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  • September 25, 2018 8:53 AM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

    Underwater photography is challenging. Understanding how water affects a subject, the use of special underwater equipment, ambient or artificial lighting choices, gravity, posing, props, and clothing choices if your subject is a human, post processing, a love for being underwater, and a gigantic dose of patience are all needed to be proficient. Here are a few more tips to help make it a successful experience.


    The most important part of underwater photography is to get as close as possible to your subject.  Our eyes need air to focus, this is why we wear a mask when diving but even with a mask there are still optical effects due to light traveling at different speeds from the air to the water.  When light travels from air to water, it changes, shifting its course and creates refraction in the water.  Refraction magnifies everything by 33% which makes objects look larger and closer.  So while I may think my subject is reasonably close, I know I have to get even closer because what my eyes and brain thinks and sees, are not actually correct.

    Water absorbs light and as you descend, light and colors dissipate quickly due to the fact that light reflects off of the surface, scatters off particles in the water and the water absorbs the light.  This occurs unevenly which is (one of the reasons) why images are filled with backscatter or looks dull.  When you reduce the amount of mater between the camera and the subject, images are sharper, more colorful, and the amount of particles in the water are reduced, reducing backscatter.

    A wide angle lens is most commonly used for photographing people, fitting the whole body into the frame and decreasing the amount of space between the camera and subject.  A 50mm, 85mm, or 100mm lens may also be selected for a headshot and when doing so, I may inches from their face.  Get closer!
    Underwater photography is challenging. Understanding how water affects a subject, the use of special underwater equipment, ambient or artificial lighting choices, gravity, posing, props, and clothing choices if your subject is a human, post processing, a love for being underwater, and a gigantic dose of patience are all needed to be proficient.


    Your favorite camera will fit into an underwater housing.  There are many name brands to choose from, but I would not ever use a bag because the slightest leak will ruin your favorite camera.

    For underwater, I use an Olympus OMD EM1 Mark 11 for so many reasons but the two biggest reasons are, in body stabilization and the lightweight body.  With in body stabilization, I rarely have a blurry photograph, even if I’m diving in an ocean with a current.  My shoulders are not the greatest due to all of my years swimming so a lightweight camera means a lightweight body.  The other amazing features of the Mark 11 is it’s bullet 18 frames per second of sequential shooting and using C-AF tracking, I don’t miss much!

    Nauticam is my housing of choice and I LOVE it because the buttons are exactly where my camera buttons are and there is an integrated vacuum monitoring and leak detection system meaning I am provided a constant monitor of the watertight integrity.  The rubber handles are integrated into the body, and the controls are oversized which is so important for me because when diving in chilly water and wearing gloves, the controls are easy to use.


    As I stated earlier, water absorbs light and the deeper you go, the darker and duller all objects become.  With a pop of a flash, all of the sudden a grey object at 60 feet under will show all of it’s true beauty.  So why would I use strobes when I am in a pool, three to five feet under?  Because I have them!  Seriously though, there is still a loss of light and I am trying to create portrait lighting styles similar to land portrait photography and note I said, trying.   When using strobes, I use two, the strobes are pointed evenly out, or slightly outward and slightly behind your lens.  If the strobes are pointed inward toward the subject, backscatter will show up on your subject and anything black in color.  I am currently experimenting using my strobes in manual mode, and playing with positions to create shadows and depth on my clients and models meanwhile avoiding backscatter that occurs if I were to place the strobes as I would in any on land portrait session (45 degree angle, above client etc.)  It is a challenge.  I want to see what can be done and how can I give depth to my underwater images.

    My strobes are connected by fiber optic cables running from the strobes to my housing.  In my housing is a mini flash trigger which is located on my cameras hot shoe.  This mini flash trigger allows me to obtain 10 frames per second!

    Ambient light is fun to play with also, it creates waves of light across the face and body.  Position your subject to create natural shadows and depth.


    Fresh, saline, salt, and chlorine.  These are the types of water one can photograph in and listed in order of preference for photographing people underwater.  Chlorinated water creates waves not visible to the human eye which is due to the chemicals.  Photos may be hazy, cloudy and hurts your subjects eyes, turning them red.  The challenges of photographing in salt water is buoyancy, currents, fish, sharks, and it can sting eyes also.  Saline pools photograph wonderfully but fresh water is the clearest and typically really cold.

    With all water, the particulate matter is present and the amount depends on water conditions.  White floating things, undetectable with the eye, are my nemesis to underwater photography!

    White balance is also a challenge and just as it is on land, white balance changes with each situation, environment or backdrop change.  Everything tends to look blue and green underwater because the sunlight carries a full spectrum of colors, but the red and orange wavelengths of light are absorbed by the water much more quickly.  Again, this is the reason for the use of strobes.  Custom white balance can be achieved by targeting a white fin or going though your white balance options in camera.  I typically use 5400 kelvin in the pool but it just depends on backdrops and the subjects skin.  And of course there is always post processing to adjust white balance.


    Place a rock in the pool, it sinks.  Place a balloon in the pool, it floats.  Now place a human in the water, he or she will float.  Why?  Because basically there are two giant balloons of air in our bodies, our lungs.  The human body is less dense than water so that fact plus air is in our lungs result in the body being pushed upwards by the water.  It’s a gravity thing which I am not going into.

    When scuba diving, a diver wears weight belts and creates a neutral buoyancy, taking a deep breath to rise and exhaling to sink.  However, in the pool, we just want to sink so in order to achieve that, the balloons must be deflated in a way, the air in the lungs needs to be dumped out.

    Every single person, particularly swimmers, take a deep breath before going under.  For portraiture, all air must be blown out in order to sink, a scary thing to do!!!  Some people are more dense than others so they are able to sink.  More dense equates more muscles, less body fat.  Thus, typical maternity underwater shoots are a challenge as the maternal body stores extra water and the breast mass is more fatty, making it difficult to sink.  A trick is to put a 2 pound weight between the breasts or in spanks or some tight underwear.  Sometimes I also tell a client to hook their foot around a 25 pound weight I have at the bottom of the pool.  Material they have on will cover the weight or I will post process warp the material to cover the weight and their foot.

