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One Tool That I Am Using To Help Ease Tax Season

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One Tool That I Am Using To Help Ease Tax Season

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MileIQ

Tax season! For most photographers it's the bain of our existence! Hey, it's not my favorite season, that is for sure. Most creatives are right brained thinkers which means that their organizational skills are usually not always the best. We are too busy dreaming big dreams! But, the fact of the matter is, sure we are living our dream but we are also running a business. And running a business requires that we use the other half of our brain. Well, pop my bubble why don't you?! 

Recently, I ran into a rut with mileage tracking. Who thinks about mileage? I know I don't! I've gone through several ways of trial and error trying to figure out which way of record keeping is best. Every time tax season rolls around I make little changes to my system and the way that I keep track of things to make it easier for the next year.

For mileage, I used to hand write everything every week on Fridays. I would glance back at my planner and see where I had gone that week and then I would open up google maps in my iphone and enter the locations. From there, I would get the mileage and write it into my spreadsheet. This worked fairly well until we hit the holidays. From December to January/February, I practically did NOT record any mileage! Why? Because life got super busy for me! 

The holidays are typically a busier time of year. Once January rolled around, I was already caught up in getting my 2018 year started and hadn't given mileage a second thought. Finally, once I started gathering all of my tax documents to turn into my accountant, I realized that I had completely forgotten to track my mileage! Ah! For the next couple of hours, I scoured back through my calendar and began taking record. 

Don't you hate that feeling of playing "catch up"? For a business owner, there is nothing more displeasing than having to spend MORE of your PRECIOUS time rifiling through your records to gather the information that should have been part of your weekly system. That is when I decided that at this point in my business I needed to fine tweak my system and find a better way.

I had heard about mileIQ before, but had never implemented it. I decided, as one way to automate a redundant task, using mileIQ just made sense. Now, I literally do not have to think about it. It does all the work for me. Its a super cool app that tracks all of the drives that you take. It IS up to you to open up the app either daily or weekly (or whenever you'd like) and specify whether or not the drive was for business or personal. There is a little notification that pops up when new drives are logged which will help you remember to go in and categorize each drive. If you are interested in trying mileIQ AND getting 20% off, here is the link! 

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How Having a Baby Changed My Business

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How Having a Baby Changed My Business

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Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with a photographer friend over coffee. As I bounced Easton on my lap and struggled to feed him, I felt obligated to apologize for not being 100% focused in on our conversation. This seemed to be an illustration of the last ten months: balancing a baby and a life. 

But, she graciously said it was ok and she totally understood. Over the course of the next few minutes, our conversation led us to this topic: how a baby affects your life and business. I admitted to her that before I got pregnant, I was worried about what having a baby would do to my business, my baby at the time.

I feared that I would not have time to put forth the effort to run a business, that I would somehow lose my ability to remember how to use my camera, that I would drown in a sea of to-do's while trying to sustain another human being. As a result, my ultimate fear was that all of the work I had put into my business would vanish. 

I feel like these are all legitimate fears that people have prior to starting a family. Life is never the same after having kids, it changes. It's a GOOD change, but it is so different than what you have been used to.

Now that I am a mom and a business owner, I can tell you it is not as scary as I had imagined. The Lord has given me so much grace and resources(a gracious husband, grandma's and friends) to allow me to continue to do what I love and serve others. And in the process, I have changed too. And with that, here are some of the ways that having a baby changed my business! 

- My time is more valuable now

Each moment of the day has purpose! My day is pretty much ran by a baby. Feedings, diaper changes, play time. It leaves little time in the day to get things done. But, when nap time rolls around I stop at nothing to make sure I am checking off things on my to do lists!

Do I miss the days of laying on the couch watching reruns of Law and Order (Criminal Intent is my favorite!)...Yes! I miss those longggg periods of rest. But, I know that this season in my life is short and it won't last. Having a baby definitely makes you more aware of how you are spending your time. 

You've got to roll with the punches. I used to have schedule out my days by the tasks I would be doing hour by hour. And I used to say to myself, "I'll get this wedding culled in 1.5 hours". But now, things are done in chunks of time. And if the wedding doesn't get culled in 1.5 hours, it's ok! It will get done. In fact, most of the time I will edit weddings once Easton has gone down for the night, or I will wake up before he wakes in the morning and work. I basically work around him. 

