Today I'm chatting with local graphic designer Katie of Rotanz Design about all things Branding + Logos + Website design for the small business people out there! We're in a different situation than the big guys, we're not rolling around in money so we make tough decisions about our investments, especially in the beginning.
Let's get her profesh opinion to help guide you through your choices!
Katie! Give us a quick run-down of what you do + who you are!
Hello! I’m Katie Rotanz, Owner/Graphic Designer of Rotanz Design in Asheville. I help small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs stand out in the market with beautiful, modern, minimal designs. I design logos, websites and print pieces such as brochures, catalogs, rack cards, business cards and labels. I strive for simplicity and clarity in all my work and enjoy the challenge of finding the best solution both visually and functionally.
I moved to Asheville about 6 years ago and worked as a waitress until I was able to land my first design job. I’ve since worked for two agencies in town and have been working for myself full-time for a little over a year now. I’m super excited to be moving into a shared office space with some other freelancers in the River Arts District!
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
One of my favorite parts about this job is the relationships I’ve made with my clients. There’s something really special about working with other local business owners and creatives that are passionate about what they do. The energy that surrounds them is contagious and it’s so fun to be part of their business journey. I have to say my favorite moments are seeing my logos and designs out in the wild on t-shirts, hats and cars… I have to hold back from fist pumping in public!
What's the value in a branded identity that includes a logo and custom website? What are ways a website can make or break your small biz?
Having a strong brand can improve recognition in the marketplace as well as build trust amongst your target audience. If people see that your brand is consistent across all platforms, there’s a sense of quality and professionalism that not only helps your reputation and referral network, but it helps you stand out from your competition.
A website is such an important tool for your business! Think about how often people are on their phones and computers, Googling and researching exactly what they are looking for. I think the best thing you can do for your website is be authentic and provide as much information about your business and services as possible. It’s also important to make sure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and is up-to-date. If visitors struggle to find information or can’t easily understand where to go on your site, they’re going to bounce right off and find another website.
What advice do you have for small biz on a budget? They have the same goals but maybe lack funds this year.
While it’s ideal to have a logo, website and all the things when you get started, I can totally relate to the financial anxiety of starting a business and prioritizing your funds. If you have to pick one thing first, I would suggest building a website. A website is an incredible tool to hold all the information about your business and can work for you 24/7. If you can’t afford a web designer then I would recommend starting a Squarespace site on your own. Squarespace has a wonderful library of video tutorials and guides that can help you get started. When you’ve saved up some money, you can hire a designer to begin the logo/branding process and then take your website to the next level.
Another important piece is a business card. I have those things on me all. the. time. You never know who you are going to run into in a coffee shop, bar or networking event who may need your services or products. I’ve worked with people to design a card before they dive into a full brand design and can charge for an hour or two to put together a nice “interim” card before they begin the branding process. You can also design cards on Vistaprint or other online services if necessary (although some of the designs can be quite cheesy).
The goal here is to have something to hand out to people AND have a place for them to go to learn more about you and your business. These two items are great first steps.
What if a small biz has no ideas on branding and needs help from all angles, what should they nail down before working with you?
While you don’t have to have a business plan, a marketing strategy or a mission statement to get started, I do I prefer to work with people who can quickly and easily tell me what their services are and who they do it for. In order for me to create effective design, it’s important to focus on who we’re targeting so I can design accordingly. It’s difficult for me to work with clients that are indecisive about their business goals because if their mind changes after finishing a brand, they may need to start over depending on the new direction of the business.
I also don’t specialize in business naming, taglines or trademarking so my clients will definitely need to have their business name figured out and legally checked prior to working with me.
*Side note: I highly recommend taking classes at Mountain Bizworks if you’re just starting off. I took a class called Foundations and it really helped me figure out the direction I wanted to go with my business.
On the flip side, if a business already has a website but they want to hire you and switch to a new host based on your recommendation, do you help with the transfer over?
Absolutely! I only work in Squarespace, but if a client has a website in Wordpress, Wix or another platform, all I need to do is point their domain (url) to the new website I’ve built. I’ll then give them instructions on how to cancel their old hosting. If someone already has a Squarespace site then all they’ll need to do is invite me as a contributor and I can hop onto their site and make specific changes or find a new template and redesign it completely.
What advice do you have for someone worried they'll change their style + branding within the next year or so? They're still figuring it out!
I think the most important thing to do is be consistent.* Oftentimes businesses will change their mind on design direction and branding and will make little changes here and there which causes brand confusion. My advice is to own your brand, stick with your color scheme, fonts and style and if/when the time comes to rebrand, then you can make that decision and go for it intentionally.
If you’re new to your business and not quite sure which direction you are going to take, then it’s okay to be patient and wait to invest in branding when you have a better idea of where you want to go.
*Chelsea note: Check out this video from Marie Forleo all about consistency - it's SO important when developing an audience!
Do you have a certain style you like to stick with when it comes to design or do you love a variety?
