I may not be the right photographer for you!

I think I heard a collective gasp from people across the country.  Yes, I said it…I may not be the right photographer for you.

If you did a quick search of photographers in your area, you’d probably find at least 25 photographers within a 25 mile range.  There’s every location, niche, specialty, and product to choose from.  The client experience varies.  We’ve all heard horror stories of “professionals” who produced horrendous images and clients who never received their images.  Many times, though, families end up with the photographs of their dreams.  Which such a large investment going into your portrait experience, you want to know you find the right photographer.  Exactly how do you know which photographer is right for you?

The answer is simple—Educate yourself.

Everything you need to know about your portrait experience can be found by conducting a little research.

Number 1: Research the photographer’s portfolio and work.
Spend time on Facebook, the photographer’s website, and any other place where photographers may post images.  Most photographers will select an image or two from each session to “preview” on Facebook.  These are usually the photographer’s favorites.  Visit the photographer’s website.  Most likely you’ll find a gallery of images (or portfolio) with the work that the photographer feels best reflects his work.  You may even luck up and find client galleries…complete edited sessions.  Spend some time looking at the overall style, of the photographer’s images—consider the coloring, finish, location, styling, etc.  The overall style you see in the images is most likely the style you’ll get.  How does that style look in your home?  How does that style suit your family?

Number 2: Investigate the Total Investment Cost
Plan to invest your session fee plus two to three times the session fee.  For my studio, you should expect a total investment of about $200-$250.  Photographers charge a session fee, experience fee, or location fee—basically a sitting fee—starting around $75 on up into the hundreds of dollars.  Sometimes that fee includes prints, sometimes it doesn’t.  If it isn’t clear what’s included, ask the photographer BEFORE you book your session.

And don’t forget that you have to pay for your prints.  Professional prints aren’t cheap.  Ask your prospective photographer for a price list.  Professionals will charge at least $5 for a 4×6 and $20 for an 8×10.   But (fill in the blank with your favorite store) can print a 4×6 for 10 cents!  Yes, chain stores print cheaper, but the quality isn’t better or consistent. I found this out the hard way before I become a photographer. Pros use professional photo labs.  Every print that goes through a pro lab is completely inspected and insured for quality.  Your printed photograph will look the same as the digital image.  The colors will “pop” and the image will be sharp and clear.

Images disks are expensive.  When a photographer allows you to purchase an image disk or digital downloads, she is waiving her rights to ensure the quality of your prints.  If you print your photos at “Cheap Mart” and they don’t look good, it reflects poorly on the photographer.

You could always copy your session images off Facebook and the photographer’s website and print them yourself, but that’s stealing.  No, the copyright police won’t come to your house and investigate or arrest you.  But keep in mind, you are hurting a small business owner when you do.

Number 3:  Ask Around
Ask your friends, family, and coworkers who they would recommend.  Be nosy and ask about their total investment.  Ask if they would use that photographer again.  They will be real and honest with their experiences.

Number 4: Pro vs Faux
As I said earlier, there is a photographer on every street corner…more likely there is a “Fauxtographer” on every street corner.  A “Fauxtographer” usually claims to be a professional but is considered to have basic photography skills.  How do you know the difference between a pro and faux?

Camera gear

Ask the photographer what gear she uses.  A fauxtographer usually uses an entry level DSLR camera & lens (i.e. Canon Rebel or Nikon D3100).  Both of these cameras are great cameras, but they aren’t professional quality and can’t produce the clarity/quality of a professional line camera.  Pros will use professional cameras and lenses.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that a bad photographer can have a great camera and a great photographer may use a cheap camera.  Every pro started with an entry level camera.  Research the photographer’s work to be sure it is professional in quality.


Pros usually charge a lot for their services.  That’s why they are pros.  When you pay for a pro’s work, you are paying for a quality guarantee.  Most pros will guarantee your satisfaction with the images or else they will redo your session.

Fauxtographers and usually charge in the range of $50 and give you a disk of all your images.  We call these “Shoot and Burn” photographers.

Another disclaimer—Beginning photographers trying to build their portfolios and will “shoot and burn” just to get their names out there.  They usually have great quality images, but they just don’t have a large client base to choose from yet.  Again, research their work.


A professional will have a website…a professional website. The web address usually reflects the business name (ie. www.kathywardphotography.com, www.belliesbabiesbeyondphotography.com).

If a photographer’s website address is something like wix.com/allsmilesphoto or prettysmiles.shutterfly.com she probably isn’t a professional.  If the photographer ONLY has a Facebook page and no business website, she most likely isn’t a professional.  Steer clear of “Under Construction” sites too.

