If Only I Knew What I Was in For

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If Only I Knew What I Was in For

5 things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Business

I have been a photographer for 5 years now. This has been one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for everything photography has brought me at such a young age, but there are a few things I wish I knew before I started on this adventure. So, here are a few things I wish I knew when I didn’t have everything figured out. (FYI, I still don't have everything 100% figured out, but does anyone ever?)

5 things I wish I knew before starting my photography business. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

Number 1: Uncle Sam Wants His Money

Ladies and Gents. Just give the government the money and the paperwork they want. You will thank me for this later.

When I first started, I thought all I needed was a logo, a Facebook Business Page and a rinky-dink website that I created on Wix. Oh boy was I wrong. Here is the thing, I went to college. I was a business major. Up until this point in life I didn’t realize that I didn’t know SQUAT about being an entrepreneur. They don’t teach you how to run a business in school.

So before you even think about charging anyone, you really need to get your biz s**t together. Now this varies state to state, and I am by no means a “tax/legal/insert whatever else you want to here” expert. My best advice to you is hire an accountant or go to Legalzoom and get your ducks in a row.

Oh, and last thing, pay everything on time. I forgot about my state sales tax for two quarters, and I was hit with a $150 fine. That is a lot of money to a small business, so just do it, and do it on time.

 

Number 2: Don’t Buy Stupid Stuff

This is pretty self explanatory, but keep in mind the expenses you might be racking up, without a whole lot of income coming in.

I started out my business with a Rebel T3, and I thought I was a BALLER!!! I used the heck out of this camera and the kit lens for about a year and a half before I even bought my nifty fifty. I shot my first two weddings on this camera alone (not the best idea FYI), and I got through a ton of portrait sessions with this bad boy. I also used to edit all my photos on a tiny 13” Acer Laptop, that needed some color calibration.

At the beginning of my business, I thought I needed the latest and greatest camera bag, and random camera accessories, rather than saving that money and investing it later. Even if you are not a photographer, try and take something away from this. I have operated a debt free business, meaning that I do not have a business loan, and I do not have a line of credit. Actually, I just applied for my first business credit card two days ago, and it is scary!!

If you are an event coordinator, you don’t need to own a beautiful office right away. Starbucks is totally cool with your clients, or look at meeting at a coworking space (if you are local to Jax, check out Cowork Creative). If you are a blogger, just use that laptop that I know you still have from your college days, and make that thing work. Once you bring in some dollar bills, then you can upgrade to that iMac I know you have been eyeballing.

5 things I wish I knew before starting my photography business. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

 

Number 3: You Aren’t Perfect… and that is ok!

My ego was the size of the moon when I first started, especially before I had my first client. I thought my pictures were the greatest thing ever created since Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. Then… I edited my first photo session. I kid you not, everything was blurry and out of focus… the best part is (*cue sarcasm*) that I shot the whole thing in Auto mode, and shot JPEG only. There was NO WAY I could save this session. Thank the lord it was just for a friend and I didn’t charge anything, but it was a swift kick in my butt!

Everyone starts somewhere. Muhammad Ali wasn’t always great at boxing. Derek Jeter didn’t hit home runs straight out of the womb. Steve Jobs didn’t create Apple in a day. My point here is to say that you can’t start out perfect, and you must always be willing to grow.

 

Number 4: Invest in Education and Find a Mentor

This goes hand in hand with my last point. Make sure you seek education in your particular field of interest. See if you can find someone who is successful in that field, and would be willing to mentor you. If you work a full time or part time job, you have a secure pillow of income. Use the money you are making in your small biz to invest into your business and your own education, while you don't have to pay your own salary.

Education doesn’t mean going to a four year college or a traditional form of schooling. There are plenty of online classes you can take from experts, or  find some of their content for free on this thing called "the internet." If you invest your time and resources into consistent learning, it will help improve your business from the get go.