I definitely prefer simplicity in design. I find that minimal design catches my eye and stands out against the noise of the streets, screens and magazines. My logos are especially minimal, but that’s to ensure they work across all platforms from large billboards down to a tiny Instagram profile picture. The more complex the logo, the harder it is to be effective in really small applications – and harder to be remembered! I work with lots of different types of businesses and can still accomplish a very different look and feel for each, but I certainly have a modern style and always make sure potential clients have checked out my logo portfolio to make sure my aesthetic is what they’re going for.
My websites also have a minimal look to them and while that’s clearly my preference, functionality and usability is always what I focus on first. You can land on a beautiful website, but if you have no idea how to navigate it, then it’s not doing the job.
Who's your dream client?
My dream client is a small business owner, entrepreneur, or creative in the Asheville area. My favorite clients have gone through my logo and website process and then check back any time they need other branded materials such as signage, brochures, stickers or other print pieces. I love that aha moment that I see in my clients when everything starts taking shape. There’s a real sense of pride and excitement when they can SEE it coming together.
Where people can find ya to keep following along your work, journey and tips?
Thank you for including me on your blog, Chelsea! I’m honored to be featured and hope these answers can help new or existing business owners understand the world of branding and web design a little better.
If anyone has additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can check out my website at rotanzdesign.com and find me @rotanzdesign on Instagram!
Many engaged couples choose their wedding package based on pricing + their day-of timeline. Hopefully both, not one or the other!
I've got another reason to consider, what moments do you need your photographer to NOT miss?
Is Grandpa secretly a cryer? Do you have a group ready to dance their asses off at the reception? Or maybe it's definitely NOT a dancing group so you know late night won't be necessary. Envision the day and how you see it unfolding to really know what you want photographed!
Let's start with the most common wedding day photo ops:
Getting ready photos
The dress/suit before it's put on
Hanging out with friends + family during the day (I hear mimosa glasses clinking already)
Details of invitation suite, rings, shoes, florals, etc.
Photos of the venue decor + setting before guests arrive (ceremony + reception)
Bridal party portraits
First dance / Father & daughter / Mother & son / Any version of these
Candid moments of guests enjoying themselves
I offer packages from 2 hour to 8 hour coverage for my small weddings because this takes care of all the bases. I'm happy to customize but it's nice to offer what most couples need from the get-go!
So let's look at how they each play out based on my experience with small weddings + elopements (for which I offer an hourly rate).
Covers the basics. For my 2 hour couples, we generally fit in a few getting ready or scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits. Boom. Done. If you only need the basics and have a small group in attendance, this may cover your needs. Or maybe it feels too limited...
Covers the basics plus you get time for candids. For my 4 hour couples, we fit in a few getting ready + scenic/venue photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + candid moments.
Honestly, I'm trying to capture candid moments even if we're together for a 1 hour session. But during a wedding day, things can get hectic. If we're trying to make it all flow smoothly, find the best lighting and are slightly rushed then I won't have the freedom for candids. Candids require some breathing room for the photographer to walk around and find unexpected moments.
For my 6 hour couples, we fit in getting ready + scenic/venue photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + a touch of reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
This is a great option for a multiple location wedding too! If we're having a ceremony on a mountain top and a reception downtown, it's likely you'll need to add in driving time to the timeline.
I consider the 4 and 6 hour options my most popular packages.
For my 8 hour couples, we fit in getting ready pics of both partners + scenic/venue photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + ROARIN' reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
If you're booking me for 8 hours, you likely have a larger wedding (I sneak those in sometimes) and/or you have a full timeline with multiple locations and activities that can't be missed!
Regardless of your best fit, I'll always ask for the most important-can't-miss-photos you are dying for + I ask for enough time to get couples portraits + I photograph the sweet details of the day. Those are non negotiable ;)
I'm always available to take a 2nd look at your timeline too, happy to throw in my 2 cents.
Hi all! I'm excited to introduce a new addition to the CLP blog - guest posts!
I love working with other creatives / makers / entrepreneurs and now I'm tapping into their expertise and advice to share with you.
First up is my friend Kathryn of Evergreen Era Films located here in Asheville. Her films are thoughtfully produced and add such a warmth to your wedding or business. Yep, she offers her services to the same crowd I do - weddings and small businesses! Woo hoo! She's always who I recommend when clients are looking for film of their wedding day or to promote their brand via video.
She's sharing with us 3 reasons video improves your website presence. Be sure to check out her work with small businesses once you've read the post! Take it away Kathryn...
I'm Kathryn - founder, editor, and main videographer at Evergreen Era Films.
I'm an old soul with a soft spot for raw and honest connection. With each interaction I have, my main goal is to create a space where people can feel worthy and heard. This deep rooted passion for connected and compassionate living is what fuels my belief in equality, protecting mother nature, and living life in balance. With time I have also learned to find strength in vulnerability. This is a core foundation for all my films, focusing on the authentic, honest, and heartfelt reasons that people created their business. After all, story and connection is what makes shopping small so special, right?
"With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, small businesses that fail to include it in their internet marketing strategies will do so at their peril."