    Underwater Portraiture Female in White


    Before we both submerge, one pose is discussed then we let all of our air out and submerge, surfacing whenever the subject needs to.  Some people can tolerate a long time without air, others are up quickly, there is no right way here!  Adjustments are made with each resurface.  When underwater, the subject can not see me because remember your eyes need air to focus so they just see a blur therefore,  I cannot give instructions underwater as I would on land.  Tiny adjustments are made before each submersion and this is the session, up - down - up - down.  Posing is very slow and intentional.


    Like a rock and balloons; wrought iron and computers sink, balloons and flowers float.  Props are so fun.  I’ve sunk chairs, a phone attached to a table, a baseball, a tennis ball, a computer, scooter, birthday candle, cameras, and instruments are my next goal.

    Clothing is anything that flows and is bright.  Make your own outfit, shop at Goodwill & thrift stores or use what the model below used, a parachute.  If it has movement, it will work!   The color choice will also reflect on your subjects skin so paying attention to skin tones and color selection is very important.  Chiffon is the material of choice.  Tulle sinks and is difficult to move in but my pool is 5’ 5” so I am comfortable sinking someone in Tulle.  I would never photograph a tulle "Trash the Dress" in the ocean.  Deaths have occurred this way so your fabric choice is important for safety.


    Post processing for underwater portrait photography, I believe, has a very large learning curve due to skin colors, material worn and all of the particles in the water.  With trial and error, I finally have a routine as to how I process my underwater images.  It generally takes me 5-7 minutes for portrait re-touching but for underwater, multiply that by four which is why my underwater images cost four times as much.


    Now you can see why patience is so important.  Patience to understand the water, knowing your camera and housing so well that you could use it in the dark.  Patience with lighting either experimenting with strobes or working with your available natural light, positioning your subject for the desired outcome.  Patience learning to work with the water you have available, embracing that particles in the water, and adjusting white balance.  Patience working with others, developing a very big trust so they are comfortable letting all of their air out, constantly up and down, and  working with clients that cannot sink.  Patience with post processing, which requires a lot of time experimenting because there is not a lot of guidance with this.
      Underwater Woman in Red


    There is nothing more graceful, intriguing, and stunning than a human form underwater, once comfortable.  It seems to take about 20-30 minutes of a person choking on water due to it entering the sinus cavity and trying to figure out how to sink before they begin to relax.  Once relaxed, it is like a light bulb was turned on and then beauty is created.  The subject begins to dance, to explore, and move their body in ways they cannot do on land.  Once the subject lets go is the time that beauty is created.  Underwater photography is challenging but the rewards outweigh the "challenge"!

    Lori Probst

    Lori Anne Probst Photography
    St. Louis



    I have always thrived in the water! I can remember competing on swim team and synchronized swimming since I was just a young girl (yes, you heard me, synchronized swimming, even before it was an Olympic sport) but then I went to college to study Nursing.  I met and married my amazingly kind husband (of now 34 years) and talked him into Scuba diving…poor man, there was not going to be a “No” out of his mouth!  So, 32 years later, we have been diving ever since (and he loves that I made him do this ‘“for me”, don’t ya love marriage!!!)

      I am a wife, mother, grandmother, dog lover, fish lover, Monarch Butterfly Raiser, and nurse.  I am an active woman who snow ski’s, lifts weights, cycles, and scuba dives.  I am also a photographer who began with no intention of my skills ever being used for portraiture or even beginning my own business, however, I found I love capturing “people moments” so I “retired” from my life long nursing career and now my camera is my full time passion!  I have traveled all over the states learning from the best photographers, mentored one-on-one, attended seminars, studied other’s work, took college courses, all for the pure love and joy of photography.  Then one day, God opened a door.  With full trust, I followed His path and I am so  happy I did.   I love photographing newborns, children, and maternity, however, my true love is for Underwater Portraiture or Aquatic Portraiture.  There is something about photographing life underwater that is uniquely intriguing, graceful and looks fascinatingly beautiful, no matter what sex, size, shape, race, or age.  I sometimes feel as if I am part mermaid, called to the water as the ocean stirs my heart, inspires my imagination and brings me such joy and inspiration to my creative soul!

  • May 29, 2018 4:20 PM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

    August will be here before you know it! Are you ready for our annual Develop conference? Do you have your room booked at the Holiday Inn Executive Center? One of the many things we pride ourselves on is being able to find facilities that will meet the needs and comfort of our attendees. We work hard to secure the best rates to make attending our events easy and cost effective, thus allowing more time to network with your fellow photographers. So in light of that, we would love the chance to spotlight this year’s location.

    The Holiday Inn Executive Center features over 36,000 square feet of event space, three restaurants and bars, two swimming pools, business centers, and a 3,000 square foot state-of the-art gym with 24-hour access! Plus, they are pet friendly! And parking is free!

    Enjoy a restful nights sleep on a pillow top mattress and stay connected with free wireless internet. Your room amenities include a mini refrigerator, coffee maker, tea maker, complimentary coffee/tea supplies, and in-room climate control.

    The on-site restaurants are SportsZone and Churchill’s Steak & Seafood. The SportsZone has 24 high definition flat screen TVs throughout and a 16’ x 9’ front and center high definition screen. The Zone serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a menu that has something for everyone, from tempting appetizers to steaks and dessert. It is located on the lobby level. Hours are 6am to 10pm.
    Churchill’s Steak & Seafood is the only Columbia dining establishment with a 4-star rating. It offers the finest in steak and seafood cuisine along with extensive wine selections. Reservations are recommended. Hours are 5:30pm to 10:00pm Thursday-Saturday. It is also located on the Lobby level.
    There is also a cocktail lounge in the atrium where you can enjoy a refreshing drink and listen to the player piano. Hours are from 5pm-10pm. Earlier in the day the Atrium Lounge serves coffee drinks and breakfast pastries.
    Room service is available from 6:00am to 9:30pm. Kids 11 and under eat free any time of day in any on-site restaurant.

    We will have plenty of room for our fabulous instructors and classes with the 19,000 square foot expo center, two ballrooms, four meeting rooms and an executive boardroom. The hotel is conveniently located off I-70 at Stadium Boulevard. Across the street is the Columbia Mall and Cosmo Park.

