Happy Holidays!

December 4, 2016 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Organic Headshots, photo studio

Happy Holidays from Michelle, Jeff, Megg and Bowie at Organic Headshots!  As we near the end of our 11th year in business, Organic Headshots has a lot to be thankful for.  We’ve grown in so many ways: welcoming an amazing additional photographer to our ranks, adding Saturday appointments for studio headshots, and moving into a new studio.  Thank you so much to our wonderful clients for choosing us, trusting us, and having a blast with us!

We’re so grateful for everyone who has supported us along the way and are gearing up for an awesome 2017 of continuing to take great headshots for great Chicagoans in business and entertainment.

Check out a little behind the scenes action into making our holiday photo; and special thanks to fellow Bloomingdale Arts Building artist Randy Moe for lending us some awesome vintage toys for the shoot!

Timelapse in the Willis Tower

October 31, 2016 Published by . Leave your thoughts

The Organic Headshots crew set up shop in a law firm’s office in the Willis Tower for a few days last week for what we endearingly and unofficially call the “Mobile Headshot Unit.”  (Mainly because it makes us sound like Navy Seals which is pretty rad.)  When we’re not taking awesome headshots in our awesome studio, we’re setting up our gear in conference rooms across the Chicago Loop to photograph large groups in lightning speed.

Last week we set up some timelapse cameras during our shoots to capture our system in action.  Each person checks in for their headshot and is quickly powdered for shine and checks themselves out in a mirror to fix their hair, has their photo taken, then chooses their photo right after taking it.  This particular law firm is very large, so it was incredibly helpful for them to allow their staff to choose their favorite photo right after taking them.  That way their marketing department doesn’t have to choose for them or chase down over 200 people for their photo selections later.  And!  If they happen not to like any of their photos, we retake them right then and there!  Boom.

And then since there was a little down time and we were in the Willis Tower… we just HAD to reenact a scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

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Presenting: the new studio!

October 17, 2016 Published by . 2 Comments

The move into the new studio earlier this month is complete!  Our new space is in the Bloomingdale Arts Building, 2418 W. Bloomingdale Ave., right across the street from the entrance to the Bloomingdale Trail on Western Avenue.

In other related news, we’ve also got a new online scheduler where you can book your headshot session online.  And some of you have already met Jeff, who joined Organic Headshots a while back and is shooting more and more here.  Now that we have 2 photographers in the studio and on location, we can offer more available appointments and shoot days!

We’re so excited to be in our new space!  It’s a little over 1,000 square feet of awesome new backdrops, hardwood floors, a super bright skylight, softboxes galore, and amenities like a full kitchen and bathroom.  And we’ve filled it with awesome creature comforts that we know everyone will enjoy: fresh coffee, tea, bottled water, snacks, some house blazers and ties (for those of us who accidentally forget our ties), and some hair helpers like brushes, combs, pomade and hairspray.

Book your session with either Michelle or Jeff to see the new space for yourself!  David Bowie the Dog is waiting to sniff you.  🙂

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Sexist things said to me at work

October 14, 2016 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I work for myself now.  I’m a full-time photographer running my own photo studio and have been doing that for almost 12 years.  But before that, and for a few years while I was getting my business started, I worked for other people.  When people ask me what made me go out on my own and start my own business I say that several factors contributed to my decision: I had a passion for photography and an entrepreneurial spirit which led me to go out on my own. I never found the right workplace where I could use my talents to the best of my ability so I went out on my own.  And I’m a control freak who works well with others until they tell me what to do so I went out on my own.

But what I leave out is that like a lot of women, I felt like an outsider in what’s still considered the man’s world of business.  I noticed trends in the way I was treated compared to my male counterparts.  I was paid less, I was given menial tasks, I was left out of important meetings or decisions, and sometimes I was straight-up teased or taunted for being female.

After last week’s story broke where Donald Trump was caught making sexist remarks about women (and referring to actual sexual assault of women), and he sloughed it off as “locker room talk,” I kept having flashbacks to all the times I personally felt the brunt of this so-called “locker room” mentality in the business world.  Every time someone around the water cooler would make an off-color remark about women or about me, I didn’t know what to do or say in response.  I was young and new to the working world and with so many people around me condoning the behavior there was nothing I felt I could do except awkwardly laugh and try to walk away and forget about it.  And I did the best I could do to forget about it.

But now that I’m older, wiser, and stronger, I decided to go back and re-live those experiences and respond differently.  At least in my mind, of course.  I can’t change the past and what my younger self said, but at least I can decide what I would say now if that happened.

