Can you recommend a Photographer?

So we all see this on social media. A LOT. I see this typically on garage sale sites on facebook. A garage sale site.  Typically, it’s phrased, “I’m looking for a really good and affordable photographer. Anyone know one?”

The response is as you guess (or already know)…it’s 978 billion posts from people who either WANT to be a photographer, ARE a photographer, have a FRIEND that is a photographer, or wants to be a photographer and on and on. It’s a mix bag of people who own cameras, or know someone who does. Everything from “so and so takes great pictures!” to “I have a xyz camera so I can!” to “ohhhh call so-and-so, she is SO NICE!” So…how in the heck are you supposed to be able to find someone legit in that streaming post of names?

Let me try and help you out, here. because I recently was put into one of those lists and as I got the notifications telling me about all the other people (and I sat here thinking WHO IS THAT!? on a lot of them…) it made me wonder. You aren’t going to call the whole million people list, so…how to start:

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OK, let me first say, I don’t typically add my “I CAN” to those lists. It’s not me. I’ve noticed also, most of the amazing photographers that I know, don’t either. I’m fortunate enough to know most of the incredible photographers in my area, and they don’t market on garage sale sites. Know that. You probably already do, but I wanted to point it out. The cream of the crop isn’t on there, most likely, unless someone is referring them, which also doesn’t happen a whole lot on a garage sale post. So now we’re down to the crop, since the cream isn’t really there. The crop is VAST, isn’t it??? Finding what you want in the “crop” sounds daunting. It’s not as bad as you think.

First, obviously, look at their website, their facebook site, their “whatever” place they want you to look. Do! See if you like their style! If you don’t, move on! That one is easy. So now you see 200 people that “take great pictures…” so look at what they said. If they said “Hey! I’m $50 for a full session and you get ALL of the images!” THAT sounds great. It’s like finding a Prada dress for $50 at an estate sale. Here’s the rub. What are you GETTING? (I’m getting a full shoot, change of clothes ten times and 150 fully edited images on a CD! WOOT!” Wellllll, rock on! Does your computer even take a CD? If it’s newer, it doesn’t. It’s old technology. Furthermore, the average “disc” corrupts after 5-10 years so those photos are gone before they’re an amazing memory. “BUT I GET A THUMB DRIVE!” Same. You’re gonna lose that thing before it corrupts in 10-15 years. Your kids will thank you for THAT, huh? *eye roll*  Also, this person is going to go do a shoot for an hour or so, edit everything, buy a thumb drive…and you get it for $50? Yeahhhhh. Clearly something is missing….

So rule out the “shoot and burn” because it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Ultimately, you’re not getting much. So, we go to the RIGHT question, which is “what do you OFFER?” Not just how much, but what do you GET??? This means, PRINTS. You want PRINTS. Should someone pass away, finding their photo is priceless. Finding an old thumb drive is worthless. Think about it. Finding a disc that you can’t read and it has lost the photos anyhow is devastating. If you find a photographer that can’t offer professional prints, walk away, honestly. They haven’t invested the time to find out how to fully serve their clients…. Fully. Serve. Their. Clients.

Yep. Do they offer a consultation? They should. Do you get to go back in and see your images in order to pick the prints that you want? You should. An online gallery is tough. You’ll show everyone the gallery, not get the prints, and we’re back to regret years later…truth. Why a consultation? Well, so each of you knows what you WANT. You discuss clothing. You discuss exactly what you want in this shoot. It’s so you GET what you WANT, on both sides. We want to make you happy. We want the best session just like you do!

So, now that you’ve taken your 20 billion people, narrowed them down to 200 (who I “like”), then narrowed them down to 5 (or whatever) that offer a full service, THEN…THENNNNN you can look at those people, see who you “felt best” with, who offered what you want, product and budget wise. Now you’re making a really informed decision.

If you’re “interviewing” your top people, listen to them. Ask what they do for continuing education. Are they a member of the PPA? (professional photographer’s association) or WPPI or some other professional association? Do they continually attend workshops? Do they help other photographers, too? Are they FRIENDS with local photographers? (This is a good one. Our community is really small once you aren’t including enthusiasts, and we know and love and support each other…some of my ABSOLUTE best friends are also my photography mentors.) If they poo-poo the others, that might be a signal, just sayin…. If they’ve been a photographer since they were 3, or started 3 years ago, that might not be as big of a sign as how INVOLVED they are in their craft… (This is not in any way to down the enthusiasts…we love them, too…but this is finding someone to shoot a professional session, not to just play with, and playing has its place, just not here! )

Now, with ALL OF THIS…you can go find a really great photographer that fits your needs and surpasses all expectations…and leaves you with amazing heirloom prints for you, your kids, your family and your friends to cherish even long after you’re gone….

