Portrait Session: The Photography Podcast for Portrait Photographers

By Erica Kay and Connor Hibbs

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Portrait Session is the premiere podcast for portrait photographers who want to learn lighting, posing, post-processing, how to build a business, and more!

Episode Date
Season 1 Wrap Up - Listener Q&A's About the Season - S01 Ep12

Erica and Connor spend the entirety of todays episode answering listener's additional questions that have come up throughout this season as well as tying up other loose ends from the season. 

We are both sincerely so thankful for all of the love and support you have shown us in transitioning back to our individual podcast feed and for following along with us as we develop a new format for the show. 

We will be back in a few short weeks with the start of Season 2 of the Portrait Session Podcast. 

Season 1 Listener Q&A's

Phil Roccuzzo 1) In the order of operations when setting up your business... do you need to create your business checking account first or do you create the business (llc)first?


2) Regarding insurance... is it best to form your LLC (if that’s your intention) first and then get the insurance under the company name ... OR can you get the insurance prior to forming the llc and update the name after?


3) In your experience from a marketing point of view .. does adding LLc to the name have any impact in clients hiring you ? (ie more confidence in your business... it is ‘legitimate’.. etc)


Wendy Miller Thank you Erica and Connor for a wonderful Season 1. It has been chock full of information. My question is about blogs. I would like to start one on my webpage. Do I start with current photos/events, or go back to the beginning of the year


Boden Eanes 1. As someone just starting, what’s your advice on contracts. As starting we don’t often have the client base to cover costs of lawyers fees to write one or should that just be a personal investment into ur business. General contract advice 🙂


2. When setting up a styled shoot to build/add to your portfolio, what’s the expected cost for a beginner? Personally I am willing to invest some money to get my business off the ground, which is required in some areas, but should this be something we try at the beginning or should this be something once business is up and can support the costs?


3. At what point should I set up a website? I don’t have a client base yet so I don’t know if I should try to get my portfolio built more and after I have clients set it up, or set it up right from the start, or somewhere in between?


4. If you do in person sales and not a shoot/burn style - do you still deliver digitals or are you a shoot/burn photographer who also does in person sales to deliver more product? I understand this could vary a little bit depending on wedding vs portrait photography.


Steven Morrow When starting to transition from just taking photos as a hobby, to starting the business; should I have paying clients first, a web presence, or business license? When tackling task by task what order would you rank the 3?


Nelson Tapias Advice for starting/running a “side hustle” business while you still keep your full-time job.

Aug 14, 2018
Managing Life as You Transition to Your Job as a Photographer - S01 Ep11

In todays episode Erica and Connor give you tips for managing life as you transition into your job as a portrait photographer.


Then, on sticking points, Connor sits down with Frank Gallagher to discuss techniques for bringing out a person’s authentic personality in their portrait.  


  • Step 10 Finding Success: How to manage a transition to a job as a photographer

    • You do not have to say yes to everything. Set boundaries.

    • Set aside management/administrative time in your schedule

    • Management tools

      • 17 Hats or similar programs

      • Fundy or designer programs

      • Canva

      • Later

      • accounting

    • Established workflows

      • Clients

      • Editing & delivery

      • Products

      • Business crap

Aug 07, 2018
Additional Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business - S01 Ep 10

 In todays episode we talk about additional marketing strategies to help you grow your business. 

Then, on sticking points, Connor sits down with Pete Lagregor to discuss ways he can convert traffic coming to his website into actual bookings.  

Step 9 Developing additional marketing strategies

  • Will you operate on word of mouth? If so, is there a way you can encourage that further?

    • Referral programs

    • Clear expectations for tagging/photo credit on social media

    • Relationships with other businesses

  • Facebook has become a marketing monster

  • Social media as marketing

    • Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest ads

    • Facebook groups

    • Hashtags and tagging

  • Plan things ahead of time. When Creating advertisements don’t just ask what it is doing, but how it is doing it and how that will encourage others to follow through on their end.

  • Think creatively about what needs your ideal client has that only you can fill or that you can fulfill in an easier, cheaper, faster, or better quality than others in your market.


Jul 31, 2018
SEO and Building an Organic Web Presence for Your Business - S01 Ep09

In todays episode we talk about building an organic web presence to allow people to find your business on the web without you having to pay for advertising. This can be done through the channels of social media, google business/pages, and strengthened through your blogging capabilities on your website.


Then, on sticking points, Connor sits down with Ken Breivik to discuss building the confidence to fearlessly price your business where it needs to be priced for sustainable longevity.  


  • Step 8 Building an Organic web presence

    • Social media

      • Facebook

      • Instagram

      • Twitter

      • Pinterest

    • google pages

      • Google maps

      • Google + 

      • PO Boxes unfortunately can not be used as an address for google maps listings
    • Blogging

      • Blogging helps search engines to find your site by populating your website with lots of words that have to do with your business. This is something to write strategically as a part of your SEO plan.