    Cosmo Park is a 533 acre park with hiking trails, ball parks, playgrounds, a remote control car track, roller hockey rink, tennis courts, a leash-free dog park, lakes and more! This would be a great place for an after-hour photo session. Another after-hour option is a club called The Blue Note just moments from the hotel. They have been entertaining crowds for 25 years with great live music and events from talented local and national artists.

    To book a room you can call 888-HOLIDAY or online at https://goo.gl/41QAk1. Make sure to book through our Develop conference room block for a special rate before July 25th. And you don't need to pay until you check in! We can't wait to see you there in August!! 

  • May 21, 2018 9:52 AM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

      Life is often a journey, not of straight roads but of curvy paths. They all look a little different and sometimes may not quite turn out the way we originally anticipated. But despite it all the ups and downs it's always fun to see where life takes us.  I am coming up on 6 months since becoming a Certified Professional Photographer and 3 months since I started a new job as an Occupational Therapist. Both of these undertakings have been really awesome, but in many ways, super challenging. I was chatting with my friend and fellow CPP, Sarah today, and she said something to the effect of this: "Anytime you are new to something, it can be difficult. But you just have to remember that you have to keep working hard and it will get easier."

    When I accomplished becoming a CPP followed by attaining a part time OT job not long after, I had envisioned many facets in my life changing. While things are definitely a lot different than they were a few months ago, they aren't at all the way I had imagined them. For instance, I still have not changed any of my pricing for my business nor have I dedicated specific time for photography training or social media marketing like I had planned. Instead, I have been working more at my “part time” job than I did at the full time job that I left. I took a leap from my very comfortable job I had known for 10 years to go into a whole different world of therapy. It is hard because I have a LOT to learn,  train for, and get accustomed to. But I have to remind myself that getting my CPP also took a lot of training and being able to handle critiques to learn and gain more skill as a photographer.

    My opinion,  the great things in life are worth the hard work that you inevitably have to put into achieving them. As a photographer, getting my CPP took a lot of hard work but it is an honor that I cherish. The same to an OT, I’m training to be a part of the feeding team that works with parents to ensure safe feedings for babies that are released from the NICU. Even though it can be challenging it will be an honor every day that I get to help families with their sweet little ones. I am very accustomed to taking photos of newborns, but now I will get to work with them as an OT and that is beyond cool to me! This was one of my dreams while I was in OT school, that one day I would work with babies. I never really thought it would happen and now it is! As fate would have it my career paths crossed when I was actually able to help one of the families for whom I was taking newborn photos. I asked to observe the baby’s feeding to help with training for my job, and I was able to suggest some modifications that were helpful to ensure the sweet baby boy did not lose as much from his feedings. How amazing is that?! It was yet more evidence, that despite the uphill climb at the beginning God had a plan for me to get this new job and that  has a plan for us when we are having to work hard to get through the changes or just plain struggles of life.

    I will leave you with this quote that I previously posted to Instagram:"The will of God will not take you where the grace of God will not protect you."

    I hope that wherever you are on your life’s journey, you will keep working hard and push through the challenges! It’s worth the struggle to be able to achieve your dreams, whatever they may be!

    Kim Lorenz, owner/photographer of Creative Visions Photography. Photography is not my primary profession, but it is one of my passions!


  • April 24, 2018 8:43 AM | Deleted user

    It has often been whispered about, and anyone in the creative realm is aware of its existence but it is still rarely addressed. What is it you ask? The battle of the creative mind, mental health. We all have heard the stories of Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, and many other artists of the past but this is the modern world and some would even go as far to say that photographers aren't really artists, but science would beg to differ. A study done in Sweden around 2013 found that "People working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers, and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition, and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. They also found that people in creative professions were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia, and autism."

    Anyone with a creative mind tends to see the world a bit differently. The same gift that makes us notice what others pass by every day, also causes us to be sensitive to things that can entrap us if we don't recognize it's power and take back control. How do we do this?

    Fractured Innocence by Rachel Edgington

    1.) Be outspoken about your struggle.

    As business owners, we feel the pressure of not letting our guard down. We must remain strong at all times because to exhibit vulnerability is to display weakness. However, the opposite seems to be true. The more we are open about our fight, especially with those in the same profession as us, the more we find we are not alone and in fact seen as courageous. It's not to say those concerns will go away but we may discover various new methods of coping with our weaknesses from others who have those same issues. Many mental illnesses tend to lead us to a lonely place. When we take that place and saturate it with others to support us, that darkness is not as stifling as it once was.

    Being completely transparent, I too, fall into this category as I have a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder, and I, in turn, suffer from anxiety disorder. It is easy for me to hide it but I choose not to, as much for my own well being as for others. The more I have given it voice, the more I find others suffering in silence. We put a mask over it as we focus on our art. The danger of that is, it may slowly eat at us until it's too late.

    2.) Seek professional help.

    We like to think we can get through this on our own but sometimes medical intervention is necessary. There seems to be a shame involved in seeking treatment but there shouldn't be. We have resources available to us now more than ever before in history. Those treatments don't have to be in the form of a pill, totally fine if they do, but it might simply come in having a professional to talk to and help address ways to bring order to our thoughts and the world. They can tell us the signs and let us know there is nothing to feel shame about. They can let us know when certain behaviors may need more attention or if it's simply a normal reaction to what is going on around us.

    Touch of Madness; photographer Rachel Edgington

    3.) Finally, my personal way, use your art to bring healing and speak your truth.

    We are, after all, creative beings. Even if we don't suffer from anything clinical, there are times when we may have low points. It may be then that we create some of our most meaningful work. Sometimes words fail us but the visuals we can create may help others connect and tell the story we didn't even know they needed to hear.

    The two images featured here came from just such occasions for me. The first, Fractured Innocence, shows a bit about my childhood. I grew up in a world that didn't want to see my weakness. My parents were great but those around me wanted me to keep a facade of perfection that just wasn't humanly possible. It still can affect me to this day.

    The second image is called A Touch of Madness. When my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder our family quickly learned more then we cared to, about the mental health realm, especially is the way of hospitals. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the asylums of yesteryear but there is still that stigma. There is also the appearance of normality when in fact we all may have just a touch of madness to us.

