Category Archives: Ask Sarajane

Ask Sarajane: Cleaning your iMac Keyboard! {Asheville, NC Photographer}

Well, let’s be honest. Sometimes our keyboards get dirty. Ok, filthy. I probably touch my iMac keyboard more than just about anything else every day.

So, I went in search of an easy and safe way to clean it. So many posts talked about putting it in the dishwasher…

That’s not gonna happen.

This is what I settled with and it works great! The best news is that it’s something I can easily do on a regular basis!



with love and a clean keyboard,


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Why are Photographers So Expensive? {Asheville, NC Photographer}

Why are photographers so expensive? Who do they think they are?

These are conversations that I hear all the time when someone doesn’t know what I do for a living. Even when I first started out and charged significantly less than I do now, I would have people complain to me about the over-priced photographers out there.

While I am completely sympathetic to not being able to afford great photography. I also thought it would be nice for me to write a little something to help clear up why we have to charge so much.

It’s math.

Which, I will admit is not my strong suit. I did get a degree in photography and writing after all.

But, it’s simple really.

Let me break it down for you…

De Jesus-17

In a typical business, less than 1/3 of total income is left for the business owner to use to cover their living expenses

{ 1/3 goes to business expenses, 1/3 goes to taxes, and the other 1/3 is their salary.}

So, if you’re paying $250 for a portrait session, that photographer is actually making about $83.00.

That still may seem like a lot to you still. However, each session is not just the 2 hours you may be working directly with them. It’s hours spent at their computer doing back work: answering emails, phone calls, building websites, running errands, advertising, blogging, editing, and much more.

You’d be pretty disheartened if you worked a 40-hour work week and only came home with $83.

Here’s a make-believe cost of doing business outline for you to check out. {These aren’t my actual numbers, however, they are realistic to someone shooting 20 weddings a year.}


What does that mean?

That means they have to charge $1,431 to each client just to break even! If they charge you less than that…

They’re losing money.

This doesn’t even go into the cost of travel, meals, coffee, products, licenses, and insurance!

Then, don’t forget taxes which is a third of your income. So, about $10,000.

In order for them to make a salary of $30,000/year they have to charge $3,431 without offering any products at all!! Just for their services and a CD of files.

If you’re a portrait photographer your CODB may look like this.
{This is set up for someone shooting 1 session a week or 50 sessions a year.}


What does this mean?

They have to charge $531.00 just to break even!

In order to make a salary of $30,000 a year they must profit $1,331 per session!

I realize these numbers seem insane. A lot of times we’re able to book more than the amount of clients I’m mentioning here therefore lowering our cost. However, it’s also adding to the amount of work that you are doing. So, you may be able to lower your cost, but, you’re in turn getting paid less to do more work.

My intentions for writing this post are not to make you feel bad if you can’t afford great photography.
It’s for these simple reasons:
1. To show clients that we’re not trying to swindle you.
2. To show photographer’s how important it is to do a Cost of Doing Business for yourself.
3. To show people interested in starting a photography business that you have to keep in mind these things before you go full-time!

I hope that this has been helpful and informative!

If you read this far down, well, you’re amazing!

with love and math,


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Ask Sarajane: My Wedding Day Organization!! {Asheville, NC Wedding Photographer}

I’ve really enjoyed creating these vlog posts for you! Let me know if you’re enjoying them or if you hate their guts! I want to make sure they’re helpful! Today I am chatting all about my wedding day organization! This goes into how I keep track of my timeline, how I do family portraits, how I plan my couple’s portraits, and what I do with all of those business cards! I’m even going to show you my secret weapon! {It’s obviously not so secret…}

Please ignore the fact that my phone goes off a million times and that I can’t ignore it…

Thanks for watching!

As always, please send any photography questions you may have my way! I’m trying to do these about once a week now!

Photo on 6-5-13 at 9.58 AM

with love and the wedding day,


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Ask Sarajane: Lightroom Tutorial! {Asheville, NC Wedding Photographer}

After posting my video about editing boudoir images, I received a few messages asking me to do a tutorial on lightroom editing a large group of photos. I thought I’d give you a basic idea of how I edit a wedding and go from there!

I wanted to do the video in real time so there are some down moments that you are more then welcome to zip through if you feel like you’ve got the hang of it. If you’d like to sit around and listen to me ramble, that’s fine too! 😉

Thanks for watching and let me know how you like these and if you have anything else you’re interested in!


with love and lightroom,


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Ask Sarajane: My Basic Editing Process! {Asheville, NC Boudoir Photographer}

I’ve had several conversations recently about my editing process. I have a two step method when working with my boudoir images. I take them into lightroom where I cull and basic edit them. Then, I finish them off in photoshop where I can fine tune things a bit. I prefer using the two programs rather than doing everything in one for one big reason. I am fast in photoshop, but, I LOVE the culling process in lightroom. Simple as that.

This video will show you how I cut my culling time in half and what I use to skin soften and remove blemishes. I even go a bit into my standards as far as retouching is concerned!

