Okay blogstalkers! I'm going to get started digging my way through the massive pile of questions you accumulated for me last week. I'm not really going to be going in order, I'm just starting at the bottom picking questions I feel like I can answer right now! If I skipped you, I may come back to your question at another session.

Today the questions I'll be answering are:

QUESTION 1: From Sara Beth: My question is money related - I was wondering if you took out any business loans or if you built from the bottom up little by little?

The short answer to this question is that I built up my inventory of equipment little by little but there were two things that allowed me to feasibly do this. The first is that when I first started out, I worked as an office manager/associate photographer for four years. As an associate, I used their equipment on jobs. So that made it possible for me to buy a camera body (my first digital body was the Canon D30, not to be confused with the 30D you see today) while trying out lots of lenses to see what I liked. If I had to build up my equipment without that help today and was on a budget, I would invest in the best camera body I could afford (the 5D is a great choice) and rent lenses on a shoot by shoot basis while buying ones that were necessary first. A great lens to start with is the 85 1.8. At under $400, it's a fantastic portrait lens that is reasonably priced.

The other thing that allowed me to buy equipment like my computer system is that I sort of took out a loan from myself. You know all those savings bonds you get when you're born? Well, I cashed mine in and ended up with enough money to buy my computer, monitor, camera, lens, flash, and a few other accessories. Not bad for money I never even knew I had!

If I had to give advice now, I would recommend taking out a small loan in order to get up and running. Get a low interest loan and start paying it back as you start making money. There's just no way to do a great job without the proper tools of the trade.

QUESTION 2: From Tngying: Hi Jessica, I really do admire your photography and am amazed the freshness of your photos all the time in terms of composition, lighting, ideas. I would like to know how you constantly do that! I'm running out of ideas already!

This is something that I struggle with like everyone else. I think that one thing that helps is to get to know your couple or subject a bit before the shoot, or even when you first arrive so you can find things about them that you can incorporate into the shoot. I love to shoot engagement sessions somewhere significant to a particular couple. My best work though, is when I get to shoot people doing something or being somewhere that they really enjoy. For example, I had a couple the other day say to me, "please don't make us shoot our engagement session at the beach, I just don't like the beach!" I'm so glad that they said something about that because instead of putting them somewhere uncomfortable, we were able to choose a location they really loved.

I think doing things different every time is really difficult, and so I don't try to go too far outside the box on every shoot. My clients hire me not only for my photos but because they have an idea of what they will get with me, and consistency is a good thing. So on every shoot, I'll shoot about 75% of what I know will work well, and I'll try about 25% of the time to do something different or new. It doesn't always work, but sometimes I get something completely awesome! That way I can shoot for the client and still satisfy my own creativity and curiosity without the pressure of feeling like if I don't do the new thing well, the shoot is ruined.

QUESTION 3: From Michele Louise: How did you develop your style of post processing?

Very very slowly :) I think that developing a style is something that only comes when you don't have to worry about the technical aspects of shooting anymore--it all has to come naturally with no thought. Otherwise, you are going to be too wrapped up in wondering HOW to get the shot and if it's going to come out well than concentrating on seeing things in your own unique way. I'm talking about capturing the photo here because in order to develop a post processing style, it's important to shoot the image with the final result in mind. I know before I ever take a shot what I want it to look like in the album or on my blog and shoot it accordingly. The style I chose for my post processing came naturally because the way I tweak the photos to look is how I see the world. It's hard to explain, but I just see certain patterns and colors that I know I can bring out later in photoshop. Perfect example: Tamar & Ken's shoot right below this post. I knew the second I saw this spot what I would be able to do with the color in this wall. Here's the shot straight out of camera:


As you can see, there's nothing wrong with it, but the trick is to see the potential in it.

Here is the shot after processing:


I knew what it would look like after processing before I even shot the image. Some people might say that it looks "too photoshopped", but I wanted to go for a very stylized look here.

Once you can consistently know what you'll get after processing, you can start to do it more and more often and as a style instead of just an image or two here and there.

Okay, that's it for today's episode of blogstalker Q&A! If you would like to ask me something, photography related or not, go ahead and ask away by LEAVING A COMMENT IN THIS POST