Licensing, Taxes, & Insurance

Pros are usually licensed.  Most have obtained an LLC status.  Some chose to stay away from LLC’s for tax purposes but do have liability insurance.

Pros are insured.

Pros file & pay business taxes.

Education & Memberships

A professional has an education in photography.  She may not have a completed a degree of study from a university, but she has participated in workshops, seminars, and conferences.  She studies the work of other great photographers, strives to learn more about the industry, and is consistently modifying her business to provide the best experience possible.  She is probably a blog “lurker” and can’t learn enough about photography.

A professional is a member of a professional photography organization such as Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, and National Association of Professional Child Photographers, to name a few.

Pros collaborate with other pros.  They work together to provide amazing services and events.  They realize they must work together in order to be successful.

Image Quality

A fauxtographer’s images will be inconsistent.  Your child’s eye color should be the same in every image (unless it’s a black and white photo).  There shouldn’t be unnecessary background distractions (people, power cords, cars, etc).

A fauxtographer’s images will be over-edited.  Colors should appear the way they would with your own eyes.  Blue skies should look like blue skies.  Skin should look like skin.  Eyes should look like eyes.  And your child’s eyes should look like a natural human’s eyes, not alien eyes.  Skin should look like real skin and not look airbrushed.

A fauxtographer’s images will often be blurry or out of focus.  This happens either because the gear isn’t good quality or the photographer didn’t take the image correctly.

The bottom line?  Educate yourself.  With so many photographers to choose from, you’ve got to do your research.  Ask questions.  Go with your gut.   If a deal looks too good to be true, it very well may be.  You may be sacrificing quality for the bottom dollar.  Yes, a cheaper photographer may be cheaper up front, but for those once in a lifetime occasions, investing a few more dollars could guarantee beautiful photographs you can cherish forever.  Choose a photographer that is compatible with your family and your portrait goals.  That photographer may be me, but it may also be someone else who is a better fit for you.  In the end, I want you to have the best photographic experience and beautiful portraits regardless of the photographer you choose.



Welcome Baby Wyatt!

I had the honor and privilege of being present for the birth of a dear friend’s son.  I was there as a friend and not a photographer…BUT I couldn’t help myself.  I took my camera to help capture precious memories for her family.  And let me tell you, Kim is a trooper!  No epidural, no pain killers, nothing!  Welcome to the world, Wyatt!  Your family loves you and is so thankful for you!

I Heart Faces {Hugs & Kisses}

This image is one of my all time favorite portrait session images. We were beginning to run low on daylight. I happened to glance up at the sky and noticed the brilliant colors beginning to form.  We hurried and got the shot ready.  I ended up being able to capture 4 or 5 gorgeous silhouettes of such a beautiful couple.

Sunset Embrace

Photo Challenge Submission

The Big News…

I didn’t intend to over-excite some of you with my BIG news!  No, I’m not opening my own studio location this year, but I do hope to be able to offer studio services a little more often.  No details yet, just some thought and planning right now.

If you check out my Facebook page and my blog, you’ll notice that it looks like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth for the last 3 months.  I promise, I’m still alive and well.  You see…I just haven’t had the energy to put into blogging and posting…and in some cases, responding to e-mails (please forgive me!!!).  I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into a huge project.  So, the big news?  The Kathy Ward Photography team is expanding.  In June, the newest member of the Ward family will be arriving.  That’s right, a baby is on the way!  Jerrad and I are beyond excited to meet our precious bundle of joy.  And I can’t wait to smother my child with photography.  How crazy is it that I’m already planning the newborn photo shoot!  I’ll finally have photography to hang on my walls that isn’t of my dogs or flowers.  Please forgive me if you had a session with me last fall.  My preggo brain stole my creativity and productivity.  I felt like I was just “surviving” through each session.  I was definitely not on my “A” game.  But now that I’m well into my second trimester, I’m finally getting the energy to get caught up with my photography duties.

What does that mean for you guys?  Not much will change.  The only difference will be that I won’t be available for portraits after the beginning of May this year.  If you are interested in Easter or Spring portraits, we’ll just need to book in March and April.  I don’t think you’ll want this gal “whaling” around a photo shoot with you in 90 degree weather.

Fall sessions may be a little more limited this year, but we’ll cover the details closer to fall.  The plan for now is to schedule several sessions per day in the same location.  That will keep me from having to schedule multiple days for child care.  But like I said, the details will come later.

To celebrate my BIG news, schedule a Spring session (good anytime January-May) with me by Sunday, January 22, 2012 and receive a complimentary 11×14 print (a $40 value).  Just shoot me an e-mail to reserve your spot.  kathy@kathywardphotography.com



And here’s a photo of our “Little Booger” from our first ultrasound in November.