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Note: in the video I keep saying “dodge” But, I actually mean “burn” sorry about that!

with love and editing,


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Ask Sarajane Vlog: Wedding Client Management! {Asheville, NC Wedding Photographer}

I have used the same system for organizing my wedding clients for a few years now. It’s great for me to be able to see everything in one place and not get overwhelmed by the details of each client’s needs. If I can see it all on paper I can stay on top of it. If I’m relying on my own memory, well, I’m screwed.

So, I thought it would be nice to share with you my system for wedding client management. That way you can maybe save some time and cut out some trial and error!

Photo on 5-15-13 at 10.47 AM #2

with love and client management,


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The Rest of the Quotation… {Asheville, NC Boudoir and Wedding Photographer}

I love warm and fuzzy. Anything that tells you that you can do it! You can chase your dreams and be successful. You can be anything you want to be. But, it’s also very easy to forget our part in that. Right?

We want to chase our dreams, but, somewhere a long the way it becomes very easy to stop chasing them and just start thinking about them instead.

We say, “I’m a photographer!” But, we do nothing to get better. Maybe you’re wanting to be a yoga instructor but you rarely practice yoga. Possibly you’re a painter but you have stopped seeking out mentors and leaders who can help you to perfect your craft.

Maybe all you need to do is think of it simply.

I want to be a ‘photographer, painter, yoga instructor, teacher, etc.’ To get there I must work HARD!


There’s no such thing as being born with it. There’s no magic spell that will make you great at what you do. It’s plain old hardwork. Keep it simple.

I read this quote the other day in a WONDERFUL book I’m currently reading.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the Life you’ve imagine. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
-Henry David Thoreau

While I’ve read the first half of that quote before. I hadn’t seen the part about simplifying your life. To me, that’s where our action takes place. As my dear friend Tyler pointed out, most of us would prefer to ignore that part.

What can we do to make our lives a little simpler so that we can reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves?


with love and the rest of the quotation,


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Ask Sarajane: On Being the Apple of your Client’s Eye! {Asheville, NC Wedding and Boudoir Photographer}

Every morning I go to coffee at the same shop. {Hi there High Five!} Every morning I skip over the Starbucks that is literally 2 minutes from my house, then, I DRIVE PAST another Starbucks, then past my office {which has a coffee shop two doors down}, past another coffee shop, to THE coffee shop.

Until this morning, it’s never even crossed my mind that this might not make sense.

There are at least 20 coffee shops in our small mountain city. But, I only go to one.

With that in mind, I started to think about the other brands that I’m loyal to and how it may not even make sense sometimes.

I’m an Apple user.
I only buy Counter Culture coffee for the house.
I’m a Trader Joe’s fanatic. {and we don’t even have one in Asheville.}
I will never switch from USAA.
No hot sauce tastes quite the same as Cholula!
Nikon could give a free puppy away with every camera and it wouldn’t convince me to switch from Canon.

So, what do all of these things have in common?

1. A pride in their craft.

They are the best in their industry and they’re working towards being better! I trust that if I buy an Apple product it will be simple, sleek, and cutting edge. If I go to my coffee bar I know that the espresso will be perfect and the milk texture will be spot on. {nerd stuff I know.} But, I’m loyal because they’re putting out a product that is superior to their competition.

2. Customer Service.

All too often companies and business owners cease to see their clients as people. Instead as paychecks or even inconveniences. The moment I get even an inkling of a feeling that I’m inconveniencing someone by giving them money, I’m 100% ok with not giving them anymore of my money. Let’s be honest. Have you ever been to Trader Joe’s? It doesn’t matter if there is a line backed into the aisles, that cashier is going to ask you how you’re doing today! I travel to different Trader Joe’s when I work and have even been recognized by a cashier and reminded of a conversation we had in a city that I didn’t even live! That’s customer service.

3. It’s exciting!

What these products are doing is something different than their competitors. Each of them stands out in their own way. Apple is simple and sleek. Counter Culture is finding new ways to work closer with the farmer’s that grow their coffee. Trader Joe’s is a grocery shopping experience. USAA, a bank and insurance company that is non-profit! Cholula is a flavorful hot sauce that’s in it’s own field away from the typical abrasive-ness of it’s competitors. Canon is known for their L-series lenses.

I believe in what these companies are doing and I want to be a part of it!

What does that mean for us as business owners? How can we create the same environment for our clients?

1. Put out a GREAT product!

At the bottom line, you are a photographer. Be good at what you do! We’re not all going to start out creating perfect images, but, continue to learn and grow and accept critique from those you admire. At the end of the day, you can be as unique as you want to be, but, if you’re photos are lack-luster, what’s the point? I’ve seen so many artists accept mediocre work from themselves and that’s sad. The moment we cease to grow as artists, that’s the moment the art in what we do dies.

2. See our clients as people first!

I want to look at each of my clients and see them for who they are and what they need from me. If I receive a complaint, question, or request, I want to meet that need with the attitude that they deserve my attention and respect. Meet them with kindness and understanding and that’s just good joo-joo anyway!