    My hope is that most of those that are reading this don't have this issue at all, even so, it's always good to be aware of your fellow photographers and business partners. Listen to what they say and encourage them. Don't placate their concerns or dismiss them but genuinely give them a listening ear. That is why a community is so important. It allows us to give strength when others aren't able to produce it. Always remember, the struggle is real, but you are not alone!

    If you feel you need help, Call 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hours everyday) They are also available through online chat. 

    Rachel Edgington is an award winning child, family, and senior photographer from Joplin, Missouri. She is currently on the board of directors for MOPPA. You can check out more of her work at racheledgingtonphotography.com

    The article referenced above is located here: The Dark Side of Creativity

  • March 19, 2018 11:09 AM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

     I shouldn’t even be here, statistically speaking. We have all heard statistics on new photography businesses, much less part-time ventures. Somehow, here I am. I have run a part-time senior photography business for 8 years. I had a side hustle before it was a trend. I didn’t know when I started what the future would hold, I just knew I had to create: create images, experiences, and eventually a business. It has not been an easy ride; I have my fair share of doubts, but I have never doubted my need to create. Early on I have dubbed myself a full-time creative. My hours don’t run 9-5, but my creativity doesn’t either. My goals, dreams and plans may or may not lend themselves to releasing my full time occupation, so where do I go from here?...part time photographer, full-time creative.

    Redefining Success

    I have questioned, even industry leaders, if it is possible to be profitable being part time. Not knowing if or when full time is an option for me. What I have come to understand is profitable is not the right question, anyone can work numbers to make a profit. The question is: can I find satisfaction in my creative endeavors through part-time pursuit? Can my soul be satisfied with the work I am producing?My short reflection on is this, sometimes... I can’t shake the feeling that I want to design my own days and be my own boss. I am confined to my time “off” to do what my heart desires, although, I have to make sacrifices of time with family and friends. I also find in those creative moments, when I produce an image I have designed in my head, it releases something within me that validates my need to carry on. The result of this is embracing the whole picture, the combination of photography and the business that produces it.

    Creative organization

    My full-time creative mind does best when I am organized in all aspects of my life. Organization allows me to free up that creative space. The past few years, I set my shooting schedule for seniors in the spring. This helps me set a goal to fill the dates and gives me control over when I am busy and when I am able to be off with family. A couple times this last year, when a date was not filling, I took the opportunity to work with my hair and makeup artist and put together a creative shoot. Having those dates already on the calendar put the fire in me to conceptualize. I had a date with creativity.

    Block out comparison

    So what do I do when life gets tough? When I am not where I want to be, or I feel inadequate? A quote I heard at a conference in summer 2016 has really stayed with me: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It is easy to fall into watching other creatives push out content daily, knowing my current schedule does not allow for such indulgences. Insta Stories could easily crumple me with jealousy. I am learning to separate myself from what I see and (gasp!) sometimes unfollow people who tug at my heart for comparison: Follow my own path, stay in my own lane...something I repeat to myself often.

    Final Understanding

    Being a full time creative is not for everyone. It is a commitment to the creative, and for me, accepting my success is going to look differently than the traditional model, putting my creative life in order and letting go of comparison has been critical to getting me to where I am right now-- 8 years in with an optimism for the future. Knowing the future could hold part-time or full-time work, but only if I focus on the creative spirit. As Elizabeth Gilbert brilliantly shares in her book Big Magic, “Do what you love to do, and do it with both seriousness and lightness. At least then you will know that you have tried and that—whatever the outcome—you have traveled a noble path.”




  • February 23, 2018 12:40 PM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

    If you are looking for a new way to elevate your brand, try adding Creative Sets to your options! They can help set you apart, make more money, and create a customized touch for your clients. Creative Sets don’t have to be elaborate and overly propped; and they work for all sorts of sessions.

    What is a Creative Set

    To start, we need to define what Creative Sets are. Creative Sets are scenes designed to enhance your client’s experience at your studio. Your subject is the leading star and the set is there to support his or her story.

     Creative Sets don’t have to be complicated or busy. The simplest set, in your signature style, should be profitable – not just break even. It can be as easy as your favorite chair and background combo for a child, a floral & fur layered bowl for a newborn, or even an elaborate Christmas set for large families. 

    Add Style

    Creative sets allow you to establish a new style within your brand. Brand yourself, by becoming instantly recognizable for your Creative Set style. But, remember, the number one rule of creative sets is keeping your subject the Star of the show. Staging sets includes your technical stuff: lighting, posing, and lens selections. Understanding and planning keys, color harmony, lighting ratios and patterns, proper exposure, and camera angles is important.


    Establish the mood you’d like your Creative Set designs to convey, select an appropriate color pallet to match that mood. Then, to be cost effective, look for props that can be used across multiple age groups then refinished later for a new set.

    Add Value

     The goal of Creative Sets is to add value to your brand. They are story telling tools. When you are in the planning stages of the session, you and your client should be planning the final display goals of these images. This conversation creates purpose and adds value and allows extra investment to their session. Part of your job as a professional photographer is to know how you want your work displayed. We are a Print Artist studio, we encourage our clients to invest in a Signature Album or Book with each set a different “Chapter”, Wall Art prints, and one of our collections of Felt Paper Prints + Sliding Box from Miller’s. If your studio sells digital files, upsell an added-on Digital Chapter for extra creative sets. So many times, I mentor photographers who offer all-inclusive packages with the session + digital files and think they can’t offer add-ons. YES. YOU CAN. Either way, Print or Digital, you still must get paid nicely for your extra work.   

     Add Profit

    The key to keeping Creative Sets working for you is to know how much you need to charge for each set. If it’s a custom set for an individual client, the cost will obviously be more than one staged for a full day of mini sessions. For our studio, clients the decided to add this to their session see a price increase of $40 each to the sitting fee + heirlooms. Because we’ve already discussed a final plan for the displaying their portraits, I have a good idea of what I can spend to add to their experience with me.

    This should NOT be a cheap add-on. It takes time to design it on paper, stage, and light. Figuring out how much to charge for your Creative Sets depends on these factors:
    1. Is it for an individual client or a multifamily mini session style event?