Happiness is!

Such a funny thing. When I started my photo journey, my son was in elementary school and I was shooting his sports. It grew into team photos, prom photos, etc and I was happy. The more I learned, the more diverse my world of photography grew. What my world was at the time was babies and kids. I have several kids (3 living, one has passed away)…I have three grandkids…I’ve had foster kids (and still think of them every single day) and almost ALL of my friends have kids. I even home schooled my kids. My world? WAS. KIDS.

I opened the studio knowing I’d be shooting newborns and babies and kids. This? I do. I’ve done so many littles and I still love seeing their families post on social media and I get to see those squishy newborns blossom into little people. I love it. (Not that they AREN’T people…not what I meant….don’t get all semanticsy with me now)…

However; now? I love shooting WOMEN. I really do. I love talking people through their shoots. I love seeing them feel BEAUTIFUL. I absolutely am beyond in love with showing a gorgeous woman who WE see when we look at her. It’s become my absolute love.

When I sit back and look at my business, it’s hilarious to me (in a good way) how a folio box that will contain memories of a gorgeous woman is as exciting to me now as a newborn prop was then.

Growing. I guess we all do it, huh?

So watch this. It’s a video that actually shows more what I do now, the hair, the makeup, the glamour…and includes the kids…and previews the babies. GAH. I love my job.

 

Watch a Behind the Scenes Video!

No more POPSICLE-ING!

WHAT? Yep. Popsicle-ing, which really should be popsicling. What’s that? Well, after “yay you rule” week and dumping straight into the “we hate you because you rule” week…

I froze. I didn’t even realize it. I jumped into sales and marketing videos, I read sales and marketing and lighting and photography and self help books…I decided to completely reinvent myself since my normal me wasn’t really working.

Yeah.

My normal me was fine. I need to maybe not feed into the weirdness and strange energy of everyone around me. I over educated myself (which is okay…I’m all about education) but I was doing it so subconsciously avoid either failing or succeeding. I realized I’ve actually been doing this for a while. If I don’t “fail” then I’m good, and if I don’t REALLY succeed, I’m still good! Nobody can be mad or jealous…

I was a popsicle.  You know the kind. Just sugar and water frozen with maybe some coloring? They’re good. They’re not offensive to anyone. They’re just frozen nothing. They’ll never be dippin’ dots, because they’re just gonna stay sugar water, nothing revolutionary there! They aren’t going to be yogurt or have fresh fruit or be something actually HEALTHY and good…. But by the same token, they aren’t “DIET” popsicles which will CLAIM to have no sugar, yet hide the fact that means it’s all chemicals and water, which is deceitful and bad. I wasn’t that. Nothing revolutionary. Nothing amazing. Nothing bad. Just non offensive frozen sugar water.

I. Will. Be. Damned.

What I did wake up to this week is that I’ve been doing that for a while. My CPP? I passed the exam but let the time expire on image submission. So I sort of did it, but didn’t achieve it so I’m above nobody. When something bad or great happens? I really don’t speak of it. I stay in the neutral zone. My week of immense reboot….taught me that I don’t need to change myself, I need to GET BACK TO MYSELF! Popsicles suck. They’re great until you need something real. I’m pretty sure in the bible it even says, “man cannot live on sugar water alone.” Or maybe not. I don’t know. Maybe in the Koran? The Dhammapada? Surely somewhere. Because it’s true.

So today. This day. This monday. I woke up at 6:30. I didn’t read and sink into videos and books like I’ve been doing. I went to the YMCA to join it. yep. I need to get out. Get moving. Get the blood flowing and the energy back UP! I did it. This sounds teeny, but I live in a little town. The YMCA is over half an hour from me….but, I did it. Their system was down, which means I brought the paperwork home, and it’s all good to go back tomorrow. I was planning on that anyhow. There will be yoga or pilates or zumba or something fun, so I’ll be there anyhow.