I wish I had invested in education early on. Only within the last two years have I sought outside help and advice. I love Creative Live and The Rising Tide Society for both free and paid education, especially if you operate in the creative realm.

 

CHECK OUT MY LATEST WORK OVER ON INSTAGRAM

 

Number 5: This isn’t all Rainbows and Butterflies

Now, it took me a little longer to realize this than most people. Entrepreneurship is exhausting. I can’t lie about that. You are literally wearing every single hat in your business, and at first this is all that you can afford to do. I promise you, it does get better. You will find your groove, and figure out systems that work best for you!

If you want to run a business because you think it will be easier than your typical nine to five corporate job, and you will get to make your own schedule, and do what you want… think again. You have to put in a vast amount of work to get to that level. You have to dedicate SO MUCH time to reach that point in your business, and yet, it is so fulfilling if it is what you truly desire.

I don’t mean to say this to break you down, but rather to lift you up, and propel you forward. If this is what you want, take something away from this, and implement a change in your own small business. I wish these were things someone flat out told me in the beginning! It would have saved me a lot of trouble of feeling as if I wasn’t meant to be an entrepreneur. I am telling you that it is ok, and that you will make it through this! Go kill it boss babe/gent!

 

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Why I Retouch Images

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Why I Retouch Images

I believe EVERYONE is beautiful, but I retouch for a reason

So. Before you shoot me, and tell me this is what is wrong with the world, I encourage you to read before you judge. After that, hate me all that you want!

Why I Retouch Images. I believe EVERYONE is beautiful, but i retouch for a reason. Read more about the main reason why I retouch images, and why I don't believe in retouching to an unrealistic standard. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

I am in love with Aerie, and their #AerieReal campaign, where they promote un-retouched images of their models. Women are being portrayed at an unrealistic standard far too often in the media. Size 0 models are being photoshopped to unrealistic proportions, that are unobtainable to ALL woman.

Yet, I still believe in retouching.

I am not talking about unrealistic standards here. I am talking about a simple enhancement of your natural beauty. I photograph men and women… real men and women, not high-fashion models. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be beautiful/handsome. Here is an example of what I DO retouch.

Why I Retouch Images. I believe EVERYONE is beautiful, but i retouch for a reason. Read more about the main reason why I retouch images, and why I don't believe in retouching to an unrealistic standard. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

I will not slim down your beautiful waistline, but I will enhance your gorgeous curves through posing. I will take away a pimple, because let’s face it, NO ONE likes them, and they are a temporary part of your outward appearance. I love a woman who shows off her scars and stretch marks, but if you want them taken off, I am more than happy to do so.

You want to know why?

It is so much more important to me to see you have your portrait taken. It is important for you to EXIST IN PHOTOS, and if taking away a simple scar on your chin will get you in front of the camera, then I will do so. I want to document your beauty, in all it’s glory, and I don’t want you to hide any longer. I want YOU to feel beautiful!

Do you know a special person in your life that deserves to feel beautiful? Give them the gift of portraits

So I retouch for one reason and one reason only… to make sure you are comfortable enough to have your portrait taken! Far too often, you see mothers, fathers, grandparents, and your loved ones, shying away from the camera for YEARS due to an insecurity. If I can help strip away those insecurities, pose you beautifully, and capture who YOU are, I can take a little back lash for any retouching nay sayers!

As a final thought, I never want to make you look like someone else. Never. I want to make sure you see the most beautiful photo you have ever seen of yourself. I never want to promote unrealistic beauty standards to the young men and women of the world, I want to make sure they have portraits to pass down for generations.

Why I Retouch Images. I believe EVERYONE is beautiful, but i retouch for a reason. Read more about the main reason why I retouch images, and why I don't believe in retouching to an unrealistic standard. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

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The Never Ending Search for Organization

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The Never Ending Search for Organization

 

My Top 3 Organization Tools and 2 of them are FREE!

 

So can we talk about organization for just a sec? 100% organization in life is more rare than a Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino. I feel like I am always seeking the latest/greatest/best organizational tools, and I always seem to fall short of organizing my crazy, chaotic life.