    2. Will the Set or any of it’s elements be used again?

    3. How elaborate is the set? Is it a simple backdrop & favorite chair or much more?

    4. How much time will you spend on it shopping and staging?

    5. How much money will you spend shopping and staging it?

    I try to keep shopping for new set elements costs about 15% of the total added to the final order. For example, say a client added on 1 custom creative set for a newborn session:

    1 additional Creative Set ………………….…..$40

    1 additional Chapter in the Album ….....…… $150

    1 additional 16x24 canvas ……………………$550 (priced at the Wall Cluster       discount, $650 a la cart)

    Est Gross Income added to order…....……..$740

    Est. Cost of Creative Set ($740-15%)..........$110

    Cost of Miller’s Canvas…………….…....……$103

    Cost of Extra Chapter (2 spreads)…....…..…$15 + my design time, roughly 10 minutes.

    Est. total net income added on before taxes……..$512, from just 1 additional set.

    15% may not seem like much to spend a Set, but when planned correctly gives lots of wiggle room. For the exampled $110 that I can “play” with is a lot and will be stretched far.

    Remember the goal of adding Creative Sets to your offerings as a studio is to boost what you already do. Creative Sets can be simple or elaborate, that choice is yours. They are a very versatile tool for your studio, so have fun with them! In August, I’ll be showing you my process of building Creative Sets at Develop during a Live Demo Class. This class will be focused on Babies and Children, but the base process is the same for all sessions. My husband Joshua and I will be driving from Georgia, so we’ll have a load of my favorite props in order to show how they are used in real situations. I’ll also be talking more about the subjects in this post, plus how to market Creative Sets & wording for non-pushy up-sells, working with odd-ball client requests, and, most importantly, safety. Needless to say I can't wait!








    Alisha Cline
    Cline Artisan Portraits


  • January 26, 2018 11:05 AM | Robin Nordmeyer (Administrator)

    Hello MOPPA Family! I am Molly Beale, a senior/family photographer out of the Kansas City area.  Normally, I would be paralyzed trying to figure out what to write about, but I pretty much had something in mind. For the last 3-4 years, I’ve been helping the Heart Gallery.

    Heart Gallery is a traveling photographic exhibit created to find forever families for children in foster care. The Heart Gallery is a collaborative project of over 80 Heart Galleries across the United States designed to increase the number of adoptive families for children needing homes in our community.

    It has been over 15 years that Heart Gallery has been going around different places showing off the wonderful photos that volunteers have taken of these children. These children have been removed from abusive and neglectful situations and they still have hope. They love to laugh, to learn, and to be with their friends. Most of all, they dream of finding a forever family to be their own.
    The Heart Gallery in Jackson County has traveled to many different businesses and organizations, including local coffee shops, and churches.
    These photos are also posted to the Adoption Exchange website where families are able to read about the children and request more information from the caseworker or Jessica Latta, Children’s Service Specialist with the Jackson County Children’s Division.

    For the most part, this is a super simple project. I do about a shoot a month. It normally takes just a few hours. Jessica contacts me to ask for a day that I can get a few kids photographed. We decide on a place to shoot, and she gets a list together. The families then bring the kids in and we do what I would consider a “micro” shoot (unless I have more time, and the kid is being cooperative, I’ll shoot a little longer). I do a minor edit on the photos, and send them to Jessica via Dropbox. Since the kids are in the foster care system, I am not allowed to share any of the photos on social media.

    Sometimes it can be a little difficult (I once had a tween/teen brother and sister whose parents had just that week had their parental rights revoked and would have NO part of the photos), but for the most part, the kids and their foster parents are very appreciative, and it is heartwarming for me to think I had any part of them finding their forever homes. Jessica has informed me that they are in need of photographers, especially in the rural areas of Missouri. I can tell you from personal experience, if you enjoy photographing kids, this is very rewarding.

            I would be happy to answer any questions that weren’t addressed in this post, and if you are interested in just jumping in and going for it, here’s Jessica’s contact information - she’s in Jackson County, but she can get you in touch with the coordinator for your area.

    Jessica Latta
    Children's Service Specialist
    Adoption Specialist
    Jackson County Children's Division
    615 E. 13th St. Kansas City, MO 64106
    Ph: 816-889-2276
    Fax: 816-889-2210

    Molly Beale is the owner/ operator of Molly Beale Photography, specializing in photographing seniors and families in the Kansas City and St. Joseph, MO areas. She lives in Edgerton, MO with her husband Randy, son Thomas, and dog Chet the a-hole.


  • January 11, 2018 11:51 AM | Deleted user

      Ok folks, raise your hands if you’ve ever been with a client that was uncomfortable being in front of your camera and told you “I hate my picture being taken.”  (It’s ok, I’ll wait for ya!) Now, if you have been in the photography business for longer than a minute then I know that just about all of you have your hand up in the air right now … just keep it up for a second and think of my next set of scenarios … Keep your hand up still if you as a photographer hate having your own photo taken.  (You still with me?) Raise them still if you have never had a quality head shot taken of yourself. (Yeah, I’m still looking at you! LOL). Without being able to see the readers right now, I’d venture to say that more than half of y’all still have your hands up in the air.  (You can put your hands down now. The blood is starting to drain from your fingers!) Just to be fair, I’ll freely admit that I had my hand up when I was thinking of all three of these scenarios as well. I personally hate to be in front of the camera. As a matter of fact, when people tell me that I should be in pictures, my go-to response is always, and I mean always, “Thanks, but I’m always behind the lens; never in front of it.”

     I was recently honored to be published and while preparing for that the editor had asked me the standard questions about my work that would accompany my image. In addition, I was asked to provide a headshot to go along with the article. What the heck was I going to do? I had nothing to give this guy! Frantically I started to dig through all of my archives looking for this elusive headshot and finally settled on a 5+ year old image that someone had grabbed of me. It wasn’t a great  by any means, but in a pinch it just had to do. It was in this moment of panic that I realized that I needed to face my demons and get in front of some dang glass, and soon!

