Spring has sprung and it’s the perfect season to spruce up your headshot, document your family or celebrate a milestone in your life. What better way is there to just get those images created than with a spring mini-session? They’re quick, fun and completely fabulous.

I have a mini session set up this weekend and as I’m reminding my amazing clients the Dos and Don’ts to have a great session, I thought I’d share some of those tips to ensure a hassle-free shoot.

  1. The most important thing, which seems easy but can be difficult, is to be on time. Be early, in fact. The truth is, 30 minutes isn’t a whole heck of a lot of time to shoot. Clients are amazed at how fast two hours flies by in a regular session. But 30 minutes is plenty of time if you are 100 percent prepared. That means you need to take into consideration the time it takes to have your makeup done, pack your car, traffic in the city — account for anything that could set you back and make proper arrangements. Mini sessions are typically stacked one right after another, so if you’re late, you generally lose that time. Plus, if you’re rushing around stressed, it sets the mood for the entire day. You won’t be able to relax, have fun and let your true personality shine. So, plan to be early and do it!
  2.  Makeup, ladies. Even if you have the most amazing, perfect skin, it needs makeup for photo shoot day. I tell my clients to go to any MAC counter and they will make you super beat. For real, they’ll hook you up. But if, for some reason, you can’t go to MAC, YouTube has some great tutorials. Google “makeup for portrait sessions” and take some time to test your makeup before the session. Use quality products and put more effort into it than your daily routine because the lighting is dramatically different and you want it to look and feel amazing. If you’re doing your own makeup, get fake lashes, the smaller ones and practice putting them on. It’s easy and you can get a tutorial for that too. Focus on your eyes because the camera will be focused there, too. Take your time and have fun with it.
  3. If you have more than one person in your shoot, Do Not Match (capitalization is for effect here. Seriously, don’t match). It looks uniform, void of personality and makes for uninspirational imagery. Don’t like the way that sounds? Me either! Have fun with your clothes. Try to coordinate without being matchy-matchy. Choose a color palette and stick with different shades in that palette. If you open any fashion magazine, you will see that the male models aren’t perfectly matched, but they do coordinate. Choose a central theme and let each person’s personality shine.

Bonus: Parents, RELAX. Kids will be kids. If you come as prepared as possible, your kids will be well behaved. I truly think if you aren’t rushing around, panicked, it helps everyone’s mood. You probably don’t want images where your children look miserable, so let them be kids and we will find a way to get the perfect portrait. Be yourself and have fun. Likewise, let your kids be themselves and have fun, and we’ll all have a good time and create cool images together!

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Stay Fierce!

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There are times in your life where things happen that are out of your control. Sometimes, those things stack up and it feels like “Man, this is just too much. I need help.” I’m an optimistic person, but I recently encountered this situation. It wasn’t so much one thing, but more of a domino effect. Don’t worry, everything worked out OK in the end. I was just dealing with some unexpected personal issues and needed to cash in on a lifeline.

If I’m being honest, photography can be a lonely profession. Your colleagues are also your competitors, which can be a tough road for any friendship. But what I’ve found over the past several years is that I’ve been able to collect kindness from from my “competitors.” I’ve found the most amazing group of people to call on. When I need a hand, these people step up and have absolutely no ulterior motives.

I pride myself on my character. I try to always do what’s best for each person, not just for my business. And while I know that’s not necessarily the smartest business practice, it’s the kindest human practice. When I need help, I have a group of women who will step in without thinking twice.

I realized that I’ve built a tribe of people from all walks of life who are willing to step up for me, and it goes without saying that I would do the same for them. Not everyone has a strong group to lean on during their times of need. I have just been thinking about how blessed and eternally grateful I am. So I just wanted to take a moment to shout out to all those who have helped me over the years, who have been there for me and made things less crazy. I couldn’t do it without you!

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Stay Fierce!

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I love shooting wedding portraits. I shoot in Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis, with St. Louis as my home base. It’s where the SSP HQ is and definitely the city I know the most intimately. If couples want something romantic, or rustic, contemporary or edgy — I know the perfect places.

The locations chosen for wedding portraiture depends on the style of the couple, but if they’re up for an adventure, there are a few places in St. Louis we can’t pass up.

Lines, Angles and Light

Across from the Old Post Office. That sounds a little vague, but there’s this magnificent, gray building with these architectural angles and lines that draw the eye in a way no other place in St. Louis does. It really is a piece of art. The lines reflect perfectly and the lighting is perfect. Your eyes go straight to the couple. Then, we can walk to St. Charles Street. There’s a block on the street that is so beautiful. It reminds me of an old, Roman street for some reason. Like the gray building, the lighting is perfect. If a client says “take me anywhere,” this is our first stop.

Another place I love to take couples is the great wall (not THAT great wall). Located below the arch grounds, this is a half-mile long wall covered in graffiti. The wall changes constantly as artists paint over it. It’s not the kind of photos you would traditionally think of on the arch grounds in that, well, there’s no arch. The wall is nestled in an industrial part of St. Louis. You can see these huge, majestic buildings that are all idle, dormant and rundown after years of being empty. There’s something so beautiful in a bride and groom, dressed to the nines, in this old, crumbling part of town. It’s so unique and different for couples who want to go that route. I absolutely love shooting wedding photos there.

