I thought it would be kind of fun to do a little "Behind the Scenes of Rachael Maxwell Photography" post so you could all get a peek at what I do and how my business runs. It's a little more complex than pointing a camera at people and handing people their photos.... OK, maybe a lot more complex.
It all starts with a contact. I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours each day reading and answering emails, texts, Facebook messages, or phone calls. These messages include requests for information, session bookings, session reminders, and answering questions for clients. I chat about color schemes for outfits, the best location options, and last minute adjustments. I promise my clients a 24 hour reply time, but usually can respond in 12 hours or less. The joys of smart phones and a 24/7 business owner!
When I meet a client for our session, I've already put in a few hours of communication, prep work, travel time, and research. The gear is cleaned and charged and any applicable permits have been taken care of. Then it's time for fun! It's time to laugh and play, hug and smile, and just have a good time. I'm kind of known for ending a session with the comment, "pretty painless, eh?" My goal is for you to not only have photos that you love and cherish, but to have a genuinely good time getting those photos. I like to provide a mixture of posed and candid shots so that the photos tell a story of a family, individual, or event.
After our goodbyes, I head home for the rest of my work. Well, usually a cold soda and some food are required when I first get home, but then it's back to work! All the photos get loaded up on to my computer and immediately head for back up.
I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop for my editing. I know a lot of photographers prefer one or the other or have found ways to make one program work for all their steps, but even after 3 years of playing, this is still the best way for me. All the photos start in Lightroom for sorting & rating, also known as culling. This is where I go through all the photos I took and chose the best images. Usually this takes 2-3 trips to the computer. I narrow it down once, then walk away or sleep on it before coming back another time or two with fresh eyes to make sure I have the absolute best. Once I have the final batch, I do my rough edits while still in Lightroom.
Once the basic edits are completed, it's time to open up Photoshop for the fine-tuning. I prefer the tools and controls (especially the brushes) in Photoshop to those in Lightroom, so two programs it is. This is where the photos go from "great" to "awesome" to "amazing."
My editing style is fairly simple - I like images that are vibrant, light, and simple. I do very little in the "body correction" department -- I remove blemishes and boo-boos, clean up stray hairs, and smooth out skin when necessary, but I refuse to change weight or proportions... sorry.
My first public before and after! Original on the left, final product on the right. Nothing major, just some retouching and enhancing the image.
Editing usually takes about 2 weeks during regular operation, 3-4 weeks during busy season (September - early December). Then I get to deliver the final digital gallery to the client and help them turn their images into prints, canvas, and albums. I can't tell you how much I love fulfilling print and product orders. I love how everything comes to me and I get to ogle it first before delivering it to the happy customer. I'm not ashamed to admit there have been several albums and canvases that I have wanted to keep for myself!
But the job doesn't stop there. In between the fun of shooting and editing, there's the not so fun business side of everything : Every quarter, I have to file and pay sales taxes for all the sessions and product orders I completed. Every year, I have to renew my business license and website domain/hosting. Every month, I pay for my business insurance and my gallery website. Every spring, I have to compile all my receipts and expenses and pay my wonderful tax man so that he can figure out my end-of-year taxes. There's also website maintenance and updates, session blogs, photo archival, and social media interactions and updates. When all is said and done, I work 30-50 hours a week depending on the time of year.
I'm often asked, "how do you do it all, especially with three little kids?" Well, there a couple things that help, the biggest being my awesome husband. A few nights a week, he comes home from work, takes the kids, puts the final touches on dinner, and puts the munchkins to bed so that I have some uninterrupted time to work before it gets too late and I go cross-eyed. During busy season, this process happens every day 6-7 days a week. I wouldn't be able to take on as much as I do if it weren't for his unconditional help. Other helps include the fact that all 3 of my kids nap at the same time, my beloved iPhone, and a black can of Full Throttle. Hey, I'm being honest!
Hopefully that gave you some fun insight in to all that happens behind the scenes here. It is a lot of work, time, money, and more time, but I love it and wouldn't change it for the world.