Preparing for a Photoshoot + My Essential Gear

Preparing for my first photoshoot was a very intimidating process for me. I was scared I wouldn’t look as professional as other photographers, or that I would forget something super important (like my DSLR battery). After doing a TON of research, and experiencing lots of photoshoots, I’ve got some tips on how to prepare and make the situation less stressful for any beginner photographers/photographers still learning. 


  • The very first thing you need, and one of the most important, is a contract. For reference, a link to my photoshoot contract can be found here. This is very important because it shows all your guidelines, as well as holding the client liable for any money they signed to pay after the shoot. I include a questionnaire to get to know what style the client is looking for. This is completely optional.


  • When trying to get ideas for a shoot I’m doing (shoots that are collaborations and not client-based) I usually base a shoot behind particular outfits or song lyrics. Take inspiration from things you are passionate about. I get most of my shoot inspiration from lyrics.


  • Have your gear packed and ready to go at all times. I keep my Nikon D5500, my Nikon AF-S DX VR ZOOM-NIKKOR ED 55-200mm F4-5.6G, and my Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8g in my bag at ALL times. Along with that gear, I keep 3 sd cards, an extra DSLR battery, a slave flash, and my portable ring light. Having spare batteries and sd cards is essential in case of disaster.


  • And lastly, I keep a check off list before I leave for each shoot. On the list, I have to check off that I have gathered all my gear, brought any of the props assigned for the shoot, and I am dressed for the weather conditions of the shoot.


(This list will be updated as I progress into more shoots and adjust my preparations.)




3 Mistakes I made as a Beginning Photographer

Entering the world of photography can be very intimidating. I felt like I was entering a cutthroat competition for the best pictures constantly. But I’ve learned it only feels that way if you make it that way. I’ve got a list of some mistakes I made early on that I have fixed, and have improved my photography tremendously.


1. Not raising my exposure

This might seem common sense to most, but to me, raising your exposure in post-editing was BAD. I would throw out an entire set of pictures because I thought they were “too dark and unsalvageable.” Raise your exposure and adjust your settings accordingly. I’ve learned now to raise the ISO one level because it is easier to lower exposure than it is to raise exposure without ruining a photo.


2. Over-saturating colors (particularly greens)

  This is one of my biggest mistakes. I thought I would stand out if I over-saturated the crap out of the colors in all my photos. Having bright colors distracts from your subject and makes your photograph appear too busy. Subtle colors bring more attention to the details of the photo and are more appealing to the eye. I’ve learned that toned down colors looks much better, and de-saturated skin tones look so much better as well. This is just my personal preference though.


3. Trying to be Like Other Photographers

  The last big mistake I made was trying to hard to be like other photographers. I looked at my work and felt it was inferior to theirs. I’ve learned that every photographer has a different style and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I tried so hard to replicate other photographers editing styles and poses and it was such a disaster. Always push yourself to be better, but down feel like your photos have to look like someone else’s!


❋ S O C I A L  M E D I  A ❋
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5 Tips to Improve Your Photography

 1: Shoot in manual mode and with RAW files.

 When I first started photography, I never shot in auto mode. I immediately started in aperture mode, and it was awesome to learn how the camera adjusts to the aperture I chose. After shooting in aperture for a few months, I switched to manual and my life was forever changed.

If you don’t know how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO interact with each other, that is definitely something you will need to know before graduating to manual mode. In manual, you set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed all by yourself. This is the best way to get the exact settings, and it is the only way I shoot now.

A RAW file is the image as seen by the camera’s sensor. It’s like unprocessed film. Instead of  letting the camera process the image for you and turning it into a JPEG file, the RAW file allows you to have complete control over the editing of your image. RAW files are a definite must for me.


2: Sense of Depth

 When I first started photography, this is one of the concepts I just couldn’t get down. You want to use sense of depth on your scenery photos. To create a sense of depth, you’re going to need a wide angle lens, and some scenery (obviously). Wide angle lenses emphasize linear perspective by allowing the distance between the foreground and the background of the scene to expand, thus emphasizing the appearance of converging lines.

Converging lines are a great way to show distance. Converging lines get smaller the farther away they get, eventually disappearing at the horizon. When shooting to create a sense of depth, position your scenery to create a depth of field and use a smaller aperture.


3: Rule of Thirds

 The rule of thirds says an image should be divided into nine equal squares by two evenly spaced vertical and two equally spaced horizontal lines. Important elements of the photo should be along these lines. This rule is said to make photos more appealing to the human eyes. It’s a great tip to help you position your subjects into the scene. Example:

JATomlinson Photography Rule of Thirds 2


4: Don’t take photos at eye level

 This is a tip I learned from Jessica Whitaker. Photos straight on are almost always an unflattering angle. Jessica says that standing slightly on your tip toes and angling your camera downward slightly onto the subject is more flattering, and I totally agree with her! Jessica takes a lot of fashion photos and angling her camera like this allows for more of the model to be seen as well.


5: Scenery

 It’s hard to find places to shoot sometimes, but be open minded. Old buildings, college campuses, open fields, city streets. You can shoot almost anywhere! You really only need a small chunk of a red brick wall to take some great portrait photos.

