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.

 

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!

Inspiration is a funny thing…

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about inspiration. Knowing that I am on the threshold of a lot of changes, I examine things…a lot. I read everything I can get my hands on from actual literature, to biographies, to marketing material to business books. I read magazines, blogs, books…anything. I’m at a strange point in my life where I am more a sponge than when I was two years old.

My youngest kiddo is going to be a senior in high school. I have one more year to home school him. My grandkids (that I keep during the day) are growing quickly also. The oldest heads off to kindergarten this year. I won’t have her all day. The youngest? I’ll have him, unless he goes to an actual preschool this year. To every thing, there is a season.

I’m at a time in my life now where my inspiration can’t only come from my children. Oh, they still inspire me. I have one that tours with a rock band and lives his life on his own terms. THAT is inspiring. I have one that loves the corporate world and is diving head first into being an amazing business woman while raising her two adorable babies. THAT is inspiring. I have the teen who boldly walks from being my baby to being independent. He saved and just bought his first car. He teaches drum lessons to kids and almost daily makes a comment or discovery about “his kids.” His passion for music and drumming. His goals that he’s set, yet he’s a bit in the dark about what his future holds since he’s never walked a journey like that quite yet… THAT is inspiring.

I find myself looking forward to Sundays. It’s quiet in the mornings. I turn on “Super Soul Sunday” on the Oprah Network each week. I have found that listening to her interviews of just flat INSPIRING people, well, it inspires me. From the spiritual to the curious to the motivating. I am at my most creative when having their interviews start my day. My husband laughs at me. My kids make fun of my Sunday routine. I laugh, too. I know it sounds funny! I watch them all work towards their goals and can’t really get where they get their guts and inspiration. For some, it comes from within. It’s a natural desire. Sometimes I think it’s to prove some people wrong. Meh, we probably all have a bit of this, yes? But externally? What inspires YOU?

I really want to hear this…since mine seems to be all over the board. I’m inspired by art, photography, success, skepticism…I want to be THE BEST. I take classes. I attend workshops. I want to learn something DAILY that adds to my bliss…which means, I surround myself with inspiration. I’m never the “smartest person in the room” so I can learn. Sometimes, I pride myself on this. Sometimes, I think I should give myself a break. Sometimes I do take a break…and then that uneasy feeling of desire creeps back in. I want to learn. I want to excel. I want to be THE BEST.

It’s odd. I don’t remember this desire from my youth…. so I wonder… Is it who I have decided to surround myself with now? Is it the fact that I’m finally old enough to really focus on myself? Is it that I’ve finally found my bliss and this desire goes hand in hand with that?

So I’m curious. How do YOU gain inspiration? I’m really interested… Let me know!RobinThompson_Crichton