    • Mobile optimization

    • Seo

      • Yoast plugin for Wordpress

      • kwfinder.com

Jul 23, 2018
Branding and Displaying Your Work - S01 Ep08

Branding and Displaying Your Work - S01 Ep08

In todays episode Erica and Connor talk about displaying your portfolio and tips for building the visual elements of your brand.

Then, on sticking points, Connor sits down with Michael Pugh to give him some thoughts on intentional improvement as he learns more about photography as well as giving some advice as to where his money would be best spent to help him hone his skills.

Branding and using visual elements to speak to potential consumers about what your business stands for.


    • Logos don’t mean much on a blank page, but branding is important for getting your message across to your client

      • You have an idea of what you stand for in business, this is the time to start writing things down on paper. Make a list of 3-5 adjectives you feel represent what your business stands for/says to clients.

      • This can also be helpful to put into terms of:

“I want people to know that my business is _______” or “I want people to know that my business doesn’t do __________.”

      • When doing this step, don’t be too focused on the aesthetic portion of your branding, but just consider the emotive elements of your brand. Often times the emotion and message of the brand will dictate the visual elements.

      • If you have the means, work with a professional designer to brand your business. They’ll help you with colors, fonts, etc., but also with coming up with things that will speak to your target client AND help you implement things in the best way possible.

      • Check out fiverr.com for affordable, but good quality logos 12:30 ish

      • “They” say that people have to see something 7 times before it becomes memorized. Put your logo and branding everywhere so that people see it constantly. It’ll help you become a recognized business in your community.

    • Other items of branding, business cards, possibly print boxes, letterhead, social media, etc.

    • Having a great body of work is good and fine and will look great on social media, but it is a good idea to have a place to show off your work and a website is a fantastic/professional way to do so.

      • Squarespace v. Showit v. Wordpress v. Wix v.

Client experience is also a part of your brand. Consider making videos that demonstrate what that experience looks like. Promo videos are a really cool and unique branding tool.

Jul 17, 2018
Tailoring Your Ideal Client Experience - S01 Ep 07

In this episode Erica and Connor discuss different considerations to make as you think through the way you would like your ideal client to move through their interactions with your business. This can range from being a high end full service photographer, or a speedy and efficient shoot and burn photographer. One way or the other, it is incredibly valuable to think of how you would like your client to interact in your business and start putting systems in to place to allow for a consistent delivery of that client experience.

    • Strategize about how you want your business to operate from a financial structure

    • figure out how you want your ideal client interactions to run and work on getting systems in place to help things do so.

    • Think about client experiences/customer services you’ve had. What did you love about them? What did you hate about them?

    • Include the client experience in your workflow, so that it becomes an automatic part of your business.

    • Think about the client experience in all interactions - first email communications, first in person conversations, the duration of the project, the actual shoot, the delivery of the images, the creation and delivery of products, the final communications.

    • Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews (FB, Google, website, The Knot, etc.)

      • Be aware that asking for Yelp reviews goes against Yelp’s terms & conditions


On Sticking Points Connor sits down with Diarmuid O’Donovan to discuss his current issue of feeling a lack of passion going in to his fourth year as a full time wedding photographer and is looking for a way to get past his feelings of redundancy and burn out.

Jul 10, 2018
Setting Prices For Your Business - S01 Ep 06

In this Episode, Erica and Connor discuss the considerations to make when setting your prices for your business to allow for it to be sustainable over the long term. This is a very important consideration to make as you establish your business to ensure you don't have to go through the pain points of starting a business. 


    • Start by learning what your pricing needs to be for you to have a sustainable business.

    • Don’t let local markets influence this part too much. It is important to know at what point your business will be sustainable to know when you’re on the right track.

      • Erica disagrees. You have to take local markets into account when pricing. You’ll struggle if price yourself at $10k a wedding in a market that has an average of $2k a wedding. Similarly, if you price yourself at $2k a wedding in a market that averages $10k a wedding, you’re devaluing the art and everyone else in your market. If I lived in LA/NYC/Chicago, I’d be charging 3-4 times more than I do now because of the market in both locations.

    • You can start out lower than this sustainable number, but it is important to figure out ahead of time. When you know what it will take to be sustainable you will have a target to hit.

    • Cost of Doing Business Calculator: https://nppa.org/calculator


Sticking Points with Renos Erotocritou

  • Flash Gear to get started

    • Yong Nuo YN-560 IV

    • YongNuo YN-603 trigger

    • Cowboy Studio Stand

    • Flash Bracket

    • Shoot through Umbrella

Jul 03, 2018
Portfolio Building and Culling the Right Way - S01 Ep05

In this episode, Erica and Connor discuss the best practices for putting together and curating a strong and effective portfolio that will help you put your best foot forward.
Then on Sticking Points, Connor sits down with Aaron Taylor to discuss the ways in which he can improve his sales and customer experience with his in person sales process.