1) People are more drawn to video than text
"It is naturally engaging and, in an age of information overload, it's vital for small businesses to offer content that is easy to digest; if not, consumers will simply move on. Video does this very well."
- The Guardian
Videos grab attention in a way that text just doesn't anymore. We are drawn to quick and visual stimulation. Attention spans are shorter than they used to be for younger generations (unfortunately), but it is one of those facts of life that we must use to our advantage as we move forward. The positive of this phenomenon is that it encourages us to discover new ways of getting our point across and interacting with our world. Therefore, video can connect you with your clients more easily in this technological age.
2) People want to connect, relate, and feel emotions
"No matter how hard you try, some people will never feel like they know the “real” you until they see you on video."
One of the most powerful aspects of a small business is the story behind it. What is your why? It is personal, relatable, and it encourages people to want to support your work because it has a purpose that resonates with them.
If you have a website to sell your products or services, this is most likely one of the first interactions your clients will have with you, especially if they aren't local to you. Therefore, you want that interaction to inspire them and allow them to relate to who you are as the creator. Having a summary film of either your business or who you are is a powerful tool to connect with people on a human "face to face" level. People connect to natural human interactions that include body language, voice, tone, etc and the best way to provide that is through video.
3) Create a more interactive webpage & social media presence
"Videos are good for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Google loves them!"
As simple as it may seem, using all different types of media will make your website more dynamic and interesting, but it will also help you rank higher in search engines. Utilizing photos, text, and video will give your viewer more chances to learn about you and your product while experiencing it differently each time. This allows them to move through your page and feel more and more aware of your brand than with each interaction. The longer a client stays on your page, the better it is for your SEO.
"The number one reason for using video in your content marketing plan?
Video converts more customers. Simple, right? Recent research shows that 71% of marketers say video conversion rates outperform other marketing content."
“Will you Photoshop this out?”
A common phrase we hear often.
Cultural standards on appearance have skyrocketed with social media. We all sit around thinking others look perfect and put-together all the time (no way, not true!). We get down on ourselves for being human and real. This is a problem I have to address and contemplate a lot as a photographer.
I think it’s time to draw boundaries when it comes to how we edit and the impossible standards of Photoshopping + Instagram filters + weird apps that alter your face in a photo (WHAT?!).
Let’s get to it and break down the most common scenarios:
Well I edit out your freckles? No.
Will I edit out that blemish that’ll be gone in a week? Yes.
Will I edit out scars? Not unless you asked me to.
Will I edit out grey hairs? Sometimes! If it's clear you're going for your natural hair color then no and if it's clear that you color your hair to cover up the grey then yes.
Will I edit out wrinkles in clothing? As much as I can without making your clothing appear plastic!
Will I edit out that t-shirt stain that appeared after lunch? Yes.
Will I edit out the flyaway hairs? If they're distracting. If they're showing the wind blowing through beautifully, then no.
Will I edit out that piece of trash or water bottle near your feet? Yes.
Will I edit out that distracting tree branch, bugs flying by, stranger in the background? Yes. I have no problem editing out environmental distractions to an otherwise lovely photo.
Will I "fix" your stomach or arms? Only if it's my fault because I captured an unflattering angle or didn't direct you quick enough. Overall, I never plan to flatten a tummy or remove a bump in the nose in every single image I will deliver though. More below...
I will guide you into flattering poses under beautiful lighting. I will give clothing tips and recommend you only wear something that makes you feel HOT. That being said, not every image gets set up for flattering angles.
If your spouse makes you laugh out loud or if he/she says something so sweet that your cheeks flush, I’m not worried about you looking like a model. I'll make tweaks in editing to create the most flattering final result and I’ll be sending that pic your way because of that special moment.
How do I make those decisions and why does it matter?
1. I would have to charge twice as much to accommodate editing time for extensive and timely Photoshop requests. I'm not interested in offering that service but there are many out there that do!
2. I don’t want to perpetuate impossible beauty standards by making you look like anything other than you. We need to collectively work towards highlighting the beauty of all people, not highlighting the beauty of over-Photoshopped skin or mimicking celeb Insty posts. A light touch-up here and there is as far as I go.
It’s hard to define your role in this as a photographer because it’s my goal that you enjoy your experience and the results.
When you're 80 years old and showing your wedding photos to grandkids, I want you to recognize your beautiful self from so many years ago. I want you to be reminded of exactly how you felt that day. I don't want you to look back on a plastic figure.
Tips for a photo session you'll feel great about:
One final thought: You're great just the way you are, I promise.
One of the hardest parts of photographing couples on their wedding day is if one or both of them gets stressed out.
Stress is an unfortunate part of the wedding day. It's why wedding planners are so awesome!
When you're hosting a small wedding or elopement, a planner may not be in the cards and it's likely you're getting a lot of hands-on help from family and friends. It's wonderful to see family helping you create a beautiful wedding but that alone can cause tension.
Things don't go to plan... rain happens, someone forgot the flowers, the vendor is running late and did I mention rain?
