Artists, Branding Sessions, Creativity, Dream School, Entrepreneurs, For Photographers, Portrait Photography, The Daydreamer, Travel

Branding Session on the Tulip Farm

Sometimes I need to embrace the inner soul of my Grandmother’s Generation and;

Love Life like Betty White

Dream like Doris Day

Dress like Jackie Onassis

Laugh like Lucille Ball

Sing like Julie Andrews

Dance like Debbie Reynolds

Perform like Audrey Hepburn

Forgive like June Carter

Take my Tea like Queen Elizabeth

Tell a Story like Rosalie Turano (My Great Aunt)

and Then;

Toss out my Bra like Edith Georgia Caron Allen Bolles (My Grandmother).


Hello! If you don’t know me yet I’m Karrie Tardiff Knowles. I have been a Professional Photographer for twelve years, am a PPA Member, and have studied Fine Art, Graphic Art, and English at the University of Connecticut. I have also been training other photographers for about five years now. Below is a session I had with one of my students an amazing photographer Brittney. When I called her up with my vision she was totally on board and knew exactly what I wanted. She did a fantastic job with the romantic tulip session I had in mind. Check out her review of my teachings and her website below as her work is fabulous!

Photos of me below by Brittlee Photography

Meet Brittney Michon a talented and amazing photographer out of Connecticut. What I’ve always loved about Brittney’s style is that she is very much documentary. She can naturally capture a moment in time as it happens without staging or forcing it, she is extremely talented with unique compositions and styling, she makes a session super fun and delightful, and she can also totally rock a black and white!

I love love the photo she took of me above holding my hat and turning to the side laughing. She was able to capture my natural expression while making me look slimmer, always a plus, by using angles in her composition. And how fun are the detail shots with the boots, umbrella, and sunglasses?!

Thanks Britt!

Photos of Brittney below by Sweet Dreams Photography

“I can not say enough about how much Karrie has helped me grow as a photographer. I started taking my photography more seriously a little over five years ago. Karrie took me under her wing and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and just go for it. Not only was she extremely encouraging but she is also very knowledgeable about what it takes to be a professional photographer. She helped me learn about lighting, camera settings, posing, marketing, software and so much more! She was so patient with me as I asked her a million questions and always took the time to help me review my sessions and build my confidence. She is an amazing teacher who teaches with the view of community over competition; which lends to a comfortable setting as a student. I highly recommend her courses; you are guaranteed to grow, whether your an amateur or a professional looking to gain more knowledge.”

 ~Brittney Michon, Brittlee Photography, CT

How kind and thoughtful were Britt’s words! I really do believe in Community over Competition. If you’d like to learn how to shoot on manual and improve your photography like Brittney did and learn from my most influential mentor and Celebrity Photographer Heidi Hope feel free to check out her educational courses over at as I am now an affiliate of Heidi Hope Learning.

Happy Photographing!



Tulips by Brittlee Photography
Artists, Creativity, Dream School, Entrepreneurs, For Photographers

10 Tips for Making Money with your Photography

10 Ways to Make Money with Your Photography

You do not have to be a starving artist just because you want photography to be your main career.  Here are some excellent ways to start making money with your photography.

1. Find Your Clients

I got my very first paying clients by putting forth the effort and finding them.

If you’re sitting around your house waiting for someone to suddenly discover you on social media, you may be waiting a long time and go broke doing it.  Instead go out and find the clients yourself.

I knew someone who was pregnant and offered to shoot her maternity photos for free and if she liked them she could hire me for the newborn portraits.  Not only did she hire me for the newborn portraits but for the baby’s six month, twelve month, and eighteen month sessions and then again for their next baby’s entire first year sessions.  I even got to photograph the birth which was so special to me because she and I went to highschool together.  She also went on to refer me to her friends so I got about three years worth of paying sessions from that one client.

Posting content on social media is great but you should be using it as a tool to actually connect with people.  Human beings are social creatures and there is no better marketing campaign than your presence.

I still love my first maternity session!


2. Work Within Your Circle of Influence

You can see how I worked within my circle of influence in the example above.  

This is not my original idea.  In fact I had never heard of this concept when the above events took place.  It comes from a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.  It’s a great book.  It’s not necessarily talking about working with people you know, but rather working with things in your life inside your realm of control rather than forcing things from a realm of concern.  

By being proactive, your circle of influence will grow with each little step you take in your new photography career.  For instance I had been a hobbyist photographer for years before I became a professional photographer.  I had even taken film classes in high school.  My friends and family could always count on me having a camera.  Slowly I began to get asked if I would photograph their baby showers and baptisms.  After I photographed the event I would make them a photo book or print and frame the photos as a gift for them.  Even though I was doing all of this for free I was slowly working up to getting paid and building myself a nice little portfolio before I even considered doing this as a career or even knew what a portfolio was.  I was proactive and working within my circle of influence.


