Kelly and I are both self taught photographers who learned by trial and error, asking tons of questions and practicing like crazy!  We’ve had goof ups, cried tears and jumped for joy…. and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of other kind photographers in the industry 🙂 Fast forward to now, We are continuing to learn and grow as artists but we’re also paying it forward in the form of teaching. We have collectively mentored over 30 photographers through the Make it Click Photography Shootouts, Intro to Manual Mode Class and Private One on One Mentoring. Hands down…there is NOTHING that brings us more joy than seeing things CLICK and seeing our Make it Clickers excel and ROCK their businesses. 

We asked you guys what you wanted to know….And you guys didn’t hold anything back 🙂 Here are your AWESOME questions and our answers below….

Legally starting up your business…. has me sooo confused! Everyone says you need different things. Insurance, contracts, taxes, etc.

This is hard on all of us. I had NO idea on where to start. Rachel Brenke  has awesome things to help out with any legalities you have questions about. I HATE doing any tax stuff so I have an accountant and I’m Photos by Kelly, LLC. I went through a lawyer for the LLC part. INS. is a must. There are so many stories on people dropping their lenses, cameras, etc and breaking them and not having insurance… it is expensive if you have to replace it all. Someone recently had her camera bag stolen on a trip. Law enforcement luckily was able to recover it but if she would not have had any insurance on it, it would have been BAD for her. Insurance also covers other things besides gear… GREAT to have! Contracts are a MUST! Saves your butt from a lot of drama. – Kelly

I am literally SO type A that I feel the need to do everything “by the books” or else someone is going to come take me to jail.  So when it came to getting my ducks in a row for starting a business, I literally called and had several long conversations  with the Business Link of NC (, which was a great resource that helped me make sure I was setting up everything I needed to (for example: getting a business license, registering my business name in the county I lived in, getting a tax ID number, how and when to pay sales tax,  etc). I had this notebook full of things I needed to do and slowly checked them off. You most certainly need insurance (one preferably that covers your gear and also liability in case someone gets injured) and I can’t say enough about the importance of contracts. Have a contract for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE (yes even for relatives). Contracts state the specifics of the session, investment, date, time, what the person will get, the duration of the session, what’s included in the session, the model release, etc. Without a contract, you’re a fish out of water with no water to swim in. Accountants are a pretty big deal for me as well because I hate numbers.  – Katie

When I hear f stop, shutter speed I become so overwhelmed. I understand depth of field and showing motion or stopping motion. Any helpful hints to overcome my frustration? AND the second closely related question someone asked is: I still struggle with not knowing exactly what settings to use. I wear glasses and still struggle w/my focus because it might look clear and when I pull it up close to double check it is not clear.. Those are my true struggles, please  advise…

F stop refers to your aperture (how open or closed the blades inside your lens is). When your f stop is low (ex: f/2), the blades of your lens are wide open letting in a ton of light. The lower your fstop, the more blurred your background and narrow your focus  becomes. When your fstop is high (ex: f/16), the blades of your lens are almost shut and not letting in a lot of light at all. The higher your fstop, the more in focus everything in your picture becomes. When it comes to shutter speed, you want to try and keep your ss around 1/250 of a sec when shooting children or people. Your shutter speed is how quickly your shutter clicks.  And in regards to ISO, this controls how much light is let into your sensor. When you are in a low light situation, raising your ISO higher and/or decreasing your fstop (to let more light in) is the way you will shoot successfully in low light. When you understand the why and how behind your triangle (aperture, ss, ISO), you will begin to see how each change will directly impact the other. Youtube is your best friend when trying to learn anything camera related. Look up a video on how to use your camera or if you need a more hands on approach, you can take our intro into manual classes this summer… we will go over all of this information in the class and it makes it so much easier for you. – Kelly and Katie

Which program do ya’ll use to edit your photos?

We are both exclusive with our editing systems. I use Lightroom only and Kelly uses Photoshop.


How did you learn to nail focus with longer focal lengths? I feel like I miss focus more than I should.

