About Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco based freelance writer and editor at creativeLIVE – an online education platform dedicated to providing free interactive photography, business and design courses taught by some of the world's best instructors.

How To Price Newborn Photography Sessions

Guest Post by Kelly Brown There are few things as precious as a baby’s first weeks of life, and the photos taken during this joyful time will be cherished by families for years to come. Newborn pictures are priceless, but a professional photographer’s services are valuable –– and part of your job is to price sessions in a way that’s fair to both your client and yourself. When it comes to setting your price list, there are several things to keep in mind…

Kelly b2

1. What Are Your Overheads?

Make sure to allocate a certain amount of money per year for overheads, and take this amount into consideration when deciding how much to charge clients. Always keep in mind the cost of running your business, including rent (whether you work from home or in a studio), gas, electricity, the cost of packaging –– even the cost of the clothes you shoot in! If you’re using top notch equipment, the high quality of your work will be reflected in your higher prices.

2. How Much Do You Want To Pay Yourself?

Kelly4Since you’re self-employed, you have the advantage of setting your own salary. But before you do so, consider the cost of living in your hometown, your personal bills and expenses, as well as how much money you’d like to put into savings each year. Add this amount to your overheads so that you can estimate how many clients you’ll need to work with per year, and how much you’ll need to charge them per session.

3. How Many Sessions Per Week Can You Work?

Decide how many days of the week / year you’re able to work (keep in mind that you’ll want to give yourself holiday and sick days), and divide this amount by how much it costs you to run your business. Voila, now you know how much you need to charge per session!

4. Will Your Minimum Package Cover All Your Expenses?

Your smallest priced package should cover all your expenses and pay your personal salary. This way, if clients choose to purchase a more expensive package, the extra cash is an added bonus that you can stash away in savings, or even spend on vacation.

5. Don’t Back Down On Your Price List

Chances are you’ve had clients ask you for a discounted rate. While it can be tempting to lower your prices, don’t cave. You’ve already worked out how much you need to earn per year to make ends meet, and if you start discounting, word of mouth will spread and soon price reductions will be expected. Stick to your pricing structure, and never sell yourself short!


For more tips from Kelly Brown, tune into “Bumps to Babies: Photographing Motherhood” on creativeLIVE August 23rd to August 25th. She’ll be teaching alongside award-winning glamour photographer Sue Bryce. Kelly Brown is a newborn photographer from Brisbane, Australia and founder of Little Pieces Photography.

How to Get Published in Fashion Magazines

Guest Post By Lindsay Adler

Photos courtesy of Lindsay Adler

One of the most common questions I am asked is, how do you get published in fashion magazines? Its one thing to take beautiful images but how do you take the next step into sharing these with others in a print publication?


It seems that there just isn’t enough quality advice out there on getting published, making it difficult to know where to start! Here’s a few things I’ve discovered along the way that have helped me start to get published!

1) Start with what’s in front of you

When I started to build my portfolio as a fashion photographer, I certainly didn’t start off with agency models or gorgeous women. Instead, I started out with whoever was willing to pose for me! I had to build a portfolio to show my photographic skill first before branching out to other creative professionals like hair, makeup, wardrobe and models.

The first step is to hone your skills using everyday people, environments, props. No fashion photographer has every made it simply by decorating beautiful people with couture clothing. First and foremost, you need to understand light, composition, and how to create a storyline.


The best way to do that is to start with average, everyday people in everyday attire. Think about all the powerful fashion editorials we’ve seen using nothing more than silhouettes. These shots are powerful, and the model’s role is more of an object than an emotive person. By developing your own style and point of view, you will catch the eye of up-and-coming designers and models.

In October of this year my next book, Creative 52, will be available where I provide you weekly challenges to help push yourself to create an invigorate portfolio no matter what your budget or what subjects you have access to!

2) Approach models

Once you have a small portfolio of quality images that showcase your control of light and make your subjects look phenomenal, models will be more likely to accept an offer to work for you. It’s that simple: make people look good and more people will want you to photograph them. Your pockets don’t need to be deep. Most models who are just starting out will exchange their services for access to your photos. Consider reaching out to local agencies, Model Mayhem or Craigslist and provide your images (TFCD- Trade for CD) in exchange for them posing. Usually 3-5 retouched images suffice as pay for their time.

3) Approach Hair and Makeup Artists

Makeup and hair stylists want to see your command of light and the quality of models. When you have a team or hair and makeup, this helps take your work to another levels; they add their own artful finishing touches, adding a sheen of professionalism to your photographs. If you can show hair and makeup artists that you have a solid portfolio with opportunities to highlight their work, you are sitting in a great position to attract quality stylists. If you are having trouble getting started, try your local high-end salon. Negotiate an in-kind partnership, where they trade their time for the rights to use your photos for their own promotional materials. Also consider cosmetology schools and model mayhem when first getting started.