So many of my clients envision an outdoor wedding in the mountains. Rain is most common here in the spring (March-May) and then it's unpredictable the rest of the year.
So what's the plan?
1. When to check the weather: The weather changes like CRAZY here in the mountains. If possible, wait until 24-36 hours out to make the call.
2. It may only sprinkle or you can't wait any longer to decide: You have the decision of what's more important- peace of mind or being outdoors?
Some couples like to wing it and don't mind a little rain. Some couples can't be bothered with not-knowing. No right or wrong answer here, imagine yourself in each situation and choose the one that makes me you feel most at ease.
3. It's gonna rain: Are you going to let rain ruin this special day? Hell nah.
-Reschedule. Some weddings are small enough that it's possible to reschedule the whole thing to the day before or after. It's uncommon but I've had 2 couples go for this option in the past 2 years and I was able to work with the schedule change. You never know!
-Umbrellas. Maybe the rain is coming but it's not a downpour. Maybe you'll be outside on a patio/not a spot that'll get muddy... Worth investing in cute clear umbrellas for all your guests?
You can buy cheap throwaways or get quality umbrellas and consider them a favor to guests.
-Indoor venue. Can you move the whole thing indoors at the B&B you're staying at? At a local hotel? Air BnB? Friend's house? Studio space?
These options depend on your budget and number of guests so think stover ahead of time to save yourself stress during the week before the big day!
All this worry about Instagram's organic reach is exhausting.
So what are we gonna do about it ?
1. Take action.
Find resources (sooo many are free) online to learn about approaches to social media that feel good to YOU! There are many folks out there who make a living off teaching about this one platform! Tyler J. McCall comes to mind :)
Be social! You gotta get out there (on Insty that is) and support others just as much as you're hoping to be supported. Like, comment, share, tag/credit on posts and in stories. Take the extra 5-10 minutes a day to comment on other's posts, totally worth it.
2. Improve your mindset.
Embrace social media for what it is, LEARN, use it in ways that make you feel good and forget the rest. You don't HAVE to post a Story daily. You don't HAVE to follow other photographers or writers or jewelry makers who unintentionally make you feel bad. You don't HAVE to post daily. You don't HAVE to only post 1 type of content. You don't HAVE to get too personal... or not personal enough!
Running a small business is an evolution, be flexible and open up to how your marketing evolves too. Everyone HATED IG Stories when it first arrived, why though? What a strange thing to spend your energy hating. Instead stay open, learn about it and have fun with it - your audience will enjoy it.
A certain feed always make you feel inferior? Unfollow. Boom. I'm constantly asked if I follow some local photographer and I rarely say yes. I follow a handful of photogs who are friends or my mega inspirations.
4. Unplug + replace.
Let's say you've tried all the above ideas and you're still not feeling a resolution. It's time to try unplugging and enjoy missing out.
Log out of IG on your phone. I know that extra step would make me think twice about typing in my pw to mindlessly scroll.
Replace an old habit with a new productive habit like:
-reading an edu article on a website about running a business
-meet other entrepreneurs in person for a coffee to connect
-save + organize inspo somewhere other than IG
What do all these lead to? Less comparison, less stress about the IG algorithm and you're still doing important work to move your business forward.
5. Consider alternatives.
When I started to see the worst effects of the IG algorithm, I began looking for new avenues of marketing. IG has been great for driving business but I can't rely on old tactics forever. I invested in other marketing techniques including sprucing up my website and SEO.
Looking for a free alternative? Network your butt off. Doesn't have to be cheesy after hour gatherings...
You can plan a gathering for your favorite local vendors for an activity you love:
-invite everyone over for happy hour on your porch
-get a group to go hiking together with your dogs
-go to a local art show together for inspiration
-co-work in a coffee shop
-attend a community event together
Networking is about connecting and being a trusted + friendly face in town.
Don't let Insty get you down, enjoy it for what it is and find other parts of your business to focus on!
Why? Tim is a self-made entrepreneur with a pretty cool backstory. He interviews successful people from all fields and finds out what habits + ideals make them who they are. So much to learn and be influenced by. Listen to the stories of others to be inspired and entertained.
Start with one of these episodes:
How to Design a Life with Debbie Millman
How to Have, Do and Be All You Want with Terry Crews
Catherine Hoke - The Master of Second Chances
Oprah Super Soul Sunday
Why? You can't take care of your business + clients if you're not taking care of yourself. Keep learning and growing as a human, it'll translate into your success as an entrepreneur. Oprah as been a guiding light for many trying to "live their best life" and now she involves guests that bring it to a whole new level.
Start with one of these episodes:
Cheryl Strayed: Brave Enough
Dr. Maya Angelou, Part 1: 9 Words that Changed her Life
Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling: Brave New Worlds
Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield
Why? Amy offers some of the best "social" marketing advice. Facebook ads, Facebook groups, online videos and collaborations are all up her alley. She's built quite the empire through free resources, online education and online memberships with her audience. Amy is also open and honest about her behind-the-scenes which I've found valuable and refreshing!
