This first section of data was taken from a blog by Nikki Wagner because my statistics are in a significantly lower price bracket but I still have these expenses and needs and yet I still get complaints.

“Dear Bride,

I am a wedding photographer in the Erie, PA area. Wedding season only last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings per year for an average of $2,500/wedding (which totals about $50,000/year).

  • That being said, I am a small business owner, so I pay all of my taxes, totaling about $15,000/year, which leaves me with a gross income of around $35,000
  • Of that $35,000 I pay $600/month in rent for my small house and garage which I converted into my studio (which is where I would be editing your wedding images).$35,000 – $7,200 = $27,800
  • Then I have my car, which I would use to get me to and from your wedding, which I pay $400/month for the lease, plus $200/month in car insurance. $27,800 – $7,200 = $20,600
  • To get to your (and my other brides) wedding consultation, second wedding pre-consultation, the wedding itself, and to and from the printers I spend $840/year in gas money. $20,600 – $840 = $19,760
  • I also have $500/year insurance in case you sue me, or if any of your drunk guests would happen to break any of my equipment. $19,760 – $500 = $19,260
  • You also probably found me through my website, which I pay $30/month for hosting, and another $30/month so that you can view your photos online and share the images with your friends and family. $19,260 – $720 = $18,540
  • Or perhaps you found me through my advertisements in the newspaper or local bridal magazines, or a bridal show that you attended that I paid to have a booth at. $18,540 – $1,000 = $17,540
  • I also pay $250/month for my own health insurance in case I were to get hurt at your wedding. $17,540 – $3,000 = $14,540
  • I pay $200/wedding for a second shooter for your wedding, so that you can have more images and different angles, as to make sure you get the best images possible at your wedding. $14,540 – $4,000 = $10,540
  • I also need to have a new pair of shoes ($100) every season because my shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season. $10,540 – $100 = $10,440
  • I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images online, my home phone for my business and my cell phone so I can communicate with you. $10,440 – $2,500 = $7,940
  • Oh yes, and I also pay a lawyer to make sure my contracts are iron clad and an accountant to make sure that I am paying all of the taxes I need. $7,940 – $500 = $7,440
  • Sometimes I attend workshops and seminars to teach me how to better my business, and make my client happier (that would be you), as well as keep up on the trends and learn new techniques so that I can make sure you have the best quality images available.

That would technically leave me with about $7,000/year to feed myself, buy groceries, pay for my heat and electricity, clothe myself, etc. But, usually I end up reinvesting whatever I have left on upgrades and new equipment.”

-stats from Nikki Wagner

Now for stats by me…

For your wedding I bring my high quality professional equipment to ensure your wedding images are the best I can make them.

  • I have two Canon 5D Mark II cameras (I keep both strapped on me all day to ensure if one fails I have a back up) = $4,000
  • I also have high quality lenses to capture your low light special moments:
    Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens = $1,200
    Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens = $1,440
    Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens = $1,330
  • I have lighting equipment to give you great family pictures:
    Light stand, light box, external battery packs: $1,000
  • I have brilliant flashes to capture all the moments at your reception
    Canon 580EX II = $650
  • I also have multiple battery backups and memory cards and a bag to carry everything in = $1,000+

After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home office and spend about 20-25 hours editing your images, creating your album, blogging about your wedding, posting pictures on Facebook, ordering your prints and burning your DVDs.

  • I edit your photographs using a 27-inch iMac computer = $2,500.
  • I edit your photographs on Adobe Lightroom ($200) and Adobe CS5 ($400).
  • I buy custom DVDs in bulk for $300
  • I archive all of your photographs on a 2TB external hard drive = $220.
  • I also have office expenses as far as buying paper, staples, envelopes, packaging, filing cabinets and files, etc…
  • I also spend time and money ordering your prints and albums, paying for shipping, going to the post office etc.
  • Lastly, but certainly not least, I am fully educated with a bachelor’s degree and that came at a price of $300,000 +


All of that being said, I’m constantly pinching pennies, and take on many family portraits, senior portraits and any thing else I can get in order to make ends meet.

Photography is my passion and my livelihood, and it is also expensive. Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn’t all I spend on you or on my business. I know you will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress, flowers, a venue, and on catering which you are going to have for only one day. The photographs I give you will be the only thing you have to remember of that one day for the rest of your lives.

I do feel insulted every time a bride scoffs at my price.  I hope you can see why in light of the full description of what my financial life looks like.  I understand every bride has their budget.  So brides, please know when you set your budget to factor this information in when deciding how much you will spend on your photographer and know that we are in charge of your memories of this special day of yours.  And please know that there are people behind that camera and though our goal is to serve you we do have feelings.  When you insult my work or my price I take it personally because I do consider my photography art and art comes from the heart.


Kaia Calhoun

Blog post inspired by Why Wedding Photographers’ Prices are “Wack”