I'm Laura McPhail, of Chikadeez Photography, I’m a wife, a mom, and a go getter! Chikadeez Photography is located the Greater Metro Atlanta Area, and specializes in natural light photography of children and families.
Tell us what made you become a photographer?
It all started in 2007. I had a 6-month-old little boy that I was completely enamored with, and I was taking thousands of pictures of him. From this grew a great love for all things photography. I nurtured and cultivated that passion, and it eventually became, Chikadeez Photography.
Are you a self taught photographer or did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes?
Its a mixture really. The first year that I had my first DSLR, I never took it off automatic. Then one day, I decided that was it, it was time to get over my fears of learning the camera functions! I asked another local photographer to come out and give me personal lessons. After that, I started researching blogs, websites and publications so I could learn as much as I could. My work started improving as time went on, but it wasn't until after I took some classes at a local photography school that my work/mentality crossed over to professional. Those classes pushed my creativity and the way that I see the world around me. You can teach yourself the technical aspects of photography easily, but the hard part is the creativity. The classes helped a lot with that. The assignments forced you to think outside of your comfort zone. I highly recommend taking any classes you can (at school or online) to give you that little extra something in your work and thought process.
What do you think is the most important factor in making a good picture?
Emotion. Like I said before, anyone can learn the technical side of photography. The hard part is connecting with your subjects on a level that captures who they are. It all stems from a love of what you do. Don't get into photography because you want to make a buck, you must have passion for it. Also, shoot what you love and what you relate to most cause that love will show. I love children, I love the way they play, talk, and the fact that they have no preconceived notions about anything. What you see with kids is who they are, PERFECTION.
How do you decide on locations & poses?
Before a session, I ask the family if they have any ideas in mind, and if not, I can make suggestions based on what they would like. These images will be accents in their homes, so I try to be sure that it will match their personal taste. Most of the parents look to me to tell them what to wear and where to go. I make those decisions based on who they are. I get to know them to find out what they like to do as a family and then go from there. I used to look at other images for inspiration, and would go to a session with all of these ideas. But sometimes what you have pictured in your head just doesn't happen, so you have to be ready to just go with it too. One that that has helped a lot is keeping a journal. I keep a journal near me at all times because session ideas and pose ideas will randomly pop into my head. I quickly jot the ideas in my notebook so that I can reference them later.
What’s your best marketing advice that you have found to work?
Having a PR and marketing background, I would love to say a brilliant ad campaign. However, after spending money on advertising and having little to no return, I have conceded to the fact that word of mouth really is the best thing for this business. I do have quite a few clients that come from Google searches, so when you invest in a website, you need to invest in someone that can help you with your search engine optimization (SEO). Having a blog is a GREAT way to build your SEO.
What is your favorite lens and why?
Hmm . . . I love my 50mm 1.4 because of the sharpness. But . . . I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my 70-200mm 2.8, that lens is just sublime and the bokeh is so pretty.
How do you balance it all?
Honestly, I'm still trying to figure that out. I work from home and have two toddlers, so it can get pretty rough. Most of my work occurs after everyone in the house has gone to bed. Lot's of late nights for mommy. :)
What advice would you give a new photographer who is just starting their own photography business?
Take your time, there is a lot of work that goes into starting any business. I you want to truly be successful, you must be firm in your pricing and structure. There are some really great tools out there for people that are starting their first business. A lot of them are free, so do a lot of research and take advantage of the tools that are available. Stacy Reeves' Photographer's Pricing Guide is a spreadsheet that's an asset to any startup business. It will help you figure out how much it will cost to run your business and how much you need to be charging. Wait, it gets better . . . it's completely FREE!!! My dad is a CPA, so I had him look it over to make sure that the calculations were legit. After looking it over, he said that it was GREAT and every business starting out should use something like this!!!
Link to Stacy Reeves' Photographer's Pricing Guide: http://www.stacyreeves.com/photographers-pricing-guide/
Thanks, Laura-we hope to have you back soon!
Headshot Photo Credit: Paul Johnson http://www.pauljohnsonphoto.com/