Tag Archives: Pictage

Ok, so I wasn’t going to do this, but I decided to anyway. I’ve had a lot of people email me, specifically recently, showing interest in my workshop but not living close enough to come to it or can’t afford it. They’ve all asked if they can either take me out for coffee to pick my brain or talk on the phone to pick my brain. So I came up with a solution. Virtual coffee. That’s right! I decided to start hosing E-Learning Sessions via Skype chats for anyone who wants to take me out for “virtual coffee” and pick my brain. It’s totally free so you don’t actually have to buy me a cup of coffee, unless of course you feel so inclined… lol! Anyway, so tonight I spent some great time with Lisa Burgess of Lisa Burgess Photography. She asked me some great questions and I hope I was able to help. I am completely honored that people feel comfortable asking me for advice. I wanted to recap a couple of really great questions she asked and how I responded. I hope this can help those of you who are reading it. Here goes.

#1) Can you specifically name some of the things you wish you knew starting out?

This is such a great question because I feel like people say this all of the time and never specifically answer. So I’m going to give you specifics. First, I wish I had solid branding down before I tried making a name for myself. I wish I would have sat down, made a list of adjectives that I wanted my logo/business to portray to the world and designed my logo off of that. Now, I have a graphic and web design background as well as a business management and operations background. Because of this I can do most of my stuff myself, but if I could, I would have spent the time and good money on a fabulous designer to get my branding solid from the get go. Second, I wish I would have started using Photobiz from day 1. I spent a horrible amount of time trying to do a website for myself where if I would have just knew about Photobiz I would have shaved about 4-5 months off of my design time and focused on business. Third, I wish I would have read Dane Sanders’ book Fast Track Photographers awhile ago. Now, I don’t know when it was written, but if it was around two years ago when I started the business, I wish I would have read it. I did a blog post on this book that you can read here if you are interested. This book really helps you to clearly and easily define your goals as a photographer and business owner. I can’t rave enough about it, so definitely go buy it. Fourth, I wish I would have signed up for Pictage and The [b] School earlier. Pictage has the best photography forum/community ever. I can’t speak highly enough of what an amazing community of photographers they have. The Pictage community has helped me for a year and has been a huge help in getting me where I am. The [b] School I’ve only been a part of for a couple of months and while I don’t think the community is quite as strong there (I don’t know that it’s been established for long enough to be a really strong community like Pictage) the videos are top notch. There’s a great video on branding that I would recommend everyone watch because it changed my entire outlook on it.

#2) Do you need Photoshop and Lightroom?

Technically speaking you don’t “need” them, but I don’t work without them. I use Lightroom for mass editing and put my final touches on my photos in Photoshop. I will warn you to NOT define your style based on premade or prepurchased actions or presets. Instead define your style and either purchase or create actions to complement your style or make your editing life easier. I CAN’T STRESS THAT ENOUGH!!! There is nothing worse than a photographer that buys Kubota or Totally Rad Actions, slaps it on their photos and then calls that their style. Their photos end up looking just like everyone else’s photos that does that and it doesn’t help you to be unique. It doesn’t do you any favors. That’s not to say those aren’t useful tools. They are useful tools if you know how to manipulate them to complement your style.

#3) At what point do you start charging?

This was an awesome question. It’s not going to be the same for everyone but we had a good, long discussion about this very thing. The problem is that many times (I went through this too) your friends and family don’t take you seriously as a professional photographer because you’re always doing work for them for free. They are never going to take your seriously or see you as a professional until you start showing what you’re worth. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do free work to build your portfolio, but at some point your friends will start talking to their friends and their friends will talk to their friends and before you know it you’re known as the “cheap photographer” because you cut everyone a deal since they “know” you through someone else. My advise was if you’re going to give discounts then give them to everyone. If someone approaches you asking for a discount, then the answer is no. I heard this on the [b] school on the branding 101 video and I’ll never forget it. There is nothing worse than a photographer who hands a client a price sheet and starts apologizing. You need to be confident in your pricing. So if you’re going to give discounts, then give them to everyone. Run a special so that when your prices go up it looks like the “special” is over. Make sense? That way they know the cheaper price is the special price and isn’t going to last for forever. If someone approaches you for a discount because you know them, then add value to their package but make them pay the full price for the package they want. I’m not worth any less because I know you so why should I get paid less just because I know you? Instead I’ll throw in a print credit, an extra session, or an album upgrade.