Most of you know that I work a full time job in marketing by day, and I chase my “day dreams” at night. Time is of the essence for me, as I am sure it is for most of you! My time is so limited, so I put systems in place to make sure everything is organized. As my nana always said, “There is a place for everything, and everything is in it’s place.”

Man oh man, did she beat that mantra into my brain for the last 24 years of my life, but I am so thankful that she did! I really want to bring you some of my favorite organizational tools to help get your s**t together, but before I do, I have a FREEBIE for you! This is what I use to organize my massive list of folders and files on my desktop. Click below to download!

 

My Top Three Organization Tools!

  1. Trello
  2. Google Drive
  3. 17hats

 

 

Trello: My Project Management Tool

Where to even begin with Trello. This is by far the easiest, and best project management tool I have ever used. There are so many ways to customize this tool to fit all of your business and personal needs. You need to create an all-inclusive editorial calendar with a workflow attached? Check. You need a way to store all of those important biz documents, passwords, logins, and more? Check. Heck, you need a way to plan out your meals and grocery checking list? Check.

I am telling you… Trello does it all. Oh, and to top it all off, there is even a mobile app. Score!

If you want to learn all things Trello, I suggest you head on over to my gals at Think Creative Collective. Abagail and Emily created an AH-MAY-ZING course that changed my life… forever! Bonus points: it is under $30. When was the last time you spent $30 and had your life turned upside down for the better?! Check out the course, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

Google Drive: My EVERYTHING Tool

Google Drive is literally my life. I keep all of my important digital files within Google Drive, and the best part is I can access it anywhere, and I don’t have to lug around a clunky external hard drive. You can totally get Google Drive for FREE, but it is so worth it to upgrade your account for more storage.

I used Google Drive to organize all important contracts, shared documents, and inspiration photos for my wedding. I use Google Drive and Google Docs to create all of my content, and store it away in a perfect organized system. I use Google Drive to share and collaborate with other business owners when working on shared projects.

Grab your free desktop background and organize all of your important computer files! [Custom Text] Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

 

I have found that Google Drive, versus their competitors like Dropbox or Box, is more user friendly, and is faster to use. It is easily accessible to anyone you need to share content with. Google Drive is also highly compatible with other programs, such as Trello… that is how I schedule my editorial calendar and keep blog posts organized!

 

17hats: My Client Management Tool

This is the one management tool that I pay for, and it is WELL worth it! There are so many tools out there on the market such as Honeybook, Asana, Shootproof, etc. 17hats just made so much sense for my business. I primarily use 17hats to manage all client related documents like contracts, quotes, invoices and contact information. 17hats allows me the flexibility to add my branding to all documents that are sent to clients via email. My client doesn’t have to log in to some weird system, they just click a couple buttons, and boom! I get paid, and all documents are signed!

The main reason I fell in love with 17hats was the bookkeeping feature. Holy Moly, was this a life saver. I am not an accountant. I never want to be an accountant. I took accounting classes, and this stuff is still so far over my head, it isn’t funny. There was no way I was going to devote more of my precious time to learning how to operate Quickbooks. 17hats syncs perfectly with my banking system, and allows me to categorize all my transactions. I print out pretty, easy to understand reports… then hand it off to my accountant. Easy freaking peasey.

I could go on all day about the awesomeness that is 17hats!! I was an early bird to this program, so I bought access to the system at a really decent rate for a 3 year subscription. They have plans for as little as $25 a month now, and they send out discount codes all the time!

Need something to post to Instagram today?! Feel free to screen shot this image, tag me (@ambernicoleportrait), and use #ANPquotes so I can see your post, and I can follow along!

Need something to post to Instagram today?! Feel free to screen shot this image, tag me (@ambernicoleportrait), and use #ANPquotes so I can see your post, and I can follow along!