3. Freelance

This leads me to my third way to get paid, Freelance.  

As people I knew became more accustomed to my photography I started getting referred to freelance.  I have probably freelanced for a dozen companies at least, even my local newspaper, and several of them were internationally recognized.

Freelancing has it’s pros and cons to keep in mind.  PRO: you get paid from a legit company and do not have to market yourself, they find the work for you.  CON: you cannot use the photos you take for them on your own website or social media platforms.

4. Graphic Editing

Become a graphic editor.  Photographers often outsource their editing.  I have worked for several other photographers editing their work including school pictures, dance portraits, and wedding photography.

The best thing about this is that you learn on the job.  The company will train you how to edit the way they want their photos to look on Photoshop, Lightroom, or specialized software made for their company.

They usually pay pretty well or you can research the current going rate and set your own.  If you really like it I recommend taking some Adobe Suite classes online or in your community.  They are offered everywhere.

5. Work as a 2nd Wedding Photographer

If you have photographed a few family weddings and have started a portfolio you may be able to work as a 2nd Wedding Photographer for another company in your area.  Especially if you’re building your resume with Freelancing and Editing gigs.

Local companies are always hiring for 2nd Wedding Photographers, you just have to look for them.  This can be a last minute gig so you will need to be flexible and readily available on weekends.

Since they will have a Lead Photographer already assigned to the wedding it relieves some of the pressure off of you and you can learn on the job and gain more experience.  

Another plus is that unlike freelancing you can usually use these photos for your own marketing as long as you tag or mention the company you worked for.

I now photograph my own weddings


6. Graphic Design

Now that your graphic editing skills are improving you can start dabbling in graphic design making companies or new clients logos, albums, products, and pdfs.  I have had people hire me just to make their wedding or baby album after another photographer took their photos.  I’ve also been hired to make logos, start a Facebook page, create marketing campaigns, and I even had one client who just needed a photo resized for a locket and they paid me.  

Fun with Graphics


7. Publish a Book

OK you have gone from hobbyist to professional photographer, learned the ins and outs of Adobe Suite programs, and have plenty of customer service and client experience.  It’s time to publish a book!

You can publish a book using your own photos and designs or write and publish a How To Book on whatever you have become great at.

Many fine art photographers or street photographers publish books with their own photograph series based around a certain social phenomenon.

I have self published a children’s book combining my photographs, poetry, and graphic skills.

My First Children’s Book


8. Start Your Own Business

By now you have so much photography experience that you could run your own business.

While I was doing all of the above I was working on my own side hustle, creating my own business.  I always had a website and social media platforms.  I was always posting everything I photographed along the way.  I was constantly on the search for clients and working within my circle of influence.

These actions led me to book my own paid events, weddings, births, newborns, babies, children, high school students, graduations, and family sessions.  I have even hired my own 2nd wedding photographers and assistants.  I no longer freelance for anyone else.  I work for myself all of the time. 

I do have a personal goal to someday freelance for National Geographic and I’m perfecting my travel photography along the way to that goal by proactively engaging in my new Instagram Page and posting new travel content.  So Stay Tuned to see if I make it!

Lost and Found in a Field of Sheep


9.  Stock Photography

This is not something I have done to earn a living but I wanted to share it with you anyway as many other photographers have.  About six months ago I threw some photos up on Shutterstock Contributors to see how it worked and just checked it the other day to write this post.  

I was surprised to find out I had actually sold something!  Now keep in mind this is barely enough to buy a Starbucks but it’s still exciting.  So yes, if somebody put in the time and effort regularly like with anything else they could make some extra passive income.

These two photos sold on Shutterstock


I have never done this personally.  But I have seen photographers do it.  This is usually for fine art photographers who are putting out free content without the luxury of earning money like a commercial photographer.  

They may prefer entering their work into contests, exhibits, or are saving their work for the book they want to publish.  

They may actually have a large following so sometimes you will see a Donate to the Artist section and button on their website.

I have never done it so I do not know the ins and outs but it could be worth researching and trying.


Those are all my tips for making money from your photography. I hope some of them work for you.

Find more tips over on Youtube




Artists, Creativity, Dream School, Entrepreneurs, For Photographers

Be Passionate

Passion; Being Very Enthusiastic About Something.

Many people think that means being passionate about one thing in their life. What their good at. What they love. But that’s not what I’m talking about at all.

To be passionate every day in every way means that no matter what your doing you do it enthusiastically.