Anyway, I hope if you’re reading this you got some helpful tips out of it. I love these e-learning sessions because I love helping people, especially newer photographers who don’t quite know where to start. I’m certainly not an industry expert and what works for me may not work for you and what’s worked for other people doesn’t always work for me, but I hope my what advice I can offer is of value. Also my thoughts and opinions are just that. They are subjective. I know people will disagree which is ok. Again these are just my opinions.

If you want to schedule a learning session with me, remember they are FREE as long as you use Skype, you can contact me through the “Contact Us” link on my blog or send an email to jen@jen-shannon.com. I’m available most week days after 7pm central standard time (that’s one hour behind eastern time, one hour ahead of mountain time, and two hours ahead of pacific time). If you need a weekend day let me know when you’re wanting to do it and I’ll see if my schedule accommodates it. Since the wedding season is going to start ramping up soon I will have less time on the weekends.

So I followed the updates for the iPhone 3GS while the conference was happening and was soooooo stoked to see all of the cool new features that will be on the new phone. The good news is, I still have the original iPhone from two years ago, so I’m due for an upgrade and am definitely getting the new iPhone! Holla!

Next, speaking of iPhones, Squarespace is giving away new iPhones in a giveaway so you’ll be seeing a lot of #squarespaces in my twitter and Facebook updates :)

Another thought, so I’ve been learning some great stuff on the Pictage forums and have been inspired. My “For Photographers” page is going to be updated in the near future with some new great things because of it, so be on the look out for it.

Lastly, here is my Jayda girl. She’s so sweet. I took this pic a few weeks ago when the sun was shining in one of the windows and thought it would be cool to test out some back lighting shots. Isn’t she pretty? I love my baby girl!

Backlit Jayda

Jen Shannon Photography, Chicago Pet Photographer

On a daily basis, I read through the Pictage forums learning about problems other photographers face and how they resolve the issues, interesting facts, etc. It’s a great place to ask questions you may have too. Recently Pictage added a new member to their staff, Jim Collins, who has been an inspiration to so many of us photogs. Today he posted on the forums, reflecting of his past travels involving encounters with soldiers but one part of his forum post struck me, almost to tears (it is pretty tough to make me cry).

“I was on a plane two years ago when the pilot asked us all to sit back down at the gate because there was an escort on the plane taking the remains of a fallen soldier home. We sat in rapt silence as he stood, straightened his uniform and walked down the aisle. If there was a dry eye on the plane I didn’t see one. The pilot shook his hand at the door and went outside on the tarmac with him. Many folks just sat and watched as the baggage handlers carefully removed the casket from the plane. “

The thought of this just broke my heart. I can’t imagine what families go through when a fallen soldier is brought back home. He posted the below link and these photos almost brought me to tears as well. Those of us who have never experienced such a great loss or such an honorable loss will never truly know the emotion of losing the soldier you love.


My father, Jerry Gist, was a soldier in Vietnam. I am very blessed and happy to have him in my life. I couldn’t imagine growing up without a father and I can’t even begin to imagine the overwhelming sense of loss someone who had a father now feels knowing they have to grow up without a father who died fighting for our country.

So, with all of this being said, I decided to apply to become a photographer for Operation: Love Reunited. Someone on the Pictage forums posted about it. Operation: Love Reunited is a non-profit organization that helps military families in times of deployment. As a photographer for Operation: Love Reunited, I will have the opportunity to support U.S. Military families by offereing special sessions with a patriotic edge during their enlistment, focusing on deployments– before and more importantly, after, at their reunion when the deployment has terminated and the soldier is safely home– usually in an airport.   I will waive all fees of any kind, including sitting fees, and will send a 4×6 printed album of the pre-deployment or family images to the deployed soldier, at no cost to the family, once he or she is stationed. The families are not obligated to purchase anything.

“Our military members give so much to us.  They will leave their children at the drop of a command, sometimes not being able to say where they are going or for how long.  They do all this… for us, and they expect nothing in return but to come home… safe.” -OpLove


As a photographer, I look for ways to give back to my community. My talents lie within photography and photography is so meaningful. Photography is something tangible that freezes a moment in time that a family can remember forever. Please also consider donating to Operation: Love Reunited.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and remember our soldiers.

Hustle 9

Jen Shannon Photography, Chicago Lifestyle Photographer