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Our mission: critique | confidence | community
Get your CHIC on with our Celebrity Photographers who inspire, teach, and critique to help increase confidence and improve your images!

STEPHANIE SMITH | CELEBRITY INTERVIEW

Chic Critique is so excited to have Stephanie Smith of Stephanie Smith Photography be one of our February Celebrity Photographers.

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Sign up to get your images critiqued by Stephanie Smith this February. 10 Spots Left!

Stephanie Smith is a lifestyle and portrait photographer from Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Her photography is fun and honest, and her goal with each session is to photograph those genuine little moments that everyone can connect with and that will be cherished forever. Her photography is all about true emotion, both with the subject and the viewer. She primarily photographs children, families, and couples. She shoots on location using natural light, which she captures in fun and whimsical ways. Much of her work can also be found in various national advertisements.

A note from Stephanie:

Welcome all! I’m so excited to be on this journey with you, to see the beauty you capture, and to help you grow as an artist.

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Do you edit mostly in Photoshop or Lightroom?

I edit with both programs. I begin all my editing with Lightroom, and then from there I export my images into Photoshop, and do my final edits there.

Why do you think honest critique on your images is important?

I believe photography is all about the way you see things, and the way you present that vision to the world. It’s a message you are conveying. It takes practice to understand the best way to convey the emotion your image represents. Often, even small technical problems can get in the way of your message being properly perceived. It takes work to view your images objectively, and understand areas you can improve upon. I think critiques are an amazing tool in this process. Seeing your work through someone else’s eyes allows you to better understand how your work is being portrayed, helps you to better understand yourself as an artist, shows you what you need to do to further your artistic goals, and guides you to better train your technical eye.

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What camera do you use? Favorite lens?

I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark 3 as my primary camera, and have a Canon 5D Mark 2 as my backup. Which lens is my favorite varies all the time. Right now, for portraits, I’m loving my 70-200 2.8L and my 85 1.8. For shooting wide, I love my 28 1.8 and my 24-105 4L.

What has been the most helpful critique you ever got on an image?

In the beginning of my photography journey, I resisted shooting wide. I preferred close-up, cropped-in images. I received a critique to try shooting the same shots with a wide-angle as well to get a completely different perspective on the same image. I’m now addicted to the drama that a wide-angle image can provide. My clients know that I will often take the same shot of them with both a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens, and that they will receive both shots. I think this tip really opened up my range.

What 3 words would you use to describe your style?

Fun, Honest, Emotional

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Where do you pull your inspiration from?

I direct every shot by how it makes me feel. It can be a beautiful shot, but if it’s not pulling at my heart, then I know I need to switch things up.

What is one specific way that you balance work and family?

I didn’t always do this, but I’m now very conscious and deliberate about when to set my work down for the day. The best way for me to do this has been to not overcommit myself. Keeping my workload manageable is the key for me in maintaining my enjoyment in this business.

Best biz/photo advice?

Be sure you always enjoy what you’re doing. Sometimes, you may need to switch things up. Take a break to recharge, shoot some sessions just for you, try a different avenue of photography. If you’re burnt out, it will show in your images. If you love what you’re doing, that will show too!

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What have you learned the hard way?

Not to overbook! My first year, around the holidays, I kept saying that I was all booked up and wasn’t taking on anymore sessions. However, every time a client would call and ask if there was anyway I could please squeeze them in, I would do it, even though I was already full. This kept happening, and I ended up missing out on so much fun holiday time with my family because I felt awful telling clients no. That’s a mistake I won’t make again!

How does your business deal with the rise in photographers. What have you done to standout and compete?

I think it’s important to stay true to who you are as a photographer. There will always be a ton of new photographers popping up, but there will also always be enough business out there for everyone. Showing potential clients the importance of properly capturing the moments and people in their lives that matter the most, and demonstrating through your work how you do this, allows clients to connect with your style and trust in your vision for their session. These client/photographer relationships are the most important, and that’s where the focus needs to be. Focusing on other photographers or the competition that surrounds you is just wasted time. Focusing on you, your art, and your clients, will help you to continue to thrive in doing what you love.

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Where have most of your 2011 clients come from (besides WOM)?

Although most do come from word of mouth, some clients find me by happening upon my website during online searches, and some from happening upon my Facebook page.

What has been the best workshop or convention you’ve attended so far?

I’ve not yet had the opportunity to attend a convention, although it’s high up on my list! I have done several small online workshops, all of which I feel benefited me in different ways.

What is your most popular product?

I’ve had the most success with my mini sessions. I love shooting them, and clients love the fun and ease that they provide. My mini sessions are quick, creative, and relaxed for both me and my clients.

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Sign up to get your images critiqued by Stephanie Smith this February. 10 Spots Left!

