I’ve been doing my best here on the ol’ blog to answer some of my most frequently-asked questions, but I’ve reached the point in my photography business where I’ve found myself answering some of the same questions again and again. Clearly, this is an indication that my clients aren’t finding the info they need on my blog or my website, so today, I decided to start an FAQ page to hopefully help people find some information about their more specific questions.

Here’s where YOU come in:

Is there you’re curious about? Anything you think I may have omitted? Questions? Concerns? Advice re. hair-care products? (I’m always down for that last one.)


How long will it take for me to get my pictures back?

For weddings, it takes 6-8 weeks. For everything else, 3-4 weeks.

Why is it taking so long for me to get my wedding pictures back?!

Well, when I’m shooting a wedding (or any other event), I generate at least 100 photos an hour. So at the end of an eight-hour wedding shoot, I have somewhere between 800 and 1,000 photos, sometimes more, PLUS those taken by my second shooter (when I have one). First, I go through and cull all those photos – that is, I decide which ones to keep, and which ones to discard (as much as I would like to tell you that every photograph on my memory card is absolutely perfect and that none of them are blurry, blown-out or just plain yucky, that is simply not the truth, plus I take a lot of duplicates in order to get each shot just right). Then the ones that I keep are edited individually – that means every single one of those hundreds of photographs is edited, adjusted, retouched, cropped, etc., by yours truly. To give you an idea of how long the process takes, I recently spent somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours editing 20 wedding photos for a “sneak preview” on Facebook. Contrary to what a lot of people think, the real “work” when it comes to wedding photography actually takes place AFTER the photographer leaves the reception! And then there’s the fact that there are simply other clients and other weddings “ahead” in the queue.

Believe me, I know from experience how AGONIZING it is waiting for wedding photos! But I can assure you of two things: I will get them to you as soon as possible after they’re finished, and you will receive the absolute best work I can possibly do!

Can I just get a copy of everything that’s on your memory cards? You don’t have to edit them or anything.

No, I’m sorry, but I never give out unedited photos, even to family and friends. You can ask ‘em – they’ll tell you! But I can assure you that, except in the case of mini-sessions, where you receive a limited number of photos, you are getting a copy of everything on my memory card that’s worth having.

How will I get my pictures? Do you mail them to me?

Yes, most of the time, I mail a CD or DVD to the client’s home in a padded envelope. Brides and grooms receive a personalized jump drive with their photos. If you prefer to pick them up, just contact me!

What if I want to buy an extra CD/DVD or jump drive?

You can certainly do that! There is an extra charge, however. Again, just contact me!

Where will we go to take my pictures?

While some sessions, like mini-sessions, are held in a predetermined location, most of the time, we can go anywhere you want as long as it’s within the Shreveport-Bossier area. Obviously, we must have the owner’s permission if we shoot on private property, and there are some places, like Norton Art Gallery Gardens, where we can’t shoot at all. Still others, like The Strand Theatre and Scottish Rite Temple, charge a pretty hefty fee to shoot there unless your wedding or reception is scheduled for that location. I can suggest a number of indoor and outdoor locations depending on the overall feel you want your shoot to have.

Also, I am happy to travel outside Shreveport-Bossier, but I do charge a mileage or travel fee.

What should I wear?

See here!

How far in advance should I book my shoot?

Well, that depends. For weddings, you should book at least six months in advance, if at all possible. I am currently booked up for weddings until April 2014. Families, couples and others who need to schedule a weekend shoot should try to book 4-6 weeks out (again, if possible). I generally have more availability if you can schedule your shoot for a weekday, and, of course, some weeks are busier than others. To be on the safe side, schedule as far in advance as you can, but never hesitate to contact me! My schedule fluctuates a great deal, and often, I can work clients in at the last minute.

Can I schedule a mini-session any time, or do I have to wait until you hold the next round of portrait parties?

Mini-sessions are only available a few times a year. The final two mini-sessions for 2013 will take place Sept. 14-15 and Nov. 16-17/Dec. 1. Like our Facebook page for more details!

Your wedding prices are so cheap compared to other photographers! Why are they so cheap?!