Start with one of these episodes:
#180: 7 Ways I've Collaborated with Friends & Influencers to Increase Profits
#192: Are you Embracing the "Visionary Role" in your Business?
#197: How to 10x your Results in 2018 (and Beyond) with 3 Dead Simple Strategies with Marie Forleo
Bright Planning (disclaimer: Chelsea Lane Photography + Bright Planning regularly work together)
Why? Catherine is a local marketing expert who doles out practical advice via her podcast, newsletter and social media. Her audience is made up of small/medium size businesses and I appreciate this because we operate differently than the biggies. Her advice is tailored, well thought out and actionable.
Start with one of these episodes:
Episode #53: How to Market your Small Business for $100 per Month
Episode #59: 10 Marketing Tactics you can do in Less than an Hour
Episode #71 4 Questions you have to Answer to be Successful
And lastly, an honorable mentions from my favorite email buddies:
Skimm'd From The Couch by The Skimm creators (my favorite morning email news dose). I'm new to this podcast but can already tell it's going to be one of my faves for hearing the stories, experiences and inspiration of badass female creators!
The Marie Forleo Podcast - I get my weekly dose from her online TV show but she also offers the same info via podcast. This is best podcast for people in the beginning stages of their business, she'll be your biggest cheerleader!
Akimbo a podcast by Seth Godin is another brand new podcast so I'm still getting started with it. I read his blog daily and it's easy to see his insight is incredibly valuable, unique and will make you press pause to think twice about what he just said.
I've gathered up favorite resources that many couples could benefit from when planning a small wedding or elopement!
The internet is, um, big. So rallying resources in one helpful spot saves time!
Visit any of these websites that speak to you for inspiration, tips and insight - don't forget to follow them on social media too for even more goodness.
The larger names like Brides.com, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes (I could keep listing but I'll spare you) are easy to find and also have great resources. Don't discount them, give them a visit too! I just gathered the little guys that may not hit your radar.
BEST OVERALL RESOURCE
A Practical Wedding - Website and blog for the laid-back couple. Real advice that's helpful for those of us thinking we don't need to spend $15k on a wedding. The advice & etiquette section is my favorite but the whole site is helpful.
MOST BEAUTIFUL INSPIRATION
The Bridal Theory has been a longtime favorite of mine simply because their style is deep, romantic perfection! For major eye candy, follow them on Instagram for 'real wedding' dreaminess to motivate your own style.
BEST LBGTQ + FEMINIST RESOURCE
Catalyst Wedding Co. - I love this site because it shows the couples that aren't shown enough. Catalyst shines a light where we've needed a light to shine for so long! They have great articles, advice and inspo for everyone.
BEST ETHICAL RESOURCE
Black Sheep Bride - This team collects vendors and products best for those who care deeply about the source. They support companies that give back, have a smaller footprint and have a social conscious mission.
Modern Love for sweet stories from all walks of love life. This podcast is a quick listen - perfect for the car ride or while eating breakfast.
Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel for advice on hard topics from the ultimate pro. Esther's interviews on other's podcasts were popular enough to encourage her to launch her own. Where Should We Begin? is new so its a great time to catch up and stay subscribed for future shows.
When you scroll through Instagram checking out the cozy photos of a trendy home with a cute girl lounging on her sofa with coffee on the Anthropologie feed, you think "that's what I want!" I love these lifestyle images, they give such warmth to brands that traditional product photography cannot.
So what does it take to create a seemingly simple photo to promote their new couch + robe + mug + candle?
Many many people came together to craft these photos shoots. I've been on these sets and seen the amount of people, time, planning and money that goes into a photo shoot for 1 blog post. One blog post! That's it!
An example of a shoot for a larger company:
1 creative director
1 person handling manual labor (that cute couch? may have been moved 3 times for the photo)
1 studio setting or a real home that's been scouted + pre-styled
20 hours of prep time
8 hour photo session
Plenty of post processing time to edit images (I don't know the exact amount of hours for this specific shoot)
Result: 5-7 final images for the client
So when you're a small business owner and you're working with a one-woman-team photographer, how can you bridge the gap to get the results you want without all of those resources and that big ol' budget?
I've got some ideas.
1. Know where you stand. - Are you in the beginning stages and need help developing your brand? Do you need guidance with this or just some time to gather your thoughts? Let your photographer know this when you inquire about their services.
2. Maybe you have the basics of your brand in mind (the mood + feel). - Now you're ready to gather inspo pics and make sense of it all. Please don't expect your photographer to recreate other's work but sharing inspo pics is very helpful! Visual aids help when words aren't cutting it, Pinterest is great for organizing this on "secret boards".
3. And perhaps you know exactly what you want and you have a very strong vision. - My advice here is to meet with potential photographers to discuss and see if you're a good fit based on their input. My other advice for this is to still be flexible, you're hiring another creative to bring your vision to life and they will breathe in new air to a project, let them!
Bonus: Always know your budget. Know what range you're comfortable with and don't be afraid to tell your photographer! They are likely just as excited to work with you and may be willing to negotiate.
Next, what are the expectations of the shoot?