Yes that’s right even things you don’t like doing like dishes or laundry. Think about it though. If you like the outcome of the chore or action you don’t like doing, than you can change your mindset to like the activity itself. For instance I love to cook and bake. Why? Because I like to eat of course! And I like to eat GOOD food. So I like to make good food. Cooking and baking is a true art. It is an extremely lucrative business as well. However, you don’t have to be making money doing something to love it. I also like being passionate about laundry. Why? I like clean clothes. When you finish your laundry and their all clean and dry and folded in your room it’s like you just went shopping, you now have new clothes you couldn’t wear all week because they were dirty, right? Well you can look at anything in life that way if you choose to.

I hated absolutely hated a job I worked at for seven years. However, I was as pleasant, and helpful, and productive, and as enthusiastic as I could be and moved up a few times in the business. Guess what. When I finally left some of my co-workers became my biggest supporters and even my clients. Reaching your dreams and goals should be all about the journey not the destination. How are you going to get there? Why do you want to get there?  Why not get there while being happy and passionate along the way.

I worked on the side doing housekeeping and cleaning for years while establishing my photography. I still file taxes for this business to this day. I once had a client that was suppose to only be temporary ask me to stay a little longer. She loves my work so much she thanked me when I came even though she was paying me to clean for her. She referred me to others even though I had to let them down and tell them I’m was not taking on cleaning clients any more. She asked me if I liked cleaning. I mean I must love it to do such a good job. Honestly, I do love it. I am passionate about it. WHY? I love making people happy. To know that her and her family will have a sparkling clean home to come home to makes me happy as well. It’s just like the laundry, I’m making it look new again. Isn’t that what art is all about. Creating something new, making someone somewhere happy. I often told my children when they were little that they could consider their chores an art. How well they do them and even how well their room looks is a reflection of how much they care, what kind of artist they can be. Of course I got some eye rolling. But it’s true. If we live our lives being passionate about the small things every day in every way think about how passionate you will be about what you dream of doing and the goals you plan to accomplish will seem all that easier!

So Be Passionate in Every Way Every Day.


Artists, Creativity, Dream School, For Photographers

Three Tips to Improve Your Photography

I’d like to share three tips that helped me improve my photography.

1.  Read “The Big Leap.”

The first one is not about photography at all.  It is a book that really helped me discover the emotion behind my photography and why I wanted to photograph people.

This book helps you rediscover the childhood genius that you may have lost along the road to adulthood.  This can be an emotion or a feeling that you are good at portraying or helping others to portray.

Even though it is not about photography it is helpful in any craft that you are planning to take from a hobby to profession because it helps you get to the root of WHY you are doing what you want to do in the first place.  Then you can get better at your craft by implementing those feelings and emotions into your work.

Photo Jul 21, 10 19 48 PM

2Read Your Camera’s Manual.

This is very simple but so helpful.  If you read your camera’s manual you will improve your photography immensely.  If you do not know how to shoot in manual or where the settings on your camera are then this tip is a must.

Even if you have some photography experience but still struggle with aperture, ISO, and Shutter speed, reading the manual will help you perfect these settings and skills.

If your camera is used and did not come with the manual you can download it online.

Once you read your first camera manual you will not have to do this again.  You will be able to move on and operate any professional DSLR.

I cannot stress this tip enough.  Please for the love of all photographers: Read Your Camera’s Manual.

3.  Practice Makes Perfect.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Over the past ten years I have photographed thousands of flowers.  I love flowers and photographing flowers.  By photographing flowers I can photograph them in different lighting situations at different times of day and using different settings.  I can also compare my latest photographs to my previous photographs.

I recommend finding something your drawn to and you love and practicing your photography on that one thing so your constantly improving your skills.


Once you have discovered your true genius zone, read your camera’s manual, and have practiced over and over again, you will be on your way.  You will be able to pose clients and engage in customer service using your gifted feelings and emotions.  You will be able to switch the camera’s settings with no thought at all.  You will know how to manipulate the lighting available to you to improve your photos.

Have fun!


Artists, Creativity, Dream School, For Photographers

My Camera Gear

***What’s in my Bag?***


I primarily shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II.  This is a Full Frame EOS DSLR Camera Body.

For maximum quality, color, and clarity, Professional Photographers will want to shoot with a Full Frame DSLR.

My back up camera is a Canon EOS 7D


My Favorite Go To Lens is the Canon EF 50mm

My secondary lens is the Canon EF STM 24-105mm

Taken with my Canon 5D Mark II and 50mm lens.


Taken with my Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens.


I do recommend getting used equipment when you start out.  Especially if you can snag a used Full Frame DSLR.

However, if a full frame and a good lens is not in your budget then going for a less expensive used DSLR and investing in a good lens instead could be to your benefit.

