Managing Time for Creatives

by Guest Contributor Shannan Painter

You’re in the middle of FINALLY sitting down to work on some bookkeeping when a friendly little chime alerts you that someone commented on a post you wrote on your Facebook business page. You think “I’ll just take a quick peek. It IS marketing after all.”

Twenty minutes later, you’ve watched a viral video that made you cry, taken a quiz to see which pop star you are, and crept on that “other photographer’s” Facebook page that you are convinced is stealing all your business. And come on, she’s not even that good.

WTH happened?

If you’re like me and are right-brain dominated or live mostly in your creative side as opposed to your logical, rational side, you might be an easy victim of reactionary workflow: spending all your energy trying to keep up and responding to each incoming thing, as opposed to being proactive and structuring your day.

You might be right brained if…

You’ve ever been in the middle of one task, and suddenly gotten distracted by another pressing need, and as a result left the first task unfinished.

You’ve ever found yourself wondering where an hour went while sitting at your desk working, and nothing got accomplished.

You easily forget appointments or tasks.

You constantly feel “busy” even though your business revenue doesn’t really say you are.

Why most organizations systems simply don’t work for you

Guess who is making most of the organizational tools: the people to whom organization comes naturally! The people telling us how to organize our creative brains are the ones whose socks and underwear are all folded neatly into symmetrical little rows! We try to conform to their brain and thought patterns and end up more frustrated than before, because it just doesn’t work for us.

So what DOES work?

Well, that depends. We all have a unique combination of creativity and structure. There are photographers who are exceptional at organizing and planning. And then, there are the rest of us. I used to write a “to-do” list willy-nilly on random post-it notes, pieces of scratch paper, the notepad in my phone, dry erase boards, and anything in plain sight frankly. But then, I had no “plan of action” to accomplish those tasks. In the same way that you can’t simply say “I want to make six figures this year” and then sit back and wait for money to come rolling in, you can’t just write up to-do lists without figuring out when and how you will get things done.

I used to hate the idea of scheduling. I remember interviewing a very successful photographer who told me she scheduled everything and thinking “I could never do that!” The truth is, that I have found MORE freedom in putting a plan on paper. I am more focused, and less stressed, because everything has an allocated time. If something comes up in my day that I didn’t plan for, I am also able to make adjustments to the structure I already have as opposed to reacting and panicking! Want to know more about time blocking and planning? I found this wonderful FREE tool that I use each morning from Just a Girl and Her Blog: check it out here.

{For further reading on organizing your creative mind, check out Scott Belsky’s article HERE. Reference note: The term “reactionary workflow” taken from this article.}

About the Author: Shannan Painter is a newbie photographer who has spent the last 5 years working with the left side of her brain helping small businesses organize their accounting and taxes. She decided to take the big step and pursue her dream of becoming a professional photographer in 2013 after adding a third boy to her house that was already full of super heroes, trucks, and sports equipment. She and her husband, who is a local TV meteorologist, play pick-up games of basketball in their free time and like to take road trips to Lake Minnetonka with all 3 boys, and their dog Growler.  

Visit Shannan at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK page today

Photographer Spotlight: Melissa J

We are so excited to welcome the fabulously talented Melissa J to the Rock the Shot Blog. Learn more about Melissa’s beautiful maternity and newborn photography in our Photographer Spotlight, then visit her at her website Melissa J Photography. Thank you so much Melissa for sharing your work with us today!

Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
Totally cliche, but it’s my boys. i wanted to capture everything about them so i could remember all the little things since they’re growing up so fast. i bought a canon 10d off a friend.  it didn’t even have a lens and i had no idea i had to buy something separate to use it – yea i was *that* dslr illiterate.  that little camera intrigued me so much that i spent hours learning everything i could with it. i have lots and lots of blurry photos of my kids from that camera but by golly, it was fun and helped get me where i am today!

How would you describe your photography style?
Dreamy and pure. i like my props and set ups to give an organic feel and my lighting to be simple and dreamy. i want parents to have photos of their newborn and see who their baby was at that 2 week age… the tiny flakes, wrinkly skin, and even the umbilical stump!

Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
Self taught. Wayyyyy too much time on google and youtube.

