Take a minute…And just LOOK UP…

Boy, has it been crazy lately. I listen to people, I read what they write, I try to balance it all with what I think. It’s overwhelming.

I’m in the Dallas area. This means that hurricane Harvey didn’t do anything to me, but really affected people I know and don’t know that live just 4 hours from me. I did what I could to help, as most people did. My heart broke as I saw the photos, heard fellow photographers worry and watched friends endure Mother Nature.

Then, she struck again. Devastating islands, hitting Florida…same thing. I have Puerto Rican friends (I’m married to one) and they are still reeling from the devastation, as are many, many others.

I have a relative that plays for the NFL. Boy did they make the news this week. I don’t know his stance on ANY OF THAT, but just know it’s such a pivotal time in history, and he’s in it. I’m near Dallas and we braced ourselves for what the Cowboys would do. I have people I love on both sides of the belief system and many in the middle…so it’s been interesting to hear and read their thoughts.

So, here I am. A little artsy hippie chick in a very religious and conservative area. So I listen. I learn. I absorb it all. I’m a photographer. I’ve wondered how this career could contribute to helping any of the things people are feeling and going through. I’m not a big one for making waves, usually. Sometimes I make small ones, sometimes I don’t say anything. Probably par for most of us.

So during all of this…I was scheduled to do a photo shoot. Two adorable kiddos. We shot at a pumpkin farm not far from my studio. The kids were wired and tired after a day of school and now being on a farm where they had room to run and play… and we wrangled kids, we did all we could do to get those gorgeous fall photos and have these little people actually enjoy it. AND, get it done before the sun was gone.

And then we looked up.

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And that, my friends, is the key. When we were absorbed in child and puppy wrangling, we fought time. We raced the sun. We bribed, we begged, we were focused on those little things that seemed to be everything.

We looked up. We stopped hyper-focusing. Why? Because the sun we were racing was giving us the most gorgeous gift. None of us had seen it because we were focused on minutia.

We told the kids, “LOOK!” and they were also in awe. Not of the pumpkins or the room to play or the miles of freedom around them, but the colors…the beauty. We embraced the sun going down, which was our nemesis not two minutes before. We used the gift of the sunset. The kids settled. The most amazing photographs happened with the offering of the sunset behind them. We all relaxed into the “change” that was what we were battling.

So….I think this was my sign and my metaphor. Look up. Look to the change we WANT to see. Embrace, love, help, relax and appreciate…. be grateful, open and understanding. Sometimes, when it seems dark, you can look up and see that there’s a gift in there…

but you can’t see it unless you look up.

 

The “mini” session…

Boy, THESE are all the rage, aren’t they? You spend a tiny amount of money on a short little session and just hope for the best. I see SO MANY. I did the numbers. Sometimes, these are great. Sometimes, I think “ohhhh….get a real session…” Why? Why would you opt for a whole photo shoot when you can get some “digital images” for next to nothing? Let me ‘splain…

First, full disclosure. I don’t really DO mini sessions. I want to talk to you, get to know you, know what you’re looking for in the shoot, discuss clothing and really be IN THE KNOW. I then want to take whatever time it takes to get you what you want. You want a photo above your fireplace? You want a bunch of 5×7 photos to give to family? You want a folio box that you can keep forever? Why are we shooting? I want you to come in to the studio and SEE what a folio box is, see what custom framing I offer, know what your goal is and for YOU to know that goal. This information in itself is worth what you might be paying for that mini shoot. So, I don’t do them.

THEN WHY ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT THIS, ROBIN??? Because it’s out there and it’s happening frequently. Aside from the above, my “beef” with them is this: They tend to only offer digital photos.

The day I hear someone tell me that they found some old 5 1/4 floppy drive that they were over the moon excited to find because it held the memories of their parents’ photos, etc. I might change my mind. I have never heard that. I hear people happy to find PRINTS that hold memories. Digital media only holds it for a while and then it’s outdated. You find an old floppy drive and you trash it. You find a photo of your mother when she was 20 and you keep it, share it, show it to the kids, and love it. (You can give me an AMEN here…)

Don’t spend $50 or $100 on a ding dang disc. DON’T. Just bite the bullet and spend a little more on something that will LAST.