Any camera or lens takes TONS of practice. Keep your shutter speed high on longer lenses. Some of them have VR (vibration reduction) options too.  Keep practicing and make sure your lens doesn’t need to be calibrated! – Kelly

When I’m shooting the longer lenses (70-200) and I’m pretty far away from the subject, I focus on the point of contrast (for example, if I’m shooting a person far away, I would put my focal point on their eyebrow/eye area.) I also use BBF (back button focusing) which drastically changed the way I was able to nail the focus. – Katie

Tips on Balancing babies & business?

Babies and family come first… ALWAYS! This was VERY hard for me to try and juggle when I first started photography. I was working part time as a hygienist, part time as a photographer and then trying to make time for the ones that needed me the most. I quickly came to realize that it was all becoming a hot mess and I was stuck in the middle trying to make everyone happy. People’s feelings were starting to get hurt and tempers were starting to flare (including mine) inside my heart was breaking because I knew something was going to have to give. I HAD to get myself on a schedule. Making time for my family, business and MYSELF. Mark days on your calendar to take off. Spend family time together. Make days that you will not shoot a session or edit photos. Spend those days relaxing and kissing your family, including your pets. Only edit photos for a certain number of hours and then walk away. It can wait. We are all human and need rest. If we drag ourselves down too far, it takes a whole lot of time and effort to pick ourselves back up and this is even more exhausting! We are not guaranteed tomorrow but every second spent with the ones you love will mean more to you than ever one day when you are old and grey. -Kelly

In the first year of business, I literally had no schedule. I would fit people in anywhere and everywhere because I was SO excited that they actually wanted me to take their pictures. I exhausted my family resources for babysitting and really put a stressor on my marriage. We were all suffering. It was then that I put boundaries and policies in place to protect family time and make my schedule out way in advance. I only shoot sessions during the week (no weekends, they are reserved for my family time) and I schedule days off and vacations (even if we are not going anywhere). Balancing babies and business is ridiculously hard. I’d be a liar if I said I had it together and knew all the answers when the reality is….Most days my little babies (ages 2 and 3)  are running around naked, smashing pop tarts all over the house as I try and prepare the blog post for that day. It’s finding the balance of shutting off the computer, doing my work before they get up in the morning (I’m typing this at 6:30 am right now), attempting to do work while they are watching a movie or down for a nap and then picking it back up if I need to after they go to bed. I’m always looking for ways to be a better mom, a better wife and a better business woman…It’s a learn as you go “fake it til you make it” kinda thing 🙂

Insurance? Who do you use and why?

I had PPA (professional photographers of america) for the first 2 years of business and then I switched over to my private insurance provider Nationwide. The business insurance is not directly from Nationwide but from a company that they work with. It is roughly $500 a year and covers all of my gear and liability (in case someone gets hurt during a session, in case I drop my gear, or it gets stolen, etc). Insurance is crazy important to have. Did you know that some venues will not even let you shoot there in less you show proof of liability insurance? -Katie

What is the one thing you think you did to help your business grow?

I was pushed to get myself on all social media sites… I’m a total introvert and it is very hard for me to put myself out there for the world to judge. I had to learn that I am an artist and it is ok to not be like anyone else or not edit my pictures the way everyone WANTS you to edit them. As an artist, we all have our own styles and we should always go where our hearts take us. I’m so happy to have been pushed to get my work exposed all over the web! It has definitely paid off for me. – Kelly

Gosh…For me, it was making AMAZING networking connections and putting my dreams out in the open. I remember sitting in Merle Norman getting my own makeup done and telling Crystal (my now exclusive makeup artist) that my dream was to offer professional makeup to all my Seniors. At the time, it didn’t seem like a possibility or a reality but with time and the support of Crystal and others in the community… that’s exactly what I offer now. Networking with different businesses in the community, supporting and loving on them, has in turn been a blessing to my business as well. Positive word of mouth helped me get started and continues to help grow and nurture my business. That an INSTAGRAM… that’s where it’s at. – Katie

What is the best way to get photos from your camera into LR on an iMac??? Not only am I newer with LR, I am super new to using an iMac! Help!!

I know nothing about a MAC… sorry no help here. -Kelly

I use a card reader to import my images from my card to the computer. My mac does not have a CF card port. From there, I click the import button and while importing the images, I’m exporting the imported images to my external hard drive for safe keeping. -Katie  

How did you market to get your clients? I am struggling to book clients. I mainly use Facebook and word of mouth but would love to hear what else works for others.

