Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Make Your Home Photography Studio Look More Professional

Setting up a studio space in your home is not easy! Family members peeking their heads through the door, animals slobbering on the furniture (or clawing it to pieces), cats jumping up onto makeup tables, dogs peeing on reflector boards (could someone please potty-train the 'champion showdog' - his title should be revoked! I mean really!?), and then there's the flock of baby chickens growing in the bathroom. Sounds like Old McDonald's [Glamour] Farm, right? ha!

These are my best tips for helping to make your home studio feel more professional:

1. Have the clients enter through a separate door (so they don't walk through the house). 
2. Have everything you need in the studio, so you don't have to leave and go into the house.
3. Decorate the space like your commercial studio... not your house. Don't clutter. Choose funky furniture that stands out, makes a statement and helps people realize they're in a unique space.
4. Use your logo! Put it all over the place to remind people this space is your business. 
5. Display your artwork. Make the space feel like a gallery.  Keep your sample products out (not in the closet). Treat yourself to prints. Make the room feel like a gallery. 
6. Turn your weakness into your strength! Don't apologize for your studio. Instead of saying, "Sorry my studio is in my house. I know that's not professional," say, "Isn't it awesome that my studio is in my house? I have the best commute ever and it makes everything so relaxed & personal!"

Use your artwork, logo & fun furniture to create a glamorous atmosphere. Clients will either love the fact they're in your house OR they'll forget about your house all together. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We are ALL 'Real' Women!!

Miggy forwarded me this article Roni Davis (Nationally Qualified NPC Figure Competitor, Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Online Coach) about women's self-esteem, body image and this concept of what 'real women' look like. I dare you to read it. I think it's about time someone voiced this perspective...
Dove Real Beauty Campaign
"The media is frequently criticized for promoting images of women with what everyone claims to be unrealistically skinny or completely unattainable, perfect bodies--or even flat out photoshopping images to make them more "perfect" ...and subsequently less "real". Well, now they seem to be trying to change that by promoting images of "real" women--emphasizing that women need to just accept the bodies they're in because that's what's "real". Well, I have huge issues with that message.

"To hell with society, be happy with what God gave you." the common theme. Well sweetie, I have news for you. "God" didn't give you a size 14 ass. Wanna know something else? Neither did pregnancy. Your shitty eating habits and your lifestyle have given you a size 14 ass. 

Healthy is the New Skinny

Bullshit. Listen, we're ALL real women! Just because a person's lifestyle has shaped their body into a size 14 or more, doesn't mean it's just what God or genetics or anything else gave them and definitely doesn't mean it's supposed to be that size! Make no mistake...your body, as you sit there reading this right now is not a result of anything "God" gave you. It's a direct result of the choices you've made day in and day out over the course of your life....

Just because MOST women (and men, too) have allowed themselves to become overweight doesn't mean the rest of us, who work our asses off to look (by society's definition) good in a bikini, aren't real women (or men). It just means that more women than not are overweight. And why? Because of the lifestyle they've chosen. The average person's lifestyle perpetuates weight gain and muscle loss. It's just that simple. So, that's what they get. It certainly doesn't mean they're any more real, just that they're living the norm. And if that's the life someone chooses they shouldn't get to bitch about the results it provides and expect everyone around them to make them feel better about it.

If you choose the lifestyle, you quite simply have to accept the results it produces.

Oh, well then. I'm FINE like this because this is how women are REALLY SUPPOSED to look. All the media images are fake and photoshopped or they're young girls who haven't had babies, or they're freaks of nature or they have personal chefs and personal trainers and work out 6 hours a day and I hate to workout and that's not realistic. I can't ever look like that anyway...oh look, cake... 

Hopelessness sets in and you dive into a cheesecake. Again, I know...I lived it. But that's NOT TRUE. REAL woman, with families and jobs, and a million things going on in their busy lives, and the same number of hours in a day that you have, are making time every single day all over the world to eat right and exercise, and get the dream body that YOU'VE given up hope of ever having! I've seen soooo many downright awe inspiring transformations from women just like YOU, who just decided one day to stop making excuses and stop living in bodies they hate.