Actually, my prices for weddings will increase as of January 1, 2014. Until now, I’ve kept my prices low simply because my experience levelĀ  with weddings was relatively low. But by the end of this year, I will have shot 16 weddings and bridal portrait sessions – still a drop in the bucket compared to some other photographers, but enough that I can honestly call myself an Experienced Wedding Photographer.

Wait! Your prices are increasing as of January 1?! But I already signed a contract and my wedding takes place in 2014!

Don’t worry! If you have already signed a contract, then the price on your contract is the price you’re paying, the end, amen – we do not “bait and switch” here at Powell Photography!

Likewise, if you are a potential bride and you sign a contract and pay the standard 25% deposit by December 31, 2013, then you will pay the “old” prices, not the new ones.

Do you take boudoir photos?

I have taken boudoir photos before, but they are not something I regularly offer. I decide on those on a case-by-case basis, depending on precisely what the client wants and what I am comfortable photographing. I can tell you that if you want photos that are more explicit than suggestive, then I am not the photographer for you. I do, however, know a couple of wonderfully talented boudoir photographers whom I am more than happy to recommend.

Why don’t you sell any prints?

Initially, I did not sell prints because – and I’m just being brutally honest, here – I didn’t want to bother with it. To make a long story as short as possible, I would have to pay each month for an interface to host the online proof galleries and the commerce services whether anybody ordered anything or not, and then I would have to calculate and pay sales tax on all that. I love being self-employed and owning my own business, but it’s very important to me to keep things as simple as possible. I am a wife, a mother and a freelance writer in addition to being a photographer, and my family is my top priority. Making time for them comes before everything else, including maintaining my website and filing tax returns.

(Yes, OF COURSE I file tax returns. But because I sell a few CDs/DVDs/jump drives each month rather than hundreds of prints, my returns are very simple and straightforward.)

Second, I have never found a print-processing site that I felt can give me dramatically better quality prints than those you can purchase for yourself. In fact, the site to which I always refer my clients, Mpix.com, is simply the “consumer” branch of Miller’s Professional Imaging and, of course, MpixPro. Why should you pay me a 1,000 percent (or more) markup to buy something that you can just as easily purchase yourself?

I’m not saying I will NEVER sell prints – I just might one day, if I ever run across a service that makes the process truly easy and that can produce a product that is superior to what a nonprofessional can buy. But that is simply not the case at this point in time.

I want to make it clear that I am NOT knocking photographers who choose to sell prints – the sale of prints, canvases and albums is a totally legitimate source of income for any artist, including a photographer. But what it comes down to is that, right now, I’m more interested in being paid for my time – the time I spend studying, practicing, taking classes, going to conferences, being away from my family – than for copies of the finished product. I’m sure I would feel differently about it if I did a lot of commercial or fine-art photography. But as it stands, all my prices include digital copies of your edited images, and I do not do any print processing or ordering at this time.

If you would like help designing a book-bound album of your photos, I work with a graphic designer who is very talented at doing that, and I am happy to refer clients to her.

Are you insured?

I sure am. If your venue requires proof of insurance for your vendors, I will be more than happy to provide them with a Certificate of Liability Insurance.

On Being a WAHM

On Monday, Harper was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease.

–It’s not as awful as it sounds. Basically, it’s a virus that causes fever, ulcers in the mouth and a rash.
–It is not the same thing as hoof-and-mouth disease. When I told my dad what she had, he exclaimed, horrified, “That usually kills baby calves!” Indeed, it does, but Rat does not, thank goodness, have hooves.
–It runs rampant in daycares and Mother’s Day Out programs, but right now, one of Harper’s little friends who does not attend either has it.
–It’s uncommon in people over the age of 5, but it IS possible for adults to get it, as evidenced by the fact that my husband was diagnosed with it this morning.
–I am currently trying to convince myself that it would be wrong for me to book a flight to St. Barts. And not invite anyone to go with me.