Use any social media! It is FREE and needs to be used. HASHTAG what you want to bring in. Use Pinterest. Get you a website and some business cards. Start handing business cards out whenever you go some place. People always needs pictures! If you are struggling to book clients, hold a mini session. People love mini sessions and they are a good way to get your work exposed to different people from all over your town. Once you post images and tag your clients, then their families and friends see your images and like them and you start getting more and more clientele!  – Kelly

First, you need to figure out who your target client is. Are they a high school senior? If so, get your butt over on instagram. Are they are mom of the seniors you are trying to target? Get over on Facebook. While I use both for marketing, I try to be super deliberate and use each platform in the best way possible. If you have a target client (bohemian free spirited senior for example), you need to put out images that are exactly that. Hold a model call, style it the way you want, and then put those images out there! Try and use a font that screams bohemian and put together outfit inspirations for your target client. People book based on what they see…and they will associate you with that too. INSTAGRAM is one of my main sources for booking clients. Instagram is totally visual (and up until now…they were not filtering what you see like Facebook was/is). Branding is marketing…so making sure that everything is cohesive and flows is one of the best marketing tools out there. -Katie

At what point did you start a website and become “serious” about a business? How do you even get started on the business side?

I started becoming serious about my photography career when I couldn’t keep up with photography and my dental hygiene career. It was becoming wayyyyy too much for me to handle. I was so stressed out. Working over 30 hours a week and then working so much more in photography, something needed to give. For me, photography had my passion. Yes, I loved cleaning teeth but I couldn’t be an artist cleaning someone’s teeth. Deep down my heart screamed to be an artist. I decided to go part-time dental hygiene and part-time photographer. This worked well for me at first but I still continued to miss something… all I could think about when I was at work was taking pictures for someone or dreaming up a styled session. After talking with fellow photographers and a lawyer, I became a LLC business and eventually knew that I would be doing photography full time. I had plenty of clientele and images for any kind of website or portfolio and knew if I started this photography business as my career, I was going to make myself work extra hard to make sure it paid off.  Ask questions, listen to what people tell you. You don’t always have to follow what they say, but any little piece of advice never hurt anyone. -Kelly

It took me about 2 years to portfolio build and feel like I was ready to open up shop as a business. I had my third baby at the beginning of 2014 and my goal was to be an official business at the start of that year. The months leading up to that were a hot mess but I utilized that NC business website/hotline and got help from my friends who had recently started their businesses. As a family, we had made the decision that after Hudson (my third) was born, I would not return to full time nursing but would pursue my dream of being a photographer and truly give it a go running a photography business. I invested in a photography website complete with customized branding by a website designer and rolled out the new website a few months after officially opening up shop. There was a wait list for my designer and also building a customized brand isn’t something that could be done overnight. It was worth the wait. Before then, I had a blog platform and it worked but wasn’t as professional as I needed/wanted. -Katie

When you first started out and were learning, how did you price your work and at what point did you know you had improved enough to increase your prices?

I struggled so hard trying to figure out how I was going to charge someone when I felt like I didn’t even know what I was doing… and what if I messed up and none of the photos were good??? How was I ever going to be able to take someone’s hard earned money and not give them superb images??? We all have this question during the first stage of our photography career. I have done my share of free sessions for sure, and I am ever so thankful that these people allowed me to practice on them to better myself and become the photographer I am today. I eventually knew that I couldn’t keep doing sessions for free so I think I started charging about 40 dollars for a session. This felt so crazy to me because I wasn’t a “photographer” yet… little did I know that I was on the way to quitting my dental hygiene career years later and becoming full-time in photography. After buying props, new camera equipment, software and so much more, that little $40.00 I was getting was slipping out of my fingers as soon as I got it and I knew then I had to start charging my “worth”. No matter who you are, you are worth something! Your time is all you have in this business. Time is money for sure! It takes time to go to a session. It takes time to edit photos. It takes time to learn what you can about photography to better yourself. Most importantly, you are taking time away from your family and loved ones- even yourself. People don’t realize the time and money that it takes to become a photographer and succeed in it. Once you realize all of this and know that you are worth so much more than that measly $40.00… it’s time for you to increase your prices. Yes, you will lose some clients but that’s ok too. Just be grateful that they had once given you the opportunity to better yourself.  -Kelly