  • Don’t throw every session you’ve shot into your portfolio. That is fine to start with, but eventually you need to get choosy.

  • Having a great body of work is good and fine and will look great on social media, but it is a good idea to have a place to show off your work and a website is a fantastic/professional way to do so.

  • Other items of branding, business cards, possibly print boxes, letterhead etc.

  • Before making any of these things, be sure you feel confident you can answer core questions about your brand. What do you stand for? What kind of service do you provide?

    • These questions have more to do with what your customer can expect from their interactions with you. Are you a brand that gives great looking photos at an affordable rate? Will your business model support that? What will that mean you are having to sacrifice to keep costs low in the long run?

Jun 26, 2018
Banking, Bookkeeping, and Accounting for your Photo Business - S01 Ep 04

Erica and Connor discuss the things to consider in getting your business set up with a bank account and give our recommendations for things like bookkeeping software, business lines of credit, credit cards, and accounting. Then, on Sticking Points, Connor sits down with Evan Criscuolo to discuss the finer details of being in business as a fine art photographer and why that is a path he might want to consider.

Season 1 Episode 4: Accounting & Finances

Open a bank account for the business

Not all banks are created equal

You’ll need your Federal Tax ID number to do this

Get an accountant

Bookkeeping Software

  • Quickbooks
  • Connor Likes Wave Apps
  • Freshbooks is another good option

Studio management software like 17 Hats


  • Equipment
  • Mileage
  • Home office space

Receipt maintenance: Neat

Jun 19, 2018
Going Legit - Establishing Your Business as a Legal Entity - S01 Ep 03

Erica and Connor Discuss how to go about getting your business established as a legal entity with the state and federal government. Then on Sticking Points, Connor sits down with Nick Skog to talk about how he can bring order to the tasks he has to take care of with his photo business and discuss ways of feeling confidence in the value of your work.

Some Helpful notes and resources

    • SBA has a huge section of their website dedicated to launching your business. Covers most of what we’re talking about today.

    • Consider the legal ramifications and the taxable ramifications of your business structure.

      • Each structure affects your operations, how you file your taxes, and how much of your personal assets are at risk.

      • IRS classifications are:

        • Sole proprietorships

        • Partnerships

        • Corporations

        • S Corporations

        • Limited Liability Company (LLC)

      • Most photo companies are sole proprietorships or LLCs.

    • how to file with the state.

      • If you’re operating your business as yourself under your legal name, you don’t need to register.

        • But, you’ll miss out on some legal/personal asset protections.

      • If you’re using a business name, you’ll need to register.

      • Very simple process that you can do online.

      • Ohio Small Business Development Center will do it for you!

        • Look up SBDC’s in your area. Lots of workshops, legal professionals, funding opportunities, etc. at your service.

    • How to get a tax ID number if needed

    • Costs involved with each.

    • Remember that we’re not lawyers or tax professionals. All of this information is based on our own personal research and experiences. Please consult professionals in your area to solidify and implement your business plans.

Jun 12, 2018
Deciding What Kind of Portrait Business You Want - S 01 Ep 02

Erica and Connor discuss the factors that go into deciding what kind of portrait business you want to start and explain the importance of bringing focus to your business.


    • There are many ways to take pictures of people for money, but what ways do you want to focus on?

    • What kinds of photos do you like taking? What kind of market is there for this?

    • Who would be your ideal clientele?

      • Consider income bracket, age, gender, what they look like, how they dress, where they hang out, what they’re interested in. Analyze the shit out of them to create your perfect client. Knowing your perfect client will allow you to market to them appropriately, price yourself appropriately, and plan your social media.

    • All too often people jump into making money without thinking about building a business.

    • You don’t have to pick just one, but it is a good idea to have an idea of things that you do and don’t want to do.

      • Think about restaurants. The best ones are usually the ones who specialize in a certain type of food (ethnic, burgers, pizza, etc.).

    • If you do pick multiple types of portrait photography, do they compliment each other and work as a single business? Is it better to create two separate divisions ie entities for differing types of photography?

Jun 05, 2018
The Steps You Should Take to Turn Your Hobby Into a Business

In this Episode, Erica and Connor Discuss The changes coming to the podcast's format before having a conversation concerning the overall steps a person interested in taking their portrait photography hobby and turning it in to a business. 

General steps for turning your hobby into a business:

  • Step 1 Ask: What kind of Portrait business do you want?

  • Step 2 Establish a legal entity.

  • Step 3 Accounting & Finances

  • Step 4 Portfolio Building and culling

  • Step 5 Pricing yourself

  • Step 6 Business Model/Customer experience

  • Step 7 Portfolio Display and Branding

  • Step 8 Building an Organic web presence

  • Step 9 Develop additional marketing strategies

  • Step 10 Finding Success: How to manage a transition to a job as a photographer

Sticking Points

During sticking points, Connor sits down with Kaden from 365th Street Photography to discuss his struggle with writing blog and social media posts that speak with a voice that feels genuine without being overly repetitive along with some general tips for finding effective keywords for blogging and hash tagging. 