What camera do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens?
Canon 5d mark ii. My favorite lens is my macro (100mm 2.8) but my 35mm 1.4 is my workhorse. i’m also in love with my 135 2.0L and wish I had space to use it more.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how to find the light?
I’m a lover of shadows! I like to look at the shadows and adjust my subject based on where the shadow is falling. for babies in studio, this is usually a 45 or 90 degree angle from where the soft light is coming in. For maternity clients, this is usually right at sunrise or right before sunset and I typically have the sun behind them. I try to stay away from harsh light (mid day outdoors or use light and airy curtains if using natural light in studio). Lighting is so important and I feel like there was a time in my learning curve when I had that ah-ha moment and everything just clicked with finding the light. It takes time and it takes practice. The great thing with learning lighting, you can practice on anything! Put a chair out in the field and see how the light falls on it, put your hand out in front of the light and see if it falls nice and soft on your hand.

Also – don’t be scared of studio lighting! I used to be a natural light snob but recently tried out studio lighting so that I could fit in more sessions and it was the best decision ever. I am in love with studio light and it was so easy to get started!

What is your favorite subject to photograph and why?

What is a good lesson you have learned this year in photography or in your business?
To be myself. I used to follow tons of photographers on Facebook and spent way too much valuable time seeing what they were doing. Once I stepped away from that and analyzed my own photos more deeply, I pulled out the passion inside me and what type of images make my heart flutter. I realized that these other photographers aren’t paying my bills, my clients are. My clients are paying for my artistic eye and to be true to them, I have to be true to myself.

If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
Take the dirt road. Don’t take the paved road that other photographers are paving for you. Find what makes you happy and work towards making that the best you can.

What do you love most about being a photographer?
I am the most un-artsy person ever, except when it comes to photography so I love using it as my creative outlet. A place to share my artistic vision with the world. I also love being able to capture my own 3 boys and will be able to give them albums to cherish long past their wedding days.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still photographing newborns but also doing more birth photography. I’m a big birth photography junkie but because of my newborn work, i only take one birth a month so hoping I can find a way to fit in more over the years. I’m also working on an international adventure and hoping to use my photography skills to be able to share with others what it’s like in a poverty filled area of Mexico.

About the Artist: I love spending my days photographing the tiniest residents of Colorado and everything that surrounds their adventure into this world. I never called myself artistic until I stumbled onto newborn photography and found there is actually an artistic side of me. I’m a lover of family time, my 3 little monsters, a cold glass of Riesling, and the evening sunset.

Visit Melissa at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOOGLE+ pages here

The Natural Light Workshop: Registration NOW OPEN for Members!

How we use natural light, has the ability to make or break any photograph. Though shooting at the golden hour of sunset is a gorgeous time of day, it’s not always the most convenient! Learning how to shoot at all times of day in every type of lighting condition brings so much freedom! Not only can you schedule sessions at any time of day, you can make every location and lighting situation work in your favor.  Natural Light with Brooke Snow is an in-depth exploration of learning to see and use the best light in all types of conditions.

You’ll watch Brooke on several different filmed shoots, each depicting a new time of day or lighting challenge!  These lessons will arm you with powerful problem solving skills for natural light, so you can get the best results despite the challenges!

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below where ONE LUCKY Rock the Shot reader will have a chance to win a FREE Full-Participation Seat for the Natural Light Workshop – how SWEET is that?!


Week One: Find the Light First, the Location Second:

  • Learning to See the Light
  • Directions of Light
  • Looking for Clues in Your Environment
  • Simple Tools for Enhancing the Light
  • Live Demo Video: Finding the Light First
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting Indoors

Week Two: Troubleshooting

Problems/Solutions for:

  • Midday Sun
  • Backlighting
  • Intensity of Direct Light
  • Dappled Light
  • High Contrast Light
  • Finding Catch Lights
  • Finding Even Light
  • Overcast Light
  • Color Casting
  • Not Enough Light
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting in Open Sun
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting in Dappled Light
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting in Overcast Light
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting in Partly Cloudy/Midday Sun

Week Three: Light and Composition:

  • How to Use Light to Tell a Story
  • Light and Shadow
  • Side Lighting in Composition
  • Front Light vs. Backlight in Conveying Emotion
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting in Contrasting Light
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting at Sunset

Week Four: Lighting Tricks:

  • Silhouettes
  • Starbursts
  • Creative White Balance
  • Hazy Light vs. Sharp Light
  • Live Demo Video: Shooting Silhouettes & Starbursts

BONUS:  for this workshop only, Brooke Snow will be gifting lifetime access to her Natural Light Membership Site to each person who registers for the course on Rock The Shot (Regularly a $250 value sold separately). The Lifetime Membership provides you with all the same content of the course, plus several bonus recordings, access to all future content added, and a beautiful place on the web to reference the course content at any time or place.

