• Featuring Melissa Blunden

    by  • March 30, 2017 • Featured Photographer

    This week's featured photographer is Melissa Blunden of Honey Couture Photography in Edmonton, Alberta

     

    Where do you operate your business?

    In Edmonton, Alberta


    Your Website


    Your Facebook page


    Your Instagram account

    https://www.instagram.com/intimateportraits_hcp


    Your Pinterest account

    https://pinterest.com/pinhoneycouture

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    Technical Specs:

     
    Camera used

    Canon 6D

    Lens choices

    Sigma 35Art and Canon 70-200 2.8

    Processing Software (just provide the names of the one's you use)

    Lightroom CC and Photoshop 2017 CC

    Do you use any actions?

    No, but I do use lightroom presets by Tribe Archipelago

    Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use any plugins, etc?

    I use Portraiture on some of my images to soften skin if needed, and then lower the opacity to 50-60%

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    CLIENTS:

     
    What most people want to know is how you market to your clients.  Have you qualified who your is your ideal client?  

    Marketing has always been tricky for me, and I believe for a lot of small business owners alike! I was just talking about this to a friend this afternoon over coffee (after she photographed my puppies first birthday session - it is so important to support each other in this industry!) You can be the best at what you do, but unless you know who you are marketing towards, you will have a hard time with clients, and attracting and booking your ideal client will be next to impossible!

    My ideal clients name is Anna. Not boring you with too much detail, Anna is a 30 something business woman who is completely in charge of her life. Her hobbies include yoga, travelling to foreign lands among many others. This helps me know that I will find many Anna's at local and international yoga studios. I challenge you all to meet your own Anna!

    I'd love to add into the article any inspiring client stories you might have.  Also have you had any issues with clients that you would like to share how you resolved them.  That is always something that can hugely benefit the readers.

    One of my favorite stories was showing a past client her images! We were in her home, watching the Reveal Slideshow together and her 4 year old daughter was on her knee and she suddenly pointed at an image in particular and said "Mommy is a princess! Mommy is a princess!!!" I watched as my client kissed her daughters hand and teared up while she continued to watch the slideshow.... It gave me goosebumps to see how confident she was not only in herself, but in letting her young daughter see the images. It was such a body positive moment and I think it really was a turning point in my boudoir from "pretty" images to body positive and fierce vibes.

    Do you have a physical or digital "welcome" product you give the clients and can you share that if you do. You can give me a link or email. Thanks.

    I have had multiple versions of this in the past and am currently reworking mine!

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    SALES:

     
    This is probably one of the most important things that the readers want to know.  How do you sell to your clients?  Can you provide info on your sales process and your pricing.  I'd like to be able to provide numbers on what you charge for a session and what your range is for your products, like albums for instance, but if you don't feel comfortable sharing to much, just give me what fits your comfort level 

    My session fee is $299 and it includes professional hair and makeup as well as 60 minutes rental time in a professional studio full of lighting gear, props and furniture. I do all the editing and create a video slideshow to reveal the images to my clients - they get roughly 30-50 to pick from, depending on the session!

    After this, I meet with the clients in person to show them their images and they can place their order with me! Currently I have a leather bound 8x8 album from Millers that I sell for $600 with 15-20 images in it, but I will be either increasing the price or dropping the size of the album as of March 1st. I was thinking perhaps the 5x5 Album as a Little Black Book for $500.

    What products perform best in your studio? 

    Albums and prints are the best performers so far!

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    STUDIO:

     
    Best describe your workspace.  Do you have a studio or work from home?  How large is your space?  What are the challenges with it?  What works really well for you?  Can you please include a photo or two of it, if possible.

    I have rented out a studio space for a year lease. It is owned by another photographer and she rents it out hourly to anyone interested - I am a key holder though, so I do get a VIP treatment with the rental times.

    Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.