May 28, 2018
Takeaways From the Create Photography Retreat (LIVE) - EP 108

In this episode, Erica and Connor discuss various takeaways they have from their time teaching at the Create Photography Retreat.

Mar 26, 2018
5 Ways to Improve Your Portraits in 30 Days - EP 107

Erica & Connor share their best suggestions to help you improve your portraits in the next 30 days.

  1. Familiarize yourself with your gear.

    1. It is easy to get bogged down with GAS, but it is important to realize that the best gear you can use is the stuff you have right now. Don’t allow yourself to pine after a new camera body if you don’t know the strengths and limitations your current gear.

  2. Set up portfolio shoots.

    1. Everyone has a busy schedule, so there is no need to add a certain amount of shoots here, do what you can comfortably do with your schedule even if it is just one shoot.

    2. The key here is to not just set up a shoot, show up, and shoot the way you feel comfortable with. Set goals ahead of time of something you want to improve on and focus on that thing throughout the shoot so it becomes a comfortable point for you.

    3. Set up portfolio shoots based on what you want to be paid for. Focus your efforts on the types of photography you want to be hired for. Don’t just shoot randomly.

  3. Start Pre-visualizing your shoots.

    1. This goes along well with the last segment. Go back and look at work you have done within the last 6 months and pull them apart. What could you have done better? THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT COULD BE DONE BETTER.

    2. Is this something you understand how to overcome?

    3. The day of shooting it is nearly impossible to remember these things you casually noticed if you haven’t already mapped a solution to the problem. Think out exactly how you plan to overcome your weakness and have a “go-to” thing you want to do to fix it. This will increase the likelihood of you following through when the time actually comes about.


  1. Focus on light.

    1. Carve out time every day to focus on light. This doesn’t necessarily mean photography related light. As often as possible, pay attention to the way light hits certain objects and the shadows they create. The more you do this, the better you will understand the qualities of light.

    2. Also make time to focus on photography related light. Whether you want to perfect your natural light photos or learn about flash, dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to light. Read about it, experiment with it, etc.

  2. Start Building a visual vocabulary.

    1. Something I have found as I have progressed in photography is that I have a certain visual aesthetic that appeals to me. This is something I honed by using sites like pinterest and tumblr to find work that appealed to me and pinned it.

    2. This isn’t so you just copy work you find, but when you have a large list of images that you find striking, it starts to become easier to see elements of things you like in that imagery. I just recently downloaded tumblr again and went through my blog I haven’t posted on in a few years and it is amazing to see how much the things I blogged there still resonate with me now.

Feb 26, 2018
GOALS! - EP 106

Erica and Connor reflect on their 2017 goals and share their goals for 2018.

Erica 2017 Reflections

  • Taking time for myself, not overbooking - success!

  • Creating epic multiple exposures - failure!

  • Book 5 weddings at my highest collection - success!

Connor 2017 Reflections

  • Become a full time photographer - Success!?

  • Focus more on Commercial Clients - failure/success?

  • Sell tickets to workshops - Success!


Connor 2018 Goals

  • Outsource some of my work

  • Get published in at least 4 publications

  • Grow non-commercial clients by 50% with social media marketing

  • Post much more consistently on social media (3 times a week)

  • Focus more attention on helping other photographers/creating content to help photographers

  • Get invited to speak at at least 1 other conference

  • Build a larger commercial client base

Erica 2018 Goals

  • Creative: master that double exposure technique in camera

  • Business: make 6 figures

  • Education: attend at least 1 high-end portrait workshop

Listener Goals

Mark Morris First my goal from 2017 was to book more weddings... totally shot past my goal of 3, booked 8, with a lot of guidance from my mentor, Erica Coffman!! 2018... two goals: 1) offer some great workshops for photographers, and 2) expand my commercial client base. (I booked my second major corporate gig this year.).

Stephen Smith To finish my NYIP correspondence course. It's something I decided to do for fun, and it's been very educational. I'll be proud to finish.

Sarah Elizabeth I have one wholesale client right now and would love to get a couple more next year!

Aaron Taylor Pretty sure my 2017 goals were lofty. Might’ve met less than half. I’m going to give myself one goal for 2018: spend more money on education than gear.

Danette Zak To get a paying customer!!

Lori Hutchinson To just do it and quit lurking in the wings.

Josh Peterson To make enough off photography to buy the Tamron 24-70 g2. To second shoot a wedding. To shoot enough to fill my portfolio full enough to make a website.

Steven Morrow To learn the business side (contracts, llc, deductions, etc) at least half as much as I'm learning about photography itself.