Camera Requirements: DSLR (your camera is capable of changing lenses)
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Location: The workshop is held entirely online within the forum.
Time: The workshop will begin on Tuesday, May 6 2014. Materials are presented on Tuesday each week for 4 weeks, and may be accessed at your convenience during the workshop.
Materials: All course lessons and demonstrations are taught via video. Included with the course is a 29-page PDF course manual detailing all the course content for quick reference. In addition, this course includes exciting corresponding homework assignments and personalized critique (full-participants).
Instructor: Brooke Snow


“This class has been a turning point in my photography journey.” – Megan Hoffman

“I LOVED the live shoots! It’s so helpful to watch you in action, and have you explain what you are doing and why! I will never look at light the same! This class is a MUST! My confidence level is so much better after what I have learned in Natural Light!” -Ann White

“I learned heaps about how to manage and not be afraid of shooting in different light circumstances. Especially shooting in dappled light, loved that. I’m more confident in knowing how I can shoot no matter what the weather conditions are.” -Michele Bird

“I am a visual learner and it was so great to see Brooke in action, seeing her deal with everyday circumstances and how she problem solves. I really appreciate everything that she has taught and the genuine person that she is.” – Raini Castro

“One thing I’ve improved on is to cut back on my editing time considerably because now I make better use of the available light.” -Sandra Armenteros

“After taking this course I am so much more confident of a photographer. I am able to look at and for the light and know what I need to do in order to get the picture I want.” -Cindy Berning

“I thought I was pretty aware of the light around me, and was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to light at a whole other level! I am now always looking at the quality of the light around me.” -Thelma Achamire

“I learned heaps about how to manage and not be afraid of shooting in different light circumstances. Especially how to shoot in dappled light, loved that. I’m more confident in knowing how I can shoot no matter what the weather conditions are.” – Michele Bird

About Brooke:  Brooke Snow has been a professional photography educator since 2009, and has become known for her interactive online teaching style through the use of video and live demonstration. Her favorite things to photograph include laughter and adventure.  She loves life in the rural countryside and lives with her husband and rambunctious 3 year old son in Northern Utah.

Visit Brooke at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK pages today!

Registration is OPEN to ALL!

This workshop is offered for the Rock the Shot Forum Members price of $185 for Full Participation Registration and $150 for *Study-Along Registration

If you are a current member of Rock the Shot Forum, please register HERE. Under the “Add/Renew Subscription” tab, you may add the workshop.

This workshop is offered for the Non-Members price of $210 for Full Participation Registrationand $175 for *Study-Along Registration

Non-members may register HERE, and receive FREE access to the forum for the duration of the workshop

(total class size will be limited to 35 Full-Participants and 45 Study-Along Participants)

Please note: Workshop seats are non-refundable, and non-transferrable

*Study-Along registrants will have full access to the materials, and may study along; however, will not be able to post questions or photos for critique.

The workshop will begin on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014. See you then!

NOTE:  After you complete registration you will receive an automatic email with further details for the workshop (please check your spam box if you do not receive this email).  We will also send out an email welcome packet one week prior to the start of the workshop.  If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email

Enter below for a chance to win a FREE Full-Participation Seat for the Natural Light Workshop:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry! Giveaway ends on Monday, May 5th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 6th.

LEGAL STUFF: This promotion is in NO WAY sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You will NOT be notified publicly via Facebook if you are a winner. You MUST be 18 to participate. By entering this giveaway, you are providing information to Rock the Shot and NOT to Facebook. Prizes do not have cash value. There will be no returns/exchanges on any of the items.

Featured Vendor + Giveaway: ShootProof

Today we have the always amazing ShootProof on the blog. Take a moment to learn more about their fabulous photo proofing service for photographers.  Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a One-Year Subscription ShootProof’s 15,000 Photo Plan ($300 value)!

About ShootProof

ShootProof is the best way to share and sell your photos online. With beautiful client galleries, easy administration, and absolutely no commissions on your sales, ShootProof is the professional solution that saves photographers valuable time in their workflow and helps impress clients!