 I finished out my 2017 year and I never once got behind on a deadline!! {The Lord had always been good to me and allowed Easton to sleep at just the right times for just the right amount of time for me to get the work done.} Blog posts still go up, and the gallery is still ready and everyone still receives their photos on time! I still think that my clients deserve the BEST, and having a baby does not change the way I serve them! I make every effort I can to see that they are getting more than what they deserve.

- I'm no longer a work-a-holic 

Let me start by saying, my business and my clients are just as important as they were pre-baby. Never have I felt that service to my clients should take a back seat. They are the lifeblood of my business and I absolutely LOVE serving each and every person.

Now, let me say this: My business used to be my baby. I had a tendency to work non stop and not come up for air some days. It was unhealthy for me and my family at times. Not to mention, it can become and idol in my heart if I do not keep it in check.

But there was a shift in my thinking after Easton was born. Those work-a-holic tendencies? They were forced to go! This is how the Lord sanctifies. He weeds out the things that prohibit your heart from being aligned with His word, it's a beautiful thing!

I feared that if I wasn't doing some kind of work, my business would suffer. But the thing was, a lot of my time and energy was being exerted in the WRONG things. I "felt" busy, but I wasn't being productive. There's a difference. (That is a whole other blog post in itself!)

After Easton, I realized I had unintentionally cut out the fluff. Instead, I only worked on things that actually were productive. Because I didn't have the ability to have extra time on my hands like before, I was forced to only concentrate on those things that truly mattered.

This has actually helped me stay more focused in my business! I don't have time to "kill" anymore, so I do the things that need to be done and I go on to the next task! 

- I Do Not Overload Myself With Too Much

Because Easton is so little and needs so much of me, I have to be careful to what I say "yes" to. I know that I cannot shoot a double header weekend, or have more than 2 portrait sessions per week on weeks that I have weddings.

With the amount of work that is involved, it wouldn't be fair to my clients and it wouldn't be fair to my family. I want to be able to give the best of myself to not only my clients, but to my family as well! So, I just have to be careful with the amount of work that I book. 

- I love shooting more than ever now!

Because I am at home so much, getting out and shooting weddings and portraits have actually brought me MORE joy than ever before!

I love to get out and just create.

Being cooped up in the house too long will give you cabin fever and give you an excuse to binge eat whatever you can. But now, my work has more intention and purpose behind it than it did before. And I love that! 

I hope that this post is encouraging to my fellow lady entrepreneurs who are considering starting a family! In the end, having a baby wasn't the 'end of my business', like I had feared. It is actually growing and I am continuing to serve my clients well! 

 

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What I Love About Veils

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What I Love About Veils

 

What I love about veils is...everything! Nothing excites me more when my brides wear veils, the longer the veil, the better! (Ok, I get excited whenever we are offered cake at a reception too!) If you are a bride and you are on the fence as to weather or not you will wear a veil, I want to encourage you to just do it! You can always remove it later on in the day. But veils just add so much to the photographs.

Here's why I love 'em:

1. You can create beautiful bridal portraits

This photo below of Heather is breathtaking. I especially love the fact that the wind caught the veil, it gives the photo such a dreamy effect!  And it gives the hands something to do. "What do I do with my hands?!" I try to avoid stiff and overly posed images. I want my portraits to reflect the natural personality of my clients and I always want them to feel comfortable. Giving the hands something to do, like hold the veil, creates natural gesture and gorgeous portraits!

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2. Veils make excellent backdrops

One of the things I think looks so pretty is when bridal details are placed on top of the veils, or when the veils are gently draped over top of the details. It definitely adds a softness to the photo and gives it that bridal, wedding look (perfect for the album!)

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3. Stunning bride and groom portraits

I love romantic images, I am drawn to creating them on wedding days and the veil is one of the things that I use to evoke this feeling. Also, I just love the way they look draped across the frame of the photograph!

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October Plans: Lots of Weddings + Pumpkin Spiced Lattes

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October Plans: Lots of Weddings + Pumpkin Spiced Lattes

Happy Monday Everyone!

I am starting out my week with a small cup of coffee, a spiced pumpkin candle, tackling my to do list and prepping for this weekend’s wedding. This weekend will kick off the “October Wedding Month Extravaganza”…That is, I am shooting 5 weddings this month! F-I-V-E. Yikes! My head still kind of spins when I think about it. Any photographer will tell you that this is a lot, especially when still working part time AND pregnant. My hopes are for a smooth transition from wedding to wedding with stress free moments in between. 