    I wanted to  challenge  and push myself right to that preverbal edge with a headshot. After many days of pondering my conundrum, it finally hit me. Why not make some killer selfies? And better yet, why use my cell phone when I have 3 camera bodies and all of the equipment to rock out professional looking shots sitting right in my own home, and so, that’s where my journey began. I decided to create a 7 day series of selfies where using a cell phone was not an option and  the images that I created could be considered “portrait worthy.” Instantly I created some game rules to follow:

    • 1.       All the photos needed to be taken at my home.
    • 2.       No one was allowed to help me set up with the lighting, set creations, or poses.
    • 3.       I refused to allow myself to spend a penny on this project.
    • 4.       I had to shoot them in 7 consecutive days, no matter what.
    • 5.       Each image had to look completely different from the day before.
    • 6.       And most of all, the images HAD to be professional & portrait worthy SOOC.

       For day one I decided to really sock it to myself,  go all crazy, and artsy-fartsy. I wanted to have all kinds of fun and play with a smoke machine, some holiday lights, a sheet of Plexiglas, and lastly, some happy bubbles. My thought was to create a mystical and moody portrait of myself with some funk to it, so with that in mind I got to work in my garage. The setup for my Day 1 Selfie took me about an hour to finalize and about another 30-40 minutes to do my hair & makeup. From there, with my camera set up on the tripod and the timer activated I began shooting. Looking back at the final image, I’m not sure if it was the overly complicated setup that I had created, or my lack of posing skills in front of the camera, but I ended up taking a little over 200 shots for this portrait! Still, at the end of the night and after I uploaded the images, I was quite pleased with my creation, and so it was on to day two.

                    After looking at my “smoke & bubbles” image the next morning, I came to the conclusion that I probably had leaned towards the “artsy” image more so because I was still “hiding” from my camera. Sure, it was a great shot and fun to do but I was ultimately still avoiding the camera, so I decided to buckle down and get serious with day two  ... it was time to go old school and create a “classic” image. Down came all the lights, Plexi, and fog machine, and up went the backdrop, two lights and a silver reflector. On went the makeup & up-do, and approx 150 timer shots later I had successfully canned my classic portrait. Easy peasy, and hey, I was down 50 images from the day before so yay for me getting a little better at my posing!

                    Moving on to day three I knew that I wanted to create a black & white image that had a little bit more of a fashion-forward image, and since I’ve shot models in front of a fan before, I thought that this would be a perfect time to experience what a fan session was like. Once again, my previous set up came down and now up went my silver reflector as my back drop. A fan was placed next to my tripod and my hair was down and free to roam the country! For this shot I knew that I wanted an “in your face” kind of look so I placed a +2 macro ring on my 35mm lens and had my camera less than a foot in front of my face. Again, I was all about getting out of my comfort zone and experiencing what I put my models through by placing that big ole lens right up in my grill. And you know what? I canned this session in about 75 shots! Clearly I was getting better at posing my body as well as relaxing in front of the lens!

                    After creating the three days of studio type shots, I decided that for day four I’d relax a little bit and aim for more of a “day in the life” image and so it was time to step into my real world environment. I hauled all of my gear upstairs, placed a reflector in front of my sofa, a single soft box and to the camera’s left and went for more of a relaxed and realistic image. Since my living room is one of my favorite spots in the house with all of my books around me surrounded by my love of vivid colors, I opted for an all-black wardrobe that would help ground myself in the middle of the shot. Oddly enough, this session took me only about 60 shots to complete! (Hey, I was still getting better at this! Yay me!)

                    Now, as much as I loved the environmental portrait of the living room shot, I decided that for day five I would let my hair down even more and feature the more casual side of myself, so it was off to my bedroom. This decision was two-part. Firstly, I wanted to tone down the environmental images and showcase the calmer side of myself that folks rarely get to see or even know that I have. Secondly I wanted to remind my followers that “bedroom” does not automatically imply sex or boudoir. Not that those two types of implications are bad mind you, rather, I simply wanted to imply the everyday casual and intimate comforts of my real world. That being said, my bedroom is quite the dark dungeon so I was forced to drag in all my lights as well as my trusty reflector. Since I was shooting such a tight shot in the camera, this image took me back up into the 70+ shutter count range just because I had to work on not cutting out any body parts in the camera. Done. On to the next day.

                    So here I was on day six and I was quickly getting tired of being cooped up in the house, and since one of my many prides as a photographer is being able to nail killer shots out doors when everyone around me can’t see the shot outside, I opted to round out this selfie challenge in the outdoors. With the magic of the fall time colors, there was this incredible tree with flaming orange leaves on it that was just begging to be noticed and I just knew that I had to shoot it. In addition to wanting to have that glorious fall colored images, it also came to mind to me about the lessons that I teach at my workshops. I will go through great lengths to teach my students to take a look around outside and really “see” their environment around them. Often times when photographers get out doors they can get so overwhelmed with the clutter of their surroundings that they fail to notice those magical shots presented right before them, and this one lone tree was a perfect way to showcase that lesson.

                    Being a totally huge natural light guru, I opted to only use a reflector with this shot, but in order to get only me and the tree in the lens (remember, I was going for SOOC images. Even cropping wasn’t allowed in my books) I needed to also bust out one of my most essential photography tools … my step ladder.  After I was all set up and knowing exactly what shot I was striving to create, this outdoor session was a wrap in about 40 takes. My speed and comfort was really starting to take notice,  and so now it was on to the last day of the selfie project. Day seven. Oddly enough, I had noticed that when I first started this project, the ideas for each days’ shooting was kind of a bear to come up with, but after I completed the flaming tree shot I knew instantly what I wanted to create for the last day. Again, I was thinking about the lessons that I always teach my students, one of them being if you want your images to look different, then get off your feet. Either take a snails’ view perspective on your images or aim for a birds eye view, and since I finally found my wireless remote trigger on day six I opted to aim high. Literally! I grabbed my 12ft ladder from the shed, mounted my camera on my gorilla pod and hoisted that puppy high in a tree. After scaling up and down the ladder countless times to get my focus right, I canned this final shot in only 36 takes! (Can I get a Whoop Whoop!?!)

