Today’s interview is with Lauren Sanderson!
Hi Lauren! Big congrats on being the CMpro of the month. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in photography?
Thank you! I’m a mom of three sweet girls five and under, and my husband and I are high school sweethearts and have been married for almost 12 years. I’m a part-time professional photographer in Huntsville Alabama and mostly photograph families and children, with a few maternity, senior and newborn sessions sprinkled in. I’ve always loved taking pictures… I was that girl in high school who was always taking pictures, had double glossy prints developed at a one-hour photo, and then passed out the doubles to all my friends. When I started a family, that natural love of photography turned in to a real passion and hobby, and before I knew it, I was in business.
I love your family work! The interactions and expressions seem so natural. How do you prep your families to get them so relaxed?
I try to find out as much as possible about them before our session… what they like to do as a family, what makes them laugh, funny things the kids do. The more I know about them, the more I have to talk about at the session then the more comfortable they will feel with me and with what we’re doing. If I’ve never met them before, then my goal is to make them feel like we are old friends. During the session, I think silence is awkward, so I like keep conversations going with open-ended questions… and if their answers will lead to a good or happy or funny memory or reaction, then that’s even better! For example, while shooting a close family photo, I might ask the parents “what’s the goofiest face you can make?” and ask the kids to judge which one was the goofiest, or ask the kids “what’s the silliest sound you know how to make?” and then wait for them all to laugh.
I know that you love to photograph your personal work with film. Do you have any plans to incorporate it into your client sessions?
It’s funny you ask this, because yes I do plan on incorporating film into my client work. I have a deep desire to make this year about growth, efficiency, and creativity. And that desire has inspired me to completely change things up this year. Although not officially announced, I plan on photographing my clients exclusively on film this year. It’s a huge leap for me because I’ve only used film for personal work, but I am so excited about offering this to my clients and doing something new this year!
What is your current gear set up and do you have a favorite, go to lens?
My main body is a Nikon D600, and my film body is a Nikon F100. My main lenses are my Nikkor 85 1.8G and my Sigma Art 35 1.4. I also have an older Tamron 17-35mm that is fun to play with for wide-angle shots. My go-to lens for client and film photography is my 85mm, and the 35mm is my main lenses for indoor and lifestyle work. I also have a small Panasonic Lumix camera that I use for underwater photos, and a tiny Fuji XQ1 that I always keep in my purse for those moments that deserve more than my iPhone. I really enjoyed shooting underwater last year so I would love to upgrade my underwater setup this year.
You are a super busy mom of three, have a full time job, are a member of the Click Magazine production staff, and a photography business on top of everything. Do you have any tips on staying organized in your business?
I have two main tips for staying organized in business. The first is to find a software that can keep you organized and automate some of your processes. I have used Pixifi Studio Management for 4 years and it’s a huge step up from the Excel spreadsheet I had before. I use it to keep track of incoming leads, invoices, expenses, taxes, contracts, questionnaires, and proposals. It even has a built-in client portal so my clients can access everything online at their convenience. My second piece of advice is simple to give, but sometimes hard to execute… don’t let yourself get behind. After every session, my goal is to upload, edit and deliver the images within a week of the session. Not only does this keep my work plate relatively clean, but my clients love getting their images so quickly. Having a fast turnaround time is a great way to have your business standout from the competition.
You have an upcoming breakout with Clickin Moms! Can you give us the scoop on what you’ll be discussing?
I am so excited about launching the breakout! My style and approach to shooting is highly influenced by my surroundings and my vision for a session often starts with choosing the location and then planning the rest of the session details. In the breakout I’m sharing how to choose and use a location in order to get the unique images and a gallery full of variety. In the 130+ page Field Guide PDF I go into great detail how my decisions, gear, camera settings, and the location itself can help accomplish that goal, and so many inspiring and instructional images to go along with each concept. I will walk you through specific things to look for when scouting locations and different methods of creating a location log that works best different workflows (location log template PDF included!) There are also two videos included in the breakout. One is a behind-the-scenes insight video, where I go into detail how I choose my locations, what I see at each place, decisions I made based on the environment, and things I wish she had done differently, with lots of pullback and final shots to illustrate it all. The other video is an editing one (I use ACR and Photoshop) where I show ways to easily enhance or alter a location and my thought process behind the post-processing of each image. There’s also a bonus inspirational PDF called the Location Lookbook that includes 40+ pullback and final image comparisons, so you can see and analyze locations as they look to the naked eye, compared to what they can become with a photographer’s eye.
When you arrive at a location for a session, what is the first thing that you are looking for as you kick off the shoot?
For me, since I’ve already scouted the location ahead of time (noting the location’s attributes like leading lines, framing, interesting elements, etc.) I’m mainly concerned with the light. My ultimate goal is to marry these two together (location and light) for the most interesting and compelling images possible.
What is your current favorite image and why is it your favorite?
My favorite image right is a little unexpected, and probably not one that most people would identify as mine. I tend to only post images that are in line with the style that I want to offer clients, and unfortunately that means not posting a lot of my favorite personal images, because I think they aren’t in line with my brand. This image, pretty much a fluke if I remember right, just melts me to my core. My work is full of emotion and happiness, and this image embodies that so perfectly. I had just taken pictures of them on the trampoline in their Halloween costumes. She started jumping and literally bounced her Sleeping Beauty dress right off her body. We got so tickled when it happened and this smile is that whole moment captured perfectly.
You have a lot of gorgeous sibling images on your website. Do you normally start your sessions with the whole family or with the kids by themselves?
I like to start the session off in a relaxed, fun way. I let the kids run around and explore the area, just so they feel comfortable and loosen up a little. Then my next goal is to knock out any images that I know the client definitely wants. I know what these images are because I ask them in the my pre-session questionnaire. The posed family and sibling shots are always on that list. I generally like to start with the siblings, shoot some posed images first, then images of them having fun and being themselves, and then add the parents into the shot for the family shots. I love sibling images because a) I know how much those shots mean to me when I’m able to get them and b) siblings can relax a little more for these (without the parents) so I usually end up with very authentic and casual images. The smiley, posed sibling shot is usually the elusive white rabbit of the session, but I always make sure to get that shot. If the kids aren’t into it at that time, I come back to it later because I know how important it is to the family.
Your images are so light and clean. Do you do a lot of post processing and could you tell us your software of choice?
Thank you! It took a year or two to realize that I prefer clean, minimally-edited images. And because I have such a clean style, unless my images need extensive retouching in photoshop (which is rarely the case), I batch edit sessions using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I mentioned earlier that I like to deliver client images very quickly, so streamlining my processes and finding ways to do things better and faster are what help me accomplish the quick turnaround time. The more actions and retouching you need for your images, the more you’ll have to depend on Photoshop, which can drastically increase post-processing time.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out, what would that be?
I would tell myself to not be such an impulse shopper for photography-related items. I went through an action phase, a prop phase, and a gear phase. And most things I bought on a whim, over time have become the purchases I regret. Now, I put items I want on an amazon wishlist and let it sit there… for a while. Very rarely to do I buy it on impulse, and when/if I do decide to buy, I make sure that I have a plan for it. We work hard for the money that we make, and we should work equally as hard spending it.
Thank you, Lauren, for the fantastic interview! Make sure you head over to Lauren’s website, facebook, instagram, pinterest, and google+ to view more of her gorgeous work and keep up with her happenings.