Placating women into thinking they're okay living in overweight and unhealthy bodies is sooo not the answer. The thing is they'll never, ever truly believe it and be happy. For another, they're only going to continue gaining and they're not healthy--the ones who might be healthy for the time being will not continue to be. Your lifestyle dictates your health and how you age....

It's true that self worth should never be affected by your shape and hells yeah, you need to love and accept yourself no matter what size you are! You ARE beautiful and strong and WORTHY of an amazing life and a STRONG, HEALTHY body. Of COURSE carrying some extra weight doesn't change ANY of that! It's just extra fat. That's IT. It doesn't define who you are so stopping letting it! Look if you're TRULY happy with your body, carry on but if you're not stop the head games, the negative self talk, the over thinking, the over analyzing every wrinkle and stretch mark and cellulite bump. Stop the justification, the excuses, the feelings of hopelessness and all the other bullshit. Ignore the idiots that are telling you it's okay because perfect bodies aren't real anyway and get out there and start building yourself one if you want it!! You really CAN do it, I promise!!" 

Nationally Qualified NPC Figure Competitor
Personal Trainer
Nutrition Consultant
Online Coach

Monday, July 29, 2013

Stop Stressing About Finding New Clients, Start Loving Old Ones

Getting clients isn't easy plus it's extra tricky since we're in a word-of-mouth industry. Rather than stressing about trying to find more people who will talk about how great you are, start giving extra special attention and love to people who you've already go in your boat.

Stop stressing about finding new clients & start lavishing love on the clients you already have.

The goal is to get your 'old' clients to start talking about you AGAIN.
Don't let them forget about you. Send them little messages, cards & gifts (especially around birthdays / holidays).
Give them a phone call once a year to check in and see if they're ready for their next photo shoot.

Most importantly, thank them for referring new clients!!

I thank my clients with $50 of studio credit whenever they send a new paying client my way. This credit can be saved up and combined with the $25 credit they receive on their birthdays/holidays. They can spend it on their next photo shoot or they can put it towards purchasing prints.

How do you LOVE your clients?
How do you thank clients for referrals?
Do you offer studio credit?
Do you celebrate birthdays / holidays with your clients? How?
What advice do you have for photographers who want to start rewarding clients for referrals?

The photo above is my new credit voucher that I send to clients. Thank you to Hanna Mazur, Make Up Artist & the beautiful Alena Nieves for modeling :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Month Juice Cleanse! Day 1

30 Days
Green Juice + Smoothies
Wheatgrass Shots
Green Salad
Raw Nuts
Protein Powder
Aloe Vera Juice
Lemon Water
Herbal Tea
Yoga @ 5am

Sign me up, baby! My neighbor Heather and I are combining forces this month to take on this challenging healthy cleanse together! I'll admit I'm slightly terrified. We start today and I guarantee you that by lunch time I'm going to be salivating over dry pasta. We're breaking the month into 3 segments of 10 days. The first 10 days is all juice and smoothies. We're going to check in after 10 days to report how we're feeling and how we wish to continue. Woohoo!
Yoga on Heather's deck this morning was lovely but chilly. Tomorrow we're going to have to move faster. We recovered with jasmine tea in her comfy living room and talking for HOURS. We get to a point where we just have to literally close our mouths and STOP talking because the conversation is never going to come to a natural end. I love it. 

So, my soul floweth over with enthusiasm but I'm slightly lacking in the self-discipline department. Stay tuned for updates and fingers crossed for flourishing success!

Subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE so you never miss a video from me :D

Has anyone else ever done this or anything like it?
Any advice for a semi-novice?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ditching My Dreams of a Fan Club for Barefeet & a Garden Shovel

I think the key to being original is to be really really down to earth. As soon as you start trying to look cool, be like somebody else and strut your fineness across the playground, you're mucking it up. 