Jeremy S. Lanthorn

1. To replace over half my salary with photography income.

2. Organize at least 3 styled shoots.

3. Make 2 photo specific trips.

4. Attend at least 5 state championship events (A lot of my income comes sports photography).

Tony Hicks To finish college, have my website complete(it will never be finished as far as I’m concerned) and a solid work flow in place among a few other things I want to be running at least a part time business in portraiture by the end of the year. Starting the year off by going to imaging in January it’s the conference put on by PPA I got accepted as one of the student volunteers this year and plan on taking as many of the marketing classes I can while I’m there among a few others as well. I’m sure I’m missing something but that’s all for now

Dec 27, 2017
Listener Q&A - EP 105

Erica & Connor answer questions from the Improve Photography Podcast Facebook group.


Andrea De Anda Hi Erica, I'm moving from the Central Coast to the Bay area, What tips or advice would you give a wedding photographer like me to start/transfer my business to another city ???

Justin Zaffarese How much can a professional photographer expect to earn ? I know that is a bit like asking how long a piece of string is ,but, it’s just seldom discussed. I don't ever hear pro's mentioning how much they make. Starting with you Erica haha

Sheila Salinas I see some photographers who specializes on photographing families, kids, and babies use props. What is your take on using props? Do you recommend or advise clients in outfits such as colors and patterns. If so, what are they?

Frank Gallagher Seems like every year there's a different trend in portrait styles. One year everything is shot on a stark white background. Another year, everything is high key. What do you do--change your style with every trend? Try to do a classic set-up that will last and outlive trends? Some combination of the two?

Anand Acharya Do you deliver the digitals with print release as part of the session? It is highly debated topic though. I would like to get your view on this.

Aaron Taylor How have you both changed since you first began hosting Portrait Session? How has your photography evolved? How have your businesses changed? What would you say are the one or two important things you’ve learned that you wish you knew at the beginning?

Nov 28, 2017
Real Talk - Strobe & Speedlight Modifiers - EP 104

Erica and Connor talk about their preferred light modifiers in a variety of photographic situations.


  • What is your Overall favorite modifier and why?

  • Do you have a specific brand you love?

  • Favorite Modifier to go out on a location with

Oct 24, 2017
Pre-Production Tips for Styled Shoots - EP 103

Erica & Connor talk about their recent experiences producing styled shoots and major campaigns, and share their tips for successful shoots.


  • Erica’s most recent production

    • Hanga

    • 55 unique photos and videos

    • Production manager and photographer

  • Connor’s most recent styled shoot

    • Styled Shoot for Course Composite

    • Starting work on a series of personal projects to push myself to incorporate more and more into my productions. Will likely blog about it.

  • Why is Pre-production important? Is it really worth doing?

  • Pre-production tips

    • Concept brainstorming session

      • Concept

      • Script

      • Characters

      • Needs

        • Locations, sets, talent, props, wardrobe, stylists, HMUA, etc.

    • Organization

      • Workflows to help you keep track of things

      • Timelines

      • Communication with others involved

      • Day of shoot agenda & responsibilities

  • Production tips

    • Keep people happy

      • Food, drinks, music, etc.

    • Consider bringing someone to keep track of everyone and everything

    • Set lights and test everything before shoot begins

Sep 26, 2017
Using Video as a Form of Marketing - EP 102

Erica and Connor talk with Michael Sasser about the value of adding video as a marketing tool.


Michael Sasser is owner of Boudoir by Sasser, a popular boudoir photography company based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional photographer for 10 years and a professional videographer for 6 years. He uses the same cinematography in his portrait business as he did for weddings around the world. He currently teaches The Boudoir Video Course, a course with both PDF and over 2 hours of video content to show you how to leverage video to book more, sell more, and improve your brand.


  • Why is it important to incorporate video in advertising?

    • Separates you from the competition

    • Improves your brand

    • Helps you book more

  • In what ways do you use video in your marketing/advertising?

  • What key elements are important in a marketing video

  • How can people get started?

    • What you need to know

    • What equipment you need

Aug 28, 2017
Advice to Our Younger Photography Selves - EP 101

Connor and Erica share their advice for new portrait photographers.


  • Get out and shoot, but shoot with specific goals in mind.

  • If it doesn’t look the way you want it out of camera, you’re not going to get it that way in Post.

  • Look at other photographers for inspiration and study, but DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO THEM!!

  • College can be helpful for many people, but it is by NO means the only way to learn photography.

  • Your gear DOES NOT make you a better photographer. Understanding your gear does.

  • Don’t spend money on upgrading your gear unless you actually see the limitations your current gear is putting on you.

  • When it is time to upgrade gear, get the best you can afford, but do your research first. Often times the second best in a line is all you will ever need.

  • Take the time early on to learn how to light with OCF. Even if you want to shoot ambient light, it will make it MUCH easier to understand how to get flattering light if you understand how to manipulate it.

    • Learn manual as opposed to TTL

  • This is frustrating and hard sometimes. There are days that even the top professionals will feel like things aren’t coming out well.