From weddings to sports, schools to corporate events, and babies to boudoir, ShootProof’s system is customizable with features suited for all styles of photographers. ShootProof is now used by tens of thousands of photographers in 11 languages across 27 countries. Easily create private or public galleries that are integrated with your brand, and choose to protect your images with watermarking, passwords, and archiving. Galleries are viewable on computers, tablets, and smartphones, with no downloads necessary for your clients. Review a list of ShootProof features that will help grow your photography business.

ShootProof provides flexible digital download options based on the arrangement with your client, from free one-click digital downloads, to a set number of included digitals, to only allowing purchasing of digital files if you choose to offer them. Sell prints and other products that you choose, set your own prices, and keep 100% of your profits. Your photos can be easily uploaded via the ShootProof Lightroom Publish Service, Desktop Uploader, or of course any web browser. Interested in collecting emails during an event, such as a wedding or corporate event? Check out the new ShootProof Event Emails iPad App that will sync emails right to the gallery in your ShootProof account to share the photos with guests when they are ready!

Utilize ShootProof’s optional archiving as an alternative to cloud storage and a safer option than hard drive backup. Because you can upload files up to 28mb in size, you can easily store your full-resolution images for years to come. And, it’s easy to reactivate a gallery when a client wishes to make purchases from his or her event again in the future; all settings are saved and you’re ready to sell!

Integrate music with your galleries and slideshows for the ultimate client experience. Choose from over 13,000 songs to stream and create an unlimited number of playlists, and then set music to play automatically when the client enters the gallery or only in the slideshow view. ShootProof’s partnership with Triple Scoop Music means you can supercharge the emotional energy of your galleries!

One of the most amazing marketing features for your studio is word of mouth, so create mobile apps for your photography clients through ShootProof that keep them talking about your studio! Choose up to 40 photos for each client’s custom app that they can download to their mobile devices or tablets and show with friends and family. Add your logo and the ability for clients to share the app via social media, if you wish, for maximum visibility. Increase referral business and gain new clients in a snap!

Print fulfillment by one of their professional photo labs makes the the entire process absolutely seamless. With no price markup on your lab products, ShootProof’s extreme flexibility allows you the option to self-fulfill your own prints and products, use any of their partner labs, or have digital images sent directly to your clients via email or one-click download.

Your transactions are always safe with ShootProof’s secure credit card processing. The full shopping cart and ecommerce experience make online sales a snap, with no other accounts or integration necessary.

The low monthly subscription is based on the number of photos you have online at any given time, so you only pay for what you need. Choose the plan that is right for you right now, and move up and down between plans at anytime. There is even a free plan for beginners, which includes all of the features that the most seasoned pro will have.  The flexibility of plans all at one low hassle-free cost, along with their unique zero commissions pricing, makes ShootProof a great fit for any photographer.

Who is ShootProof?

ShootProof is a small team, part photographers, programmers, engineers, and above all customer service fanatics. We’re an eclectic group that brings a fresh look to the proofing world. We’re innovative, we listen, and we care about helping you grow your photography business. ShootProof stands for simple, intuitive design and freedom of choice for photographers.

One of ShootProof’s founders, Robert, is married to a wedding photographer, and in helping her search for the perfect proofing service, discovered that it did not yet exist. He teamed up with Colin and together decided to created the ideal solution. Of course, ShootProof had to be shared with all of the many photographers in need of this service.

Best of all, you can try ShootProof via their 30 day free trial!

Enter the Giveaway for a chance to win a One-Year Subscription to Shoot Proof’s 15,000 Photo Plan ($300 value):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry! Giveaway ends on Tuesday, April 15th . Winner will be announced on Saturday, April 19th.

LEGAL STUFF: This promotion is in NO WAY sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You will NOT be notified publicly via Facebook if you are a winner. You MUST be 18 to participate. By entering this giveaway, you are providing information to Rock the Shot and NOT to Facebook. Prizes do not have cash value. There will be no returns/exchanges on any of the items.

Creating Unique Newborn Sessions For Your Clients

by Guest Contributor Sandy Summers Russell

Do you ever feel like you’re shooting the same thing over and over again with your newborn portrait sessions? Do you wish you could bring not only more creativity to your images, but give your clients a truly custom photography experience? Creating a successful custom newborn portrait shoot doesn’t just start with triggering your camera’s shutter release. You have to lay the groundwork ahead of time, and I’d like to share how I do that with a recent newborn session at my studio.

This little baby’s mama is a very talented hair and makeup artist who works extensively with the local photographer community. So I knew when she contacted me about pictures they would need to be beautiful and stylish images.