This question is so near and dear to my heart because it’s something that I struggled with heavily. I did umpteen amount of sessions for free, leaving my family, hiring a babysitter, using my own money to buy props for free sessions (yep..guilty). Then I moved to charging a little bit for my time, a mere $35, and I truly felt guilty and not deserving of even that. Slowly but surely with each price bump (although scary…but absolutely necessary), I began to gain confidence. Confidence in my shooting ability, confidence in my ability to give my clients an amazing experience, and most importantly CONFIDENCE to say that time away from my family is worth a hell of a lot more than just $35. Because what I didn’t know then….is that there is a whole lot more to it than JUST taking pictures for an hour. It’s the 25 emails exchanged prior to the session, the hour at the session, the hours sitting at the computer editing, the time it takes to export, prepare the gallery, and the list goes on. All of this is time away from my family. I’m not going to tell you that I’m still not scared to tell certain people my prices (especially if I think they might not be able to afford it) but even with those circumstances…I hold my head up high and tell them that the investment for a 1 hour family session is x amount. End of story. If they can afford it or save for it…. AWESOME! If they can’t… it’s okay too 🙂 AND the cool thing is…. I still have a handful of clients that have been with me since I was free or the $35 dollar photographer. I cherish those people because they were the ones who believed in me at the beginning when I sucked…and continue to believe in me now. Those people mean the world to me.  -Katie


What kind of camera brand do you each prefer? How do you get such clear photos and amazing lighting?

Kelly – Canon 5D Mark III

Katie- Nikon D 3

Clear photos will come from getting the focus near perfect. Finding the right lighting for your image style depends on what look you want to portray. Sometimes I want to shoot a total back-lit session with the sun behind the client/clients, draping beautifully on their hair and then other times I want the sun to light their face and eyes so I have them face where the light source of coming from. -Kelly

Nailing the focus and shooting at low depth of fields truly help isolate the subject (making them pop from the background and be super clear). The amazing light (thank you for the compliment by the way) comes from finding and utilizing the light appropriately. We both LOVE back-lit images and keep the sun behind our subjects to achieve that beautiful glow. -Katie


What was your best marketing tool?

At first the very best marketing tool is word of mouth. Once you get going in your business, use social media. It is absolutely free and is totally worth placing your images on. Websites are great. Pass out business cards. Set up a photo booth at a convention. Your target client is what you should be marketing and looking for to make your heart happy! – Kelly

I agree with Kelly! At the beginning, it was word of mouth and doing model calls to get beautiful images to show the work that I was capable of and attract my target client. Then it was Facebook (now not so much but it is still important). And now for me it is wholeheartedly Instagram. Utilizing hashtags effectively is the coolest way to gain new clients (ex: #obxphotographer, #ncphotographer #katiemyrickphotography) -Katie

How do you set up (or where did you learn to set up) you senior rep group and how do you get it to boost your profit ?

I don’t do senior rep stuff, so this one goes to Katie 🙂 -Kelly

My model crew is set up a little differently from most. I did take bits and pieces of senior model programs that I liked and created one that worked for me.  Mine focuses on creating a sisterhood, bringing girls that would have otherwise not met  and creating amazing memories for them during their senior year. My model crew shoots allow me to be fully creative and in control of the entire look. These shoots push me outside of my box and I love that 🙂 Each Senior Model had to undergo a rigorous application and review process and once chosen each girl had to  invest up front in their senior session. The boost in profit comes from them sharing their images and experiences, the creative shoots that I get to put out and the incredibly positive word of mouth my senior model crew spreads on their own. -Katie

What is your trick to light and airy photos?