                    Wow! What a journey, and I’m sorry if this article was a mouthful to read, but I felt it was important for me to share with you guys my thoughts and reasoning behind every step of this journey. What started out as simply a fun idea ended up into quite the adventure and at the end of it all I certainly learned a lot about myself. Firstly, I have come to the conclusion that I was a foolish photographer from hiding myself from the world and much of that realization came to light during this project because for each day of the selfies, I chose to livestream how that days shot was done. Again, I was forcing myself to get out of the shadows and let people see my face. And you know what? That was the most incredible part! For each day’s live stream I was averaging almost 1,000 views and 50+ comments! Suddenly I had come to understand that people don’t just care about a pretty picture. They want to have that connectivity with the person creating the magic. There’s just something about being able to connect with us photographers that our clients crave, and before this project I realized that my clients were starving. Again, shame on me! Secondly, and most unexpectedly, I came to realize that even though I wasn’t aware of them, I had several newby photographers that were following along with my journey just so that they could gain some helpful shooting tips. Heck, even I learned something! It was incredible to watch myself become more comfortable moving and posing in front of a lens. (Remember, I progressed  from 200+ images to only 36 in just 7 days!)  Between my final images and the behind the scenes live streams, I was now wearing my educator and motivator hat all at once, and oh how cozy those hats are! It was at about day 2-3 or three that I realize that this project needed to be shared and that the challenge needed to be put out to my fellow photographers, and so here it comes …

                    To me fellow photographers, I am personally challenging each and every one of you to take on this 7 Days of Selfie challenge, especially if you are like I was … afraid of my own selfie shadow! I challenge you to get out of your shell of a comfort zone and make some magic happen. Better yet, Why not take this all a step further and challenge a fellow photographer to join in each day that you shoot! This exercise has opened my eyes, empowered my self being, and illuminated my vision in ways that I never could have imagined and I would love for all of us to experience this feeling of elation together. So get out there. Get to shooting yourself, and let’s all make a movement out of this!

    The challenge is on!

    Erika Pinkley is the owner operator of Erika the Photographer, LLC in Blue Springs, Missouri. You can check out her work at www.erikathephotographer.com 
  • November 13, 2017 8:41 AM | Deleted user

    In search of something different to offer my photo clients, I decided that I would try to make it rain - on command - under my control!  So...I built a “Rainmaker”!

    I used four ten foot sections of ¾” Schedule 80 PVC (for the strength.)  One of the ten foot sections I left full.  Two of the ten foot lengths I cut in half and the fourth piece I cut in various lengths for my connection pieces.  I also used four T connectors and four 90* corner connectors.  To get water into the contraption, you will also need a spigot attachment (I don’t know what you call them, but you attach a hose to it to run water into the pipes.)

    Starting with two of the five foot sections, I drilled ⅛” holes one inch apart starting at one inch in from the end.  Then with the full section, I drilled ⅛” holes one inch apart starting at 1¼” in from the end.  The final two five foot sections, I drilled ⅛” holes one inch apart starting at 1½” in from the end.  This will create a staggered “waterfall” effect.

    For the assembly, you will need Schedule 80 PVC Pipe Cleaner and Glue.  Out of the uncut section of PVC pipe, cut three pieces eight inches long and one piece eighteen inches long and one piece six inches long.  The six inch long piece will have to be cut in half to accommodate the spigot attachment.  See the illustration for assembly layout.  Be sure to clean the PVC pipe ends with the cleaner before using the glue.  Only assemble one piece at a time.  The cleaner and the glue WILL make a mess, so be sure you are in an area that you can get messy!!!

    I let the glue set up overnight to make sure everything was dry.  I used my pop up tent to which to secure my Rainmaker.  The tent served several purposes - first of all, it’s a big diffuser for the sunlight.  Secondly, I can hold the backdrop around the sides.  And, you can secure the Rainmaker overhead under the inside across the center of the tent!  I propped the legs of my tent up on a stack of three cinder post blocks on each leg just to get some extra height for shooting.  

    For shooting, I covered three sides with black plastic, then put a black backdrop in front of the plastic to reduce the glare from the speedlights/strobes.  Put a speedlight behind the subject and gelled for color effects on the rain.  I put plastic bags (Ziplock) over my speedlights to protect them from the water.  For safety reasons, it is BEST to use speedlights or battery pack strobes.  DO NOT place the speedlights/strobes IN the water - there should be plenty of room behind and in front of the Rainmaker to set up lighting!!!  There is plenty of room to shoot your model behind the Rainmaker or IN the Rainmaker, depending on the shots you are looking for.

    Unfortunately, I ran out of warm weather where I could get the shots I envisioned with my Rainmaker!  I did get it set up and took several “test models” just to play with the rain and the lighting to see what I could get.  Look out next year!!!

    Jane Ballard is a photographer and train enthusiast making her home in Joplin, Missouri. Starting out with just a "point and shoot", she graduated to her first DSLR, a Nikon D3100, in 2012. As she "matured" through her 20's, 30's, and 40's, her creativity became lost, overpowered by her logical "fit into the mold" business side. She has since began a journey of experimentation and art that is fulfilling all that was missing in her early years. You can see some of her work at JaneBallard.com

  • October 27, 2017 8:26 AM | Deleted user

     Hey you. If you’re reading this, you’re probably an artist. (Or you are, you just haven’t been convinced of it yet.) But you’ve been tempted by the belief that artists must starve. As one of my twitter friends so eloquently put it, “Sure, I’ll photograph your wedding for free! Because you really need $800 cupcakes and artists love being poor!” It’s the joke, right? Go to law school if you want to make money. Oh that’s cute that you like to paint pictures but it’s time to get a real job. Heck, just earlier today I was introducing myself in an email and backspaced the “I’m a photographer” to replace it with “My husband and I run a portrait studio…” because it feels like we artists are constantly having to go against the tide and prove ourselves. We “starve” not just financially, but relationally, artistically, and spiritually. We mope and blame and hang our heads because no one will kick down our door with a parade that alleviates our insecurities. But you know what I think? I think that to take on the “starving artist” mentality is a choice. I think it’s harmful, selfish, and (you may hate this but please don’t stop reading) a big fat excuse. If you’re an artist and you’re starving, I am willing to bet that your belief system is the root of the problem. (No, not the shoot and burner next door, the economy, the time of year, or whatever else. We are not living in the Great Depression or a war-torn country. 43 million iPhones have been sold this year alone.)