So here they are:  A short list of sexist things said to me in the workplace, how I responded at the time, and how I wish I would have responded if I could do it again:


SAID TO ME: A boss showed me a picture of his new girlfriend (who was about 15 years younger than him) and asked me if I thought she was pretty.  He said his good friend said she was pretty but had “no speedbumps.”  He then asked if I thought her boobs were big enough.

I SAID:  “Umm… I don’t know.”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “This is an inappropriate discussion for the workplace or between you and I at all.  Please don’t talk to me about the size of any woman’s breasts or the level of her attractiveness.”


SAID TO ME:  At a conference, the hotel was one room short with our company’s booking.  A guy with a partner company said “well we can share a room if you’d like” and nudged me with his elbow while winking and all the guys around us burst out laughing.

I SAID:  “Umm… I’ll see if there’s another hotel nearby.”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “Please don’t touch me or make a suggestive joke in front of everyone here.  I really don’t appreciate that.”


SAID TO ME:  On a job interview the interviewer said “this is an options trading firm, so the guys who work here are, well, guys’ guys.  They like to make jokes and stuff, and the jokes can get kind of crude, and you’d be the only girl… so, well… you’d have to have some thick skin to work here.”

WHAT I SAID:  “Umm… I see.”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “If this is a workplace that allows sexual harassment of any kind I retract my application.  Please get me my coat, I’m leaving now.”


SAID TO ME:  A boss said to me “you know, if you wore more makeup, got some better clothes, and did something with your hair, you’d be kind of pretty.”

WHAT I SAID:  “Umm… thanks?”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “It is not appropriate for you to make a comment on my personal appearance like that.  Please don’t do it again.”


SAID TO ME:  My boss would repeatedly walk past the fax machine to ask me to fax something for him.  When I told him I was the marketing coordinator and sending faxes for him isn’t part of my job he said “we all have to wear many hats here.  I don’t have an assistant and there’s no receptionist and it makes sense for you to fill that role when necessary, instead of any of the guys.”

WHAT I SAID:  “Understood.” (Then quietly started looking for a new job)

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “Fax you.  I quit.”


SAID TO ME:  On a dinner with colleagues at a convention when I ordered chicken (and was the only girl at the table) someone said to the waiter, “the men will all be having steak, the little girl over there will have chicken.”

WHAT I SAID:  I sheepishly joined the table in laughter.

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “You will all die of heart attacks.  I quit.”  (Then smash a drinking glass on the floor and walk off with my middle finger in the air.)

How to ask your photographer for a discount

August 10, 2016 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Today is the day I’m finally tackling the controversial issue of pricing in photography.  Specifically, discounts.  As a small business owner and service provider I’ve been asked for a discount more times than I can count.  I believe we’re living in what I like to lovingly call the “Groupon Era,” where no one pays full price anymore.  Pricing for everything online and in stores is in red ink or with flashing lights and lightning bolts pointing to it. chicago headshots

Picture that shirt at The Gap that was going for $39 so you were on the fence about buying it, until you saw the redlined original price of $59 and you couldn’t get to the checkout line fast enough with your steal of a deal.  There’s a definite psychology to discount shopping too tangled to get into here, so let’s just say that in a nutshell, buying things at a lower price makes us feel good.  We feel like we got more value out of what we’re getting because we paid less for it than others would have.

As a small business owner with no red lines through the pricing on my website I have to say I’ve felt the brunt of the “Goupon Era” mentality to the point of… well… sometimes rudeness.  Some people don’t know they’re being rude when they ask for a discount or tell me my pricing is too high and I actually don’t blame them, I blame the discount culture we live in.  But these are some things that have been said to me:

“Ha!  Don’t you think that’s a little expensive?”

“Is there any way you could just charge me less?”

“Can you do the same amount of work for $200 instead of the $700 you quoted me?  Our budget is $200 for the project.”  (coming from a private equity firm with a self-proclaimed portfolio of several million dollars in holdings, by the way.)

“I don’t understand why I have to pay that, I only want 1 photo.  Why can’t you just take 1 photo?  You just want my money—this is a scam.”  (I wouldn’t have believed this one myself if there wasn’t a photo assistant in the room to verify this.  This was actually said to my face.)

Now this blog post isn’t going to be another one of those “OMG DON’T ASK FOR A DISCOUNT THAT’S SO RUDE” posts, because I get it.  I shop at thrift stores because I love the thrill of the hunt and getting a $50 sweater for $5.  I love my money, I worked hard for it, and I HATE parting with it.  I’m a part of the discount culture and I hate paying full price for things.  So I get it.  I totally get it.