Figuring out what style fits you as an artist is key… I am more of a bold color girl with lots of clean, crisp editing. Katie is more the light and airy artist. I tried light and airy at first and it just wasn’t me. Katie can nail her light and airy images! -Kelly

The biggest trick would have to be utilizing the light in a way that represents the light and airy look.I also slightly overexpose each image in camera and then tweak a few things in editing (like exposure, brightness, shadows, etc). – Katie


What is your secret to NAILING those black and whites ?!

I love contrast and lots of blacks and whites (not grey) in my black and white images. I will know exactly when a photo will look best in black and white when it pops up on my camera. It kind of screams at me. Black and whites tend to lead you to the emotional part of the photo. There isn’t color there distracting your eye from what needs to be the strong focus on in that certain photo. Black and white images are easy for me to edit. I use a preset in PS and then tweak my curves, contrast, brightness, and a couple other things to make it just how I want the photo to look. -Kelly

With my black and whites, I look for areas in the environment that have great contrast already (for example: my kitchen has dark wood and dark countertops and when the light comes flooding in from the windows it creates THE best contrast for beautiful black and white images). Finding the light and using it in a more “moody and emotional” way to create shadows is another way too. And when editing, I have a preset that I custom made that i apply first and then I tweak the S curve in lightroom to darken the shadows even more. -Katie


How do you both get your images to look so bright and crisp? They never look over-edited. I love your style!!!

I have a pet peeve about heavily edited photos… they look so fake to me. I try my hardest to get my image PERFECT, straight from the camera and then go slightly tweak it in PS for that added pop of something to make the image stand out. Try sharpening your image a tad to make it pop out a little more. It also depends on the look I want to give the portrait. Keeping a shallow DOF will allow the person being focused to stand out more too! – Kelly

I wholeheartedly agree with what Kelly said. My editing process is minimal because I try and get it right in the camera. But even if i goof up, because I shoot in RAW format, I’m typically able to save a botched image with a bad exposure. -Katie


I’m just starting out and I’m curious… where did you get your ideas for poses, locations, etc for your styled sessions?

My mind goes a million miles a minute thinking about different styled sessions that I want to create. I have this little book that has all of my styled sessions written down for me to do. When something inspires me, I go to my book and write down what inspired me and then take my styled session and go from there. It may be a necklace, dress, pair of shoes, piece of furniture or even the color of someone’s hair that triggers my brain to think of the most creative way to take pictures of that certain item. I am ALWAYS scouting locations and will sometimes walk up to someone’s house and ask them if I could possibly use their yard or something on their property for my session. You will be surprised at how much people love for you to use their things. Makes them feel extra special! Posing comes naturally for me. I just want the couple/family/baby or whoever to look loved and happy. The closer a family is together in a shoot, the more they look like a loving family. Styled sessions are always so fun for me. Sometimes they can be really stressful when things don’t go as planned but always have a backup for those just in case moments! -Kelly

To be completely honest, I studied Pinterest for help with posing at the very beginning. I would type in “family of 4 poses” or “Senior photography posing” and study what I liked and didn’t like. I purchased a Creative Live class taught by Sue Bryce (the most amazing photographer EVER) and utilize her posing techniques on women EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I shoot. She is amazing! (Side note: I got to meet her and hug her this past October in Texas and I truly had one of those starstruck moments. I told her I used what she taught about posing…and I stuttered a little bit…and she told me she loved my hair. Best moment ever) In regards to location, I do the same thing Kelly does. My eyes are always open and searching for the most random spot. Beauty truly lies in the most ugly places…and just because there is a dumpster back there….there may be a small patch of greenery and flowers that make it worth the smelly while 🙂 – Katie

We sincerely hope that this blog post helped answer your questions! 

Our June 4th MIC:Photography Shootout is SOLD OUT and our next Shootout is scheduled for October 22nd. We would absolutely LOVE to be a part of your photography journey! 

Come back NEXT week to hear the official announcement on location of the October Shootout AND to get details about an EXCLUSIVE GIVEAWAY! 

HUGE THANKS TO The Camera Scarf (those beautiful camera scarf straps pictured above) for being one of our biggest supporters and Make it Click Sponsors 🙂 You can find her awesome straps HERE. 


Make it Click Photography Question & Answer with Katie Myrick & Kelly Parnell–Nationally Published and Featured Award Winning Photographers–North Carolina Photography Mentors




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