Mr. & Mrs. Womack {Sneak Peek}

More to come.  Enjoy!

Paula (aka Amma) and Her Grands

Paula’s family and my family go wayyyy back.  Growing up, I can say that Paula was like another mother to my brother and me.  We spent the night at her house, she would babysit us regularly and her kids were our best friends.  Now, Paula’s children are all grown and have children of their own.  I was honored to photograph “Amma” and her grandkids as part of the Grandparent Mini Sessions.  I love watching the special bond grandmothers have with their grandchildren…and this bond is about as strong as any I’ve ever seen!  The weather was cold for a September morning but they were all troopers.  I’m sure grandma’s love helped keep everyone warm.

Be sure to visit Amma’s gallery to see images from the special grandparent mini session.


Gianna at Falls Park

Sometimes life puts distance (real, physical distance) between people…such is the case with my cousin Cassie and her beautiful daughter Gianna.  It’s been over three years since I last saw Cassie–before Gianna was born!  Cassie’s husband is in the military and they are currently stationed in Germany.  It was such a pleasure to finally Gianna and Matty.  Gianna is the most vibrant and joyful 3 year old I’ve ever met.  She’s beautiful and she knows it!  I’m thankful I had the opportunity to capture a few of their memories in photographs.  And I promise it won’t be 3 more years before I see them again!

To view more images from Gianna’s session, click here.

Missy & Hoke – Engaged!

Missy and Hoke met in line for a ride at Disney world while there on a trip for Tiger Band.  The next year, they became next door neighbors and the rest is history.  Missy and Hoke’s engagement session was the telling of a story.  Each location on campus they chose represented something special about their relationship.  They were such fun…especially with my “Give me a fake laugh” command.  Their smiles were full of joy and love.  I wish them the best of everything in their upcoming marriage!

Click the picture below to view the rest of their gallery.

What to Wear – Fall 2011

Need help figuring out what to wear for your family session?  Here’s a bit of inspiration for you!

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So you want to learn more about your own camera?

So you want to learn how to use your own camera?

There are unlimited photography resources that are free on the web.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was mostly self-taught, using lots of free online resources.  So here’s where I got my start…

Now before I begin, none of the people/pages/businesses know who I am.  I’m not being compensated in any way for sharing info about their businesses.

I would start with http://www.digital-photography-school.com/  They have a section just for “beginners.”  Several professional photographers contribute to and write posts for DPS.  DPS isn’t specific to any niche of photography.  You’ll find topics ranging from nature to portraits and everything in between.  I learned most, if not all, my basics here.

There are several sites devoted to post-production (or editing the image after you put it onto your computer).  Two of my favorites are Everyday Elements and The Coffee Shop Blog.  Both sites offer free tutorials for using Photoshop Elements (the scaled back and cheaper version of Photoshop).

The Coffee Shop Blog even provides you with unique templates and “digital frames” for showing off your work.

Now, you may be asking, “Am I supposed to visit all of these sites every day?”  Well, no, not exactly.  After you’ve read through some of their content, watched the tutorials, and gotten a good bit from the sites, then you only need to visit when they post new content.  There are two good ways I’ve found to keep up to date on new site postings.  1) Follow them on Facebook.  Usually, they update their Facebook pages to let you know of new postings.  2) Subscribe to their RSS feeds.

Most sites have an RSS feed…a service that notifies readers of new content.  To be notified of new content, you need an RSS reader.  I personally use Google Reader.  It’s free.  And it’s fairly simple to use.  In most cases, I copy the site’s web address in the Google Reader and click to add a subscription.  Google Reader automatically updates itself with new posts.  What I love about an RSS Reader is that I can check one site to see updates from all of my favorite sites.  I can see the news updates, read photography tutorials, and yes, even see the most recent announcements posted to the school website.  If you’re still confused about RSS Feeds, just Google it.  I know there will be tons more explanations.

Here’s what my Google Reader page looked like at 9:16pm on night last week.

And the last resource, of course, is Youtube.  Need to know how to take better pictures at your child’s awards ceremony?  Your son is playing football?  The pictures from last year’s Christmas were grainy and blurry?  Just type in what you want to know and you’ll have tons of videos at your fingertips.

As you start your journey into these sites, keep your eyes open.  There are tons more places you’ll learn about from following these sites. I also recommending finding the Facebook pages of these sites (and others) and “Liking” them. They are constantly mentioning the names of other sources.  You can start by liking me on Facebook! Haha!  Seriously.

I hope you can learn something by visiting some of these sites.  I hope to do a couple more posts about some resources for more advanced photographers and sites that cost a little bit of money but are well worth the investment.

Hopefully my husband won’t fuss at me for giving away too much help for free.  Lol!