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Kara Kamienski‘s shootouts always draw a crowd at Reset, and today she’s giving us a little glimpse into her amazing mind, self and business.  She is a highly sought-after wedding photographer who has photographed weddings all over the midwest and even abroad to Ireland!  Kara is known by her brides and fellow photographers for her so-called “bag of tricks,” so that’s what she’s sharing with us on the blog! Welcome back to Reset, Kara!

Kara Kamienski photographer and speaker

My Top Ten Game Changers for Being a Photographer

When I first started this business 8 years ago, I told myself I’d need a camera, a lens, and a copy of Photoshop Elements and I was essentially a pro and had all I needed.


Ever see this meme?

teach your kids photography

If you’re anything like me- I love new things.  I love new gadgets, and new software, and new lenses, and new straps, and new shirts that let everyone know my job, and pretty much any coffee mug I can get that says something about editing.

I will pretty much buy any random thing so long as it half resembles the profession that I love so dearly.  And by random I mean…random.  Who here has a pencil sharpener that looks like a camera?  {raises hand}  Who here only uses mechanical pencils because…well, it’s 2017 and not 1942 {raises hand}. Who still bought the stupid pencil sharpener and has it proudly displayed on their desk?  {raises hand}

You get the point.  The photography industry is a pretty slammin’ business to be in right now — especially if you’re someone who likes to sell to photographers!  There’s something about us that likes to SPEND.

And there’s SO much out there to buy!!  So, after 8 years, 10 shirts with cameras or a photography sayings on them, about 14 mugs that look like a Nikon lens, 800 actions, 400 presets, three camera straps, 10 camera bags, and yes… the pencil sharpener —  I have nailed down for you my top 10 things I’m SUPER glad I spent the money on.

These are my game changers. I haven’t been paid to say this (ha! I wish!)  No! These are things that I use in my business EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  Some may be obvious and you’ve heard of them.  Some — not so much — they are moreso the products of the crazy hours I’ve spent researching and scouring the internet for (you’re welcome).  But I’m a sharer — and I like to share the wealth — so I’m telling you my secret stash of amazingness.

You can thank me later.  Buy me a mug with a camera on it.  Or maybe some pencils you can sharpen.

1-     The Money Maker strap by HoldFast

For those of you who shoot two cameras at your wedding/session — this is a simple MUST.  This dual-camera holster straps around each shoulder and then bolts to a camera on each side.  I’m no engineer, but they designed this thing so that you can simply reach down to your left or right and grab the camera resting at your side.  Some well-designed circle tab allows the camera to slide up and down the strap so you can easily raise it to your face to shoot and then drop it like it’s hot back to your side while you crazily grab the other camera for a different lens choice of the same moment.  It’s KILLER for getting those completely different shots (maybe two different lenses, or I like to do one digital and one film camera) without having to miss the moment by fumbling with lenses or cameras.  It comes in classic leather colors, and they recently added a cloth line for a more affordable option.  And I must say it is a complete conversation starter with groomsmen.  They love the James Bond-esque look of my strap.  And, let’s be honest — it absolutely helps with the weight of cameras on your back all day — especially when you have been ‘blessed’ with some weight on the top half if you know what I mean. You and your girls will thank me.

Cost:  The leather options are $295 new.  There are cloth options as well.


Holdfast MoneyMaker camera harness strap 2-

We all know that Instagram is pretty much essential when you own a photography business.  I mean, it’s a social media platform for um… pictures.  Duh.  But we also know that with keeping up with our websites and Facebook and the 85 other social media things you keep — that can seem like just one more thing.  Enter Onlypult.  It’s a scheduling IG website.  For a pretty low fee you can go on, schedule out your IG posts for quite a long time (I think we scheduled out 3 months once), and fah-get-about-it.  You can post as many a day onto your IG feed as you want.  It allows you to upload your photos, make your caption, choose when it will post, and even allows you to post your first comment (which for me is always my long line of hashtags).  I’m pretty much obsessed with this website.  It allows me to take 1 hour a week and schedule my social media for the entire week (or more), and then not have to think about it again.  I absolutely LOVE this website and it’s worth every.single.penny to me!

Cost: There are varying plans but basically it starts at $12 a month.

