Photographers Who Inspire | Erin Elizabeth Photography

We kickoff our 2012 Summer Series of Photographers Who Inspire with an outstanding interview with an award-winning photographer, Erin Hoskins.  She is the owner of Erin Elizabeth Photography and is one of Australia’s finest newborn photographers.  What an honor to have her on IMB and what a great way to jump back in to our popular interview series – Photographers Who Inspire!

 

Who or what was your original inspiration when you started your business? Who inspires you now?

When I started my business four and a half years ago, I was a part of a very small and tight-knit photography forum. One of the members that was most inspiring (and so wonderfully encouraging) to me was Amber from Little Moon Photography. Even though newborn sessions (Little Moon’s main clientele) weren’t part of my business at that time, I admired her business sense, beautifully clean edits, and gorgeous images.

I also gleamed a spectacular amount of knowledge from my all-time favourite photography forum: ilovephotography.com. Some of the most talented and inspirational child photographers in the world are there offering free advice and guidance out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s amazing. I owe most of what I know today to ILP, and will continue to be a part of that community for as long as possible.

Today I find inspiration everywhere! I’ve discovered so many talented and creative photographers over the years and truly enjoy watching the industry grow and thrive.



What was the hardest part of starting your own business? What do you wish you would have known?

The hardest part for me was finding my niche and style. Like most photographers, I experimented a lot in the beginning. I had a love affair with actions for a while, but ultimately decided they weren’t for me. I felt like I was struggling to find ‘my voice’ in the photography world. But like many things, it started to develop over time with practice. I discovered newborn and family sessions were where my passion was, and soon began to notice a consistency and ‘style’ that was all my own. I then focused on branding my business to match that style, and here I am today :)

One thing that I am very thankful for is the fact that I felt I was truly ‘ready’ to go into business when I did. I was given some very good advice in that regard and I am forever grateful. After I’d completed plenty of skill-building sessions with my ever-patient husband and stepson, I shot over 40 portfolio-building sessions (at least half of which were strangers) before charging a single penny. Then when I did decide I was ready to charge, I leapt right up into a ‘professional level’ pricing structure. It gave me credibility from the beginning, which was invaluable for the growth of my business.

You are becoming well known in both Australia and internationally for your beautiful newborn images. Have you always shot newborns? If not, how did you get started, and what was the biggest challenge?

I haven’t always been focused on newborns. The first newborn session I ever shot was my first daughter, Delilah, who was born about a year after I started my business. I shot a few other newborn sessions that following year, but not a lot. When Delilah was about 10 months old (August of 2010), I woke up one day and decided I wanted to dive into newborn photography. I remember telling my husband that I was going to gear my business towards newborns and that I was going to be brilliant at it (which was laughable, considering my almost non-existent newborn experience). As per usual when I come up with these hairbrained ideas,, he gave me nothing but support and encouragement.

The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I had no newborns to practice on! I became a pregnant belly stalker overnight. I finally found a friend of a friend, who let me ‘borrow’ her 5-day-old for the morning. She happened to know a few others who were pregnant, and everything snowballed from there. I became obsessed with improving with each and every session (I still do the same today). It was only five or six months later that my images came onto the radar of Shoot Baby and they decided to make me the feature photographer on their website homepage for a few months in early 2011. My newborn business has been growing at a rapid pace ever since :)

You are currently offering workshops and mentoring. Have you attended workshops in the past (which ones), and do you still attend workshops? Why are workshops so valuable?

I have not attended an actual workshop, but I have done a 1:1 mentoring session with the lovely and talented Keri Meyers on one of my trips back to the States. I was fairly well established at the time, so I remember many people asking me why I was doing it. My response was always that workshops and mentoring sessions are not only for ‘beginners’, but rather a tool for professional development in the industry. Photography is a journey, not a destination, and no one will ever reach a point where they know it all. We are always learning and changing, so why not learn some new tips and tricks from photographers that you admire? I absolutely loved my mentoring session with Keri. She is a lovely person, inside and out. I learned so much, and am very glad that I attended :)

I currently offer workshops throughout Australia, and am excited about the new locations that the remainder of 2012 and 2013 will bring. I have just very recently moved across the country from Sydney to Perth and love that I get to travel back to Sydney (I love that city!) for workshops every few months. I will be in Melbourne in early 2013, as well as up in Queensland (and a few other locations TBA!) shortly thereafter. I will also be offering Perth-based workshops just as soon as my studio construction is finished (hopefully by October). I’m also very excited to be able to offer a few select workshops in the United States for our trip back there in 2013. I hold a Masters degree in teaching, and it is such a joy to be able to give back to the photography community while combining my two loves: photography and teaching.