For the past two years I've been looking up to role models in the photography industry who are so glamorous and 'put together' — even though they insist that they have problems just like the rest of us... well, their humble problems still look more glamorous than mine. It's been like a high school popularity contest — desperate for more followers, more comments, more views. Desperate to look equally awesome and important. I thought I needed a fan club worshipping me at my feet - that was the definition of success. 

And then one day one month ago I woke up and realized that I'm a barefoot gardener. I like sweating in the garden, covered in dirt, wearing boxer shorts and a sports bra. I like going for days without showering. I like talking about my messy emotions in public, being an open book. I like being really really weird. I talk in foreign accents all day long and talk to my cat with a puke-worthy baby voice. I don't want fame...I thought I did but I really don't. I don't want to travel around the world for fancy conferences and gigs. I like staying at home in the Snoqualmie valley. 

I want to sleep under the stars in the tent with Miggy and my cat who purrs so loudly all night long. I want to lounge in the sun in a rocking chair, plant veggies, watch them grow, read novels, watch movies and addictive TV shows, listen to really chilled out music, sing really loudly in my car at stoplights, muster the dedication to practice yoga regularly, wake up each morning feeling energetic, drink green juice, cook vegetarian delicacies, bake sugar-free treats, write fiction, be a really good listener, be a really supportive friend, be a little bubble of positive energy that inspires other people, and take really pretty pictures of women that make them feel good about themselves. 

So one day if I suddenly seem really glamorous or put together or fantastically talented beyond belief, don't believe it. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"A Last Hoorah" for Two Sexy Ladies in Their 60's

Going once! Going twice! SOLD! 

Debbie was the highest bidder for my photo shoot at the Sacred Heart School Auction this spring. When she called to book her shoot with  me, I asked her WHY? Why do you want to be photographed? It's my favourite question because it really helps me understand the women coming into my studio. Debbie had the best answer ever....

"My friend Lynette and I are both about 60 years old and we're both single. We're looking for a fun ladies day out together, a last hooorah! and if it's not too much trouble do you think we could get some new pictures for our online dating profiles?"

ummm.... YES!

PS: Thank you Debbie for bringing this sparkly gold dress! I LOVE it - wish it were mine, in fact. Promise me you'll wear it to your next hot date! ;) 

Go get 'em ladies!!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wild Goose-Chase for Happiness :: Learning to Love Life Right Now

wild goose chase: the fruitless pursuit of something unattainable

I have no money (for me) in my bank account. There are thousands of dollars in there but it's all savings for taxes, waiting for the bills to arrive or about to disappear when my makeup artist cashes her check. Thank goodness I have amazing parents who are fun to live with because my current lifestyle (that they're making possible) is is in a way different league than my current income. 

Sometimes I cut it too close and the numbers in the bank account are hover dangerously low near "0" and I panic and scold myself for eating lunch with Cheryl at the Thai restaurant instead of saying those embarrassing little words ("I can't afford it this month. It's not in my budget.") Why didn't I just woman-up and suggest a picnic?

I feel like it will all be much better when I have more clients. When I'm earning more money then all the money-stress will go away. But we all know that's not how life-economics works. We are slaves to our lifestyles. If you earn more money, you spend more money, upgrade and get served equally bigger bills = equally empty bank account = equally stressed-out!

Last night I was at my book club and our "Grapes of Wrath" conversation went down all these rabbit holes. 
Our golden lesson: We always think other people are better off. We always think things will be better if things change. We think we need more. We are on a wild goose-chase for happiness. It's time to learn to be content in the present.

These days I'm practicing slowing down & focusing on the 'now' and all the little things that make me happy TODAY. This man has made me happy every day for 5 1/2 years... 

"Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present." — Jim Rohn 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Getting More Clients by Specializing in One Photography Genre

"I'm not getting clients. I'm on Facebook & Twitter. I'm blogging. I'm getting a lot of mixed feedback; when I have a client they say they love their photos but then they don't buy them. My friends say my website looks great and I've had a couple inquiries; people asking for family photos or engagements but after I send them my pricing I never hear back from them. I would love to be successful photographing fashion portraits of women but I don't know how to make that happen. It seems much easier to book family shoots, even though that's not really what I want to do and I'm not making any money at it anyway. And if I switched to photographing just women, I would have to start from scratch. I don't know what to do. Maybe I'm not cut out for this." — A

Dear Friend,

Specialization is a beautiful thing. You know what you're most passionate about. Do that and just that. Stop spreading your energy thin across multiple genres hoping something will take flight. Instead, focus on what you love and make it happen. Make what you do outstandingly obvious to potential clients. Leave 0% room for confusion. Confusion => indecision => frustration => abandonment. When they arrive at your website, they should see your images immediately and know (without any confusion) what your specialty is. This will make their decision to hire you clear and easy => $$$ => :D 

You aren't making money with your current strategy. You have nothing to loose. Switch to photographing women. Make it your specialty. Become a master at this art of women's portraiture. All the business & marketing techniques can't propel you further forward until you're clear on your direction. 

Starting from scratch is also a beautiful thing. Leave all of your own confusion & frustration in the past. Take your lessons learned the hardway and get excited about this clean canvas! You get to define yourself and your artwork anew with more wisdom, experience & passion! Always search for the bright side :)

Lots of creative love,

PS: I really struggled with this decision to specialize when I was transitioning from weddings to women's portraiture. I was worried that all the hardwork I'd put into weddings would be wasted. I was convinced that I could make more money shooting weddings. I questioned if it was the right move to switch to a new genre just as I was getting my foothold in weddings (how could I ever become an expert if I kept jumping around?). Lots of late nights stress eating over this decision just made my jeans fit tighter. In the end, as you can see, I made the change and I'm grateful everyday that I mustered the courage to do it. #totallyworthit!

If you're struggling (or have struggled in the past) with specialization & switching genres, I would LOVE to hear your story. Please share your questions, feedback or advice for other readers in the comments below! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Confessions of a Sue Bryce Addict

So, I owe a lot to Sue Bryce. She's the photographer that inspired me to get involved in this genre of photography that celebrates women, beauty & self-esteem. For my first year, I did everything she said; I read her posts religiously and emulated her style with focused (a.k.a. obsessive workaholic) dedication. When I worked at creativeLIVE I was delighted to encounter Sue regularly in the cL studio & bars of Seattle. I was so excited to be in her presence and learn from her in person. When I quit working at creativeLIVE, I finally had time to really grow my own portrait studio and I put all of Sue's business techniques into practice. They worked like a charm.

But despite all of this glorious inspiration, there was a black seed festering in my belly. Words like jealousy, self-criticism, pride, selfishness & greed come to mind. I was so annoyed when people would use 'Sue Bryce' as a verb. I was so annoyed that I was constantly being compared to her by other people ... "Oh, so you're just like Sue Bryce?" In the beginning this was a huge compliment but then it became a ball & chain. How could I ever blossom into an original artist while Sue's name was hanging over my studio? I felt like she owned this genre of photography. She owned the word 'glamour.' She had invisible copyright on making women beautiful. 

This is the most embarrassing picture of my life (I can't believe I'm actually posting this - cringe) This is a photo of me sitting next to Sue in a bar. Kenna snapped a picture of me freaking out when Sue wasn't looking. It was the first time I'd met her in person. I felt like a glamour cockroach beside her. Plus, I was having a terrible hair/clothing/face day/week/year. Ugh. Never meet your heros my friends. It's not pretty ;P

I was so focused on trying to be just like Sue Bryce (a name that had become associated in my mind with success, glamour & perfection) that I was starting to step on my own toes. I was jealous because Sue Bryce was better at being Sue Bryce than I was. She was always one-uping me...I would be so proud of my photos and then I'd look at her website and realize just how much better she was than me, so much more advanced. And then I felt stupid because I'm a newbie and she's been running the race for 23 years... of course she's got her act together...but still, I was frustrated.