  • Your money is often times much better spent on education than gear. This can be through any number of platforms and can look like a lot of things. Sure, you may be able to learn everything for free eventually, but paying for educational materials/workshops/mentorships often times provides higher quality results and much more rapid learning experiences.

  • Stop saying you’re self taught. You were likely taught by the industry’s top professionals.

  • Study Business and marketing.

  • Stop taking advice of people that know better than you half heartedly and feeling like you know better. You probably don’t.

Jul 24, 2017
Tips and Tricks for Posing Women - EP 100

Erica and Connor share their tips and tricks for posing women.


For more in depth advice for posing women, be sure to check out Erica’s training video on Improve Photography Plus!


  • Focus on curves

  • Work from the bottom up for a basic pose

    • Angle

    • Foot placement

    • Knees

    • Weight in back hip

    • Arms/elbows

    • Hands

    • Neck/shoulders

    • Chin

  • Using things to hide imperfections

    • Arms

    • Depth of field

    • Light and shadows

Jun 26, 2017
The Biggest Mistakes Photographers Make - EP 98

Nick and Connor discuss common mistakes we see photographers make in their photography and post processing of portrait sessions. 

Common mistakes we commonly see include things such as placing their light way to far from their subjects, placing their lighting to low compared to the subject, fumbling with gear and post processing blunders

May 10, 2017
Things to take care of before your busy season hits - EP 97

In this Episode Nick and Connor Discuss the tasks that a person should be taking care of in their slow season so they don't end up causing problems for you in the middle of your busy season. 

Apr 18, 2017
Proper white balance and calibration - EP 96

Connor and Sandy discuss proper techniques and reasoning behind proper white balance and calibration.

Apr 11, 2017
PS Facebook Group Q&A - EP 95

Episode 95:  Portrait Session Q&A

Erica and Connor discuss some of the questions that have been asked in the Portrait Session Facebook group recently.

  • Martina Vaughn Villarreal  Hello friends, I got my first request to photograph a wedding out of state.  I live in Austin and the wedding is in Seattle. I am wondering, what should be included in my travel fees? I was thinking of just charging for my plane ticket only. Thoughts, or recommendations? Thank you so much!

  • Boden Eanes I enjoy listening to all the "IP" podcasts/videos! However, I am looking for events or workshop around my area and not having much luck finding anything. Advice or suggestions on where/how to look? (Portrait/modeling workshops, wedding workshop photoshoots, and so on). When I search Facebook for local groups, most of them are only people sharing their photos with each other. How do you guys hear about local workshops or events? Or is it just google-ing until you strike gold? Lol

  • Carl Stover I love using reflectors, but I have the problem that I blind the models - especially kids. The silver and gold ones seem to be too bright and the white one is not bright enough. Could be a good topic for a discussion on the podcast, or maybe it's already been done. I usually prefer flash as I don't get as many squints.

  • Tim Evans Portrait photographers, in casual portraits, do you worry about lighting patterns (e.g. loop, butterfly, Rembrandt), or is that something more for formal, studio portraits?  Another, related question: I can achieve lighting patterns when I light one person, but I can’t see how you can do that with multiple people in the photo. Do you try to use lighting patterns with couples and groups?

  • Andrew Christmann  I have a portrait session tomorrow for a two year old's birthday. Since the weather is so crappy here (not sure why I live here), we're going to do the shoot inside on a backdrop. I've never done a shoot like this before. Since there's little separation from the backdrop, am I better off shooting with my 85/1.8 at f/4.0 (or higher). I have three speedlights that should be able to provide plenty of light.

Rifat Bin Sharif  Hello everyone! Guys how would you manage to pose your female model on a outdoor session? I am having a lot of trouble. And as tomorrow will be my 2nd outdoor portrait session I want some tips from you guys! Help me out please.

Mar 30, 2017
Advertising on Facebook - EP 94

Erica talks with Sarah Evans, the woman behind the course, Social Leads, to discuss the value of Facebook advertising and some best practices associated with it.

  • The value of advertising on social media, especially for portrait photographers
  • Common misconceptions or myths surrounding social media advertising
  • 1-2 takeaways that listeners can do RIGHT NOW to improve their social media marketing

Listener Questions:

Peter Foote Slideshows vs std ad vs actual dorky video of me? Best way to target wedding couples?

Brian Pex Does paying for the BOOST feature that they offer really work? I did it once for a test and got many likes on an image but whether that would lead to sales is still a question. Thanks

Margo Rader Best type of call to action and wording for that call

Tom Fairchild I've lived abroad for over a decade and for the last year or so have been completely on the road. In the next few months I do plan on settling down in a good sized city in the US and was wondering if Facebook Ads are a legitimate way to find new clients in a new area? My portfolio is strong (I hope!) but what would you suggest is the best way to go about finding people interested in my services as a portrait/travel/event photographer?

Special Discount:

Use code ERICA for $50 off full course + 30 minute strategy session (education.sarahevansweddings.com)

Mar 23, 2017
Live at the Improve Photography Retreat - EP 93

Erica, Connor, Nick, and Jeff answer questions from Portrait Sessions at the Improve Photography Retreat. They discuss the importance of a good accountant, best practices for taxes, and much more.