I created some gift vouchers. I will be taking these to the Chamber to have them included in each “new resident” package for our town. My studio isn’t even IN the same town as the chamber and I don’t even CARE! haha! It’s one town away, so I’m READY TO SHOOT!!!!! Marketing!!!!! I’m DOING IT!!!!! I also signed up for a luncheon. I am typically “too shy” to do these things. PFFFFFFFT. Shy be DAMNED. Shy was my friend that kept me from outshining anyone. She’s great, she’s loyal, but I need more friends now other than Shy.

I’ve edited. I’ve also input pricing into some new software that I’ve literally had since last year. Do you see how much I’ve put off in the name of popsicling? I’ve not marketed, I’ve not CREATED my own path. I’ve sat drinking beers with Shy (she’s a popsicle, too) while people told me I was amazing….or that I kinda sucked because I was amazing. The universe kept on sending people to me. Maybe to remind me of what I could do?

SO TODAY. It’s a new time. I know all the numbers I need. I know the editing I need. I know what I need to do to learn and create and yes, be AMAZING. I’m gonna be Dippin’ Dot, helado, fresh fruit, probiotic, vegan, badass, gluten free, whole meal in a damned popsicle kind of popsicle.

I AM GOING TO BE SPECTACULAR. No more freaking sugar water. I’m coming for the whole freaking produce section and we’re gonna revolutionize that damned snack.

And, no. I don’t have a photo of a popsicle. I googled. They were all dirty, and not in the “dropped in the mud” kind of dirty…ya know? So, this blog, is popsicle-less, maybe in homage to no more popsicling! So….here’s a groovy cantaloupe instead…DIG IT!RobinThompson_Crichton

Learning curves and hold my beer!

Does it ever stop curving? Yeah, I don’t think so. Not for me! It switches direction. It’s a learning “S” curve, so to speak. Last blog post, it was curving to the left…learn this lesson. People want to be heard. People COME to you to be heard! Hear them…listen to them…mentor them…help them…show them…do you in the best way that you can it all will be GOOD!!!!! Right? I mean, that was what I said, RIGHT!?

So I did. I was full of confidence…that curve to the left? It was MINE. So then the universe smiled. It chuckled. As I went on that curve to the left OWNING my left hand curve, the universe snickered and said “watch this. hold my beer.” and started drawing the curve to the right. Yeah. It did.

It threw in resistance, which is always fun, and not something I’m particularly good at dealing with. It threw in the nay-sayers. They came in the form of jealousy and snide remarks. Everyone loves YOU. YOU’RE the favorite. Sure, everything goes perfectly for YOU….

I stopped. I froze. Was this bad? Is it bad to be liked? Is it bad to be good or successful or helpful? That curve to the left….was it WRONG? Because the immediate curve to the right is undoing my left! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!?!?!?!?!?

Then, my aunt passed away. This meant, in order to go to her funeral, I had to take a 5 1/2 hour car ride to her….and a 5 1/2 car ride home. Alone. In one day. ELEVEN HOURS ALONE IN A CAR, only broken up by going to a funeral and spending time with family. It meant leaving at 7am…getting home the following 2:30am. Long day. Lots of thinking time.

I thought, reflected, pondered, felt sorry for myself, pitied myself and got over it. I’m owning the curve to the right. Those mean things? They aren’t mean. I need to OWN them. I do have a lot of friends, I am giving, I’m going to be loved and love it. I decided in those hours to embrace the truth and let the others keep their feelings on it. Those aren’t for me. Those are for them.

SO, right hand curve? I GOT YOU! You hold MY beer! I will keep moving forward, without you in my brain. i know there will be a left hand curve that will probably go over a hill, but it’s okay. I recently heard Sue Bryce say, “You’re only as successful as the pain you’re willing to endure.” Right hand curve was painful, but only because I let it be. My eye is on success, so bring on some pain, some curves, some hills and…well, as I mentioned, we all have a beer during this, so it’s not ALL BAD, right????14291723_691932814293944_1445617698067253385_n

Goal Setting 101

It’s been an interesting time since opening my studio. I’ve gone through some goals, nailed some, altered some, need to refocus on some. I’ve gotten too busy, I’ve had slow times, you know how it goes… But there’s one thing that keeps happening to me time and time again. And I believe the universe tries to point you to different paths, if you listen.