Visit this post for what factors may or may not be needed for your shoot, very helpful for preparation!
Now that you've read that past post, here are a few tips to make the most of a smaller budget:
-Model for yourself! You're likely the face of your business so hopping in front of the camera saves you money + time and gives you a chance to connect with your audience! Photos of you do SO well on social sites.
-If you're struggling to find a good location, chat with your photographer for their recommendations. Your own home may work just fine which saves on a rental fee.
-Find a photographer who is comfortable styling products if that's necessary for the subject. Their rate may be a little higher than others but you saved money on not hiring a stylist without putting that job on yourself.
-Go with the flow of natural light. If you work with a photographer who shoots natural light, you are somewhat at mercy to the weather gods. A good photographer anticipates and prepares for that with equipment (including artificial light just in case!) and approach. Trust your photographer to guide that process and make lighting recommendations.
-When tallying up the number of products you want photographed, narrow it down. If you ask a photographer for 20 styled shots, they'll need to charge for the time it'll take to make that happen. Choose wisely!
-And, lastly, communicate! When planning a photo shoot, respond to questions from your photographer in a timely manner so they have time to prepare. If they're to set up a shoot, help book models, buy props, prepare backdrops and be ready creatively - help 'em out and give them the appropriate time to do the work.
I hope this helped as you consider professional photography that's still within your budget. You're always welcome to email me with questions about your situation!
We've got cover songs, original songs and entire albums to suggest for this Valentine's Day. And no genre is off limits but these tunes all blend well together.
Open up Spotify, press shuffle and enjoy!
Adele's cover of Make You Feel My Love (a Bob Dylan song)
Ala.ni - Ol Fashioned Kiss
Alina Baraz - just about any song on the Urban Flora EP but 4 are on this list!
Anthony Hamilton - Can't Let Go
Carla Bruni + Willie Nelson singing his song Crazy
Elle King - Wild Love
Janelle Monae + Miguel - Primetime
John Mayer's cover of Beyonce's XO
Justin Timberlake + Alicia Keys - Morning Light
Léon - Think About You
Muddy Waters - Sugar Sweet
Raphael Saadiq - 100 Yard Dash
The Roots + Erykah Badu - You Got Me
Son Little - Lay Down
702 - I Still Love You (an old school RnB jam from Pharrell's world)
Listen on Spotify now - Happy Valentine's Day!
How long does a small shoot last?
To be honest, I struggle creating packages that will fit all small business needs. You are each so unique!
Let's break down what elements of a shoot that determine the time needed then get into package options.
-number of models
-model experience / efficiency
-number of outfit changes
-hair & makeup needs
-change of location + driving time
-the public (waiting on passersby or a truck to move along)
-availability of the location (public spaces may have limited hours)
I shoot mostly natural light so time of day and weather conditions are an important part of my approach. When shooting outdoors, I'll always push for early mornings or later evening just before sunset and those hours are fleeting in the mountains!
Products // Styling
-number of products you need photographed
-number of ways you need the product photographed
-styling props to set the scene (the amount of props we're working with + the time to style them)
I rarely have small business clients ask about the amount of images they'll receive because they're not shopping for bulk.
A good reason for that? Your products and services will continue to evolve, so your photography needs will too. It's not necessary to have 10 photos of 1 product from slightly different angles. It's better to have less images, each of stellar quality.
Narrowing down your needs for the photo shoot greatly helps your photographer provide an accurate time frame + quote for the session. Not everyone knows the answers to these questions from the start but that's what I'm here for! I'm happy to help brainstorm the session visually and logistically.
I offer a standard small business session that often suits most client needs but I'm also happy to modify it. I work with small businesses because I enjoy being flexible and working together for the best results.
Looking for ongoing photos that evolve with you and your goals? I offer monthly and seasonal packages as well as my standard small business session!
Downtown Asheville has plenty of beautiful hotels and lofts (both pictured above) to create the perfect getting ready space on your wedding day. You'll want plenty of room for vendors, family and friends to stop in. Maybe this is the only part of the day you'll be downtown or maybe you'd like to hold the ceremony and reception in this area too...
Favorite downtown wedding venues:
Asheville Area Arts Council - minimal + artistic
The Asheville Masonic Temple - historic + cozy
Catawba Brewing - beer city + industrial chic (photos just below)
The Orange Peel - laid-back + fun
Looking for a little bit of urban + nature for your wedding space?
Smokey Park Supper Club's Boat House sits right on the French Broad River and the location is in our River Arts District. The venue is a great mix for an outdoor venue.
Keep in mind that you can get ready in one place then carpool, rent a bus or drive up to the mountains for your ceremony.
You could also meet everyone in a beautiful outdoor spot for the ceremony then host a private dinner reception afterwards downtown! Check out my favorite restaurants with private dining spaces in this post.
Cheers to doing it your way!
Black and white images have a special place in your wedding collection. They're all the cliche terms: classic, timeless...
They evoke emotion + drama.
I scrolled through and picked out my favorite black & white images from my weddings this year. Memory lane is a beautiful thing.