Some of the most beautiful photographs I  have seen were taken on the sides of the roads in some flower bushes. Be open to trying weird locations. Your best photos will come when your creativity is flowing!

“How do I book my first clients?”

 This is one of the most commonly asked questions I receive. I’m speaking in terms of photography, but this also applies to any other service, such as: cosmetology, musicians, etc.

 The first step is to set up your business. Make business cards, make logos, anything that will make your brand stand out. Have a reliable email or phone number. No one will take a chance on a new business if it looks untrustworthy/sloppy, or they can’t get in contact with you.

Family and friends are always the best people to go to as first clients. They will help get your name out and help you get some experience in the customer service side of your business. Your family and friends know you the best. They’ll know for sure whether to take a chance on you or not, whereas a client who doesn’t know you won’t. For instance, my sister was my first client, and I took her maternity photos for her. I had showed her pictures I had taken of my husky, but I didn’t have many portrait photos.

PhotoNov08,63640PM_preview.jpeg  Your friends and family are basically free, walking advertisement and experience. Give them a discounted service price in return for their social media posts! This is the easiest way to get your business going.

Another awesome way is hashtags. I’ve said this before in a previous blog post, but hashtags are your friend! Always hashtag a photo with anything relevant to it. For this maternity shot above, I would hashtag the following: #photography #Nikon #maternityshoot #texasphotographer . You can put as many, or as little as you want. The more hashtags, the farther your reach on social media.

 Stay active on social media, engage your audience, do giveaways!

 If you follow all these steps, you will see your follower count start to rise. I’ve followed these steps for a few years now and have recently hit 25k+ on my Instagram page. You can do it too!

West Texas Fair and Rodeo Photos

My favorite time of year is Fall. The weather starts to cool (which is a great thing in Texas), Halloween is almost here, and the fair comes into town. I love going to the fair, even if I don’t ride any rides because I’m super cheap, the bright florescent lights make for the best pictures.

I love bright vivid colors and a nice vintage look. Adding red shadows to all my brighter photos and adding a blue shadow to all my cool toned photos rally makes the photos pop. I surprisingly didn’t have to raise my ISO too high, which was a problem with my previous Nikon camera.

I shot with my Nikon D5500 DSLR camera, my Nikon NIKKOR AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G lens, and my Nikon NIKKOR AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G lens.

I have an editing tutorial going up on my youtube channel soon!

My Lenses of Choice

There are so many different lenses available for DSLR cameras. It’s quite intimidating to look at all your options.

To get started, it’s important to figure out which lenses are compatible with your camera, as well as what style of shooting is ideal for each one.
Make sure you know the focal length focal, which is represented in millimeters. A single number (ex. 35 mm) indicates a fixed focal length or “prime” lens, while a range (ex. 55-200mm) indicates it is a zoom lens.

I usually shoot with my 35mm lens and my 55-200 zoom lens. Both are Nikkor (Nikon’s) lenses and are very affordable compared to some of the other options on the market.

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8g is priced at $199.95. This is my go- to lens because of its low light performance, and beautiful blur for portraits. In my opinion, this is an essential and I prefer it to the 50mm. 

The Nikon AF-S DX VR ZOOM-NIKKOR ED 55-200mm F4-5.6G is priced at $249.95. This lens is essentially the same as the kit lens (Nikon AF-S VR DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G). Both the 55-200mm and the kit lens are zoom lenses, just with different ranges. I considered the 55-200 an upgrade to the kit lens, so I sold my kit lens.  

Do your research! Get a lens that works best for the style of photography you are taking (portrait, landscape, sports, wildlife, etc). You have so many choices out there, and you will definitely find some you like.

Color Grading Before and After

The Before Photo

Photo Apr 25, 4 43 13 PM

If you like the look of this picture, you could stop right at this picture, fresh out of the camera. I wouldn’t leave the picture like this, and here’s why-

With pictures like these, you want all the attention to be on your subjects. The green from the trees is absolutely beautiful, but it over powers your subjects. When you look at a photo, you want your attention to go immediately to the subject,  not the background.  I shoot in RAW, whereas this was shot as a JPEG file. RAW files are easier to edit and are better quality.


The After Photo


I prefer the after photo because the greens have been toned down, and the attention has been brought to the subjects. Skin tones have been fixed to remove red skintones. I edited the photo in Lightroom, and moved the photo to Photoshop afterwards to use my ‘Highlight Action’ on all the skin in the photo. Jessica (bottom right) had a nice arm tan and I didn’t like how unnatural the action looked on her arm, so I left it mainly as is. The image has been sharpened just a little so we can make those details POP. The highlights and lights have also been brought down to help bring attention to the details.

This photo was not taken by me. I specifically chose to edit this picture because of the green and the different skin tones in it. This is one of my favorite things to do in Lightroom and I love to use presets I’ve made, but that is a subject I will blog about soon! 🙂


(In the picture from Left to Right top row: Kevin Hauger, Kyle Cordova, Chris Nickerson, Brady Copeland, Tyler Bergstrom.)
(In the picture from Left to Right bottom row: Jessica Nabers, Katie Myron, Katie Scott, Sam Pentico, Kayla Sohns, Kaitlyn Pierson)