When I tell people what I do for a living and that I work from home, they often get this dreamy look in their eyes, imagining how incredible it would be to stay home with their kids all day AND get to do what they love for a living. I’m not gonna lie – working from home IS pretty fabulous, at least 90 percent of the time. I have no boss chiding me for being 5 minutes late; the dress code is very lax; I don’t have to put up with gossipy coworkers; the management buys only the finest coffee (Community) for the employees of Powell Photography; the IT guy (my husband) is super hot; and there’s an on-site daycare facility (the living room). What more could one want?

Being a work-at-home mom is not all fun and games, however, and I’m not sure there’s ever been a week of my life that has demonstrated that more clearly than this one has. A full-time photography career, while EXTREMELY rewarding (I wouldn’t trade it for anything), brings with it more challenges than most people think, and working from home with little ones in the mix adds an entirely different level of difficulty.

This week, for instance, I needed to finish editing a set of newborn portraits. In total, there were approximately 80 photos, about 15 of which I had already edited. So that left me with 65-ish photos to finish. They needed to be edited, burned onto a DVD, labelled, packaged, posted and ready to go out in the mail Friday morning.

No biggie. Right?

Oh, I forgot to mention that unlike the school year, when Harper goes to Mother’s Day Out three days a week, she only goes one day a week during the summer (our regular MDO doesn’t have a summer program), and since my dad had a stroke in June, he and my mom are not able to babysit as often. Plus, he’s currently in the hospital for a mild case of pneumonia related to his stroke (he’s doing really well, actually, just getting some strong antibiotics and regular breathing treatments and that sort of thing). And, obviously, Harper was not able to go to MDO at all this week since she’s contagious.

All weekend, Harper ran a mild fever off and on. Sunday, it went up to 101.7. The Guy and I decided to take her to the doctor Monday morning. I stayed up most of Sunday night monitoring her. I finally went to sleep around 5:30 a.m. Monday morning.

The Guy took her to the pediatrician so I could catch a few hours’ sleep. They returned home about 9:30 with the diagnosis.

Monday was devoted entirely to giving medicine, taking temperatures, reading books, watching “‘TOONS,” snuggling and trying to comfort one very sick little lady.

She went to bed around 8:00. As soon as she was out, I raced up to my office to begin working on photos. Probably shoulda knocked those out in a couple hours, huh?

Nope. I edit every single picture “by hand,” meaning that I never run any batch actions on my photos. I go through them one-by-one and adjust the exposure, white balance, vibrance, clarity, etc., on each and every one. After that, they’re retouched – you guessed it – by hand. I do use an autoloader to load and save the files, and I have a number of “retouching” actions I use that make the process much faster, but each picture is still meticulously hand-retouched by yours truly.

I finally quit and went to bed about 12:30.

Tuesday: Next verse, same as the first. Only this day, I had a phone interview at 12:30, a shoot at 4:00 and a Junior League social at 6:00. Afterward, I went to the grocery store. I got home around 9:30 and spent most of the evening going through and editing the photos from that day’s shoot and putting some “sneak peeks” up on Facebook. I went to bed around 1:00.

Wednesday, my sweet Ratine backslid. I sent the following text message to some friends:

“I apologize for my ill-tempered and unforgiving attitude this evening. Ratine spiked a fever of 103.3, and I did nothing all afternoon except chase her around trying to stick a thermometer up her rear and watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Then Blake came home and she peed on my hardwoods. I am now looking at DIY monkey costumes on Pinterest as a hysterical displacement activity.”

Then last night, The Guy began to run a fever.

On the bright side, I somehow managed to finish the newborn photos a day early!

Thursday: I managed to talk The Guy into going to the doctor on his lunch break. Which he did. Where he was, against all odds, apparently, diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease. He is currently bundled up in our bed with a heating pad, wearing his winter pajamas and shivering. His parents are watching Harper, who gets hysterical each time her Mimi has to use the bathroom. I am upstairs in my office, writing this, about to begin work on an article and contemplating solo international travel.

(OK, not really, but it IS quite tempting.)

Tonight, we have a brush-up rehearsal, then performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There’s also a meeting with our attorney Friday afternoon and a shoot Saturday at lunchtime. And another set of photos are due to a client next week.