I knew that this month was going to be a little hectic, especially since I am now 19 weeks pregnant. So, I decided ahead of time to put up some structure in my schedule and my life to help me not get too overwhelmed. 

First, I intentionally blocked off the whole month from any further shoots other than weddings. No engagement sessions and no portrait sessions. While I feel bad telling people “no”, I realize that I just can’t do it all. I always want to give my clients my very best and I know that being too overwhelmed with work will put a stress on me that will result in poor client care—something I definitely do not want! 

I have also been making a point to get some gym time in and stay as active as I can. I’ve been going about 3 times per week. Because of this, I’ve definitely noticed that I have more endurance than I did before. I’m not doing anything too crazy, just walking on the treadmill and lifting weights. I’ve got a calendar next to my desk and will mark off the days that I go to the gym, anything to get me motivated!

Last, I set up a meal plan for myself. I planned out a Monday-Friday schedule of what I will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, even snacks! Sounds dorky, BUT, I find that I function best when I have a plan already in place. 

I am hoping that all of the effort that I put into creating systems for my business and my home will greatly pay off for me this coming month! With that said, here's to drinking lots of pumpkin spiced lattes!

XO, 

Kristen

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How To: Starting a Photography Business

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How To: Starting a Photography Business

When I was first starting my photography business I had SO many questions. I hungered to learn and I wanted soooo badly to know how to turn this thing that I loved so much into a business. Because of my hunger to learn, I get excited to help newer photographers with this as well.

 I recently was asked the following question from a young girl:

"Hi Kristen,

I was just wondering if you had any tips for wanting to become a professional photographer. I want to go to collage and get a degree in either photography/ fine art or get a business degree and start a photography business. You are and have a great photography business so I was just wondering if you had any tips?"

I'm happy to see you pursuing your dreams at such a young age. If I had to do it over again, I would have started sooner. There is so much to be said about starting a photography business. I can only advise you on what I know and what I have learned. I haven't done things perfectly and have made many mistakes! As one of my favorite photographers says, "My way is a way, it's not the only way". With that, I will share as much as I can with what I know and has worked for me.

I didn't go to college for photography, or business for that matter(more on that here). As you may know, I went to school for nursing and graduated in 2008 with my bachelors degree. I have been working as a nurse ever since, but have dramatically cut back my hours as my business has expanded. 

The only education that I had in photography were the 3 years in high school when I took photography as a vocational class (2000-2003). To me, those years where enough to ignite enough passion and instill a basic knowledge about photography. But it wasn't until I decided to peruse a business from photography (2014) that I realized I had so little knowledge.   

And with that, here's my tips:

Start Your Edu-bacation

There had been a large gap of years during which I had not picked up a camera and was busy going to college. When I decided to pick up the camera again, I realized so much had changed in the digital world and I had so much to catch up on, not to mention the skills that I had forgotten and had to re educate myself on(basically, don't stop taking photos!). CreativeLive is a great resource for that!

Team Up

I joined photography forums such as Shoot and Share, and The Rising Tide Society. And, I also found a mentor. This was a game changer for me. There's nothing like learning from someone who has years of wisdom to bestow. My dad used to tell me to find a mentor and hang on to them, best advice ever! 

Shoot For Free

Yes, free. (Don't worry, eventually this will pay off in huge ways!) But when you are first starting out and getting the hang of having subjects in front of your camera is priceless. There's less pressure to mess up and shooting for free is a good way to hone in your skills and get comfortable. I'm not saying to do any major shoots for free, but 15-30 minute sessions, why not? You can always have the client pay you for prints :) 

Study Your Bad Work

I learned this one from Roberto Valenzuela who said he would go home and study his bad images so that he could figure out what really made them bad. Doing this makes you aware of what you are doing so that you can reconstruct better images next time.

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I hope that this helps guide you in the right direction and lead you towards your goals! I'm happy to answer more questions, send 'em my way! :) hello@kristenbrowningphoto.com

xo

Kristen

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Don't Let Your Dreams Be Dreams

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Don't Let Your Dreams Be Dreams

Once Upon A Time...

I was headed to Hawaii with my camera and my surfboard in tote. I just knew that I was destined to be a photojournalist for Surfer Magazine. Only thing that was stopping me was the fact that I had no money and no idea how I was going to do it. I was 18 years old and dreaming of a life that involved my two passions: photography and surfing. I knew it was a tall order, but I would have done just about anything to have it. Unrealistic? Probably. I had never won any crazy big photography awards, never went to college for photography and I wondered if my dream of being a photographer would ever come to fruition. I was skeptical and I had little belief in my ability to be a professional photographer could lend me a sustainable lifestyle. How in the world would I survive?!