 Onlypult for Instagram scheduling and planning

3-     Photo Mechanic

I know you’ve probably heard of this one, and I’m sure you’ve said the same thing that every.single.person says.  ‘but I just do it in Lightroom.’  Um…ok.  that’s like someone telling me that RC is the same as Coke.  Sure, they both are kinda the same thing.  But really not.  One is just SO much better.

Why?  SPEED.  SPEED.  SPEED.  PhotoMechanic loads your photos CRAZY fast.  The culling process is seriously cut in half using their easy labeling keys.  But the beauty of PhotoMechanic is I don’t only use it for culling.  It’s SO amazing for so much more.  Let’s say I edit a wedding and deliver 1500 images to the client.  A week later I get an email from the florist asking me for some pics from the wedding of her work.  Simple.  I drop the wedding into PM, it loads up the entire wedding of JPEGS INSTANTLY.  INSTANTLY.  (Not Lightroom speed loading).  I go through and tag about 30 images in about 3 minutes, then export them to their own folder and deliver to the florist.  In 5 minutes, I’ve stroked the relationship of a vendor, I’ve pretty much given myself free advertising that she’s going to do for me, and it seriously took me 5 minutes.  I LOVE my Lightroom — but lately, it takes 5 minutes to open, let alone to do all of that.  I’m telling ya — it’s a must.

Cost: $150 for a license with 3 computers



I discovered when I was at WPPI in Vegas walking around the trade show.  I shoot the sports photos at my kiddos school and while the normal team pictures are nice — I’m a big fan of those graphic designed posters that I see everywhere.  I used to sit there for HOURS and manually paint out the background of every kid (it pains me to say that).  I found this company and gave it a try.  HOLY GUACAMOLE.  For practically nothing — they take photos I take of the sports kids and cut them out as a PNG file.  Then, it’s super easy for me to just layer them onto a background, add some cool text, and wa-la — I have these crazy awesome sports posters for the kids.  With the posters from Millers Lab only being about $2 a pop, I sell them for WAY more and make a great profit every time.  They also offer skin touchup, braces removal, etc.  One time we had a father of the bride with AWFUL glasses glare — and they fixed it right up!  It was insane!  The best part is that it’s usually 24 hour turnaround too!  SOO worth it!  You have to keep this website in your arsenal and use it when a situation arises where you need to remove someone from a photo or fix glasses glare or cut kids out to make graphic design items!!!  It’s a must have!

Cost:  clipping starts at $1.50 per kid.  Braces removal is $5.00.  (Um hello, 5 hours of your life back)


5-     BlogStomp

Do you blog?  You should.  It’s the best and easiest way to build your SEO.  It’s also essentially a forever-there portfolio.  I love when a bride emails me and asks if I’ve ever shot a certain venue.  Yep — here’s the blog post.  Even if you’re only blogging a few words — but mostly photos — it’s okay — just BLOG.  And to make it easy — there’s BlogStomp.  I’ve literally never done something SO easy in my life.  You highlight your photos, drag them, push a few fun buttons to move it around, and push the passive aggressive button that says ‘STOMP IT’ (why that’s so exhilarating to me I don’t know!)  Boom — it creates perfectly sized, collage blog images in little to no time (are we sensing a theme here… I like my time).  It’s such a perfect, easy way to get your most recent work out there!

Cost:  $159 for 2 computer license


family session on shower curtain

6-     MachForms

Welcome to 2017 folks.  I think it’s safe to say that a vast majority of our clients are that little age group they call ‘millenials.’  Yep.  They (we) are addicted to their mobile devices and they (we) like instant gratification.  So WHY would we ever think that paper contracts or sending a questionnaire in the mail is a good thing anymore?  MachForms is an amazing online form maker that allows you to create contracts, questionnaires, performance surveys, media releases, and so on.  For a flat fee, you can make an unlimited amount of documents that you simply send via a link to your client and they can complete and submit all online without ever leaving their phone.  We used to meet with clients and then wait for a week for the contract to show up in the mailbox, if not more.  Since moving all of our contracts online — we book clients within 24 hours of consultations now almost every single time.  It’s a convenience for your client!  I also love that because they are all stored digitally — I can access a contract or schedule at any time via my phone instead of dragging paper copies around in my bag to find phone numbers, addresses, etc.  SO convenient — it’s been a complete game changer for our office in organizing our wedding contracts, schedules, second shooter contracts, etc. etc.