Well, I hope this helps in your search for a system that works for you! I would love to hear about some tools that you find most helpful. Just leave me a comment below, or find me on social media and give me a shout! Also, don’t forget your desktop freebie (above)!!

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Downtown Jacksonville Skyline Engagement Session

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Downtown Jacksonville Skyline Engagement Session

YOU GUYS. Just look at this. <3 Is this not the most perfect thing you have ever seen?! This was by far one of my favorite sessions ever, and definitely something new to add to my portfolio. Danielle and Ryan are so deeply in love, and will soon tie the knot.

Surprise engagement session in downtown Jacksonville, FL. A surprise proposal taken place on top of buildings, and skyscrapers in Florida urban area. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

Would you believe that it was in the low 50s, and super windy on these Jacksonville rooftops, and these two brave souls toughed it out for a beautiful sunrise. Meanwhile I am shooting in what looked like a wool parka, in true Florida girl fashion. It was such an amazing sight to capture this amazing time in their lives and I cannot wait to see their love blossom even more!

Danielle and Ryan are owners of The Copper Closet, a local Jacksonville clothing boutique. Check out their full engagement gallery HERE!

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE? FOLLOW ALONG ON INSTAGRAM!

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Client Spotlight | Ashley Figlow Glamor Session

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Client Spotlight | Ashley Figlow Glamor Session

I was so excited to finally be able to shoot in my new studio space, and it was a great way to wrap up 2016, and enter the New Year! I cannot wait to continue along this journey as I make my way towards a fully functioning, boutique, portrait studio. Most of what I created in these photos are DIYs and photography hacks... but it just goes to show, with a little elbow grease, and some creativity, you can create something truly magical. 

Contemporary boudoir, glamour, head shot photo shoot with an aspiring actress. Ashley looked stunning in a DIY Frida Kahlo inspired head piece, tulle skirt, gold sequin dress and white sheet. Amber Nicole Portrait, a boutique, makeover, photography studio based in Jacksonville, FL. As the owner and lead photographer, she offers portrait photography in the greater Jacksonville area, Saint Augustine, the State of Florida, and is available for travel. She has developing her ethereal, natural, and bright style since 2012.

As always, I think natural light is just so divine! There is nothing like it, and my new space, although small, has plenty of this beautiful light. I wanted to take Ashley through multiple outfits, multiple looks, and multiple backgrounds to show that these photo shoots can be tailored to your preferences. You can be photographed HOWEVER you want!

Are you a tulle skirt and flowers kind of gal? Perfect! Do you need a corporate headshot à la Olivia Benson, SVU detective? You got it! Or do you want to go more fine art, reminiscent of Frida Kahlo? We can totally create it. So, how do YOU want to be photographed?

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Client Spotlight | The Bloom Closet Branding Session

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Client Spotlight | The Bloom Closet Branding Session

I was so excited when Sarah of The Bloom Closet reached out to me to help shoot her first look book! Sarah and I actually work together during the day, and we pursue our side hustles on nights and weekends. I am so excited to see her hybrid blog/shop launch, and she has such an amazing style and concept!

The Bloom Closet mixes vintage, second hand pieces with contemporary fashion that is accessible to EVERY women. Once Sarah launches her new venture in early December, select vintage pieces from her posts will actually be for sale. Let me tell you... this woman has a crazy amount of talent when hunting for and selecting vintage pieces. Make sure you check out her Instagram and Facebook for updates, and snag those great, unique, one of a kind pieces!

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Jacksonville Country Club Fall Wedding 02.12.16

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Jacksonville Country Club Fall Wedding 02.12.16

It was a gorgeous fall day in Florida, with the wind blowing, cloudy skies, and not a degree over 75. Monica and Gavin share a love that allows for laughter and joy, with happy tears, and compassion. With their families surrounding them, at Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, they pledged their lives to each other. 