 

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PHONE-OGRAPHY | TEACHING TUESDAY

Guest Contributor | Michelle Morris

Why are you on Instagram? Part I of II | Story & Photos by Michelle L Morris

Let’s start with full disclosure. I’m 31. I lived through my entire high school experience without any inkling of what a status update or a news feed was. I certainly had never heard of tweeting, or twerking for that matter, and cell phones were a luxury, not a staple. Suffice to say that the advances in technology, just over the last ten years alone, are nothing short of astonishing. What’s even more fascinating is how, as a global society, we have adopted social media as an acceptable and necessary part of everyday life. In fact, you’re perceived to be quite strange if you’re not yet on the social media circus train… like the rest of the “normal” people. I’m confident that I’m not alone in the internal tussle I have when it comes to defining my personal limits for daily/weekly involvement in the buffet of social media. I have two full time businesses, three young sons and a marriage relationship that I treasure. Time management is crucial for me in the success of both life and business.

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I currently have a social media presence on the following; Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I have often evaluated the importance of each as well as the purpose. Pinterest is good for my soul and my insatiable desire to re-decorate the house. It has little to do with my branding, or my overall desire to build a client base, but I am happy to have a small corner of a site that is so heavily driven by imagery. Through Pinterest I find immense inspiration and fuel for so many creative fires inside my mind. Facebook is fantastic at keeping me closely connected with friends, family… and (very importantly) my clients. It’s a brilliant way to show off my work, post specials, stay current and keep my portrait bookings steady.
Facebook is the most valuable social media tool in my profession. Instagram is a solid extension of my work, my personality…. and my brand. I enjoy the sense of community and the shared appreciation for artistry that I find on Instagram.

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Are you on Instagram? Why? Or why aren’t you? Do you have distinct reasoning for the yay or nay decision to join the IG community? My decision to join, and be active within the IG world, is highly motivated by my desire to stay in front of my clients. I like to think that sharing my personal photographs fosters the sense of relationship I’m striving for with my followers. It seems fairly hard to argue the point that a social media site strictly revolving around showcasing imagery could be bad for your portraiture business. If done well and thoughtfully, Instagram can be used as a brilliant segue to additional bookings, i.e. increased revenue. If you’e not part of the IG family, and you’re running a full time portrait business, or want to be, I suggest making the jump.

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Some basic principles I follow when using, and enjoying, Instagram:

Don’t post everything. Be strategic.

Nobody is ever going to care as much as you do about your newly potty trained little munchkin… or your sleeping baby, or the awesome foam heart shaped swirl in your latte, or the amount of calories you just burned on your nifty heart rate monitor, or the way your cat likes to sprawl out when she takes a nap. Accept that your life is most meaningful to you and your followers do not need to see your new shoes from 6 different angles. With each image you upload, you have the floor. Even if only for a (literal) split second. The content you post on Instagram (or anywhere on social media for that matter) should pack a punch. Make it count. If you have 100 pictures of your little girl twirling outside, pick the best couple, or best few at most. Upload just enough to show us you have talent, a creative edge and a life outside of work. Upload just enough to make us want more. Culling and selecting only the best to post is also, unarguably, one of the most vital skills for any professional photographer. And if you must post two of the very same moment in time, consider making one color and one black and white. I encourage you to be thoughtful and strategic about your uploads. Think about your audience. Think about the message each image sends. Think about your target market and what you want them to know about you. There is definitely a fine line of being personable and approachable, but remaining professional. Don’t over-share. And for goodness sake, don’t misspell your captions. You are a professional. Take your time and make strategic decisions.

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Back to full disclosure. I take way too many pictures and likely need counseling for this (annoying to my family) habit. However, I share maybe 5% of the iPhone imagery that I process and edit. The remainder of the iPhone images I have are routinely synched with my computer and saved on my hard drive. I seriously edit hundreds of iPhone images each month but share an average of 25. I still have my edited and unshared images safe and sound; on my hard drive, my iCloud and my Dropbox.

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Remember your brand

This is the sister principle to the previous point I’ve just made. Can you describe your brand? Do you know who you are in this industry? Do you know what you want your clients to learn about you? Develop some rules and sticking points for yourself. Additionally, think about what words you would use to describe your photography brand. When you’re using Instagram to help build said brand, thus increase bookings and revenue, then keep your images
consistent with what your followers (clients) have come to expect from you. Quick example, I am a lover of light bursts. I love light in unconventional places. I love the combination of shadows with light. My images on Instagram are consistent not only with each other, but also with my “fancy camera” portfolio. I’m pretty much a believer that if you’re true to yourself as an artist, you will create consistent work in all expressive mediums.

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The bottom line is you want your IG feed to be consistent with your photography brand. Just think that brand consistency = recognition, and there certainly is a trust built when your followers know what to expect from you. I love this explanation by the Founder of Mullen Advertising, Jim Mullen, “When you look at a strong brand, you see a promise.”

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Allow yourself to become emotionally vulnerable.

