Introducing GotPhoto’s new monthly feature – Professional Tips with Erica Morrow – lead photographer, and owner of Slow Road Photo. Each month Erica will bring you her view from behind the camera as she snaps thousands of kids and the new school year unfolds.
In this month’s blog, Erica offers her tips and insights on how you can take control of the new school photography season and most importantly avoid getting stressed out.
The other day I was picking up some milk, and I was struck by an entire row dedicated to “Back to School” snacks. I tried to brush off the sudden wave of anxiety that hit me, but the crackers were taunting me with a truth that I had been trying to shake all week: It’s almost time to hit the ground running with schools this year.
See, I’m a school portrait photographer. I spend the winter and much of my summer gearing up for a head spinning, roller coaster ride of an autumn photo season. It’s a stretch of late nights of editing and more early morning coffee refills than I am brave enough to count. In the midst of all the shooting and editing and emailing back and forth with parents, it can easily make us want to throw in the towel and switch to needlepoint if we aren’t careful – can I get an amen from any other photographers out there?
I by no means have all the wisdom on how to sail through a busy season of photographing schools, but I would love to share a few pointers that not only save me time but my sanity as well. These tips have become my lifesavers, and I hope they will help keep your head above water this fall as well!
1. Make Your List, Check It Twi… I Mean, A Dozen Times
I make lists of everything during the school portrait season. I have a list for what gear I need to bring to each school (and yes, that list does include my camera, because if it’s not written down there is just no guarantee that it will make it in the bag!).
I keep lists of where I am at with each individual school, from shooting day to photo delivery day and everything in between. With so many schools, it’s impossible to keep everything straight in my head. Once it’s on paper, I can clear my mind enough to focus on the really important details that just can’t wait, like whether it’s late enough to switch to iced coffee or if I need a refill from my French press. But I digress.
Lists are helpful – use a post-it note and stick it to your computer. Keep a notebook open on your desk. Use the Notes app on your iPhone. Whatever suits you best, don’t trust yourself to keep all those details filed away in your brain.
2. Get Everything Ready Before The Season Starts
GotPhoto has completely changed my game as a photographer, but what I learned early on in school photography is that I need to set up all of my jobs, import my student data, and get my pricing and marketing communications ready to go before the season madness hits. (Check out this helpful article for pricing and these great tips for marketing your photography to learn more about what Erica means.)
It’s hard to think creatively about what to say in an automated parent communication series while simultaneously editing out milk moustaches from nursery kids! I learned that my best thinking happens when I have room to breathe, so I make sure now that all of my jobs are ready to go before I even head out to my first school. I can always tweak little details here and there as the season progresses, but having my jobs set up and ready for photos is a huge gift when things start to get crazy!
3. Partner Labs Are A Gift – Use Them
I totally get it – we all have grown loyal to a lab that carries a particular product we love or packages it in a way we have become accustomed to, and it’s hard to make the leap to an unfamiliar lab. But let me tell you, allowing all of my orders to be automatically fulfilled by a GotPhoto partner lab has been the number one greatest time saver in my business life.
I’m not a super savvy math brain, so before GotPhoto I found myself making lots of time-consuming (and embarrassing) print ordering errors. Enter the GotPhoto partner labs. Now when my job is archived, I click a magical button which sends all of my orders to the lab, and then I can relax and get back to my parenthood reruns while the lab fulfills, packages, and delivers my prints.
As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I’m realizing frequently that in order to keep my head above water and be the best version of myself, I need to take advantage of services such as partner labs. I let GotPhoto make sure that my prints are perfectly printed, and I make sure that the children in the photos have the sweetest (non-milk-moustached) faces in all the land.
There is so much more to share, and I’ll be checking in from time to time with more suggestions and a whole lot of empathy as we support one another in our photography journeys.
Just remember – you are the pro! This is your business, your passion project, your baby. And you have what it takes to photograph and deliver heirloom images that families will treasure. Just keep your eyes up, your lists out, your coffee close, and try to keep in mind what a tremendous gift it is that we are able to do this work that we love!