4) Pitch Online Magazines

Now that you have honed your lighting techniques, composition, storyboarding, all the necessary fundamentals, and have a portfolio of great images with beautiful models and hair and makeup stylists, you are ready to pitch your work to publications. Unlike print publications, online magazines have an infinite amount of pages to fill with new images every day (if not every hour). They are always looking for quality editorial content. You can use platforms like ISSUU and MagCloud to find your niche — type fashion in the search bar and pick which publications would be a good fit for your work. Another way to pinpoint potential online editorial targets is to research where photographers you admire have been published. Also, be sure to ask your own creative team (hair, makeup, wardrobe, models) if they have recommendations. Local or regional publications are a great way to start as you build up your credentials.

5) Approach Print Publications

The final step is all about perseverance. Getting in contact with editors at print publications can be a real headache. When I was first starting out, I would send out 200 emails at a time and only get a handful of responses at best!  Try to find ways to make yourself stand out and show the publications that you are knowledgeable about what they do. When sending them a message, don’t just say “here is my work, publish me”. Instead, tell them what draws you to their publication and what has recently appeared in their magazine that attracts you. Then explain how your work is a good fit and how you propose you work with them in the future. Do you have specific ideas for a shoot? Perhaps a mood board or collection of images to entice them with? Or maybe you have already completed a shoot that fits their magazines that you’d be interested in them publishing. Having knowledge about the publication is key; what types of designers do they feature (if any), what is their ‘look’ of model, and what style of photography to they publish.


Another key element is to get your name out there in any way possible. If your emails aren’t getting through, follow the editor on Twitter, Facebook and find their blog.

Start to make comments on posts and tweets that interest you. Maybe you have a blog post on a similar topic and you share the same viewpoints. If so, let them know in a personal message or a tweet! This might sound like a big time commitment, but it only takes a few minutes a day and pays dividends. After a while, they will recognize your name and when your phone calls and emails roll in, they’ll be that much more likely to want to speak with you. Its essential to get the right people to notice you, so put time and effort into the editors of your target publications!

If you want to learn more, check out my free workshop with Erik Valind on creativeLIVE August 12-14.

Lindsay Adler is a professional portrait and fashion photographer based in New York. Her editorials have appeared in dozens of publications internationally including Bullett Magazine, Zink Magazine, Fault and more. She regularly contributes to a variety of major photo publications including Professional Photographer, Rangefinder Magazine, and Popular Photography.

A Businessman’s Approach to Photography : The Best Method for Signing New Clients

Guest post by Topher Kelly

Photographs courtesy of Jared Bauman

In a world of salesmen who assure clients that they know “what’s best,” the Socratic sales method, one that revolves around listening and asking questions, isn’t the most popular approach. That said, there’s something to the Socratic sales method that most modern businessmen, whether they are a small town photographer or a Fortune 500 CEO, often underestimate. The art to of listening can uncover a potential client’s key fears, objections, and interests. This is information vital to making a connection and transforming a potential client into an impressed customer and loyal advocate.


The reasons for employing the Socratic business method boils down to three simple benefits. Professional photographer and business coach Jared Bauman sums it up nicely: “When you ask the right questions and take the time to listen, the client will tell you what you need to know, you’ll learn about all their reservations and objections, and most importantly, you’ll gain their trust.” The key to achieving the benefits Bauman mentions depends on connecting with the potential client and asking the appropriate open-ended questions. “Try to keep them talking and relate to them whenever possible…the goal is to make them feel at home,” says Bauman.


According to Bauman, the most rewarding part about this method is when that person is so involved in the conversation that they literally lean forward to you, their new acquaintance, and say “I can’t believe I’m telling you this!” With that in mind, your goal should be to make them feel at ease with you, so that they feel comfortable talking about where they are from, their engagement story, and as many other details as your time permits. Find out their style, income, and how big their family is without asking those questions directly. If you can do that, they’ll trust your vision of their special event and, more importantly, your pricing sheet.


For photographers, the Socratic method is about more than just locking down a client. It’s about finding out if you and the potential customer in front of you are a good fit. “Most photographers, especially if they are just starting out, can’t shoot 300 weddings in a year. This process helps you solve the equation quickly – do I want to work their event? Do they want me to work their event?” says Bauman.

