Kendra Leigh Photography and Video

10 Things that Transformed my Photography

Kendra HillComment

I first began my photography journey about a year and a half ago. Just to show how much I have grown, here is an image of one of the first families I photographed in 2014. I just had the opportunity to do some more pictures for them this past September.


A little bit of a difference, right? Well, in that year and a half, I learned many lessons. Here are a few so you can learn from my mistakes:

1. Be Confident

You don't feel very confident quite yet? That's fine, I don't always either. But, I don't let the client know! Fake it until you make it is a very popular saying in the film world :) That's something you have to do here too.

2. Don't be Afraid to Correct your Mistakes

Even now I say to a client "Oh, I accidentally had the wrong settings during this pose. Can we re-do it?" or "I said I wanted you here, but now that I see the lighting I think we need to move to another location (or rotate to change up shadows)." There were times when I began that I was too timid to speak up and say something and took pictures anyway. That is just a waste of time for you and the client. 

3. Talk to the Client Beforehand

Do they like posed pictures? Natural pictures? Urban or Nature? Are they bringing pets? How many kids do they have? These are all questions that can dramatically change the approach for a photo shoot. Be sure to talk to the client before hand. Ask who will be getting pictures done, ages, interests, etc. Also, do they want a more stylized shoot? Props? It makes a session so much easier if you know what to prepare for, and what style of images the client is looking for. This will also result in a product that the client will be happier with.

4. Pinterest is your Friend

As you continue in your photography, you will have your go-to poses that you like. But Pinterest is great for new ideas and inspiration! I have boards full of poses that I like for all types of photography sessions. You can also find great tips for editing, lighting, clothes, etc. You can find pretty much anything on Pinterest!

Before a session, create an inspiration board just for it. Talk to the client and find out their personality, possibly what colors they like, locations they like, what kind of poses they like (more natural, posed, vintage). This board can help inspire you as you do their pictures.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Make a Fool of Yourself

You will have difficult clients. Kids, adults, dogs…. You need to be prepared for this. Be amicable and cheery, that will help parents be at ease. Play games and make silly noises for children. There are certain things I do to help kids smile (that is a post for another day), but the thing that seems to work the best for me is simply being silly. The picture below was while I was doing a ‘bum dance’ that their son had come up with minutes before.


6. Learn How to Use your Camera's Manual Mode

When I began my business, I was still learning how to use my camera. I would do sessions with it in manual sometimes, but if I couldn't get the settings right I would just panic and put it into automatic mode and hope I could fix the pictures in photoshop. Knowing your camera comes with time, but I recommend spending as much time as possible doing it now! You can even 'stage' some photo shoots with friends or family members so if you mess up as you learn, you aren't as nervous because it wasn't for a client.

7. Use Lightroom for the Bulk of your Editing

Okay, so some photographers may disagree with me on this one. I do have both Photoshop and Lightroom, but oh the time Lightroom saves! In Lightroom you have presets and can put the same settings on each picture, quickly switch between pictures, tweak things easily, etc. Photoshop is great for heavy duty editing such as sky overlays, head swapping, and other heavy edits, but it isn't needed for every image. Doing the majority of my editing in Lightroom cut my editing time by HOURS!

8.  Shoot in RAW

RAW is a format that does not alter the data of the image at all and you have much more creative freedom with it in post. Sometimes, if a picture is under or over exposed, you can even save the image (not always if it is very extreme). Though, if you don't have an editing program you will want to shoot in JPEG since many computers can't read .raw files, and they are pretty bland until nicely edited.

This past month I had an appointment to do family pictures. It was the only day we could all get together as they had family coming from out of town. 30 minutes before we were supposed to begin, a huge storm rained down on us. We quickly found an indoor location and relocated. Indoor lighting can often be dull and tricky. If I hadn’t shot in RAW, many of the files would likely have been unusable because of the poor lighting conditions.

9. Equipment Does Matter

When I began, I had many people tell me “It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have, you can get great pictures with anything!” That is true to a point, but it is easy to distinguish between a point and shoot camera, and a high end DSLR. For the first year of doing pictures I used a Canon t3i and I was convinced I didn’t need to upgrade. I was speaking with a fellow photographer who was amazed that I didn’t have a higher end camera. I didn’t have the money, cameras cost a lot of it! Well, I ordered it on Amazon with a 12 month no interest plan. Splitting it up into small increments suddenly made it affordable and I made the jump. BEST THING I EVER DID! It elevated my photography to a whole new level. As much as I loved my t3i, as my skill grew it began to hold me back. I now use the Canon 6d and I love it :)

10. Practice!

Honestly, I noticed my photography improving the most when I began not only doing my own work, but also working with Cheapshots! Photography, LLC this past July. Between them and my own clients, I often had up to 10 appointments per week! I was crazy busy, but I gained a lot of creativity and confidence in my photography abilities. I also really learned how to use my camera (which I'd only upgraded to a couple of months before). Not everyone has that opportunity, but create your own opportunities! Stage photoshoots or send out a model call offering a few digitals or prints in exchange for their time. Just be sure you get out there and practice!

Do you have any tips you would like to add? Or questions about this post? Feel free to leave a comment!