All of my portrait sessions include an in person pre-session consultation. That’s where we sit down about a week before the baby’s due date and talk about the portrait session in detail. It is so critical to collaborate with your client, so your final images turn out exactly as they desire. They should complement their individual tastes, so they can be beautifully displayed in their home.

When I can, I like to do this consult at the client’s home, so I can immediately get a feel for their personal style. When I met with this client I knew exactly what her distinct aesthetic was. It was soft neutrals, blushes, and gold accents; a gorgeous mixture of hard and soft, romantic and masculine. Very much a Restoration Hardware look than say Pottery Barn or West Elm home. Imagine if this consult hadn’t been done, and I had chosen reds and greens or something too bright for the baby portrait colors. It wouldn’t have gone with her decor at all! That’s why a custom photographer is truly that, an artist who creates unique images for a client’s home. They’ve commissioned me to create art and to document a monumental time in their life. They should be perfect, and exactly what they’ve always dreamed of.

For this session the mother wanted to use her Vera Wang wedding dress. “Would that interest you?” she asked. Are you kidding! I was beyond excited about it. I thought a vintage dress form would be the perfect way to show off the gown. She found one at a local boutique she had close ties with, and they graciously let us use it for the shoot. We also picked a bench from her home, and she brought her Jimmy Choo shoes she wore for the wedding. Talk about a beautiful set of props to work with. The mother also surprised me that day with two absolutely perfect fresh baby’s breath halos from her favorite local florist. What a perfect compliment they were.

For the beanbag images, while I had plenty of blush and cream colored backdrops, I didn’t have anything gold. So I went to one of my favorite places to find backdrops, Jo-Ann fabrics. When you’re searching for a good beanbag backdrop fabric you should look for something with texture, a thicker material, and a little stretch. There, I found this gold sweater knit backdrop with sequins. Perfect! Even better it was on clearance for $6 a yard. You need only two yards for a beanbag backdrop. The hats, headbands, and wrap I got from my favorite source, Many of them I already had in my prop stash; however this session was done on Valentine’s Day, so I found an adorable bonnet with a wooden heart accent for her to wear.

For the mother and daughter shots, I always think simple is better. The mother, of course, did her own hair and makeup, and it really shows what a professional can achieve. She had brought some solid color neutrals to wear, but I had another idea. I took blush colored sheer fabric and wrapped it around her chest, and another fabric background in a loose sweater knit and wrapped that around her body, and then I secured them both behind her with a backdrop clip. Instant designer gown, or at least it looks that way. It also leaves her shoulders bare to snuggle against her daughter.

We had grandma jump in for a three generations shot towards the end. Aren’t they all gorgeous together?

The final set of props the client brought was for her husband. She wanted to make a special image for his office. He’s an avid hunter, so she brought his collection of elk antlers. Oh my goodness, they were giant! How cool they were to work with. I placed them so they created a half circle around her with varying directions and heights. I then pared it with a sheepskin shearling I found on Ebay for $19, a naturally knitted blanket, and a driftwood slab to give it that mixture of hard and soft used throughout their home. I adore how it turned out. The images are serene and beautiful, like a baby Norse goddess.

All of this might sound like a lot of work for one session, but that’s what makes it custom photography. As long as your business model compensates you for the time and money spent on each session, you should be able to create something unique for each client at every portrait session. In the end you’ll have achieved your goal of creativity, and your client will be overjoyed with distinctive art made just for them.

Prop Sources:
vintage dress form: Melange
baby’s breath haloes: Twigs and Petals
gold beanbag fabric: Jo-Ann Fabric
cream hat: Baby Le Cradle
cream lacey wrap: Devoted Knits
cream beanbag fabric: Stylish Fabric
lace head scarf: Manly and Pretty Little Things
blush beanbag fabric: Roses and Ruffles
wood heart accent hat: Blue Stone Sky
blush sweater fabric on mom: Stylish Fabric
sheep shearling: Leatherwise
knit blanket: Devoted Knits
driftwood slab: JD Vintage Props

About the Author: Sandy Summers Russell is a former metro newspaper photojournalist who fell in love with a small-town farm boy. She married him, moved to the middle of nowhere, became a mom, and started Summerland Photography in exactly that order. Now, instead of shooting breaking news, professional sporting events, and heartrending human interest features, she photographs brand new babies, fleet-footed toddlers, and jubilant weddings.

Visit Sandy at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK pages today!

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