FEATURE: Stephanie Cotta | St. Louis Newborn Photographer

Stephanie Cotta is a newborn and family photographer based in St. Louis, Missouri.  She also holds newborn mentoring workshops in her natural light studio in St. Louis.  The amazing Lilian.Grace and Trinket & Pixie are hosting Stephanie in Seattle, Washington for a one day workshop this summer.   Stephanie was voted Best Family Photographer in Nickelodeon’s Parents Pick Awards. Now, without further adieu, Stephanie Cotta!
Back in 2001, Bill Gates delivered a speech to high school students in which he delivered eleven rules to live by, rules that they did not learn in school.  (See his list here.)  And not only do I wholeheartedly believe in these rules, but every time this lists surfaces Facebook and by email, I’m thankful that someone had enough guts to say it how it is.
And while I’m certainly no Bill Gates on many levels, I feel like my years thus far in the photography world have left me with enough insight and knowledge to provide beginning (or advanced) photographers with eleven rules to live by.  And as I would think Bill Gates must have thought, you certainly don’t have to agree with me…
So here goes:
1.  Be You.  With Facebook, Pinterest, Blogs, Twitter and every other bit of social media out there, it’s easy to get lost in everyone else’s style and not give yourself a chance to truly develop your own.  But do it.  Be bold and take risks and find the look that you love, the look that makes your photography yours.
2. You are not going to make 6 figures in your first year of business.  Accept that and move on.  Develop your clientele, do portfolio building sessions, become better.  Because the more practice you have, the better you will become and that’s when you can start charging the big bucks.
3. Safety first, people.  There’s a ton of really amazing poses out there (in the newborn photography world) and the majority of them are composites.  Don’t think you can attempt these during your first few sessions or even in your first few months.  Become comfortable with the new peanuts, then do your research or take a workshop to learn how to safely create these composites.
4. Don’t pretend you’re the first one to do it.  While newborn photography has been around forever, only in the last several years has it really become so popular.  It drives me crazy when even the top dogs in the newborn world claim to have done it first.  Chances are, it’s all be done before so instead of claiming the idea as yours and the rest of the population your copycat, just make it your own and rock it.
5. Don’t let the top dogs scare you off by telling you to be original.  Yes, I know it’s slightly contradictory of number one, but everyone needs to start somewhere and needs to look to something for inspiration.  I’m flattered when people email me with questions, comment on my facebook posts or just have to know where that one textured blanket is from.  If they don’t want people asking nor want people looking to them for inspiration, they shouldn’t be posting on social media sites.
6. A good camera and lens is not going to give you that perfect shot.  You need to take the time to actually learn about lighting, composition, white balance, MANUAL settings, posing, post-processing, etc, etc, etc.  Don’t think spending five grand on equipment will make you pro.
7.  Your fan base will come.  Don’t do crazy things on facebook like offering up your first child just for a few hundred more fans.  They will come, I promise.
8.  Hands off the thirty actions you just ran on that one images.  READ:  Don’t over process!  Actions are great and I absolutely use them.  But don’t run so many that you lose that awesome photograph you started with.  And remember, you should always be striving to take the best SOOC.
9.  Remember your customer service, please.  I don’t care how big you get, you should never be too much of a hot shot to say please and thank you and give your clients the customer service they deserve.  It doesn’t matter if they are spending a $150 or $1500 with you, remember to treat them as you would like to be treated… and throwing in a little something extra for each session (an extra print, some wallets, etc…) goes a long way.
10.  Spending thousands of dollars on props isn’t going to give you that ten thousand dollar shot. When I first started my newborn photography, I literally had only four blankets, a few hats and one basket.  And I made it work.  Fill your storage room of props down the road and over time.
11. Give a little.  I’m a big believer in this one.  Photographs are timeless, beautiful and become the best possible memories for people.  Whether they are sick, young, old or perhaps just don’t have the funds, so many, many people can be brought such joy by a gorgeous photograph.  Look up a nearby organization, ask around and make someone smile.  A little goes a long way and I believe it is so important to use your talent for good.
blog: http://stephaniecotta.com/
faceook: https://www.facebook.com/stephaniecottaphotography

Be sure to leave a comment below, thanking Stephanie for her knowledge and willingness to share!

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