“What people often forget is that in the photography business, like any business, customers buy people, not the brand. You need to be genuinely interested in your potential clients and sell them what makes you unique as a person, not your Jared Headshotphotography service. That’s the step you need to take to be successful in this competitive industry.”


With a background in business, Jared Bauman provides the photography community with professional coaching and education. He is an expert in photographer pricing, and has toured the country speaking about how to maximize profits through a clear and simple pricing structure.  Jared is teaching a free live online course on creativeLIVE August 1-3.

Second Shooter Tips From JD Delatorre & Jasmine Star

Guest Post by Topher Kelly

All Photos Courtesy of JD Delatorre & Jasmine Star

Becoming a profitable professional photographer is a long uphill climb. Those who are JD+JasmineHeadshotserious about bringing their dream job to life will do most anything they can to get started in a world that is already saturated with quality professionals. For most people, this often means starting as a second shooter for established photographers at weddings and other events.

A second shooter can be more than an opportunity to learn and gain experience. It can be profitable, too. However, there isn’t a ton of advice out there for people looking to perfect the art of the second shooter. That’s why I sat down with one of the most prosperous second shooters in America, JD Delatorre, to ask him for some of the tips he wish he knew when he first started. JD is Jasmine Star’s husband, and the quieter half of the successful wedding photography duo that has taken wedding photography by storm over the last several years. Once we got past the basics such as appropriate attire, offering to carry the main shooter’s bag, and checking your ego at the door, 3 really helpful tips that stood out:

1. Take Care of Vendors

During a wedding day, I usually don’t have time to cultivate friendships, but I always make sure to include every vendor throughout the day. If they need anything, I offer assistance. If the vendor dinner is served, I try to make sure everyone knows. It’s small things that ensure everyone feels like we’re on the same team… and there’s a high probability we’ll work together again in the future, so make sure to have everyone’s back.



One of the first weddings Jasmine and I photographed together we had another photographer tag along with us. The night was flowing nicely until I overheard the third shooter pass his/her business card to a wedding guest… and passed his/her studio name along. I can’t explain how rude this is. On a wedding day, a second and third photographer is just that… an accompanying photographer to the main photographer’s studio. If a guest asks for a business card from a second shooter (which happens often!), the second shooter should always pass along the main photographer’s business card. Period. The end. If you want to gain respect from the main photographer, you can’t act like that at a wedding. Play your part in the event and if someone really took notice of your work, they’ll get a hold of you through the main photographer.


3. Find New Angles

Don’t shoot over the main photographer’s shoulder! When I first started shooting with Jasmine, I shot behind her and captured ­­basically ­­the same photo as she did. Okay, just not as cool. She finally explained that she didn’t need another version of her photo…she needs an entirely different photo of the same moment. I’ll admit this is harder than it seems, but I know she appreciates creativity and a different photo from the exact same moment.


If you are a second shooter looking to hone the art, take JD’s words seriously. For someone who rarely acts as a main shooter, his success has brought him to the front pages of magazines throughout the world that most main shooter’s could only dream of touching. He’s even teaching a free workshop on creativeLIVE August 6-7 with Jasmine. Who said a second shooter just stands in the shadows?


12 Great Tips for Outdoor Portrait Photography

Sometimes, what we truly want is a simple, back to basics style when it comes to outdoor portrait photography.  And while taking great shots of people is challenging, there are a few things to keep in mind when you wish to take your work to the next level.

Here are some simple tips for outdoor portraits that everyone can benefit from when shooting their next outdoor portrait session.

1. Select a Location

portrait of a woman in the park

Image Source: Pexels

Locations are very important and should be planned out in advance. Look for locations that are of interest and can enhance your session. Parks, lakes, and other open spaces offer natural scenery. These tend to be the first places people think of. On the other hand, don’t forget about architecture. Buildings and other structures bring warm elements into a portrait. Doors, windows, walls, a staircase or pillars will bring wonderful life to your photos.

Choose a location that is not busy and bustling with activity. A quiet area will allow a client to be more focused. Such a peaceful avenue will also allow them to listen to your posing instructions without distractions or loud noises that would otherwise interfere with your work.

2. Repeating Lines

Portrait of a woman standing near old columns

Image Source: DepositPhotos

A great way to add depth to your portraits is to find a location with repeating lines. Columns, pillars or other structures add interest to a portrait. They create a portrait that stands apart from others. Even though the main focus of the image will definitely be an expressive face, the background can frame this moment beautifully.

3. Use a Longer Lens

Canon 70-200mm F2.8 telephoto lens

Image Source: eBay

By selecting a longer lens, you can make your subject the focus point. This way, your background will remain soft, and viewers will admire only the key element of your work, which is outdoor portrait photography. This adds to the drama of the portrait and can give you a unique look and style. One of my favorite lenses is a 70-200mm F2.8. Use your longer focal length (150mm – 200mm) to separate your subject from the background.