Each wedding is unique in location, style, lighting and mood. I run with the vibe of the day when editing, including with the black & whites.
Cheers to the new year!
Some cities just speak to you. Or sing via G & The New Orleans Swinging Gypsies.
Some cities have hidden corners that only the real fans will find. You can skip Bourbon Street.
Some cities make you crave a walk through a cemetery and an aquarium all in one day.
Some cities know how to mix nature, architecture and color seamlessly.
Some cities are worth using your camera in the rain.
No other city is New Orleans.
The holidays are here. Officially.
Small businesses have to strike a balance between taking time off to enjoy (yay, you're your own boss!) and making the best sales during the shopping season (oh ya, gotta earn $$).
My best advice? Prepare ahead of time.
Next year, let's get those holiday photos done in October so you have them to use throughout November and December. Photos to promote new product, the holiday spirit, promotions and events.
Find yourself needing to change things up regularly?
I offer monthly packages for a quick photo shoot every month to fill up your Instagram. I also offer seasonal packages if you want to highlight the changes in weather, product, styling and use of your product or service!
Since I last created a list like this, so many new places have popped up. Couples coming to the mountains for their elopement or small wedding have plenty of options for dinner afterwards! Small wedding bonus: I'm highlighting spots with private dining spaces.
Asheville is known for its food and drink scene, we've got you covered for any style or cuisine.
Buxton Hall BBQ private event space - The Remingtin Room
Smoked whole hog BBQ is quite fitting for a trip to Western NC. Buxton Hall offers up food that everyone will love in a stylish atmosphere. The restaurant itself is beautiful and The Remingtin Room upstairs brings the same vibe in a cozy space. Head here if you love pulled pork, veggies cooked under the pig and southern desserts.
Rhubarb private event space
Rhubarb is known for its dedication to farm-to-table, a very Asheville mindset. We love our local farms and producers and we love supporting them. Rhubarb is all about seasonal dishes with a southern flair. Not long ago they opened up a private event space with all the charm and romance needed for a wedding reception.
Cucina 24 private event space
Although I've never photographed an event in this space, we often go to Cucina 24 for date night. The Italian food is impeccable with local + seasonal ingredients and an ever-changing menu. We are never disappointed with atmosphere, service or dinner here.
The Montford Rooftop Bar
Full disclosure, my husband runs The Montford so I may seem bias. But! The views of this space speak for themselves, the small team loves interacting with guests and the food + cocktails are killer. I'll say no more since I'm attached to this establishment in some ways but I will say everything on this list is tried and true!
Sovereign is a beautiful cocktail bar that could fit into almost any city. We're lucky it's here in Asheville for the upscale feel, the original cocktails and incredible food from chef Graham. The upstairs private dining space is ready for you and your guests with an eclectic + laid-back feel and local + seasonal dishes. I've been thrilled to take photos for this team a few times and their commitment to quality ingredients is impressive.
Curate is one of the most popular restaurants in Asheville, it's always a booger to get into so make reservations in advance! The chef is well known for good reason, the authentic Spanish tapas cuisine is unique in this region and on point. They opened up an intimate private dining space with a cozy feel similar to a wine cellar. For a funkier vibe, check out their other restaurant below...
Although this list doesn't cover everywhere available to you in Asheville, it certainly covers my favorites, cheers!
This is a portrait session I did with Christa Briana for her to create a new website (coming soon!). She is a local illustrator who's work is similar to mine so we enjoyed created hauntingly beautiful images together in the woods of Asheville, NC.
Portraits of Asheville artist Christa Briana
Makeup by Serenity + Scott
Clothes are vintage
Props belong to Christa
My hubby Philip and I partnered to create a delicious + spooky Halloween drink for your festival cocktail party this month!
Philip enjoys getting creative with recipes at home and I love capturing food and drinks.
The Witch’s Apple
.75 oz bourbon or rye
1 tsp B&B liquor
.75 oz cognac or apple brandy
.75 oz sweet vermouth
2.5 oz fresh apple cider
2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1/8 tsp activated charcoal (to make drink black, available at healthy grocers)
Dry ice is an optional and safe way to add some drama.
Combine all ingredients over ice. Stir well. Strain and pour over 1 large ice cube.
If you don't know the perfect spot to have your engagement or anniversary photos taken, how about at home?
Katelyn and Greg had me over for their engagement photos to bring in the fall season. They live in the cutest cabin tucked away in Black Mountain. It was lovely exploring their stomping grounds and hearing about their life together there.
We roamed around, stomped on leaves and visited the friendly neighborhood cow down street. This cow is more like a dog that comes to say hello when they go on jogs together. I had to see it to believe it.
Maybe you're wondering if you have enough fun spots around your home for an hour long session... think about how you spend your time at home. Let's brainstorm...
Cooking dinner together in the kitchen.
Swinging on the front porch swing.
Drinking wine on the deck after work.
Walking the dog.
Cozy by the fire.
Cuddling in bed after getting to sleep in.
Napping in bed after not getting to sleep in.
Dancing in the living room.