     1. THE STARVING ARTIST IS UNWORTHY One time, I met a cool person. We had so much in common, and I thought she was just so COOL. (Ever meet someone like that? Someone you instantly aspire to be?) And we had so many mutual friends and liked so many of the same things. But I never asked her to hang out. I didn’t even introduce myself. Here was a person I could tell I could instantly be great friends with. But I didn’t move forward. We never ended up speaking. Why? Was she stuck up or busy? Did she ignore me or blow me off or act like a snob? No. I could have blamed her, but it would have been ridiculous. I never introduced myself. I didn’t think she would like me. I believed deep down that she wouldn’t want to be my friend… so I saved myself the potential embarrassment. I walked away because I felt unworthy. I think that as artists, we believe ourselves to be unworthy long before anyone tells us we are. (It’s easier that way, isn’t it?) I was a full-time professional photographer for an entire year before I even started referring to myself as an artist. Why is this? Well, because the best way to guard yourself from potential pain is to inflict it upon yourself first. Also, we admire great art and feel that we don’t measure up. We can’t be perfect, so we give up before we try. Okay, I lied. I said, “One time, I met a cool person.” What I really meant was, “Most people I met from my adolescence until about a year ago…” You probably understand the metaphor here. (I love things like metaphors because I was an English major in college. Why? I felt so unworthy of my art that I didn’t pursue it seriously until after college. Once again: I believed I was unworthy and it was my own fault.) The starving artist “starves” because she feels unworthy. She does not allow herself to be fed and actively prevents this from happening through her own belief system.

     2. THE STARVING ARTIST IS JUDGMENTAL We’ve all been there. Judging - I mean scrolling - our way through Facebook and, whether we leave snarky comments or not, focusing on everyone else and deciding where they rank on the ladder of success. Are they above us? How dare them. Below us? Well we saw it coming! Did they used to be below us and now they’re catching up? That copy-cat! How dare they. They’re stealing our clients! Well, we’ll just have to find some more. We didn’t need those cheapskates anyway. And why are we so judgmental? Why do we feel the need to compare and rank and condemn and make fun of? I’ll answer the question with another question. What do we say to third graders that get bullied at school? “That person only said those mean things to you because they are insecure about who they are.” We think mean things when we aren’t happy with ourselves. Whatever annoys you most in someone else is probably the thing you can’t stand about yourself. If someone else’s success bothers you, it means you’re not reaching your own potential. And it’s like nails on a chalkboard. When we are preoccupied with being the best (whatever that means? It’s art, people), we certainly are not preoccupied with our creativity, our craft, or our clients who are paying for it.

     3. THE STARVING ARTIST IS STARVE-Y Starvy? Starvey? Starve-y? Anyway, here’s what I mean: We reap what we sow. We attract what we give off. Want to attract other starve-y people? Easy! Be so focused on starvation and lack and scarcity and “never enough” and make sure to always blame outside sources! Be cheap. Cut corners. Buy cheap gear and cheap backdrops and nickel and dime every minute a client gets to spend in your presence and then get upset when they don’t seem eager to pay a premium price for it. I’m normally not such a sarcastic person. I just write like this because it’s the beliefs I struggle with too. I’ve struggled with this for years and while I’m shifting the belief, it still creeps in! “Well sure I’m booked this month but who’s to say I’ll have a single client next month! I’ll use them all up! There will be no one left!” If you want to be an artist who thrives, help others thrive. If you want to be a successful business owner, help other business owners be more successful. If you want your clients to give to you with their whole hearts, give to them! It’s not a trick or a stunt or a clever phrase - it’s genuine giving. It’s beautiful when you allow it to happen. Artist, you’ve been invited to a dinner to share and feed and be fed. And if you’re too busy locking yourself in your room with 2 crackers because you don’t want to risk losing them, that’s on you.

     4. THE STARVING ARTIST IS ISOLATED I’m an introvert, so sometimes I really like being alone. I think most artists do from time to time, and it can be a great thing. But have you ever gotten lost in your own head? (Raises hand desperately.) Yeah, things can get crazy in there. Have you ever started thinking about one little doubt about your abilities, your work, your craft, your skill, your client, your *anything,* and ended up convincing yourself it’s time to sell the camera gear and get a job at Target? (Hopefully I’m not the only one who has this crisis like every Thursday?) But seriously, when we isolate ourselves we start to believe untrue things. Just like some folks think their art is REALLY GOOD when it’s really not, I think more often great artists give up or lose hope because they never let anyone critique their work or simply tell them, “Shut up dude you’re really good at this.” Welcome critique. Challenge yourself. Ask people you respect for their feedback. Be willing to learn and change. It can be hard, but the more you do it the more you realize it’s the only way to grow.

     5. THE STARVING ARTIST IS AFRAID Well, I don’t have much to say here because it’s a daily struggle. Ever worry you’ll create a portrait and pour your life blood into it and then present it wholeheartedly and the client will hate it? And is that possible? Yes. If you do photography for a living, something like this will probably happen at some point. BUT, is it just as (if not more) possible that one day you’ll create a photograph that will change someone’s life for the better? That their grandchild will find it in a shed or drawer and they’ll pick it up with both hands, sit cross legged on the floor, and stare at it in wonder? Is it possible, artist, that you will change the course of someone’s entire life because of lifegiving domino effect of real art and the joy it brings? Yes. But not if you’re too afraid to try. A common exercise to overcome fear is to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I’ve started asking myself this question, “What’s the best that could happen?” I don’t want to be a person who makes decisions (and ultimately lives a life) based on fear. I have art to give to the world that only I can give, and if I hide it because I’m afraid, what good will that do? The same goes for you, artist. You do not have to starve. You may be comfortable in that place because it’s what you know, but I promise that with risk and responsibility and vulnerability comes great, beautiful rewards. When you believe your art is valuable, you’ll charge for it. And when you believe that you’re worth a living wage, you’ll earn it. If you settle for less, I hope you’ll start by shifting these beliefs. I hope you’ll be humble enough to stop blaming your outside surroundings (again, I’m saying this to myself too) and take ownership of the starvation habits we all so easily form. Artist, the only way to stop starving is to choose to feast. (There’s plenty of food, I promise!) I believe you’re worth that, and I hope you will too. 

    Mitzi Starkweather is an Portrait Artist and MOPPA member based in Joplin, MO. She specializes in women's portraiture and has been honored many times over for her work and study of her art. Feel free to check her out at Mitzi Starkweather Photography

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