I still love this photo below and it was taken with my 7D which has a smaller sensor than a full frame camera, and the 24-105mm lens.  It is the lens that makes the difference if you cannot afford a full frame camera body.

Newborn Photography

I hope this helps with your latest photography endeavors.

Don’t wait until you can afford the latest and greatest equipment.  Start before your ready.  It is the photographer that makes the photo great not the gear.

I started out with a Canon 10D.  I still keep additional used equipment on hand for traveling, training assistants, or loaning out to friends and family such as the Canon 50D and Canon SL1.

I also have a 24mm lens and 75-300mm lenses.  I just don’t use them as often anymore.

Remember: Practice Makes Perfect!

Find more photography tips over on YouTube

Sweet Dreams



Artists, Creativity, Dream School, Entrepreneurs, For Photographers

Welcome to Dream School

Hello and Welcome to Dream School. I’m Karrie Knowles a New England Family Photographer and Graphic Editor. I own Sweet Dreams Photography. I have three amazing grown boys who are 19, 20, & 26 years old. They are the light of my life and my greatest accomplishments.

In high school I took my first photography class with film cameras and a dark room. That’s right I have actually developed film in a dark room myself, pretty cool right. So vintage LOL… Back then I never even considered photography as a profession. I went on to study business and administration in college and worked in the hospitality industry for all of my 20s and most of my 30s. I was so unhappy and felt stifled felt suffocated being within four walls. I also felt as though I wasn’t using all of my brain having to perform the same mundane tasks day after day. The only thing that made me happy was the people. Working with people and making people happy is what made me happy. How could I harness this energy into something that didn’t involve clocking in and lunch breaks and uniforms and suits and four walls. Oh those Walls!!!

I honestly thought I was stuck there for life. Earning PTO and Vacation time became my main drive and focus for working. I literally worked just enough to get time off and then took the time off. What a crazy way to live, right?

Finally my Father opened my eyes to a completely different idea. He said “Karrie, it’s not a job if you do what you love.”

A fisherman my entire life, my father literally had been making a living for himself doing what he loved. It didn’t start out that way. He served his time in the Navy. He worked at Electric Boat 3rd shift when I was a child. Every weekend and all summer he was out on the water. He would bring home lobster and fish and we would have creatures like horseshoe crabs walking around the driveway and turtles living in the broken down pool. My Mother would cook up the lobsters and fish for dinner. Finally he had enough money to buy his own boat and we would go out to a little island crabbing. It was never his main source of income until I was an adult. He began working as a cook on a fishing charter boat and making fly fishing bait while he studied and put in the hours for his Captains License.  He has also written several cookbooks!

What he said that day really struck a cord with me. What did I love. The only thing I knew I ever loved was being a mother. So as I said I was working just for time off to spend with my children. But what did I love that I could turn into a paying career?  Guess what was I doing during that time off from work. Photographing everything. Landscape, animals, my kids, our vacas, family, friends. Suddenly I started to notice things happening around my hobby for photography. Maybe things that were happening all along and I never realized. I always always had a camera. I was always making projects and albums and presentations and prints for friends and family. Always on my computer or at local labs creating things and printing things. I would take photos of my friends kids and their parties and baptisms and make little gifts for them out of the photos. For one friend I photographed her sons baptism and made her a mini album. For another friend I printed photos of her son for their anniversary present. Photos I had taken of nature I would give to people for home décor as gifts. When I met my long lost cousin I made her Directory of whos who of her ten cousins.

Then one day while I was snapping away taking photos on our trip to visit my uncle in Virginia my boys said to me, “Mom why don’t you become a photographer?”

It wasn’t long after I started posting photos that peopled were starting to ask me to take photos at events and offering to pay me to make albums for them. I slowly started to save and arrange all the photos I took and make my portfolio. That was IT! It was photography that I had always loved and was passionate about. It was something I could make money with and finally love doing. It was not longer a job because I loved what I did. For me personally it was a long process because I kept my job while slowly building my portfolio and client base. With little to no advertising at all I was able to leave that job and change my entire career and in turn my life. I read everything I could get my hands on about photography and editing. I studied. I practiced. I read more. Studied more. Practiced more. I listened to mentors and professionals. I watched tutorials and took classes.  I even felt inspired to go back to school to finish my degrees. Guess what, I’m STILL doing all of that. Photography is an industry that is always changing and growing and you have to keep learning and continue growing.

Over the past few years I have gotten many questions about my photography and I always love helping others in the community. I have begun to train assistants and mentor new photographers. I’m so happy to be where I am today that I want to share with you creative inspiration and instruction. What to learn.  Where to find help. What steps to take to build your portfolio. And many other tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.