Mar 17, 2017
Shooting headshots like a pro - EP 92
  • Preferred lighting set ups

    Jessica Charron I'd be curious how you determine the best light setup. Headshots are used for all different types of businesses and website. I don't think it's too tricky to figure out bright and airy or dark and dramatic. But I'd like more info in the before the shoot stage I guess. Do you send questions to your client, do you have a consultation, do you just do the same set up for every headshot?

Morayo Sayles Hi Erica, I would love to discuss your take on Natural light headshots vs. flash headshots. I know Connor works in studio, but do either of you take your headshots outside? And when you do, how do you decide when you want natural lighting vs artificial lighting?

  • Traditional v. Environmental

Adrian Mitchell I use seamless rolls for backgrounds (Black, Thunder Gray, and White). Sometimes I get bored with these generic backgrounds and use gels to switch things up a bit, or apply textures to the background in post. Besides gels, are there any other special tricks you use to bring life to a bland or dismal background?

Margo Rader Do you use any portable back drops for headshots? If so, which ones?   Fancier Studio Pop up backdrop

  • Individuals v. Group

Zelda Zaragoza Johns I have a potential opportunity to do a high volume shoot. Wondering how to speed through a lot of people and still get good quality.

  • Acting/Dramatic v. Business

Scott Hallock For actor headshots, should the lens be at eye level, slightly above eye level, or slightly below eye level?

Agatha Knelsen How much is too much editing? We are providing pics that directors and talent agents expect to be a fair representation of the actor. Between posing and Photoshop, where is the line between true likeness and glamour?

Feb 24, 2017
Defining your style - EP 91

What is a photography style?

How do I identify my own style?

How do I develop my own style?

Where can I source inspiration for my style?

What styles am I drawn to?

Feb 03, 2017
Connor tackles listener questions - EP 90

What is banding and how do I deal with it?

What are best practices for lifestyle photos in low light situations?

What educational resources do you recommend for advanced photographers?

What are some other uses for your portrait lenses?

What factors do you consider when choosing which lens to shoot with?

Jan 26, 2017
Lessons learned from 2016 - EP 88

Episode 88: Erica, Nick, and Connor talk about their most valuable lessons learned 0f 2016 and their goals for 2017.  Be sure to join us in the Portrait Session Facebook group to share your goals and lessons learned!


Top 5:

  1. Always have a backup plan

  2. It is easy to say Yes to things. Learn when to say no.

  3. It is okay to not be in control of every aspect of your work.

  4. Teaching is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

  5. Keep an open mind to new experiences.

Creative goal: I want to shoot at least 1 ad Campaign for a major company

Business Goal: To get my business to a level that allows for a sustainable long term growth/ To sell out all of the workshops Sandy and I are putting together.



Top 5:

  1. Make time for yourself.  As much time as you want/can afford.

  2. You’ll never please everyone all the time.

  3. If you don’t like something, don’t do it.

  4. Be adventurous.

  5. Ask for what you want.

Creative goal:  Create epic multiple exposures on a regular basis.

Business goal:  Book at least 5 more weddings at my highest collection.



Top 5

  1. There are only so many hours to go around,

  2. Preparing and saving for off season

  3. Finding a direction to go with your style should be a personal choice

  4. Being happy is more important than money

  5. The only things we can’t do, are the things we are too afraid to try.

Creative goal:  Find my own style, and try to have my work stand apart from everyone else.

Business goal:  Get streamlined, simplified, and organized.  Made great steps in that direction in 2016, now it’s time to tie up loose ends.

Dec 28, 2016
Growing your business - EP 86

We all love small portrait sessions: Families, seniors, headshots

Benefits to this kind of session:

  1. You get to be creative

  2. You get to know your clients

  3. You build personal relationships with people that appreciate your talent as an individual

  4. You are an artist

Drawbacks to this kind of session:

  1. You constantly have to find new clients

  2. You have to explain the value of what you are doing

  3. Often times clients will have quite limited budgets

  4. To do this full time you have to be constantly marketing


Another option that can be used to bring in larger amounts of income with comparatively little time investment: Step and repeat Portrait Booths at events

  • Not talking about the often cheesy “hold up a moustache on a stick” photo booth

  • Not pre-made kibox kits that is self directed that print off little 2x2 prints right then and there.


  • Setting up a booth to take nice portraits that people can step in to, work with you for a minute and leave.



  1. Often dealing with larger organizations that have budgets for events.

  2. The hours are often relatively short (2-6 hours)

  3. Easy editing

  4. Don’t need to have nearly as many clients coming in to pay well.

  5. Often times a way to get you in contact with a lot of clients.



  1. It is Boring uninspiring work

  2. You don’t get to interact with clients in a personal way

  3. It often times takes more coordination before the event

  4. A need for a bit more gear.


How it is done:

Physical Booth:

  • Usually about a 10’x10’ space

  • Need 1-3 light

  • Often times a backdrop

  • Maybe a themed prop

  • Place 1 light in the corner of the booth boomed as far in as possible while still being easy to navigate.

