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….

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!

 

 

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!

It’s my birthday!!!

And…it’s how I begin my new year. I know, I know…everyone else does it on January 1. I don’t. I go by my own years. My own timeline. My own little way.

This year, it worked out really well. An incredibly “trying” January loomed over my family. One full of challenges, stress, unknown…you name it, it was there. Funny how the universe works, it seemed to all pack into one week in the month. Six days. So from the middle of December, there was worry and stress over things we couldn’t control. Things that were simply gonna “happen.” We made it through. Some things didn’t end up happening at all. Some were postponed. Some, well, we were victorious over them, so the worry wasn’t even worth it. Isn’t that how it usually is?

What did I learn…that is the important thing here. You can’t control everything. You simply cannot. That, I learned. I also learned, well, the worry and over-thinking doesn’t help it. Action helps. Somethings, you just have to meditate through. Stay centered, even when it’s hard to find your center. I learned that worrying over things you cannot control takes time and action away from the things you CAN control. I made that mistake. I invested my energy into worrying, thinking, stressing…and the uncontrollable things, they worked out. None of my stress helped it.

Had I centered, breathed, and trusted…it would have been the same. Had I simply put that energy into the POSITIVE things, I’d be ahead.

My new year? I’m breathing through the things I cannot control. We still have a transplant looming over us. This? This is positive. It will bring health to my husband. THAT is beautiful. I can’t control any part of it. He can’t control any part of it. What we CAN control? Attitude. Positivity. So we shall. My studio? My business? I can control learning, getting better, focusing, marketing, educating. That’s me. So my new year is my year of YES, as Shonda Rhimes has said (and quite eloquently written about). I will say yes to the ACTION. Yes to the moving forward. Yes to the attitude and positivity. This is my year. I actually FEEL it. I know there will be hurdles. I will breathe through them and act on what I can act on. YES.

THIS. This is my year of YES. (Thank you, Shonda…) And it spirals up from here…

As a little reminder of “it’s all how you look at it…” is this photo. This is me in Bangkok. We were at a Temple where you got a little bird in a little cage. You released your little bird who flew around the GIANT Buddha…and he brought you good luck. My bird? Wouldn’t leave me. I’d release him, he’d come back to me. He stayed with me as I walked around. He stayed with me through a tuk-tuk ride to another Temple. He stayed with me throughout. The ladies at the Temple were completely STRESSED. They wanted to take my bird and give me another to release so I’d have good luck. I saw my little friend as the BEST luck! It’s how you view it… And on that note… I will go ACT…on my wonderful new year! Peace, love and positive vibes to you all…Thailandbird

First months with a studio!

Ha…haven’t written in months. WOW did getting a studio take over my life! LOL!

So, Oct. 1, 2015 I picked up the keys. The landlord met me with keys and a solemn, “um, they left a few things…” I was bouncing. I was buzzing with excitement. I exclaimed, “I don’t care! I’ll get it!!!!” as I charged into the completely empty space that was to be my blank slate that would house my creativity!

Yeah. That was the dream, wasn’t it? Did I mention that my space was once a police station and a city hall? There wasn’t a creative vibe to be had. I opened my front door and saw cubicles. Yep. A big “shooting space” full of cubicles. They’d left them for me. I saw trash. Everywhere. Not bagged up trash, but trash simply thrown on the floor. Finished with that water bottle? Throw it down.

THAT’S OKAY! IT’S MY SPACE!!!! Yep, that was my attitude! I started gathering trash. I made a 4 foot square pile of trash to be taken out. I started washing walls with mint oil to rid the space of weird energy and a general “Barney Fife’s office” vibe. I vacuumed toenail clippings in one office. clickety clickety…ever heard toenail clippings through a vacuum cleaner? Yeah, I hadn’t either. I found a bullet…bigger than my hand…I found rolling papers and meth testing kits and general trash. It took EIGHTEEN DAYS to get things clean enough to be able to have the carpets cleaned.

My teenage son came to see it and his response? “It looks like it should smell like a cigarette.” His girlfriend’s response was similar. She said it had “bad energy”. I immediately ordered sage. I washed the walls again. I got to painting. I painted away the dark paneling and made it feel like MY SPACE…

Funny part? I got the keys on Oct 1st. On Oct 4, my phone rang…and it was someone needing an album cover shoot. His album was to be released 6 days later. I had to decline. There was no way in the midst of this mess, I could shoot that! The artist said, “oh. Well, then, I’ll push back the date. You have to be the photographer!” WOW…. So, days later… in all the weird energy and barney fifedome….we shot an album cover. It turned out beautifully. What a way to start the studio off with fun and creativity!!! Since then, there’s been Save the Date cards remaking the “This is 40” movie poster…so yes, I’ve even shot the studio toilet…ha… there’s been families, babies, newborns, children high school seniors, football players…the energy is so beautiful and creative…it’s clean. It’s all going to be perfect. I feel it now! I’m going to share the “before” photos of the studio…mostly to make you laugh…I will share more “after” shots throughout the journey!

Ohhhhh, it’s been a while!

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And it’s been crazy!

However; I’m updating because I said that I was going to share the journey. I haven’t. I’ve been figuring out which road this journey would be best suited to use. It’s been fun and tricky and scary and exciting.

And now that I’ve shared all the adjectives of the journey. Let me say that those are the EXACT adjectives to describe how I feel right at this very moment. I’m getting a studio.

Tomorrow.

Yep. I pick up the keys tomorrow. It’s my last day with no studio. Let me back up and fill ya in. So…I’d been looking ALL OVER THE PLACE for a studio. I’d talked to builders, I’d talked to people an hour away from my home…I’d looked, I’d searched, I had people tell me crazy prices, I had one guy who wanted me to meet his parents, I had good prices but across the street from another photographer, I had sharing offers, I thought I’d seen it all. I’d looked East and West and South.

Not north. I live north. I live FAR north. I’m close to Dallas(ish) but far enough that people’s eyes widen when I tell them where I live. I get “ohhhhhh wowwww…….” so looking FURTHER north didn’t even seem reasonable. The only time *I* go further north is to go to Oklahoma (which is closer to me than Dallas) or to pick up my grandkids to take them to gymnastics….See where I’m going here?

Yep…every time it was gymnastics day, I’d pass this little town, one town north, and pass a great little spot….that was for rent. A couple of weeks ago, I got done a bit early from a shoot, so I drove by again to get the number. I pulled in, and called. The guy answered and said he was there so I could come look! I explained to him what I wanted. What I NEEDED. He kept shaking his head “no” as I looked in awe at what could be MY space. He finally said “Kid, this isn’t it. I’ve got a space you’ll like better…can you follow me and I’ll show you?” Sure.

So he takes me to Main street in this little town…to the City Hall and the Police Station. (I’m not kidding.) He says they’re moving out at the end of the month. Rent is cheap. It’d be all mine. We looked around (awkwardly. don’t ever try and look around a police station and city hall and think it’s going to be easy…it’s NOT).

Fast forward….I’ve signed a lease, I’ve gotten a business bank account, I’ve gotten a DBA…I’ve gotten so I can take credit cards, I have a certificate of occupancy and inspections scheduled and have paid deposits and fees and “stuff” that I didn’t even know I’d have to pay! LOL! All to lead up to tomorrow. My own place. MY STUDIO. A new town. New faces. New team colors. I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff and seeing what happens.

Yep…fun and tricky and scary and exciting. I’ll keep you posted. And I’ll keep posting. There will be no shortage of before and after photos. From law to art. This space has a whole personality change a comin’…..

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