And as a small business owner I have to face the fact that discounts are common practice and here to stay.  But instead of laying out my expense sheets, justifying my pricing, and begging people not to discount hunt with their photographers, I decided to draw up some tips for both clients and photographers to better navigate the discount road.  So here they are: tips for how to ask your photographer for a discount, and tips for the photographer on what to do when you’re asked for a discount.


How to ask your photographer for a discount:

  1. If you think the price is expensive, ask yourself what you are comparing to. Is this particular photographer more expensive than another? If so, compare their portfolios, their experience, etc.  Or is it possible that you just had a lower number in your mind when you started price shopping?  Which is totally fine if that happened, you did nothing wrong by expecting it to be less.  But now that you’ve been given a number different from what you expected, try to figure out if your expectation was within range of the value of the service in the market.  Look at pricing from several other photographers with portfolios you like—if there’s a trend, chances are your expectations were off, and that’s okay.  Now adjust your budget or the project accordingly.
  1. If you’re going to ask the photographer for a discount, start with asking if they have any existing discounts or a time of the year when they run a promotion. Some wedding photographers, for example, have lower rates for times when business is slower for them, such as during the winter, Thursdays, or Fridays.  Be prepared to give a little if you want to take a little.  Asking for a discount is asking for something for nothing, so you might have to adjust your own plans to make the price you want work.
  1. groupThink about “what’s in it for them.” Photographers are small business owners.  They only offer discounts when they can get something legitimately good for their business in return.  Something that makes less work for them they might do for less money.  For example, I have a standing 2-at-once headshot discount where if 2 people come in for a headshot at the same time they each get 20% off their session.  This makes less work for me since I don’t have to schedule back and forth with 2 people for 2 different sessions when they come together, so I pass that time/effort savings onto them in the form of a discount.
  1. Please remember that this person is a working professional who owns a small business, and asking them to do their work for cheaper with no good reason or incentive is, well, let’s just say it, insulting. Your boss wouldn’t say “your paycheck is going to be half what it usually is this week because your pay is not in our budget,” and if that did happen, how would you feel?  Just try to keep this person’s feelings in mind when asking for a discount.  Word it carefully and with respect.


For photographers—how to give a discount:

  1. Offer a standing discount that makes good business sense for you: clients get a reduced rate, but you get something of equal value in return. For example, a discount for someone who refers a new client to you, or an exchange of services of equal value such as 15% off photo services for your hair stylist who gives you 15% off his or her services to you. Or offer a discount for a cause you believe in.  I offer discounts to military personnel because I see how hard it can be to transition from active military to making a career change and I want to offer a discount on professional headshots so they can do that more easily, and I view it as a small thank you for serving our country.  It legitimately makes me feel good to offer that discount and when someone redeems it.  Also having a short list of standing discounts gives you a good canned response when someone gives you that “can I have a discount?” question.  It turns an awkward conversation into an empowered one where you can list off all of the exact situations that qualify for a discount, and puts the responsibility back onto the client to see if they fit into one of those situations.
  1. Know your numbers, know your business, and know what you can and can’t do with your pricing. Assert yourself and avoid the guilty feeling that you have to make everyone happy with your pricing by immersing yourself in your profit and loss statements, expense reports, and pricing structure.  Know your numbers thoroughly, know why you charge what you charge, and then own it.  If you want to help a client out without discounting your rate, consider adding value by adding service instead; such as a free retouched photo, an extra hour of event coverage, or offer to throw in some free prints.
  1. Remember that some people just aren’t your clients. And that’s okay.  Even when they beg you.  Even when it’s been a slow month.  Take care of yourself and listen to your emotions and determine if you’re relinquishing discounts because they make good business sense or because someone is toying with your emotions and trying to make you feel guilty because they can’t or don’t want to pay for it.  Every time someone asks for a random discount I don’t offer or tells me my rates are too high for them I feel crummy.  It does beat me down a little.  But then I scope out my competitors’ rates, look through my own portfolio, and I straighten my shoulders and remind myself that my pricing is correct and it’s okay that it’s not for everyone.
  1. Think of the industry. If you’re a working photographer you’re part of the photography industry, and we photographers stick together.  Every time you lower your rate, another photographer gets asked to lower theirs because someone out there got it for cheaper.  Please keep the integrity of your profession in mind and your rates in line with industry trends.  So many of your fellow photographers are still working part time and even full time jobs outside of their profession because of the discount culture created by bidding sites and other service industry pricing pitfalls.  If you haven’t already done so, consider joining a local or national pro photo group like the PPA so that you can keep up with the issues everyone in your industry is facing so we can face them together.