Photographers Who Inspire | Keri Meyers

 She probably needs no introduction with the IMB community as she is arguably the most well known newborn photographer in the U.S.  She is the 2010 winner of the National Association of Child Photographers Image Competition in the newborn division.  She has personally mentored over 200 photographers from all over the world in just the past two years alone.  She has undoubtedly influenced hundreds, if not thousands, more through her work.  She is a teacher, a mentor, and completely passionate about her photography.  She is Keri Meyers.

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

It all really started back in 2007 in between the births of my two sons (14 months apart). I have always had a love and eye for photography. Before having children I loved photographing landscapes and nature. After the birth of my first son in October 2007 my passion really shifted to children. Go figure. After photographing several local children and families I decided to start my business officially in the October 2008, just before my second son was born in December. Crazy? Sort of.

Today, many different people inspire me and they aren’t necessarily photographers. I am inspired by men/women who work hard and reach for their dreams. I really try to surround myself with positive people that encourage each other to reach their goals whether it’s achieving a new business goal or running a half marathon. We all need people in our lives that inspire us to be better in all facets of our lives.

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

The hardest part in starting my own business was balancing time between work & family and learning the business side of owning your own business. When you are first starting out you want to put everything you have into perfecting your craft and growing your business. It is easy to allow work to eat into precious time with family and friends. I have to admit, this is something that I continue to work on, but I am getting better and better at this juggling act between work and family. While it would have been wonderful to have a mentor to share these nuggets of advice with me, it has been a wonderful journey and I truly believe you cannot learn unless you are allowed to make your own mistakes along the way.

When it comes to the dreaded “business side” of things I was a mess in the beginning. I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into in terms of taxes and bookkeeping, etc., etc. Knowing what I know now, I would have consulted with an accountant and bookkeeper before starting my business. That would have saved me many headaches and really helped my business get off on the right foot. I kind of flew by the seat of my pants in the beginning… something I don’t recommend doing. :) It is incredibly important to have a business plan and schedule to keep you organized for tax season. I have found great relief since using Accounting for Photographers tools. Now, I am *more* organized and don’t sweat it (quite as much) when taxes are due.

You’ve become a bit of a trailblazer in the newborn photo industry. Have you always shot newborns, and if not, how did you get started?

I didn’t start with newborns as my focus. I started very part time with a new baby in the mix. My husband worked full-time and I was a stay-at-home mommy. Like many moms, I did sessions on weekends and edited during nap times. I photographed everything from babies, to seniors to weddings. I quickly found my passion for newborn photography and never looked back. I took business full time in September of 2009 and now specialize in newborn portraiture, although I still photograph babies less than one year and families on occasion. When I decided to focus on newborns I revamped my website and branding to reel in the kind of clientele I wanted – new and expecting moms.

I adore working with newborn and their families. I love the creativity I am able to put into each and every session. I get giddy about picking out and coordinating props and colors. What I love most is seeing everything come together in camera. I’ll be shooting away and take a look at my LCD and just sigh…at the beautiful baby and the joy I feel seeing my work come to life. It’s a pretty awesome job. I mean I get to document the most monumental milestone in a family’s life. It plain rocks.

Your newborn workshops are highly sought after. Did you attend workshops when you first started? Do you still attend workshops? Why are workshops so valuable?

I am a self-taught photographer and have no formal photography schooling, however, I did take a workshop when I first started out and have listened to speakers at WPPI and Imaging. I have learned by far the most from my own research, reading, constant work and trial and error. I believe my photography has improved for the better because of mistakes I have made along the way and learned from. You know what they say, practice makes perfect. The time I have put in working with newborns, mastering camera settings, lighting, etc. have also made me a better photographer. Never stop learning and always keep pushing yourself to get better. I like to set business-related goals for myself to grow as a photographer and business. My goals over the next year are to work on portrait sales and pricing structure. With time being an issue, I will likely invest in online lessons.

As a former school teacher, I am the first to encourage life-long learning. You can never stop learning and pushing yourself to achieve new “personal bests”. Workshops, mentoring, online classes and research are extremely valuable… especially when you are working with newborns. Extra precautions should to be taken when working with newborns. Newborn portraiture is like no other portraiture. I always tell my workshop students that there is so much that goes into creating one good image of a newborn… from prepping parents, creating an ideal environment for the newborn (making sure your props are safe and you have the necessary tools to keep baby safe), as well as reading babies cues in order to soothe them. Newborn Workshops are on the rise and with many new newborn photographers coming into the industry it is important to raise awareness about newborn safety. Workshops can offer new knowledge and tools to improve newborn handling and photography. As a new photographer, it is important to do your research when selecting a workshop. Look around and select a mentor that you are comfortable with. Be sure to ask them questions about what they will be teaching and most importantly read their reviews from past students.

When developing the curriculum for my workshops I didn’t want to leave any stone left unturned. I want my students to leave “full” and with a bag of tools to pull from for each newborn shoot. We start from the beginning with prepping parents, safe handling, proper camera technique and angles. I believe in setting yourself up for success, both in your session and in your editing. That starts with prepping your families for their session and getting it right in camera each time. You can find more about my workshops on my website at http://www.kerimeyersphotography.com/newborn-mentoring-opportunities/.

