Ohhh…the education…

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know…” ~ Daniel J. Boorstin

 

Well, isn’t THAT a fact!? I’ve often laughed that when I first really began focusing on photography was when my youngest son began to play sports. It freaked me out. I didn’t want that precious baby to get hurt in any way, but there I was, watching balls get hurled at him or kids trying to tackle him. I was a mess. To “rewire” my brain, I started shooting all of his games. In support, my husband bought me an amazing lens to shoot with. In complete ignorant bliss, I walked straight down to the sidelines and stood on the field to shoot. I sat and shot baseball up against and through the fence. Basketball was tougher for me, night games were impossible, but that was okay…because I was getting AMAZING photographs that EVERY parent loved. I started getting hired. My ego was in full bloom. I’d found what I was absolutely naturally GIFTED at doing…  I. Was. Amazing.

Fast forward a couple of years and I decide that since I’m “so naturally good” at this thing, I should go get a degree in commercial photography. It’d be easy because I knew my stuff and I’d have “my own thing” to really flourish at. (Do you see my downfall coming? I didn’t.) So I enrolled. My first professor was a man named Byrd Williams IV. The first day, I confidently stride in, take my seat on the first row and grin. He looks around the room and starts asking us what we like to shoot. It was a photo 1 class, so all “beginners” to this craft. Everyone took turns answering. He got to me. I proudly said “sports!” and grinned. He looked at me like I was crazy, announced, “that’s not photography”…and moved on. I stopped him to argue. HE DIDN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND! Later in the class, he explained that we’d be shooting on manual (ON WHAT!?!?) and we were not to photograph: kids, sports, sunrises, sunsets, pets, barns, windmills, etc.

HOLD UP. Everything in my life was ripped away…and I had to shoot HOW!? (On manual). Yeah, I’d never ventured that far…hence, why I could never shoot at night or a basketball game. I came home almost in tears. I didn’t like that man that didn’t get my flavor of genius and I knew I was going to fail. (I mean, REALLY….he didn’t GET ME!)

It’s been a decade (a bit more) since that happened. That man is still a friend and mentor, and I’ve laughed to him about my first impression. I’ve also laughed to myself, about HOW LUCKY I was to have him as my first teacher. (I took many classes from him…and have since even gone to hear him speak. I’ve never left not learning something from any conversation with him.) Actually, he has a book out now… did I mention the greatness that I fell into way back then????  Click here to see Byrd’s book

Even now, after taking every photography class that I could in college, I still love to learn. I’m often at workshops, weekend workshops, lectures, meetings, hands on classes, the works. My mentors span from the incredibly artsy, to documentary, street photographers, portrait photographers…you name it. Heck, in a week, I’ll be learning to shoot the core of the Milky Way with an amazing friend and mentor. I want to learn it all.

I now see why I was told that my “love” of sports photography WASN’T photography. It is. Those memories are incredibly valid. It’s more timing than lighting, so I get it. I still shoot sports. If I have a free time where I can do it, I’m on it. I love it. What I’ve also learned is that I will never know it ALL…but boy, being a sponge is much more fulfilling than simply thinking “you just know”…

I’m writing this one for all of us…who thought we knew. Learned we didn’t know. Fought like a champ to fix that. Keep learning. Never quit. Keep your mind open to all of it. Absorb it like it’s the holy grail of knowledge… and keep upping that bar for yourself.

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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!

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