    I would like to have my own space, once the year is up! I looked into it this past November, but the only spot I could afford was twice as much as I currently pay and smelt of old baloney... Not my ideal studio spot! I love where I am right now!

    Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?

    I try to, but often times clients can only meet after hours for pickup and deliveries, so I find that means I need to be more flexible in my work hours. I feel like I am constantly on the clock!

    Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles? What's your preference? What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any.

    Combination, however I prefer the tones I get out of natural light a lot more than studio lighting.

    Do you have makeup artists you work with in your studio?  If so, can you give me a run down of what the rate is you pay them and how you feel about the importance of that relationship.  If you don't use them, is there a reason?

     I love my makeup artist and have a strong relationship with her! I am currently transitioning my fees to not include makeup so that she can start charging her own prices to the clients and not to me. I feel like she is doing my a favor with the lower pricing and she deserves to be paid accordingly! She is truly one of the best in the city!

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    BUSINESS IN GENERAL:

     

    How long have you been in business?  What were you doing before you started your photo business?

    I have officially been in business since December 2015. I was laid off of my job, as with many others in the Canadian economy crash in 2015 and took it as a sign to pursue my passions more intensely. The last 4 months have really taken off for me, and although I am nowhere near where I want to be yet, I am so excited to continue on this journey!

    Did you go to school for photographer or are you self taught?

    A little of both. I was accepted into to a fine art school for high school in the "big city" next to my small town for my drawing and painting, but never took the photography class as it was outside school hours and my bus schedule wouldn't allow it. I always enjoyed photography as a hobby, but it wasn't until halfway through my university degree (circa 2007) in archaeology that I started to travel more and more and meet people from all over the world from all different walks of life. That started my passion for photography and it has slowly developed into where I am right now!

    Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?

    See above 😉

    What is your biggest struggle in this business?

     I truly struggle with feeling like I am worth the investment I ask clients to give me. I feel strong in my abilities in boudoir and intimate portraits, but when it comes to other types of photography - I always have this little nugget of self doubt nestled inside me. Sometimes it hides for months on end, other times it comes up right in the middle of a session, when maybe a child isn't cooperating or a bride doesn't like the image on the LCD screen I flash to her.

    Is there a reason you shoot boudoir and do you shoot any other genre?  If you're excusive, and/or recently went exclusive can you give the readers some insight into why you did.  If you've only ever done boudoir, again we'd love to hear why.

    I shoot a little of everything. When I was first building my business a year ago, I was told I needed to find a niche and be exclusive to it... I tried that and quickly realized that it wasn't for me! I want to always grow. As an artist, I need to always grow! I love shooting weddings and being able to share the love story as it unfolds in front of me for generations to come; I love shooting couples in love, even if they are just in their pjs or making pancakes; I love working with pets and capturing their quirkiness. And I love love love shooting boudoir.

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    ADVICE:

     
    If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?

     Do it! It is the most rewarding thing, to create something you are proud of. I think mentorship is key if you plan to create a business out of it, and network, network, NETWORK! Someone once told me to take a photo a day when I was learning, and while I think that is important... I think it needs to be more than just a photo. CREATE art every day, while learning and even after, when you are established. Do it for yourself. You will see the difference in your art as you go

    Have you ever done a boudoir session yourself, if you are a female (sorry guys 🙂 ? Do you think it's something that is important for female boudoir photographers to do?

    Yes I have! It is terrifying and liberating at the same time! It is easy to forget how vulnerable it can be to be on the other side of the lens, and I think we should all always keep that in mind.

    How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?  

    I haven't heard of this debate.

    What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?

    Burn out happens when I push myself so hard that I am no longer sleeping more than 3-4hrs a night. When I am constantly on my computer in the office instead of spending time with my family. When I am running from shoot to shoot and delivering client products door to door. I am slowly working on keeping myself to timelines and asking clients to meet me in trendy cafes halfway between us for products, etc.

    What do you love about the business?