I realized the only remedy would be amputation. 1) Step away from creativeLIVE (I don't watch it anymore at all). 2) Step away from Sue Bryce. I unfollowed her on Facebook, Twitter, blogs & life. I no longer look at any of her images, workshops or posts. I have absolutely no idea what she is doing apart from the little rumors that trickle through the grape vine. I even stopped calling myself a 'glamour photographer' because of the associations and now I'm proudly wearing the very literal badge of 'women's portrait photographer.' So far, because of this divorce, life feels better again. I don't feel like a copy-cat anymore. There will always be similarities between my work & Sue's work because we're in the same photography genre, but I'm exploring on my own now, finding new inspiration, trying out my own ideas & having jealousy-free fun.

My good friend Cheryl Ford has a saying... "You do you." 
Stop worrying about other people & what they're doing. Stop trying to be like other people.
Focus on you, what you're doing, what you enjoy, what makes you happy, what your strengths are, what makes you shine and succeed. 

Forever and always I'll be grateful to Sue Bryce for her inspiration and mountains of help when I was getting started but from here on out, I'm flying solo. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Introducing Our New Family Member & Studio Mascot... Cara!

When Lilly the Glamour Kitty went missing last month, I sat on the deck crying for hours. She was SPECIAL. My mom said, "I know from experience that the best way to help mend a broken heart is to find someone else that it can love." So the next morning, we were in the car bombing down I-90 to the Seattle Humane Society. The night before we'd been scouring the pet profiles online. 

I was looking for a female kitten and with every search I did, I kept seeing this one cat. She looked a little crazy like a wild lion baby. No way was that a normal cat! Something unique about that one. Her name was 'Puffball' and she didn't look very "pretty" — my vainity struggled since Lilly had been such a gorgeous glamour kitty — how could I have a portrait studio mascot that wasn't pretty? Well, you would think that as a women's portrait photographer who's always rambling on about how ALL women are all gorgeous, I would see beyond but no.... I'm a superficial human like the best of 'em.

As we drove to the Humane Society, I strained to remember which shelter that crazy Puffball cat was at. I was tempted to adopt her solely on her unique-factor.

When we arrived all the little kittens were adorable and beside them this monster of a kitten was pressing her face to the cage, reaching her paws out. These decisions are so massive because you have no idea what you're getting into. She seemed nice but she wasn't Lilly (and I still just wanted Lilly, I guess). I was so tempted but we left to go look elsewhere. At Petsmart I found a cat that looked JUST LIKE LILLY! But then she tried to bite no. 

As we drove home, we were trying to justify going back for Puffball. I was thinking aloud and when I heard myself say "...there's something SPECIAL about her..." I knew she was the one. Of course, she's different than Lilly but what they have in common is that they are both special and that's really what I was looking for. 

Her online-dating profile had me thinking she had a good personality but she wasn't pretty. As it turns out, our beautiful kitten (7 months old) is actually gorgeous. She wants to cuddle all day long, she plays with the tulle in my studio, she's an adventurer in training (joining us on family roadtrips) & she loves peanut butter. 

We've named her Cara because it's pretty & she looks like a caracal and bonus points because her name in Irish means 'friend'. :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Welcome to America Miggy + Our Minimoon Roadtrip of the PNW

Miggy is here!!! After 9 months of waiting and Skyping he's finally here! He arrived last Tuesday and our reunion at the airport was well....weird. What do you say or do after such a long time apart?! It took us about an hour to feel normal again. We spent the first couple days treating our taste-buds at delicious vegan restaurants in downtown Seattle and we spent the night at the luxurious Willows Lodge (super special treat!) and of course we butted heads at an intense game of mini-golf. 
Miggy survived his first 4th of July with the family; a beverage-filled picnic dinner on the deck and a fireworks show in the horse pasture put on my brother Ian and his crew of boys. Of course, grandma was at the party waving her flag & sparkler :D

We went hiking with some of my friends from high school - out into the glorious PNW rainforests! It's a jungle out there! And these clever wee children were selling lemonade at the bottom of the trailhead! So we bought some...duh!