Being in business for yourself and building, growing and maintaining a strong brand is not for the faint of heart. While I place the highest value on artistry, with a close second being the ability to strategically brand yourself, I also sincerely feel like becoming vulnerable to your followers can cultivate meaningful and important connections. Now I’m not saying to abandon the principle of “think before you post” and I still encourage you to be thoughtfully branded with each upload, but we want to get to know you.

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Larry Acker from “The Identity Circle” touches on this, “Identity is cause, brand is effect; the strength of the former influences the strength of the latter.” Only to say that those who take an interest in your work will be more drawn to you when they get to know you and your heart. Talk about your passions when you write captions on your photos. Allow yourself to be real and emotional. You’re in the people business, act like you’re talking to the people. Quick example, my middle son was born with incredible hearing/speaking challenges. He is now four and has miraculously overcome the slew of potential problems we were expecting. I snapped a shot the other day of my son writing the word mom. I uploaded the photo and talked about how it touched me to see the boy who didn’t call me mom for three years to now write the letters to that beautiful word. My photo was still creative. It was still “me” – and I only uploaded one. But I allowed myself to become vulnerable and share a piece of my heart.

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I will leave you with this, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” -NY Times Best Seller, Simon Sinek.

I’m excited to continue with Part II of “Why Are You On Instagram” (being published next month) with the following four additional points: Creativity takes courage, Get involved, Be genuine, Develop your follow through.

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428 copy ABOUT MICHELLE:

Michelle is a full time professional child and family photographer. Her work has been published in print over 30 times and her imagery has appeared in more than 10 magazines, including editorial pieces as well as covers. Michelle has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years and they have three small boys. Her newest business venture, the unPacked Catalogue, is a 130+ page e-book detailing the success of her non-traditional school photography – available to photographers online. 

Website | Unpacked Website | Facebook

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LIGHTING & LOCATION | SPANKI MILLS

COMING THIS JANUARY, FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY…

Learn from the best. . . in your pajamas!

Live Event: FREE for forum members!

>>REGISTER HERE!<< Hurry though, seating is limited!

 

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In this 90 minute LIVE web event, you will learn:

  • What to look for when location scouting
  • How to know when to use that location
  • What does light have to do with it
  • How to add interest with light

WHEN: Monday, January 13th 2013 @ 8 pm Central (6 Pacific, 7 Mountain, 9 Eastern)

Can’t watch the LIVE event? No worries. A downloadable video recording is available for pre-purchase (below) & will be sent to you 48 hours afterwards.

COST:

Live Event: FREE for forum members!

>>REGISTER HERE!<< Hurry though, seating is limited!

Live Event + Video Recording Download:

$39 for forum members. Price will increase to $79 after the live event

(must join forum first)

$59 for non-members. Price will increase to $79 after the live event

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SPARKLE SUNDAY

Guest Contributor | Leslie Vega

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LeslieVega_ChicCritiqueForum Inspiring quotes by Leslie Vega for Chic Critique Form
Leslie Vega is a seasoned brand designer for photographers and wedding professionals. She founded Leslie Vega Design in 2008 and has been creating breathtaking brands for clients across the globe ever since. From logos to stationery and beautiful web presences, her passion exudes in her work and in her client experience. View her work at www.leslievegadesign.com
Leslie Vega
Owner/Designer
Leslie Vega Design, LLC
Brand Design for Photographers & Wedding Professionals
Web | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

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SQUISHALICIOUS BABY | FACEBOOK IMAGE CONTEST

Here are our 5 Favorites from our Baby Photo Contest on Facebook:

They each won a 3 month  membership to Chic Critique Forum

Email us at chiccritiqueforum@gmail.com to redeem your prize

THE WINNERS:

1.  Stephanie Gill Photography

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2.  Purest Light Photography

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3.  Purest Light Photography

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4.  Jordan Leigh Photography

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5.  Dimples & Dirt Photography

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Then & Now, Part 14 | See How These Photographers Have Evolved

We asked our blog readers to send in Then & Now photos to see how they’ve evolved. The slides below show photos of photographers’ photos from when they first started out compared to where they are now.

We wanted to show how much you can improve with hard work and persistence. Thank you everyone who was brave and sent in photos for us to use.

WANNA SHOW OFF YOUR THEN & NOW PHOTOS?

Simply send your Then & Now images to chiccritiqueforum (at) gmail.com. We’ll be featuring different photographers each week. If you want to include a description or statement with your photos you can include that too!

MONICA FLYNN of https://www.facebook.com/memoriesbymoephotography 2014-01-03_0001

NICOLE LEWANDOWSKI 2014-01-03_0002

JANAE TROYER of https://www.facebook.com/LiveLifeLoudPhotography 2014-01-03_0003

Simply send your Then & Now images to chiccritiqueforum (at) gmail.com. We’ll be featuring different photographers each week. If you want to include a description or statement with your photos you can include that too!

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