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

My very first camera was a Nikon D40 purchased by my husband as a Valentine’s Day gift. I used that camera for about a year and then upgraded to a Nikon D80 in the midst of starting my own business. About a year later I upgraded to the Nikon D700 and am currently shooting with the D700. In terms of lenses, I started with the stock lens on the D40 and then purchased the 50mm 1.8 and 24-70mm 2.8. I upgraded to the 50mm 1.4 and added the 60mm 2.8 macro while I was still shooting with the D80. It has been a while since I have added to my lenses, but my next purchase will be the 35mm and the 85mm.

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

I simply adore my 50mm 1.4. I I love the yummy bokeh that can be achieved with this lens. I tend to like images with shallow depths of field and this lens definitely rocks the in camera fade. :)

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

I use Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS5. I tell my clients 2-3 weeks before proofs are ready, but it is generally around 2 weeks.

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

I really try to put my parents (especially first-time parents) at ease. I start with sending them guidelines and expectations for the newborn session so that they really know what to expect for their session. When they arrive I have the studio ready for them to sit back and relax. We have a couch, tv, coffee, snacks and water in the waiting area to keep them comfortable and make them feel at home. I always joke around with my clients and tell them, “It’s full-service here! We do all the diaper changes and cleaning up. You get to sit back and rest!” New parents welcome this time to relax and many even take naps.

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 shoot anywhere from 100-200 frames per session (for a newborn session). I edit 25-30 images for my clients and only show them finished images.

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

During my regular client session I do not have an assistant. I always have Dads help with more complicated poses and spot baby. If Dad isn’t able to attend the session then I have Mom fill in. I like to give Moms a rest and avoid having them move around too much.

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

I do offer digital images to my clients. I price them ala carte and keep the prices up to encourage print ordering. I do offer a bulk discount when a client orders all images on disc. I do however, suggest a minimum print order before digital files can be purchases. I think it is important for clients to see the quality of print they are going to receive when they print through their photographer rather than Walgreens or another one-hour lab.

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

Yes! At one of my recent workshops we had a little mishap with a little boy and his circumcision. This particular newborn had one of those rings in place while the circumcision healed. The ring is supposed to fall off around day 9 or 10. Well, this little guy was 10 days old at the time and as soon as I removed his diaper he kicked and popped that little ring right off (which was totally normal and OK). The only problem was that they can bleed when they come off and the area can be very sensitive. Because this was a workshop we had to continue with the shoot, but I knew there was no posing him without a diaper on. So, we improvised and used diaper covers throughout the whole shoot and were able to achieve every pose we wanted with no trouble. Below is an image of this very beautiful boy. Lesson learned here…be prepared for anything. Be sure to have a good plan in place and a back-up plan in case things don’t go as planned. :)

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

I don’t charge my immediate family, but I do charge friends. It’s tough to mix business with family and friends and to avoid trouble and inevitable drama I have learned to treat friends like any other client if they want to hire me. They pay the same as any other paying client.

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

Before photography I was an elementary school teacher and also have a Master’s Degree in Education. I love teaching and I love photography, so the two have really gone hand-in-hand for me.

A few more fun facts about me…
My favorite dessert is blackberry pie… or cheesecake.

I love to run… so I can enjoy my pie.

I wear the same jewelry every day and never take them off. My diamond earrings were a wedding gift from my mother and my necklace is made from a diamond ring worn by my late grandmother. I miss her terribly – she was a wonderful woman.

I straighten my hair every day.

I am a Starbucks addict…seriously, I need a 12 step program.

I wish I knew how to play the piano.

Name one person you would love to photograph.

Gosh, I’ve never really thought about this one before. Well, if Adam Levine ever has a baby with someone I would definitely love to photograph that child. :)

What is on your “Bucket List”?

I am not one of those people that has created a bucket list. Is that silly? I guess something that I would really love to do is more international traveling. I would love to see Europe with my husband. We have always wanted to go to Italy together.

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

The proudest moments for me are when my students get in touch with me after their mentoring sessions and share with me how much they have grown as a result of mentoring with me. That right there, is a pretty darn awesome. I love teaching and seeing all the ah-ha moments during a mentoring session, but when a student is able to go back home and put those new skills into practice is the real test of my teaching.

Name two photographers you would like to see IMB interview.

I would love to see my good friend Meg Borders on IMB. She’s a master of yummy light. Another great photographer I enjoy is Kristen Cook. Her classic and clean images have always been a favorite.

 

Keri Meyers is Seattle’s leading newborn photographer with a unique and classic style that has greatly impacted the newborn photography industry. She is a mom, wife and entrepreneur running her business from home so that she can be close to her young boys. She has photographed hundreds of newborns from the Greater Seattle area, and photographers from all over the world travel to learn from her in her Duvall, Washington studio…with hopes of gaining the knowledge, tips and strategies that make her one of the most successful and sought-after photographers in her field. As a former elementary teacher with a master’s in education, teaching and encouraging others to grow has always been a core part of Keri. She has personally mentored and educated over 200 photographers worldwide over the last two years, and has influenced hundreds of thousands through social media outlets. Sharing her passion for newborn photography and educating others about newborn safety are her highest priorities as she moves forward with her business.

Keri is a member of PPA and National Association of Child Photographers. In 2010, she was awarded first place in the Newborn Division in the National Association of Child Photographers Image Competition. Keri has also earned first place two years running in her local community as best portrait photographer in King 5’s Best of Western Washington Contest in 2010 and 2011.

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