Setting the dining table for date night.
Planting or gardening.
Lounging in the hammock.
Still a no go? Plenty of public spaces we can find instead ;)
Don't you love when you run into someone who truly seems to be themselves? They've just grown into who they're meant to be and they embrace it?
I love when my couples give me this vibe. And why would I care about that?
Because creating a wedding brings up so many questions about family, friends, your style, what's important to you. The key to a having a good wedding is to know who you are and what you want for this celebration.
Ann and Kyle had been together for 11 years before tying the knot. And really, what's the rush?
I like to think it gave them all the more time to learn what and who is important to them so they could go through all the wedding options and pick what's a good fit.
With about 40 guests, they relaxed in their backyard on a beautiful September day. They held a sweet ceremony with a DIY backdrop then shared drinks and food with loved ones as the sun set.
Color was king at this wedding. The DIY backdrop was made from old curtain scraps and was as colorful as her on-of-a-kind dress. As she moved int eh dress, colors trailed behind her and everyone kept murmuring they adoration. Guests also noted how "Ann" the dress was, which made me smile.
Ann's brother sang them down the aisle, Ann had a flask in her garter and the toasts made everyone laugh with memories. Their 2 pups ran around with homemade flower necklaces and one even carried a go-pro during the ceremony!
What a great way to say goodbye to summer in Asheville.
Cheers to planning for you two.
If you like variety in your images, you may consider an outfit change during your portrait session. When clients ask me if it's feasible, I generally think it is!
If it's quick, go for it! You'd be surprised what we can fit into one hour, a quick change won't interrupt us.
Things to consider:
Don't stress yourself out about these little details, enjoy the session and trust your photographer to guide you!
What is a lifestyle shoot when it comes to your small business?
Product photos on a plain white backdrop are great for selling an item online. Potential customers can see the item clearly and make an informed purchase.
But, is that enough?
What about that initial feeling when they first visit your website or open up your Instagram? That can't be under estimated! It's the excitement and enthusiasm that drives sales.
What about the way you caption your photos and the words that describe your company's values? You're building an emotional connection with people that creates lifelong customers.
Lifestyle images connect you. They show a sweater wrapping you up by a cozy fire. They show your glasses when you set them down to enjoy breakfast after reading the paper. They show you on date night, escaping the kids. They show you in your earth-friendly t-shirt on your favorite hike.
What story connects you and your clients?
How will they use your signature product in their daily life? Or do they invest in it for special occassions?
Dig deep. Put yourself in your customers shoes and then show them with photos.
You'd be surprised how little prep you need to do for an in-home session. Catherine and I picked 2 spaces to create images. First up is the office. We created 3 different looks inside one small space!
We wanted some fun and colorful photos with match her previously created office flat lays. These all go together to support her marketing company, Bright Planning.
Bright Planning has a vintage flair with a cool logo and uses strong primary colors like blue and red. We moved a desk in front of her favorite bookshelf and created a beautiful mess with other beloved books from around the house. As you may have guessed, Catherine is also a writer outside of her marketing career. She and her partner, Brandon, are literary souls with many many books floating around their home.
The vintage typewriter is a nice touch too!
For the next look, we cleared the desk, changed shirts to create simple workspace portraits. Less styled images for Catherine's portrait.
Next we simply changed direction for images (in the same room!) of Catherine on her chaise just enjoying the quiet space. The hat beside her holds family memories so its a nice touch to personalize the portraits.
That's 3 different looks in one small room!
We wrapped up with a relaxed, lifestyle portrait on her screened in porch. We shot in just one corner so we didn't have to move a thing for these photos in preparation.
In-home sessions are some of my favorites because they reflect you, your favorite things and often where you work!
Sure, we all take photos of sunflowers. Sure, we see them all over Instagram. Sure, some folks are sick of 'em! And if you're sick of them, you may want to skip to another blog post...
Every portrait holds a new opportunity with the lighting, the model, the environment... sure, some things become repetitive but some things are classically beautiful and I'd throw flowers into the latter category.
As the sun set, we went from afternoon light to the golden hour quickly. I love getting a good variety when shooting!
Kristalyn and I created these portraits in under an hour. We both had some free time that evening and I've really been wanting to see the sunflowers. Heads up, Biltmore rotates these so you may want to do a drive by or call before planning a shoot around the sunflowers. They're located near Antler Village.
I also highly recommend the bright yellow canola field in the springtime.
For any clients interested in roaming the Biltmore Estate grounds for their session, I have a seasonal pass which allows me to bring guests in with me for free after 5pm. Some parts of the estate (including the house and rose garden) are closed at that time but there are plenty other spots!
Only wear the dress once? Nah.
Megan and I explored Swannanoa together 3 months after her wedding to see what kind of fun we could have with her beautiful bridal gown.
We played in the creek, roamed through the woods and watched the sun set over the field.
We're pretty sure the creek cleaned off all the dirt from dancing at her reception... win-win.
Running in a dress this heavy (7 or so layers) is not so easy but sometimes you gotta give in to your photographer's random requests.