Cost:  one time fee of $59 with free setup if you host on your cloud


7-     Fader PlugIn

I am absolutely addicted to Lightroom.  The ease of presets has completely changed my way of editing and most importantly, reduced the amount of time I spend editing (there’s that time thing again).  While I LOVE me some presets — when applied from the preset bank — the presets are often WAY too much.  I was going through and adjusting individual sliders after running the preset to give me the desired look.

Then I discovered Fader.  Whoa baby.  So simple, so magical.  Fader is a free plug-in you can use in Lightroom.  It’s simple.  You upload your photos, click on the plug-in, and then you can apply any preset at ANY STRENGTH.  There’s a simple slider.  Want the preset at 10% — go for it.  Want it at 150%?  Go for it.  It’s a great way to get the look of the preset without being OVER edited.  I love, love this little guy.

Cost:  Free.  You can pay $10 for something that sounded specific, so I did it.  But to be honest I can’t tell you what it was.  It sounded legit though.


8-     a shower curtain

I’m not even kidding here. A shower curtain is one of my essentials for every single wedding/engagement session/family session I shoot.

I understand wedding dresses are expensive.  Well, and white.  So I know they get dirty easily.  And I know that kids can hate grass.  I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why they don’t have to sit down.

But I love sitting down shots.  It’s my favorite way to get a couple to be close if they are not the same height or size.  For family session, it’s my best way to hide mom who doesn’t love her body.  It’s my favorite way to have families snuggle.  So I’m not about to lose those shots because of well… clothes.

So I bring a clear shower curtain. I keep one folded up in my reflector bag or in my camera bag.  And when the time arises, I pull it out, put it down, and my family/couple sits right on it without complaining.  A little tucking here and there (and maybe a little photoshopping later if need be!), but now my beautiful white bride is sitting on the flat ground.

It’s a must have.  Put one in your bag right now.

Cost:  $1-2

wedding couple sitting on hidden shower curtain

9-     Command Hooks/sticky putty (*wedding photogs)

These are really only game-changers for wedding photogs, but I love them nonetheless so I’m sharing.

Detail shots are key.  They are key to a great blog.  They are key to getting published.  They are key to getting to be buddy/buddy with those vendors you work with (dress shops, jewelers, florists, jewelry designers, invitation people, etc. etc.)

The key to an awesome detail shot is the perfectly imperfect setup.  The dress hanging somewhere amazing.  The invitation suite surrounded by sprigs of flowers and ribbon — all perfectly placed. All where it seems to be amazing light and shadows/highlights hitting right where they should! How do we do that?

Um…command hooks and sticky putty.

Kara Kamienski ring shot with sticky putty

There is RARELY anywhere good to hang a dress where there is also a perfectly placed nail or hook!  I carry a clear command hook with me in my bag — stick it up wherever I may want to shoot my dress shot — and then take it down.  It’s a gem, and a must.

And that putty.  Ever sit there for 8 years trying to make a ring stand up the way you want it to?  Or design that invitation suite with the ribbon so perfectly curled around it? Putty.  A teeny ball of it will keep a ring standing straight up or keep that ribbon flat down.

Cost:  less than $5

View More:

10-   Spark

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t- but this little powder of magic is what GETS me through a wedding day.  It’s a vitamin-enhanced drink that for whatever reason, increases my energy and my focus simultaneously.  I am high energy on a normal basis — and a wedding requires it even moreso!!  I live by this stuff on a wedding day!  It even comes in little one-use packets so I can just toss it in a bottle of water between ceremony and reception for that push through!!!  The flavors are amazing and I honestly cry if I ever forget this on a wedding day!!!!

Cost:  $22.95 for a 14 pack

Website:  available on Amazon, Advocare, etc.

Advocare Spark

Take it or leave it- these are just some of the amazing things I’ve found to help me in this crazy business!!  I can’t wait to see you all at Reset, wearing my Holdfast and drinking my Spark in my Nikon lens mug with my shower curtain!!


Thanks for sharing so many great tips with us, Kara!!  We look forward to hearing about more of the magic at Reset 2017!

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