I have to say, this was by far one of the most emotional ceremonies I have photographed, and one of the funnest receptions I have ever attended. As Monica slowly walked down the aisle, Gavin couldn't help but be filled with emotion... and frankly so was I! Monica looked absolutely stunning in her Mikaella Bridal ball gown, and even rocked some Beats headphones as she was the Emcee for part of her reception. P.S. her uncle designed and planned the entire reception, and let me tell you, it was gorgeous!

This day would not have been possible without these amazing vendors: 

Venue, Rentals, Catering | Jacksonville Golf + Country Club

Planner + Floral Designer | Ricky Raphael & Perry Tortorelli

Photographer | Amber Nicole Portrait

Videographer + DJ | K2 Media & Photography

Baker | Classic Cakes

Hair + Makeup | Studio Bride

Bridal Shop | The White Magnolia

Bride’s Dress Designer | Mikaella

Bridal Accessories | Nordstrom

Bridesmaids Dress Shop | Bella Bridesmaid

Bridesmaids Dress Designer | Hayley Paige

Groom’s Attire | Michael's Formalwear

Invitation Suite | Minted

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Client Spotlight | Ember's Colorful Second Birthday

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Client Spotlight | Ember's Colorful Second Birthday

When your mom is a talented event planner and designer, and part of Loba Design Co., you have the most EPIC birthday party. From the bright colored tissue paper pom poms, to the amazing ballon and greenery backdrop display, and all of the unique flowers in between. Ashlyn is so talented and this party was so special for young Ember. 

Ashlyn made sure to make this Saturday morning party fun for the adults too! There was a Mimosa/Beermosa bar that paired perfectly with the pancake buffet. Ashlyn and Tim have the sweetest little girl, and the most loving family, and everyone had a blast to celebrate such a special day. 

P.S. Ember's friends are way cooler than I will ever be, and they have more style in their small, pinky toe, than I have ever had in my entire life. Anyone else jealous of this amazing party?!

See the full gallery HERE

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Smoke Bomb Photo Shoot for The Copper Closet

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Smoke Bomb Photo Shoot for The Copper Closet

When Danielle, owner of The Copper Closet, sent me an idea for a eerie shoot full of smoke bombs, and beautiful models... I said "YES" without batting an eyelash. All of the people involved in this shoot were troopers! We fought off pesky mosquitos (probably Zika infected...jk...but not really), crazy wind gusts, and a ton of stinky smoke. 

This shoot was so surreal, and the photos are some of my favorite of all time. This shoot though, was FAR from easy. The models literally had to run with the smoke as it blew away in the wind, and the smoke only lasted for about two minutes. We had a full crew of professionals, and the shoot wouldn't have been successful without them, so make sure you show them some love:

WARDROBE + STYLING: The Copper Closet  |  ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER: Jaime Morel  |  VIDEOGRAPHER: Russell Ian  |  MODELS: Emily, Lexa, Hope, Haley, Elaina  | SMOKE BOMB AFICIONADO: My fiance, Daniel Romero  |  FULL GALLERY CLICK HERE

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Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

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Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!! This is literally my favorite time of the year. Every year kids are so excited for presents under the tree, Santa Clause and Christmas lights, but not me. Nope. I am the weirdo, and I love Halloween way more than any other holiday. Normally I am so focused on my own costume, that I never really had the opportunity to photograph a Halloween inspired shoot. Like what?!

Boy, I am glad I finally did something like this! My sister might actually be a real life witch, and man oh man, these photos feel like they are from some other witchy world. I stepped out of my comfort zone, and out of my normal style, just to experiment and have fun creating something for the sake of creativity. 

P.S. I am really cheap. Like you don't understand... like CHEAP CHEAP! My sister and I managed to do this entire photo shoot for less than $30 including wardrobe! See the links below for a breakdown of where we found everything.

DRESS ($9.99): Forever 21 | FLOWERS ($7.99): Michaels | NAILS (DIY) (approx. $3): Walmart | HAIR (FREE): yours truly | MAKEUP (FREE): Ashley Figlow | CANDLES ($8): Dollar Tree

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