I LOVE being a photographer, and I ESPECIALLY love being a WAHM. It means the world to me that, even when I’m working, I can take a break any time I want and play with my small fry for a few minutes. (She lets me know, too, when she needs some Mama time – she stands at the bottom of the stairs and calls, “Mama? Mama?”, which roughly translates to, “GET DOWN HERE AND HOLD ME, WOMAN!”) I also think it helps my clients get a better sense of who I am and what I’m about when they meet with me at my dining-room table rather than in a conference room. And I’m extremely grateful to my clients, because they make that possible. But if you’re considering photography (or any other work-from-home career) because you think life will be so much easier and simpler when you don’t have to commute to an office every day, think again.

When you’re a mom, sometimes the commute up a flight of stairs or down the hall to your office is the hardest one of all.

So tell me: If you’re a mom, would you rather work from home or in an office (not located in your home)?

Baby, You’re a Firework

This week is BEYOND insane, what with opening a show and all (it opens TONIGHT OMG OMG OMG OMG), so instead of my usual posting, I’m going to point you guys to one of the most interesting and informative photography-related articles I’ve read recently: 15 Tips for Successful Fireworks Photography. Given that Independence Day is right around the corner, it also happens to be pretty timely.

So this week’s goals are thus:

1. Break a leg.
2. Take some really great photos.
3. Try not to set anything on fire.

But I guess those are my goals every week, really.

Being in a show with one’s husband has been a wonderfully interesting experience, by the way. Company has been one of the biggest blessings in my life the last few months, and I am so happy The Guy and I got to do one of our all-time favorites “Side by Side,” as it were.

I’ll be honest, though: In many ways, I am a fish out of water. Well, that’s probably putting it too mildly; in truth, I’m a cod in the middle of the Sahara. See, I’m trained as a dancer, so this acting and singing business is brand-new to me. But I try to look at all new experiences, no matter how uncomfortable they may be (e.g., SINGING IN FRONT OF HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE I DO NOT KNOW) as learning experiences, and I must say, I have learned a lot.

Things I Have Learned While Rehearsing a Musical:

1. Final Seal: It works. However, OH MY GOD IT BURNS IT BURNS IT BUUUUUUURNS.

The first time I used it, I may or may not have cursed Ben Nye’s name in a manner that would make the Baby Jesus cry.

2. It is a bad idea to eat a handful of gummy bears immediately before you have to sing.

We’ll just leave it at that.

3. Double-sided tape on the underside of a headband will keep it in your hair and firmly in place until the End Times.

But: OW.

4. I have an irrational fear of going to the bathroom while wearing a wireless mic, for fear that The Sound Guy will have inadvertently left mine on and everyone will hear me peeing, a la The Naked Gun.

I will cross my legs until after curtain call, thankyouverymuch.

5. The Guy will do literally anything for a laugh. Including, but not limited to, singing alternate (read: dirty) lyrics for every line of every song.

He does it so often, they’re starting to seep into my brain. Last night, I actually had to catch myself before belting out, “WITH LOOOOOOOOVE, SIXTY-NINE WAYS…”

6. It requires a literal suitcase of hair and beauty products and clothing items for me to get stage-ready.

7. Old dancer habits die hard. I have been told numerous times throughout this process that I stand in very unnatural positions.

Relatedly, I am now very self-conscious about the way I stand.

8. As loud as you probably think I am, I get told almost every single night that I need to be louder.

Now THAT’S a scary thought.

9. Wig clips might be among my top 10 favorite inventions of all time.

10. If you practice enough, there will come a time when you just don’t give a rat’s half-apple anymore and you’ll sing as loud as you can in front of anybody who happens to be nearby.

I prefer to call that “progress” rather than “surrender.”

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Photographic Philosophy

I’m gonna get philosophical on y’all today, folks.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. Ish.

Last night, I Facebook messaged a friend to tell her how much I loved the trailer for her latest movie, and that started a conversation about the nature of art and why she does what she does, even though it’s very hard sometimes and, let’s just be honest here, artistic careers are not often the most efficient way to make money. She said, “It’s the whole reason why I have to act. To help people feel and think beyond the daily grind. I know that everyone, depending on where they are in their own lives, is affected differently by different movies, shows, plays, music, paintings, whatever moves you to feel something…it’s why I wanted to do this, because a play moved me so much when I was 12 that it [made] that big of an impression on me….I am honored that you regard this work I’ve done so highly.” She went on to say, “It’s moments like this, that I realize why I feel it in my bones that this is what I’m suppose to do. That this electricity inside me, that I feel, can be felt by others if it comes from an honest place and if it comes from my truth as an actor and human being.” And when she said that, something clicked in my brain and it helped me articulate a few things I’ve been mulling over for a while.