More Traditional, But Beautiful

Another perfect St. Louis wedding protraiture spot is Forest Park. This one is so, so popular, which is why I sometimes try to steer clear from the park. For a full year, I didn’t go there unless clients insisted, mostly because of the lines. There are so many couples and photographers at the park that it can be difficult and time-consuming to get everything the couple wants in the time we have. That said, if a wedding is on a Friday or the couple has a longer time between the wedding and reception, there is amazing light at Forest Park. It really is a beautiful park with a ton of picturesque spaces. The pavilion at The Muny is beautiful, with creamy tones reflected. There are pagodas, water features, towers and old structures. I love shooting at Forest Park, but because of its popularity, it’s not usually my first choice.

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Bonus: On top of Union Station. The view of St. Louis is breathtaking. If you can get there during the golden hour, there is no better photo if St. Louis if your first love.

Stay Fierce!

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If you’re going to be a small business owner, connections are everything. While I hate to admit it, I have phone anxiety — which isn’t awesome when you’re trying to connect with all kinds of communicators. I feel like I connect more with people in person, where they can really see my personality shine. So, when I first started Sofi Seck Photography, I tried to run my entire business online. I didn’t even put my phone number on the website. It did quell the phone anxiety (since people couldn’t contact me by phone), but it also may have cost me some potential clients.

Changing Perspective

A change in perspective came to me through an article I read. A wedding photographer was sharing his thoughts on connecting with people through phone calls. He said something like 80 percent of his clients were booked through an initial phone conversation. That is a huge percentage. It might not have been 80 percent, but it was big enough that I thought maybe I should re-evaluate how I handle talking with clients.

When talking on the phone, your voice, your mannerisms and your tone all play a role in amplifying your personality, he said. You have to become a storyteller through phone calls and engage people. Have a real dialog, take notes, and most importantly, hone in on whatever buying fear they have and try to solve it.

Advantages to Answering the Phone

While phone calls still aren’t my primary booking tool, the article did inspire me to add my phone number to my website.  And even though I still get anxiety talking on the phone, I found out this week just how important a simple “hello?” can be. I had a consultation with a woman who mentioned that she was having trouble getting vendors to call her back. She told me the names of some of the places, many of which I was familiar with. She was disappointed, and I was shocked.

I found that if you pick up the phone when a client calls, you already have an advantage over those who don’t. If you are in a meeting and you can’t pick up, it’s important not to leave them hanging. Calling back right away shows people that you care, you’re professional and you are easily accessible. It sets the stage for the kind of relationship you want to have with them. That’s why I always try to answer if a client is calling or call back as quickly as possible.

Showing Respect Helps Build Trust

When I meet with clients, I show up early because I want to be respectful of their time. If there’s something they’re worried about, I listen and try to offer helpful suggestions. Having been to hundreds of weddings, chances are their concerns are similar to other brides. I make sure that booking is quick and easy. When a client has a question, I respond right away. It’s just good service.

If I’m booked on a certain date, or if I’ve had inquiries about multiple brides about certain dates- I do my best to be honest and up front with the couples. I want my clients to know that I’m always there if they need me to offer a professional opinion or a helping hand. I want to help them through whatever obstacles they face throughout their wedding planning process. And even if the client who I consulted this week ends up not booking, I know I gave her my personal best, with an added side of respect. Connections really do matter!

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Stay Fierce!

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One of the things I love about being a wedding photographer is learning about all the different traditions I have the opportunity to document. Many are rooted in history and religion. One that I’ve been thinking about lately is the tradition of American brides taking their husband’s last name when they get married. I know this isn’t a rule and that this practice has been on the decline since the ’90s, but the fact remains that many, many women still choose to take their husband’s last name.

It got me thinking: What is this tradition? Will I change my last name when I get married?

Historic Roots

From what I’ve gathered, there are two primary reasons American women began taking their husband’s surname. The first reason has to do with the law, and without getting too historical, it was about inheritance and the couple being viewed as one in the legal system. The other reason is more spiritual, centering around the idea that men and women were united as one both legally and spiritually. I’m not a scholar on Western naming history, of course, and I’m sure there are many, many reasons women choose to take their husband’s name, including promoting family unity and starting a new chapter in their book of life.

Senegalese Culture/Tradition

I come from a culture where women don’t change their name when they get married. Children are given their father’s name when they’re born and that’s it. Growing up, we learned that this is because your parents brought you into the world to do great things, and so you honor with your name. It carries on the history and life your parents have given you. The idea is that you don’t replace what your parents gave you. Of course, you can never replace the love your parents gave you, whether you decide to change your name or not.

But really, even thinking about it feels weird, especially as I get older. I was raised as Sofi Seck. I have accomplished so much with this identity. I’ve traveled the world, graduated from college, learned new languages, started a business. The thought of changing my name feels . . . foreign. The Senegalese tradition of keeping your family name is one that I love. I’ve learned to never say never, but when I get married, I think I’ll take Seck into my new marriage. You know what they say “Something Old, something new . . .”

No Right or Wrong

Some women keep their maiden name. Others make their maiden name their middle name and still choose to take their husband’s last name. Some hyphenate their maiden and married names, and some couples  create an entirely new mesh of both of their last names. I love is that there are so many options. The best thing is there is no wrong answer. There’s no wrong way to celebrate your love and honor your heritage in marriage. You just have to do what feels right to you and you don’t apologize for being yourself. After all, there’s only one you!

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Stay Fierce!

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