  • Tripod centered

  • Gaff tape line to direct the flow of traffic

  • Best to have some sort of card with information on how to get the photos after the event

  • 1-2 assistants to direct the line and hand out card/answer questions about receiving photos.

  • You should spend about 20 seconds to a minute with each person/couple/family/group and take 2-3 photos of each.


How to get clients of this sort:

  • FIrst, make a list of holidays and or times of the year organizations tend to throw parties/employee outings/community events

  • Second make a list of Organizations and businesses that are likely to hold these kinds of events. (Hint: Look for companies that often are medium sized businesses with around 100-500 employees that could feasibly afford one of your in person sessions, but not so much that they would look down on the offer of a photo booth, i.e  banks, construction companies, office parks, etc.)

  • Third, cold call to set up an appointment to inquire about any yearly events and activities in which you might be a welcome attraction.

  • Be sure to follow up.

  • If this isn’t their first year doing the event they likely have an idea of attendance levels. Build an estimate considering around 50%-75% of families in attendance wanting photos at a cost ranging from $3-$10 per.

  • This price can either be paid for entirely by the hosts of the event, entirely by attendees (less preferable, you will do less work in these cases) or a hybrid (same as other)

  • Lighting is the same for each shot so you can sync across the whole event of shooting with only minor adjustments to exposure and occasional cropping.

  • Deliver either to the organization for them to make available to attendees, or have your own link made available.

Dec 07, 2016
10 things to do to improve your portraits - EP 84
  1. Shoot in raw

  2. Learn off camera flash

  3. Read Picture Perfect Posing

  4. Learn to walk the line between creative and tasteful editing

  5. Understand white balance

  6. Learn to “see” light.. And milk it for what it is worth

  7. Mentor with Erica Kay

  8. Get inspired, look at the works of others

  9. Watch Connor’s High End Retouching Video on IP+

  10. Never stop learning and finding that “new thing”

Nov 15, 2016
Q&A with Connor & Nick - EP 83

-All about off camera flash portraits: what modifiers to use, how to balance flash and ambient light, how to backlight, etc.?

-How do I build my portfolio to portray high end opportunities?

-Which website builder should I use for my new website?

-How do you prepare for a photo shoot?

Nov 07, 2016
Listener Q&A with Erica & Connor - EP 82

Jesse Park What is your favorite Lens setup for shooting outdoor portraits?

Andrew Block Two questions, I do a lot of volunteer photography in my kids classrooms. I use a magspheer and point it to the ceiling generally (or bounce on a wall). But, these are class rooms with ugly lighting so there are kids with nice white, and then background with a lovely yellowish tint. How do you handle? CTO? Second flash in a corner (seems kind of impossible)? Second question, do you guys ever do family sessions with little kids (10 and under) and use flash photography other than on camera fill light?

Aaron Taylor I struggle charging an additional fee for my clients to buy the full gallery. I may promise 20 images, but I'll always have 50 or so that are worth giving. I just can't bring myself to say, "For $75 more, you can have them all." I think about myself as a client. I'd want all of the good photos. And I think about my clients' photos. What am I going to do with the extra 30 photos if they don't buy the whole gallery? They're just going to sit on a hard drive. That's nothing to me but could be more great memories for the clients. Plus it just feels like a gotcha. It makes me uneasy, too much like a car salesman ("Sure the base model will get you places, but an extra $500 will get you two more cup holders!") and less like a human. Thoughts on this dilemma?

Adrian Mitchell I shoot a ton of Senior Portraits, and I'm trying to find a consistent and fair number of images to supply to my clients. My contract says at least 20, but I I usually deliver between 20-30. For my higher paying clients (more time involved), I end up around 40-50, but I find myself eating up a lot of time processing my images. Furthermore, do any of you time yourselves when editing, so you’re not spending so much time. I often perform some extensive retouching to eyes, skin, and hair. I'm OCD and want my image to look perfect for my clients. Maybe I should charge more for this, but the client doesn't know what goes on behind closed doors, to warrant the extra charge; they just know that they look good. Sorry, my question turned into like 3 questions.

Janice Bryan Excluding your nifty fifty, what is your favorite prime lens?

Debra Gomez Do either of use a 50 mm 1.8 lens for portraits ?

Nick Page Has anyone figured out Facebook's new algorithms? I've noticed a huge drop in the number of likes and comments on my photos this past month. Does Facebook suck or do I? LOL

Oct 25, 2016
Nick and Connor live in Maui - EP 81

-What gear do we travel with?

-What bags do we use?

-How do we book sessions in other locations?

-How to use island weather to your advantage when photographing.

Oct 18, 2016