3. Be Different!

I want to strive for a heart to my work that doesn’t blend in with the rest of the industry. I want to produce a meaning behind what I do and give people something to believe in. That may be the hardest piece of this puzzle, but, at the end of the day, it’s just as important when striving for loyal clients.

So, this week, let’s all take some time and think about one thing we can do to improve each of these areas of our business!


with love and my favorite coffee shop,




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Ask Sarajane: Time Management and My Notebook! {Asheville, NC Wedding and Boudoir Photographer}

I’ve talked about this before. But, things have changed for me lately. The last time I wrote on time management and my everyday schedule I was waking up at 5:30am everyday and working until who knows when. I’ve changed things up a bit to allow more creativity and relaxation into my life. Making those a priority, I believe, will be the difference in good and great art. While I truly believe we’re busy owners first and photographers second, I also have to let my creativity breathe. Correct?

sj (1 of 1)

So, here’s an updated schedule:

I wake when I wake. Typically this is somewhere between 6:00-7:00am.

I take my time to eat breakfast and pack a lunch for the day.

I go to my favorite coffee shop somewhere between 7:00-8:00am.

I’ve started having my coffee there. I used to drop in and pick it up on the way to the office, but, I found three things wrong with that.

1. I wouldn’t park as far away because I would inevitably spill coffee on myself if I walked with it for long enough.
2. I wasn’t taking time to enjoy the coffee itself. What’s the point of ingesting something that you’re not enjoying?
3. It started me off with a rushed feeling.

Now, for the first hour of work I’m simply planning out my day, enjoying my coffee, and reading books related to photography or business.

This has made all the difference! 

When I arrive to the office, I have a clear plan for the day, my mind is relaxed, and I’m geared up and ready to go. Not to mention I’m reading SO MUCH more about things that help my business!

Now, what do I plan during this time?

I focus on my notebook and my planner: {excuse the awful iphone pics}



My planner is my life line. I focus mostly on the monthly sections here except for on wedding days where I write the entire timeline of the wedding on that day.



Next, my notebook. I’ve talked about this before briefly, but, I’m gonna break it down for you!

In the beginning I have my list of things that need to be done at some point but not necessarily today…

I try to check one thing off of this list {at least} everyday.



Not pictured: I also do lists for large projects. For Example: right now I’m working on re-branding. I have a giant list broken down for all of the steps of the re-branding process in my notebook. I try to knock 2-3 things off of that list a day!

Next, I have my daily lists. This is what I write in the morning.

I write the large to-do list at the top. This is whatever I didn’t finish the day before, my 1-2 things off my big list, my 2-3 things off my projects list, any meetings that I have, any errands that need to be run, etc.


I have my “win the day” list. I write this at the bottom of the page. I choose the 5 most crucial tasks and write them in the order that want to accomplish them. If all I complete is this list that day, then I will have succeeded.



Something I’m  finally coming to grips with is that the To-Do List will never end. There’s always going to be something that I need to do. The more I’m aware of that, the sooner I can accept that and move on. I will work hard during work hours and do the most that I can do with my time. But, I’m not superhuman and I can’t hold myself to those expectations…

I’m sounding well-balanced right? 😉 I’m a work in progress.

Another thing I use this notebook for is planning out my sessions.



Lovely drawings? Basically, I break my sessions down by the minute and divide them into different segments. I create my poses ahead of time in my notebook. {Note: I don’t use pinterest for inspiration. I’m drawing out my old faithful poses and then racking my brain for more. I think Pinterest can stunt creativity and I’ll leave it at that.} After I’ve drawn up my session I will study it like I’m studying for a test. I’ll even close my eyes and try to repeat what I’ve got. This allows me to go into sessions with a clear plan and direction! Which I think is of the upmost importance!

Any questions, please write ’em in the comment box below!

with love and time management,


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For Photographers: A Book Recommendation! {Asheville, NC Boudoir and Wedding Photographer}

Every so often, I like to get on here and share a little something with the other photographer’s out there. I’ve talked before about how important it is that we encourage one another and push each other to be better. If I’d been brave enough to ask questions earlier on in my business it would have saved me so much time and money!

For the last few days I’ve been engrossed in a book. I read it entirely in two days and it has meant so much to me and my business already. No, it’s not the latest marketing tips. It’s not about how using pretty colors will grow your business drastically. It’s not even a photography book. It’s called, “Self-Employed Tax Solutions.”

Sounds like a page turner right?

To be honest, I’ve had this book since 2010. Yup.

But, I finally cracked it open this week because I knew I needed to really nail some things down for myself. Not only was it surprisingly enjoyable to read. But, it has given me so many new perspectives on my expenses and how to keep my books! I think this book could single-handedly be the reason I find financial success.

I realize that it’s a common thing to outsource your bookkeeping. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I just think it can’t hurt to know what is happening with your money either.

What do you think?



with love and taxes,


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