People sometimes wonder how and why I made the transition from writing into photography. Isn’t it difficult, going from the written word to a visual art form and back again? To them, they seem like two totally unrelated fields, but in my mind, they go perfectly hand in hand, although, until now, I haven’t been able to explain exactly why I feel that way.

It’s because both writing and photography tell stories. And telling stories is what I was born to do.

Both writing and photography create pictures, only one creates pictures in your mind, whereas the other creates pictures you can look at with your eyeballs. Just as I can tell a story by typing words on a keyboard, as I’m doing now, or writing with a pencil on a piece of paper, I can also tell a story with a camera and a lens.

And it occurred to me last night after reading Rachael’s words that that’s the reason I’m not crazy about traditional studio portraiture, where everybody stands stock-still in their Sunday best in front of a polypaper backdrop. It’s because that doesn’t tell a very interesting story. But if you take those same people and put them in their house or in a park or in my backyard or even in a big empty room and let them interact with each other in a way that’s natural for them, their story becomes clearer and begins to come to life. To make a writing analogy, it’s the difference between a story that’s plot-driven and a story that’s character-driven. In plot-driven stories, of which I am generally not a fan, the author decides where the characters will go and what they will do in order to advance the plot where the author wants it to go. But in a character-driven story, my favorite kind, the author develops the characters and then lets them do what they do in a way that’s consistent with their characters. Make no mistake, even in a character-driven story, the author still has an end in mind, but she lets the characters meander in that direction in their own way rather than forcing them to take a certain route.

That’s why I never feel I’m in competition with other photographers. The only photographer I’m competing against is yesterday’s version of Kelly Phelan Powell. My goal each day is to be better than I was yesterday. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail spectacularly, but that’s always the goal.

Another reason I don’t feel competitive with other photographers is that I know I’m not the right person to tell everybody’s story. To give you an example, a member of my husband’s family recently had a baby, and she hired another photographer to take the baby’s newborn portraits. I’m gonna be honest right now and tell you that initially, that stung a little bit. But after I thought about it a while, I realized that I’m not the right person to tell their story; the photographer they hired, however, is. The way I tell stories, both through writing and photography, is simple, unvarnished, very straightforward and a little journalistic, and that’s not the way they wanted their story told. They wanted a fairytale, and although I can do “fairytale,” it’s not what I do best. They knew that, and once I had a chance to check my ego, I realized it, too.

I do my best work (and I’m willing to bet you do too, no matter what your work may be) when it comes from my truth, just as Rachael said. And my truth is that there is beauty everywhere. Quite often, it’s actually in the imperfections. Even in the midst of sorrow, anger, disappointment, tragedy and violence, you will find beauty if you look for it. That’s my purpose as a photographer, as a writer, as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, as a performer and as a human being: to find the beauty in everything. It’s there, I promise; you just have to search really hard sometimes.

In reply to Rachael, I said, “No, I haven’t heard you say your lines, but there’s just something…you can tell when an actor GETS IT, you know? Like, they understand the role in a very fundamental way. And not that I’m any sort of an expert on acting, but in my unprofessional opinion, acting is 1/3 GETTING IT, 1/3 working hard at it and 1/3 raw talent. I believe that’s true of all art forms, actually.”

After talking to her, I would amend that to say that art is 1/4 GETTING IT, 1/4 working hard at it, 1/4 raw talent and 1/4 telling the truth as you see it.

Do I have the raw talent? Some would say I do, and others would argue I don’t. Do I GET IT? Well, I suppose that’s ultimately up to the client whose story I’m trying to tell.

But I can definitely say that I will continue to work hard at it, and thanks to Rachael’s inspiration, I will always make sure the stories I tell come from my truth.