Turns out, God had other plans for me.

My life shifted and took a complete opposite turn. I actually put down the camera for a while! I thought to myself, “If I couldn’t live out my dream, then why even try?” Looking back, I know that was foolish. But at the time, I felt like the more I held on to it, the more it reminded me that I failed.  I made a promise to myself that I could always do it “on the side” once I had an established career. So there, on my shelf, my camera sat and collected dust. 

Years later, with an established career as a nurse, a familiar passion struck me again and I picked up my camera. This time, I knew I had nothing to loose. I was married to the most amazing husband, settled, and had a steady job. I finally felt like it was time to chase my dream. And so I did. Only this time, I left Hawaii out of the equation and exchanged it for the joys and thrills of wedding photography. It had been a long time since I had felt that kind of fulfillment in a job. And that has kept me hungry for more.

As I was praying this morning, I was reminded of God’s provisions. I thanked God that he has given me a second chance at this dream of mine, to be a photographer. I am so grateful for all of it. The people that I have met, the places that I’ve gone, the fact that my clients invite me into one of the best days of their lives and I get to take pictures of it all. Thinking about it in this way doesn’t make me feel like a failure anymore, it makes me feel fulfilled. And it reminds me that just because your dreams do not unfold when you think they should, that doesn’t mean that they never will. God’s timing is not always in line with our timing.

Here's to never letting go! 

xo,

Kristen

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Photo taken by: Chris Sosa Photography

 

 

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The Rising Tide Society: My First Meet Up!

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The Rising Tide Society: My First Meet Up!

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend my very first Rising Tide Society meeting! The group, called "Tuesday's Together", meets once a month and invites photographers and fellow creative entrepreneurs to collaborate in a group discussion about business. Most of the attendees are photographers, but, it is open to any creative entrepreneur!

The Rising Tide Society believes that a "rising tide raises all ships" and photographers are better together, in collaboration with each other, than they are apart. And that if we all put our heads together and join in community we will all succeed far greater than we would if we were lived in competition with one another. It's an interesting concept and one that I addressed a year ago, here, on the blog. 

I was so excited to have gotten to participate in one of their meetings. And it was so awesome to meet other fellow photographers! One of the best parts was going with my photog' bestie, Kim! Here we are walking the WRONG way to the meeting, LOL! Let's just say we rolled in fashionably late :)

 

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A new change to my business!

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A new change to my business!

Some of you may have noticed a new little watermark appearing in the lower corners of my photos from my last wedding that I blogged...And you might have noticed a beautiful new icon at the top of my website?! ...THAT would be my new LOGO! Yay! So, I was going to wait to put it up till a little later (project is in the works), but I have been so excited to share it, I just couldn't wait! 

My old logo was purchased off of a designer on Esty.com. While I really liked it at the time, I never really felt like it was "me". The font, the little swirls, the glitter. I don't think that I own anything with glitter, except for one bottle of Essie nail polish (which I don't wear) and I felt like I outgrew the logo... It was a tad too whimsical for me. It wasn't a true reflection of who I am.

Here's the old logo:

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So, what I did was reach out to my graphic designer/fashionista blogger friend, Marianne Humburg who created this logo for me. We worked together to create what I had envisioned and I think it turned out perfect!  I wanted something that was more of a reflection of who I am and Marianne nailed it! 

Here's the new logo:

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I obviously still love the color gold and blue :) 

 

Here is the gal who put this incredible logo together! I highly recommend her! Thanks so much, Marianne!! 

 

P.S.-- There's more stuff going on behind the scenes of my business that I am excited to share more of in the upcoming weeks!...I'll give you a hint...I'm working with Lauren Black of Legacy Loft to create something super fun! :) 

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Buying Gear: Lenses + Cameras

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Buying Gear: Lenses + Cameras

I was recently approached by a young lady, who is starting to get her feet wet in the photography world. And she asked me if I thought she should upgrade her camera and lenses. She told me what kind of gear she had and how she had been researching other cameras and lenses.

So, when is it appropriate to upgrade your gear? It's a question that I think about quite often and I have learned a few things in the process. Today, I am happy to share some of these things that have helped shaped my decisions when purchasing new equipment!