We followed up the celebrations with a roadtrip up the Pacific Northwest coast. 950 miles of driving, more trees than I knew existed, ice cream from the Tillamook Cheesefactory, sunset on Cannon Beach, a Twilight tour of Forks, Wa & a lot of sleeping in a tent on rocks. Cara (our kitten) came with us — she was nervous day one but by the end she was a traveling pro! Now she loves car rides. 

We're at home now, camping in our tent beside my veggie patch — firepit ready for s'mores! We're sleeping our in the stars & sunshine but it's time to get back to work! So while I'm returning the world of social media & Photoshop, Miggy is beginning his job-hunt & studying for his US driving test (which he's going to Ace!!) and Miss. Cara is busy hunting flies like a rockstar. 

Enjoy the summer sunshine, my friend!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Living Internally vs. Externally :: Mastering Mindfulness

I hid around the corner, wondering if he was there. I heard his voice. Deep breath... I flipped my hair, adjusted my skirt and stepped out with my best swagger. As I walked past him, all my attention was on him...I didn't look at him but all I could think about was "Is he looking at me?" .... "I feel pretty. Does he think I look pretty?" .... "Should I walk slower? If I walk faster then I'll pass by too quickly before he gets a chance to see me." .... "Should I look at him? If I look at him should I smile or just smize?"

I walk straight to the bathroom, glare at myself in the mirror and lock myself in a stall. "Why!? Chamonix, why!? All of your energy and focus is being sucked out of your body and washed down the drain that sits at his feet. You can't do your work properly. You can't think about anything else. He doesn't even notice you. He's not giving you anything and you're giving him everything."

It's the classic crush; infatuation so strong it consumes your entire being. All of your energy is being given away to something/someone outside of you, rather than being harnessed inside you to power you forward towards your dreams, goals & happiness.

I call this "Living Externally vs. Internally". It's been a struggle for me since junior high and boys are the worst culprit. Especially for someone like me who enjoys yoga, meditation and all that mindfulness jazz. I like to feel present and in control of my mind & body. When I'm living 'externally', i.e. allowing my focus to drain away for someone else — I'm so focused on the world around me, I'm not listening to what's going on inside. Usually, during these moments, my insides are a roller coaster of adrenaline & false hope. The mentality is "Do I look cool?" 

When I'm living 'internally' I'm at the top of my mindfulness A-game. I'm grounded, centered, balanced. When I walk into the room the mentality is "I'm cool." and I'm not even thinking about who's looking at me let alone what they are thinking. 

Giving these emotions labels (internal living / external living) has given me a tool to deal with these moments effectively. Giving it a label, gives me control and reminds me how I really want to be, how I really want to live my life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

101 Years of Beauty | Dorothy at 92

My good friend Lorenna met us in the parking lot and led the way, straight passed the reception — "I never sign in!" she said — and down the corridor to a door that had a pretty sign on it that read "Dorothy White." Dorothy was waiting for us in her apartment filled with singing teddy bears, beautiful scarves & her souvenirs from her time spent in India. I was pleasantly surprised by her playful sense of  humour and throughout our entire photo shoot I had a hard time keeping my camera still because I was so busy laughing :) She put up with a lot for us and when I thanked her for cooperating she came back with, "I just want to be praised. I'm good person." ha! What a character. Thank you Lorenna for introducing me to your dear friend Dorothy and thank you Dorothy for representing the beauty of women at age 92!