Hey, how’s it going? I’m Andy Jones, and this is episode 144 of the Photography Side Hustle podcast.

So, the idea for this episode came from a conversation I had last weekend. I was showing my better half, Anna, and my daughter, Kenzie, an incredible portrait photographer I came across.

The photographer is Cassandra Jones, no, we’re not related, and her business is Noelle Mirabella. I’ll put a link in the show notes and on the transcript page at

I mentioned her because Kenzie was talking about getting bookings. The first time she started a photography business was 6 or 7 years ago, and she found getting bookings was easier. Some of the classified websites she used back then are now full of crazy people offering $50 portrait sessions.

I showed her the Noelle Mirabella website to inspire her and get my point across. The point was that to be successful, you must offer something the customer can’t resist. When they look at your work, they imagine themselves or family members in one of your photos.

If you can make people want what you offer them, you will never have a problem getting bookings or making a good living.

Now, if you are just starting your business, that is easier said than done. But it is definitely something to aim for.

Where are you positioned in the marketplace?
If you are new to photography, you are lower down the scale. A photographer like Cassandra Jones is at the top of the scale.

When you look at her work, you will say wow! That is why she offers portrait sessions starting at $1850, and she doesn’t offer just digital files. This is what it says on her website.
“Our custom photoshoots can be booked as studio sessions, outdoor sessions, or both! All of our photographs are printed in Italy on 300-year archival museum-grade paper, and each comes with a matching digital file.”

So, she sells prints, and the starting price of $1850 will be for one print. Now, I don’t have access to her prices, but I can take an educated guess that her customers are paying many thousands of dollars for her work. How could anyone sit down and look at multiple photos of their kids and only choose one to print?

So how can you do that?
Just because you are lower down the scale doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

At one point in time, Cassandra Jones and all the top photographers were in exactly the same position you’re in right now.

Not everyone can make it to the top of the ladder, just like professional sports. Millions of people play sports around the world, but only a tiny percentage of them get to play professionally.

In photography, you can still become a professional and make lots of money producing above-average photos. Some pro photographers make crazy money, and some just do okay. So, aim for the top and see how high you can climb.

Your options
So, what is your next step?

Well, you need to do some Google searches for the type of photography you are interested in. Then, find the top photographers in that genre and decide which style you want to aim for. There is nothing wrong with trying to emulate another photographer’s style.

The chances are that you will change it slightly to suit your taste.

So, how do you figure out how a photo was taken and how it was edited?

The answer is you …
Reverse engineer the photos
This is something that you will get better at the more you do it.

The first thing I do is look at where the light is coming from. For portraits, look for catchlights in the subject’s eyes. They will tell you where the flash was positioned.

The shadows on the subject will also show you the direction of the light.

Next, I look at the background. Is it in focus or blurry? If it’s blurry, you can work out the aperture used. However, it is possible to blur a background during editing.

Looking at Cassandra Jones’s images, I noticed that the clothes the children are wearing are a match for the colors in the scene. Usually, the subject would blend into the scene doing that, but her editing makes the subject stand out.

She does that by making the background very blurry, giving the image the look of an old master painting.

You can reverse-engineer any photo, even sports images. Check out where the camera is. Is the photographer lying on the ground or standing? Is the depth of field deep or shallow?

As I said, the more you do this, the easier it gets. Even if you can get it only half right, you are still on your way to improving your photos and developing a technique that makes you money.

Now, reverse engineering is a skill all photographers need. But, there is a way to get the results you need much faster, and that is …
Pay for a workshop or course.
This is the way to get the skills needed quickly. In some cases, they are very expensive.

Cassandra Jones has an online course for $1295, Workshops for $1950, and one-on-one mentoring for $3450.

It’s a lot of money to spend, but if you could produce images like her, you would have a huge following and make lots of money. So, it would pay for itself fast by kick-starting your business.

Splashing some cash for a course that will speed up the process for you will definitely be faster than figuring it out yourself. But there is nothing wrong with working out how to produce a style yourself. It’s how I have always done it, and I’m working on understanding how Cassandra Jones does her incredible images.

I think I can put out a similar style of portrait that is easy to sell. I guess I’ll be showing Kenzie how to do them and boost her business.

If it works out, you can expect a mini-course on it soon.

You are finding it hard to get noticed and get bookings. Your work needs to be different, stand out, and capture people’s attention.

So, find a photographer that has a style you want to copy. There is nothing wrong with copying someone’s style. You will never copy it exactly, and you’ll end up with your own style.

Imagine offering custom portraits with customers booking you months in advance and paying you $3000+ a session. One session a week would be really nice.

So aim high because that’s where the big money is.

Okay, before I go, I want to give a shout-out to Paul Paldus, Facebook group member #1. He sent me a copy of his book, “Niagara Through My Lens,” and it is excellent. Thanks again, Paul.

There is something powerful about creating a photo book with your images. Everyone should try it.

If you need help, you can join the Facebook group.

You can get the transcript for this episode in the show notes or over at

And while you are there, you can support the show and buy me a coffee.

I’ll be back next week with a photo book full of waffle.

Talk to you soon, bye.