Last month, I attended Imaging USA in San Antonio. This is a HUGE conference where I was one of 11,000 photographers who signed up to get a week’s worth of education in shooting, business, networking, you name it. I met some AMAZING people. Some were just like me, some were astounding, some were a series of “aha moments” as I listened to them. Some of the information came from speakers and teachers in classes and some of the information came from conversations with new friends and conversations over meals or drinks or merely sitting side by side waiting on our next adventure. I bonded with people quickly, as we all had a common thread of learning about our craft. I made friends that I know will STAY friends for a long, long time. It was such a beautiful week. I was inspired, I was excited and I was simply HAPPY.

I came home and immediately met a few new photographers. One? Spent their time telling me how much THEY knew. Smirking at me with a pity face when I’d speak and they’d interrupt with “well, I’m sure that’s fine for YOU, but….” and so I listened to them. I listened to the condescending way they spoke.

I met some that speak only of the negative. “This photographer does this…or that…” and they judged. Sometimes judging someone who’d shot a job they’d have LOVED to shoot. They complained about their business. They complained about their customers.

Then I had a few that I didn’t know, that reached out to me saying, “can I come to your studio? Can you show me HOW you do what you do?” “Please help me.” I loved it. I welcomed them. I told them all I knew, I learned what they knew. I listened to what they said as they left my studio and there was a common theme. Which, when wrapped up as a nice gift along with the other people I’d listened to, was very eye opening.

It actually showed me something and taught me something. Be kind. Listen. Every person wants to be heard. Every person wants to feel like you value them. This is true with whomever you are taking a photograph and every person from whom you are learning and every person with whom you are conversing. It’s actually one of the best business models.

As I listened to Sue Bryce and Lindsay Adler and Gary Box and Tony Corbell speak. This was a lesson as the “learner”. They all made you feel heard. As I listened to the people who spoke from insecurity and not compassion, and I didn’t feel heard, I didn’t like it. I took away nothing. They people that came to me WANTING to be heard, we got much more accomplished when we heard each other. When a client comes to me, I have to HEAR THEM, or I miss capturing them as they truly wanted. Sometimes, they don’t know. They simply want to feel amazing. I hear that.

When my daughter came to me wanting maternity photos, this was the case. She isn’t a photographer, she just wanted a great experience. She wanted to feel “beautiful” in a sliver of time where she doesn’t feel that way daily. It’s no different than the rest of us, really. As she had hair and makeup done, as she had her shoot, her little girl watched her beautiful mommy feel AMAZING for a day. She wanted that, too. A bit of powder in the hair and makeup room, letting her stand in while her mommy changed clothes, had that baby girl feeling heard and amazing, too. Her little brother? Well, he wanted in on the action, too. He wanted to look STRONG. So, it was incorporated.

My takeaway from the past month? We all have something to offer. From wanting to feel strong, to wanting to feel pretty, to wanting to feel helpful or even just wanting to have someone say, “I get ya. Me, too…” There is the desire. So when I put this all together, I see this: We must all keep listening. We must all keep learning. We need to empower each other, because, in the end. It’s our biggest gift. As an artist, it’s not always my photograph. It’s the experience of getting the photograph. It’s that person, seeing themselves in a positive way, of having a print that reflects THAT and also, a beautiful memory of the photographic experience. Listen. Learn. NEVER get so wrapped up in “yourself” that the other person isn’t heard, because, well, then you’ve missed it.

On this note, I will share with you the experience of doing my daughter’s maternity session. Our experience, our laughter, our beautiful day that offered more memories from the day than merely just the photograph.

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Holidays and what I’ve learned…

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Oh…Holiday Time! It’s when we, as photographers, are amped up and super busy! I did have my studio last year, but was still completing renovations. I was still focused on making my space the creative space that I felt comfortable in to create art.

This year? WHOA! Suddenly, I had Santa come in for a day. I shot corporate parties, private parties, a Bar Mitzvah, I had families coming in, I was designing custom Christmas cards, I was creating canvases and wall art for gifts, for homes and for reminders of times. I created memories. I was living my bliss.