Mini sessions CAN be done effectively. I’m actually promoting one now. (YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T DO THESE, ROBIN!) I know. I typically don’t. It’s my one time of year that I do. Santa comes into my studio and every 15 minutes for a day, kids and families come through to get their photos with Santa.

FIFTEEN MINUTES!? Yep. I do 15 minute sessions. Why? Because they’re kids. They need a magical conversation and experience with Santa. They need to go before they start trying to figure out the magic… Which means, in this case, there’s no three part shoot. (come in, discuss, then come in and shoot and then come in and view). But there IS a two part. They KNOW what they’re coming in for, so they come in to do it. They come BACK in the view the photos. It’s not a disc. It’s their Christmas cards that are custom made, it’s a folio box with their child’s experience, and sometimes, it’s a framed print or two. I’ve run the gamut with what I sell on Santa photos. My preshoot information? It comes with me and Santa. We decide certain poses that will happen…and then we capture conversations and the natural flow of the visit. It’s magic.

So yep, I’m doing my once a year “mini” session. I haven’t done anything “mini” with it. I’ve only altered where my time is spent. My families still get full service, full prints, full product line (even add in the custom cards) and it works. Full service. Full experience.

Click here to see what we capture in 15 minutes

HOW DOES THIS WORK, ROBIN, WITH EVERYONE ELSE DOING CHEAP DIGITAL MINIS?

It works beautifully. I will sell out my times. When I run into these people throughout the year, I will hear about their EXPERIENCE, how much it meant to them. When they take out their photos from last year, it will spark the desire to come back…and I know, one day? These kids will be parents, and they’ll have amazing photographs to show THEIR kids. THAT means the world to me….but it will mean the UNIVERSE to them, their kids and their grandkids…

So as you see all of these “cheap mini sessions” showing up…please be mindful. You’re creating your kids’ memories here. That’s not where you want to “cheap out”…

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!

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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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!

You are beautiful.

It’s been interesting for me here recently. I normally shoot kids and babies, families and high school kids..but I’ve had a run of just women, recently. Women. Ladies. Females are interesting. I’m sure I’ve been bringing this female energy to me. I’ve been learning everything I can from Sue Bryce, who I admire greatly. She’s a photographer that mostly shoots, well, women. I’ve been studying posing and lighting and all that stuff we keep trying to perfect as photographers…

But. It’s interesting. I’ll book a session for a gorgeous lady…and immediately, I hear, “I don’t photograph well. I’ve never taken a good photo.” Interestingly enough, I’ll ask them, “What is it that you don’t like?” A woman can pinpoint it every time. My nose. My chin. My neck. My arms. My smile. My eyes. Whatever it is, they KNOW it. Now, me? Looking at them? I’m always baffled. Whatever the insecurity is, actually, usually isn’t there! I find that I do the exact same thing to myself. WHY DO WE DO THIS!? I don’t know. I do know, that watching them, I’ve become more compassionate with myself. Hey, I’m 46! Of course my face doesn’t look 22 anymore! I’m not a big girl at all. I’m 5’4…I weigh 125 pounds. I hear a lot “ohhh…if I was skinny like you…” and it’s funny to me because TO ME, well, I’m built like a 12 year old Sponge Bob Square Pants. I don’t have gorgeous curves and a rockin’ booty. So, I look at them. I blink. I got nothin’. Funny. We want what we don’t have…what we used to have…what someone else has. This is insanity! Confidence. That’s beautiful. I found a video that says it perfectly. Embrace yourself. Love yourself. You can’t have everything you want…and there’s someone on the other side wanting what YOU have. Embrace it. Love yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Get those photos taken. FEEEEEEL beautiful. I’ve loved the past couple of weeks. Shooting these women, finding their little targets of insecurity, showing them their photos, and watching them light up. Why do they light up? Because they finally SEE…they’re beautiful. Exist in photos. Really… and smile… Because, well, YOU…YOU are BEAUTIFUL!