I first met Diana almost a decade ago when we were both working at The Sharon Osbourne Show. Even though she’s drop-dead gorgeous, really smart, and pretty much “your basic nightmare” (to quote When Harry Met Sally), she was also one of the nicest, most genuine people I met on staff. We immediately forged a friendship and have always stayed in touch over the years. A few years ago, we paired up to start offering classes in our respective fields (writing and photography, naturally)—and we’re still going strong with Creating the Image (starting February 6th) and Mission Possible (starting February 19th). Couldn’t resist a gratuitous plug! With Diana’s class starting up in a few weeks, I figured it was the perfect time to put her in the Q&A spotlight.
It seems like you’ve lived nine career lives—from reporter to graphic designer to photographer. Why is it important to be continually reinventing yourself professionally?
Diana: I call it “Career ADD”—ha! I think it’s important to always evolve, whether it’s in the same career and striving for a higher position or deciding to change careers and finding a new position altogether. It was important for me as a creative person to continually change, to find new mountains to climb and see how far I could stretch myself creatively. Also with an ever-changing market, it’s difficult to know if your career is actually considered a stable one. I’ve found by looking ahead and watching the economy it’s important to stay one step ahead of the trend for the sake of making a living.
What in your opinion is the secret to becoming a working professional photographer?
Diana: The secret is knowing business. To become a working anything heavily relies upon good business knowledge, and good business knowledge encompasses understanding when to say no, marketing oneself, and customer service. In every career field you’re going to have competition, but with solid marketing and business skills, it will be easier to stand out amongst the competition, even if your service may not be the best. No one can hire you if they don’t know you exist.
What’s the #1 question you get from aspiring photographers in your classes and what’s your advice?
Diana: The first question is always, “What type of camera do I get?” and I always tell them it’s not the camera that takes the pretty pictures—though it helps. It’s the photographer who really does it if they use the knowledge they have to tell the camera what to capture. Just like computers and programs are amazing, they don’t do much of anything grand on their own until we tell it what to create. My answer? Any Nikon or Canon. Since I started on Canon, the Rebel series is awesome and what I started on. Just look for a high ISO number like 6400 or higher. Get a 50mm/1.8 lens for $100, and buy the camera body only. The kits aren’t worth the money and you won’t miss that horrible kit lens that they include, trust me.
As a wedding photographer, dealing with difficult clients is part of your everyday job description. Any tips on finessing a tricky customer service situation?
Diana: Unfortunately it can be. The best thing to do is to think of every scenario that could possibly go wrong, and I mean everything. From refunds, to running late, to weather situations and even your camera breaking, you need to make sure you are protected whether by insurance and or in your contract. The most common fix-it problem I have found is communicating to my client what my services include, what they are paying for and receiving and the “what if” things go wrong. I am human, I will make mistakes, but not on their day if I can help it. Most questions that make clients go from heavenly to difficult is that they had no idea upfront what they were paying for—whether it’s my fault or theirs for not reading the contract. If you find you’re getting asked the same questions or seeing the same problems, highlight them in your contracts and make sure each client knows it before you take their money. That way they can’t come back and say, “But…” and you know you’re getting your ideal client as well.
What are some of the creative trends happening right now in photography?
Diana: The creative trend has been posing with props. There was such a huge movement in it, everyone had to be holding something or have a theme. However I think some clients are nowadays are looking at beautiful portraits, less candides and documentary. Clients are now thinking, wow, it’s OK to be perfectly posed in the middle of a road or forrest.
You’re also a marketing maven. What are your tips on getting published in photography blogs like Style Me Pretty?
Diana: Oh, you’re so sweet. My background in marketing in the corporate world was for five years, and before that, I was a graphic designer branding companies across the country. I know that has helped my business as well. As for getting published on photography blogs, if you’re first starting out, it’s OK to start small. Submit to the smaller blogs, it’s still exciting and they appreciate you. As your skills increase and your confidence as well, send to Style Me Pretty. Submit 80% detail and 20% of the couple. Shoot verticals and horizontals because blogs are looking for many layout types and their readers want details, not candids or the couple, just plain, details that they can take and make it their own. It’s OK to hear a no from blogs, don’t take it personally. The tip is, keep trying and don’t let “no” stop you. You’ll get there one day.