What was your original gear and when did you start upgrading your equipment?

I started with a Canon 40D, Canon 24-70 f2.8L lens, and a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. I used this equipment for all of my skill-building and portfolio building and it served me very well.

I upgraded to the Canon 5DmkII body as soon as it was released and absolutely ADORED shooting with a full frame body. I soon discovered that I was more of a prime girl than a zoom girl, so I sold my 24-70L and picked up the Canon 85mm 1.2L for outdoor sessions and the 35mm 1.4L for on-location newborn sessions (I have been 100% on-location up until this point). I also purchased the 100mm 2.8L macro for newborn detail shots. I then upgraded my camera body to the 5DmkIII shortly after its release this year. And that brings us to today!

Next purchases will be the Canon 50mm 1.2L for studio newborns (again, as soon as my studio is finished), and if I end up doing enough outdoor sessions to warrant it, the Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS II.

I just recently wrote a ‘What’s In My Bag’ blog post with a TON of information about my bodies and lenses!

Tell us about your favorite lens and why it is #1 in your camera bag over your other lenses.

I could no sooner choose a favourite child!! I adore them all for different reasons. But I will say that my Canon 35mm 1.4L has been a phenomenal lens for on-location newborn work. My business has been 100% on-location until now, which means that I have had to squeeze into some very tight spaces at times. Having that extra space to work with was invaluable to me. Due to the wide angle distortion around the edges, I wouldn’t use it for close-ups or detail shots, but for general on-location indoor sessions, it is a fabulous lens.

Photoshop or Lightroom? Or both? How long does it take you to get your proofs to your clients?

Ideally, both. However, even though I own Lightroom 3, I haven’t yet gotten around to learning the ropes and using it! So for now, I am using bridge for global edits (mostly white balance, and occasionally exposure), and Photoshop CS5 for everything else. But from what I know about it already, I do believe that Lightroom is a more effective tool and will be switching to a Lightroom/Photoshop combination very shortly.

I provide a sneak peek of 4-6 images up on the blog for my clients up within 24 hours after their session. The rest of their images (usually between 25-35) are then posted on a password-protected gallery within 7 days of their session. My clients then have 7 days to decide on their order, however that will be changed to 5 days in the near future.

Once I have my studio finished and client base in the new city well-established, I will likely be posting only one image for a sneak peek, and the rest will be ‘unveiled’ at an in-person ordering session. But at the moment, sneak peeks are an amazing tool for exposure.

How do you break the ice in the beginning of a session?

If you couldn’t already tell by my incessant babbling in this interview, I am a very talkative person. I’ve always been very outgoing, confident, and personable, (which I attribute to my gregarious mother), so I never have any trouble putting my clients at ease from the get-go. But I do make a point to ask mum and dad about their labour and delivery experience, pregnancy, how baby is doing (and sleeping), how feeding is going, etc. I also share my experiences with my own two girls when they were newborns, which gives us some common ground to chat about.

Family sessions can sometimes be a bit trickier, depending on the age of the child(ren). If they are tiny tots and I want to do some individual shots, a few funny animal noises and silly sounds will usually do the trick. If they are older, I ask them questions about themselves (is your teacher mean or nice? etc) and then try to crack a joke about their answers to get a natural smile. For full family shots, a ‘one, two, three, BIG CUDDLES!’ or ‘cuddle time…pretend you like each other!’ will normally loosen them up and get them smiling. Other than that, I just keep babbling and trying to make them laugh or smile naturally as much as possible.

How many photos do you typically take in a full session? How many do you edit, and do you ever show your un-edits to clients?

I’m a self-confessed chronic over-shooter. For a newborn session, I usually take around 150-250 shots. For family sessions, depending on the size of the family and the age of the children (wild toddlers require a LOT more shots than calmer older children), I’ll take anywhere from 200-600+ shots. I’ve become very quick and efficient at culling, and tend to whip through them very quickly and choose images that catch my eye for one reason or another. I then edit between 25-35 images (sometimes a few more for larger families) in both colour and b&w.

I never ever show un-edits to clients. Not even on the back of my camera at the session. I’m far too much of a perfectionist. First impressions are everything (especially when it comes to sales), so having that ‘wow’ factor right from the first moment my clients see their images is important to me.

Who helps you behind the scenes? Do you have an assistant or a famliy member?

While I don’t have a paid assistant, I must credit some family members for their help along the way.