I have spent the last two weeks, among the last minute shopping, last minute decorating, and having the “down time” to play games with my family, have a “Meems Day” with my grandkids where we created ceramic gifts for their parents…just absorbing THIS side of my bliss. Down time is blissful, also. It’s been nice to reflect, learn, re-visit and set new goals.

I realized, in my “busy” that I’d not gotten my CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) which expires this year. Yep. I’d taken and passed the rigorous exam. I’d not shot and submitted the images necessary. Oops. I’d bought software to make my reveal and ordering appointments much more professional and easy…I’d not even downloaded it, much less learned it and implemented it. I had studio management software that I’d bought, which sat in some abyss with the ordering software. Who had time?! I WAS MAKING MEMORIES FOR PEOPLE! I neglected getting contracts and communicating as effectively as I should with the people who were trusting me to capture their memories. Oh, they were happy, but it could have been so much BETTER and MORE!

I believe, wholeheartedly, any creative, any business owner, any person with goals hits these little times of reflection and growth. While I am SO HAPPY with the memories people have…I cannot WAIT to hit this year of “BETTER”. I can’t wait to step up, do more, do better, do a fuller, more complete version of what this year had. I can’t wait until this time next year, when I say, “Whoa. I did it. And I learned THIS…and will grow in THIS WAY in 2018!” Goals are incredible. Vision is astounding. It’s scary and exciting and I’m SO READY! So…

For all of you in the same space as I am as we wind down 2016…. Let us all pat ourselves on the back for the achievements! While we do that, let us be honest with what we “could have done” better…DO BETTER…and then push for even more change! My vision board is sadly a bit similar to last year, due to the CPP…but there were so many things that WERE achieved that I’d not even envisioned! So HERE’S TO 2017! Here’s to growth, lessons, experience and change!

I, for one, cannot WAIT!

 

 

WHAT!?!? Too busy to write???

Okay, yeah. It’s been busy. It’s been GREAT! I said I was going to share my studio journey on here and I just keep dropping the ball. WHY? Well, because I’m busy. I’m busy shooting, marketing, decorating, selling, creating…all those things that come with being artsy, creative, and in business. It’s been an amazing year. Not going to lie.

I’ve learned a lot. I mean, A LOT. I’ve learned that I have people driving a LONG way to have me do their portraits. I’ve learned that not everyone within a 10 mile vicinity will clamor to me. I don’t necessarily “get it” but it’s very humbling when a new mom will drive over an hour and a half to bring her newborn to you so YOU can create those memories. It’s cool.

I also had a tragedy happen recently. My cousin was killed in a head on collision with a wrong-way-driving drunk driver. She was 25. She was amazing. She’d recently gotten her Masters degree and was an athletic trainer at a high school where she lived. She lived life to the fullest in her 25 years. Listening to what people had to say about her really struck me. She was a light. She was funny. She was kind. She gave back… she was all those things that we all hope to be. She grabbed life fully and kissed it on the lips.

I love that. I want to be more like that.

Driving home from her funeral…a five hour drive…As I sat in the back seat while my husband and teenage son discussed politics and history and music, I mused on all I’d experienced in the last week. The shock, the hurt, the worry for her parents, the joy at seeing 1600 people show up for her, all of it.

I looked out the window. There was the giant amazing supermoon. I hadn’t brought the correct lens. I hadn’t brought a tripod. Bummer. I’d be the token photographer NOT to get a wonderful photo of the moon. sigh.

No. GRAB LIFE FULLY AND KISS IT ON THE LIPS.

“PULL OVER!” I yelled from the back seat. The boys looked at each other and rolled their eyes. We’d already gone through me running across a street to get a shot of a dilapidated house while the husband filled up with gas. They knew I’d seen something. So as my husband pulled over, I got ready to run out into a highway to get a shot of a moon that was super. One that I was unprepared to shoot. I knew I couldn’t get that big, full, gorgeous shot that so many were getting. I had the wrong lens. I was going to be holding my breath, making a tripod out of my elbows and torso and hoping for the best. But, to begin to live life fully means to begin shedding the excuses. Right? So I did it. I shot an old building and a super moon…in the middle of a highway in some random town I can’t even name. And this marks the beginning of shedding excuses. Live it fully. Create, smile, laugh, and dance it out when it gets tough. 2017 is gonna rock and I know that because I’m starting it now.

SO…. let’s kiss… or, let’s dance. Either way, we end up smiling! LET’S GO!