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1. You have old technology

I bought my first DSLR, a Canon 20D, in 2004. I was 18 years young and I had saved every penny from my job at a local seafood restaurant to purchase it. Buying the 20D on my own made me feel like I had hit the jackpot! Many years later, in 2014, I humbly picked up that old Canon 20D, dusted it off, and started my photography business. I soon realized that over a decade of technology had passed, and I was very behind the times. I was using old technology and an upgrade was in order. It was then that I made the decision to purchase the Canon 6D.  The 6D was all I could afford at the time. I then started noticing that most wedding photographers were shooting with the 5D Mark III, the dual slot card readers and bigger sensor appealed to me. So I eventually took the plunge too. Having updated technology is great because in my instance, the 5D Mark III gave me the peace of mind that if something were to fail with one of the card readers, I would still have a back up on the alternate card. And when you are shooting weddings, you want to have as much piece of mind about your gear as you can. Having up-to-date equipment definitely helps!

2. Financially, you have the funds to pay cash.

Starting my business, I was soooo eager to have the same gear as so-and-so down the street. I tended to get carried away with making all sorts of online purchases. After all, clicking the purchase button was just so darn easy, especially when you are fresh and you think that the gear you have will actually make you a better photographer. That mindset soon lead to a little bit of credit card debt. Yikes! Yes, it's true. I know now that the gear doesn't make the photographer. (And I am now debt-free, paying in cash is now my mantra) 

Ideally, utilizing what you have now and starting where you are; mastering the tool that you possess, will actually make you better. I wish that I would have realzied that a long time ago. 

3. It would be an investment that would make your life easier and/or make you more profitable

If you have the funds, and you have paid out all of your monthly bills and are left with a chunk of change, my advice would be to spend it on something that would be an investment, or something that would make your life easier and/or make you more profitable. Example: I currently rent 100mm Macro for every wedding. It's a lens that gets used (for me) once throughout the wedding day, so it hasn't been a huge priority of mine to purchase one. However, I am noticing that the amount of money that I am spending just to rent one per wedding is starting to add up. It would be wise of me to start thinking about making a purchase soon. After evaluating your finances, you can try to project when would be a good time to buy a piece of gear that you are needing. 

4. You are trying to acheive a certain "look" in your portfolio

There are some lenses that, in my opinion, cannot be replicated or swapped out ie: the 70-200mm. With the lens compression at 200mm, you can pull the background in and have a beautiful depth of field, it's one of my favorite lenses! The 85mm 1.8 at f1.8  gives you a completely different look and makes for a gorgeous portrait lens. You can't get that look with a 50mm lens. So there are circumstances when something else just won't cut it. 

Once you buy a new lens, play with it. 

I can't remember who said this, but I once heard a photographer say that every time they get a new lens, they put it on their camera and shoot with it once a day for a few weeks. In doing so, they train their brain to recognize what look that particular lens will produce. So, when they are on a job and they have a vision in mind for a photograph, they will automatically know which lens would be perfect to use. This is what I call 'mastering the tools you have'.

I hope that this bit of info helps steer you into the direction that is right for you. If anyone has any other advice, I'd love to hear!!

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How Photographers Support Each Other

 "I don't understand, why you guys are all helping eachother if you are all in competition with one another", Jeremy said as he combed his fingers through his hair.  He means well, of course, and I could see where he was coming from. We were on the subject of second shooting for other photographers and he posed the question that, in turn, lead me to a long explaination. 

Yes there are some photographers out there who only see you as their competition, and nothing else. They don't see you as someone who is just like them, a human, struggling with some of the same things. We are all in the same boat, and at the end of the day, we are all striving for the same thing: to book more weddings. The difference is this; we are actually not the same. Our personalities, our business style, our photographic voice--they're different. They define our businesses and attract clients that are more in tune with our style. So the whole competition thing, well, it's kind of complex. 

Most of the photographers that I have met understand this principle, if you will. And I have had the privilege of working with several of these like-minded photog's in the area who all have one thing in common. Generosity. They are givers and want to see you succeed. They cheer for you and are happy to be of help when you are stuck. Sharing is caring, and I have learned that the more we share our ideas whether it be technical skills, marketing, etc, the easier we can make the journey for ourselves and each other. 

As Liene Stevens puts it,  "Generosity Wins". This article from Think Splendid brings this truth home. It states, "Support begets support. If you want others to support you, you do the same for them."

 

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