My amazing husband is an unbelievable support system for me. He didn’t laugh at me (like many did) when out of nowhere, I announced that I wanted to be a photographer. He has been nothing but encouraging from day one, and has supported me emotionally (and at the beginning, financially!) every step of the way. Not to mention the amount of hours he’s logged taking full responsibility for both girls while I work undisturbed. None of this would have been possible without him. I’m very lucky :)

I also have to put a big thank you out there to my amazing mother-in-law. For years, she was the first to volunteer for extra childcare duties when I was falling behind. Sometimes even leaving work early so I could squeeze in an extra afternoon session. I’m so lucky to have this family :)

With the demand for digital images on the rise, do you offer them as part of your packages for your clients?

Absolutely. I credit my digital collections for the rapid growth of my business. When I first started, I offered prints only. Being the control freak that I am, I wanted to make sure only the highest quality prints went to my clients. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that people want digital images…in fact, I WOULD WANT DIGITAL IMAGES. So instead of selling just a CD, I offer digital collections in four different sizes (the smallest being three digital images, and the largest being the full session). Each purchased image is delivered in both colour and b&w, and also includes a colour 5×7 reference print. This way, if my clients do go against my warning to steer clear of ‘cheap’ printers, they will know what a quality print is supposed to look like. In my opinion, offering digital collections is perhaps the best business decision I have made so far.

Can you share a story of a difficult shoot and how you handled it?

The most difficult shoots I have had have all been with my own children! The toddler suffers from PCS (Photographer’s Child Syndrome) something awful…I could be on fire and she wouldn’t look at me. And everyone knows that shooting your own newborn’s session is usually quite difficult. I shot my second daughter’s newborn session when she was four-days-old and it was a nightmare. I vividly remember trying to get the below shot WITH her in particular. She had just pooed and wee’d all over me, I was an angry sweaty mess, and Delilah was throwing a tantrum in the background. I barked ‘JUST TAKE IT ALREADY!’ to my poor husband and called it a day. It’s an absolute miracle that we were able to get something so ‘serene’ looking! And getting her to sleep for her individual shots was like pulling teeth. But I somehow managed to pull it off. It was definitely worth all the hassle…I will treasure those images forever :)

How do you handle family and close friends who want to hire you? Do you offer any discounts?

Up until just recently I haven’t lived near that many family members (it was just my in-laws in Sydney!), so I happily offered free images to my family members when traveling back to the States (I’m originally from Wisconsin). Even then, it does get a bit overwhelming sometimes. But since it’s only once every year or two, I don’t mind, and I figure it’s something nice that I can do for them.

I don’t offer discounts for friends, as I find it difficult to draw the line between who is a ‘close friend’ and who isn’t. Plus I don’t feel it’s fair to my clients who have to pay for those same services, nor is it fair to the friend, who would likely have to wait longer for their images while I finished paying client work. Much less stressful to have everyone on the same page.

What is one thing we would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a classically trained opera singer! And I also play piano and violin. My undergraduate degree was obtained at Lawrence Conservatory of Music, where I studied operatic performance (and my Masters was from Sydney University for teaching music). These days I only really sing to my children, but someday when they are older, I will get back into performing. I definitely miss the stage!

Name one person you would love to photograph.

I’ve always wanted to photograph a celebrity’s newborn. If only because I would love to see one of my images in a gossip magazine! Haha.

What is on your “Bucket List”?

I’m a big believer in the bucket list. Almost all of mine are related to travel. If there is one thing I love even more than photography, it is travel. New adventures are my obsession, which explains how I ended up moving to the other side of the planet by myself on a whim when I was 22! I’ve done so many amazing things in my 30 years…from visiting 49 States (I’ll get there one day, Alaska!), to riding an elephant in Thailand, to climbing a glacier in New Zealand, to traveling for two months through France and Italy with a 7-month-old baby, and countless others. Each little adventure has given me so many wonderful memories and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I can’t wait for those that lay ahead of me!

Aside from this wonderful IMB interview, what has been your proudest moment in your business?

I’ve had many proud moments in the past few years, but I think my favourite was winning runner-up for the 2011 NSW Australian Institute of Professional Photography Family Photographer of the Year. The AIPP awards are so prestigious here in Australia. I about fell of my chair when I read my name on their website the day after the awards! Such an amazing honor.

 
Erin Hoskins is the owner of Erin Elizabeth Photography, and an award-winning photographer, specialising in 100% natural light newborn and family custom portraiture. Erin also teaches workshops and provides mentoring for Australian and International photographers. She lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and two beautiful girls, Delilah (2) and Camille (6 months).

Website: www.erinelizabeth.com.au
Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinelizabeth.com.au

 

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