4. Clothing Selection

beautiful blonde girl posing

Image Source: Pixabay

To ensure optimal results, consult with your client about clothing selections prior to your portrait. Advice them to stay away from busy patterns (i.e. plaids, polka dots or flowery prints) and opt for darker to medium tones instead.

If you have more than one person in the portrait such as a family, teach your clients about matching outfits. I’m not talking about imposing a uniform for all participants. However, your clients should respect some basic rules of composition. For instance, if one is in jeans, they all should be. Black turtlenecks always work well. Long sleeves work better than short sleeves or tank tops. Put the emphasis on faces, and you will really increase your sales.

5. Pose by Example

Show your subject how you want them to pose, what to lean on or how to sit. I always find that it’s easier to pose by example, so each person can see the poses you’re looking for. It saves a lot of time and frustration on both parts and makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

Usually, people have their own favorite postures. However, these might simply not work for outdoor portrait photography. Don’t forget to smile when you are showing them your moves. Otherwise, your help might look condescending which can create an uncomfortable feeling throughout the photo shooting.

6. Groups – Start with the Smallest

people posing for a group photo

Image Source: DepositPhotos

Once you have a setting selected, start with the smallest groups and build up. Usually, members of smaller groups are having an easier time connecting between them than large parties. As a consequence, by starting off with a cheerful gang, the others will try to reciprocate the initial good spirits.

In the end, everyone will have a better chance at relaxing and letting you surprise them in their happy moments. Try and build in triangle formation within your groups (two people on the ground as a base and one behind and between).

7. Use a Tripod

A tripod is an essential part of your outdoor portrait photography equipment. Besides stability, a tripod will also endow you with the ability to move quickly. Your camera will remain focused on a particular area while you move the subjects in and out in different group formations. This tool might look insignificant, but it will ensure you a crisp image, no matter what lens size you are using.

8. Ensure that the Eyes Are in Focus

portrait of a young brunette

Image Source: Pixabay

When the eyes are in focus, you have a guaranteed seller.  Clients almost always want their eyes to pop out of their portraits. For the sake of contrast, imagine a family photo album with everyone having their eyes closed.

There are high chances that such portraits would look lifeless and surreal. The eyes possess a unique way to communicate people’s mood. If your photo shooting is joyful, then your images will surely contaminate viewers with the same mood.

9. Choose the Perfect Time of the Day

portrait of a young couple

Image Source: Pexels

When it comes to a wedding or any other big event, you have no control over timing. These festivities are planned in advance, and they have too many members to control. However, things are different with a portrait. Always work in the sweet light (or golden hour) – early morning or late evening. By having the sun in the lower hemisphere of the sky, you can work in a variety of situations without dramatic shadows, squinting eyes, and harsh lines.

10. Use a Reflector

portrait with or without a reflector

The advantage of using a reflector with natural light (Image Source: Pinterest)

I have never been a fan of adding flash outside during a portrait session. With beautiful, natural light, why bring in “fake” light? A reflector can be an invaluable tool for an outdoor portrait photography session. You can easily direct light right where you want it – your clients’ face and eyes.

11. Try a Softbox

Reflectors are great whenever you have directional light you can bounce into place. However, sometimes you are working with much softer light, and a reflector won’t do the trick. Try a softbox instead.

A softbox separates harsh sunlight spots from  natural light. You can make your own softbox with PVC pipe for a frame and stretch white material, ripstop nylon or a cotton bed sheet, to fill the frame. I use elastic corners to keep mine snug on the frame. You can make a variety of sizes to tuck in your bags for travel with ease.

12. Capture in RAW

Unlike the larger exposure range that film has, digital cameras have a smaller exposure range. Shooting in a .jpg mode where the camera processes each image into a final processed image limits the ability to adjust during post processing. If your exposure is incorrect, the image will be underexposed (loss of detail in the shadows) or overexposed (loss of detail in the highlights) and could be a complete loss.

Another issue associated with the .jpg format is a loss of information every time the file is saved. This process causes a degradation of image quality. RAW is an unprocessed format, which allows adjustments to color, contrast, and exposure. Once adjusted, the RAW format can be processed into a final .jpg image without image quality loss.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to outdoor portrait photography, you must first establish a connection of trust with your clients. Regardless of how many techniques you master, the final work will appear awkward if clients are not feeling comfortable. With the above tips and tricks, you can ensure a successful session in a simple yet classic style.