     Everything!!! It is so liberating to work for myself - even during the funks that every artist suffers through, I still love everything about this choice of mine!

    What do you hate about the business?

     There is a lot of competition where I am, and it is not always the good type. The type where is pushes you to be a better artist, and even better than you were yesterday. Often it is degrading, rude and sometimes bordering on slanderous behavior. I hope the industry here improves over the years, and I am lucky enough to say a few close knit members of the community here and I have banned together to try and change this behavior! We hope to build a community of photographers who can rely on each other!

    Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI?  What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?

    I am a member of a few Canadian Professional Photography associations and I love it! I feel like I have a group standing behind me saying I am a vetted photographer. That they believe in me, even on the days where I myself sometimes don't! I am not sure if it matters to clients or not, but it is a great option for me! We also have many talks in person where we can go over each other's portfolios, have guests speak about things such as IPS vs. S&B, discuss pricing, etc.

    Do you compete and do you have any opinions on it?  AIBP runs contests regularly.  Do you participate?  If not, is there a reason you don’t?

     I do not really, not out of fear of not doing well but because often times I am too busy to set aside 20 minutes to find "that one image" to submit, or do not have the funds to submit to certain contests. I have not seen any competitions come up since joining AIBP!

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    SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:

     
    Favorite food?   

     Tacos!! For sure tacos. Anytime I go for drinks, it ends with me asking where the tacos are.

    One guilty pleasure in life?

     that early morning time alone just curled up in bed for an hour after my alarm has gone off - which I purposefully set and hour early so I can have this time to myself (and my cat)!

    What is your favorite piece of clothing? 

     I have this one lucky sweater... I swear, every time I wear it I get whatever it was I wanted to get that day! Too bad it is old, shrunken and has elbow patches, or else I would wear it to every consultation and shoot ever!

    What's one song on your playlist? 

    I don't do playlists. I know - weird right? I just never got into it... I always just hit "shuffle" and let it be! I guess one of my fav's right now is Unsteady by X-Ambassadors. It just hits me every time!

    What's your favorite movie genre? Example?

     Action! I love me some Jurassic Park and anything Bruce Willis

    Favorite shoes to wear?  

     My moccasins someone else has been walkin' in

    What are you currently reading? 

     Big Magic by E Gilbert! So good!

    If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?   

     If it was a fully paid trip for me, I would go to the Antarctic. Why? Because it is so expensive to go and I know it will take me about 5 years of saving to be able to do it myself!!! I need to see it before the world changes and everything melts on us...

    If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?

    I don't know... I think it's been pretty stellar so far, even though there have been (and will be!) rocky parts for sure.
     

    If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?

     One day I'd like to photograph the Queen... her life has been a huge inspiration to me and I'd love to be able to capture the dicotomy of her in a portrait. Her Royal stature and regal demeanor, against her everyday self, that of a mother, a wife, and grandmother. I can only imagine the struggles she went through to balance the two sides of herself.

    What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)

     Time. It goes by so quickly! And I don't just mean time management from a business side of things, I mean time as in life.

    Are you married, single, have kids, husband?  Is life a juggling act for you?

     Life is most definitely a juggling act, but I am not married. I am single and my baby is my cat Skyline! She is precious to me.
     
    Who inspires you the most in life? Work?

    My parents and sister. They have all gone through so many trials in life, and they could all be miserable souls - I don't think anyone who knows them would blame them if they were. But each day I see these three people get up and greet the challenges of the day and cherish the moments between with each other. It is inspiring to witness.
     
    If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person's direction in life, what would that be

    You are enough, just as you are. You don't need to change to make friends or be popular or get the person you have a crush on to notice you. I used to work in a Youth Centre as an Youth Worker and although that was years ago and they have all grown into young adults now, they still come to me about things in their lives and to just chat. I don't take those relationships we built for granted.

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    About

    Photographer and Owner of Cathy Nance Studios - Intimate Editorial Art

    http://cathynance.com