Friday, August 30, 2013

Accordion Books — Why They're Wonderful for Photographers & Clients

Oh, the little accordion book. It's cute, super affordable and makes it possible for you to display an entire collection of photos in one happy little package. I started offering them a few months ago and they fly off the shelf. I love them so much, I decided to write a blog-post biography of these little wonders for you.....

The Hard Facts
  • I order mine from ProDPI — a professional print lab in Colorado, USA. Love these guys!
  • They come in sets of three. 
  • They can close by magnet or little ribbons. 
  • The cover can be a smooth printed photograph or fabric. The fabric comes in silk & linen and when it comes to colours... hot pink... name it. (I stick with "Black Onyx Silk" because that's my brand — sometimes I wish I'd chosen pink or purple for my company because they're sooo preeetty! No, but seriously I do LOVE how using black keeps the focus on the images — it's not distracting.)
  • The accordion paper itself is thick card stock. This is durable but not archival. If taken care of well then it will last a long time but there is no UV protection so overtime the color will fade. 
  • You can choose from multiple finishes (matte, luster, pearl etc...). I choose pearl because the images are quite small and that little extra sparkle on the paper helps bring the photographs to life — they jump off the page with a little extra pop. 
  • Accordion booklets can be square or rectangular. 
  • You can have lots of little images inside or one loooong image. 
  • All three books are identical. 
  • Each book has two sides — the front/inside has 6 spaces + the back/outside has 4 spaces. I fill up one space on the inside with my logo which leaves me with 5 spaces on the inside & 4 on the back. 
  • You can orientate images vertically or horizontally or mix it up with both. 

What Clients Can Do With Them
  • They are fabulous gifts. 
  • If you want to keep them all for yourself, you can put one on your desk, one in your purse and one on your coffee table. 
  • You can keep one for yourself and ship one book to each set of grandparents. 
  • You can store two of them in a safe and bring them out when the first one has worn out or gets lost. 
  • If you're a family or children's portrait photographer you could encourage parents to save the books and give them to their children when they grow up and move out — that way every member of the family has the same photo book.

What Photographers Can Do With Them
  • They can be sold on their own as the main course OR you can sell them as a side dish — a beautiful accompaniment to a larger canvas. 
  • If you're a wedding photography you can surprise your bride & groom with this as a special little 'thank you' gift after the wedding — use their favourite wedding images and tell them they can keep one book for themselves and then give the other two books to each set of parents. They aren't too expensive and you could build their cost into your package.
  • You can also use these images as a portable mini portfolio. Keep one book in the studio, one in your purse and one at your home. The book in the purse is the most important. Just think, instead of saying "Hey, I'm a photographer — check out my portfolio on my iPhone," you could say, "Hey, I'm a photographer — here's my portfolio [hand them an accordion book]." — NOTHING beats touch when it comes to photography — holding a print in your hand is gold!
  • Market the accordion books as a more affordable option for clients with lower budgets. You can justify the lower cost because the product is not archival.

Everyone Out There — Would you buy accordion books for yourself? Why / why not? 

Photographers — do you sell accordion books? Any other ideas for how clients or photographers can use them?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Good Reads :: Hungry for Change

Every couple weeks I have tea at my neighbor's house (her name's Heather). Without fail, every time she sends me home balancing a wobbly stack of books in my arms. I read slower than a slug so I'm probably stocked up with reading material for the next two years. One of the books she lent me this summer is "Hungry for Change" — I watched the documentary first. The movie was cool because you get to "meet" all of the people that are mentioned in the book. The 1st half of the book (100pgs) is all the good info + the 2nd half is all recipes (I haven't tried cooking anything yet). 

This book has got me more excited about drinking water than anything else I've ever heard about hydration. It's also got me thinking of sugar in a new way... as a DRUG. For a couple years now I've been avoiding the sweet stuff because I read a book called "Sugar Blues" which gets you thinking about how harmful sugar is for us and how the food industries rely on us being addicted to the stuff and willing to overlook or underestimate the bad effects. Anyway, this book explore into the sugar issue from a new angle that has renewed my desire to eat cleaner food for my health & happiness. 

The basic idea is this: many of our illnesses, diseases & problems in life are linked to our diet. We can avoid these sicknesses all together simply by cleaning up our diet — saving lots of health care bills, adding years to our life + making the years we do have even better. So much of this comes down to eliminating SUGAR — it's way more harmful than we think.

More energy, healthier, happier, fitter, sharper-minded, avoiding medicine & hospitals, and feeling more connected & enthusiastic about life - I think it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conquering Work-Life Balance with Primitive Activities

Work-life balance. Massive challenge for most of us — especially photographers. But how to do you off that hamster wheel of work? Day after day — computer all day long — Photoshop taking over your life — wondering when you'll be able to sit out in the sunshine without feeling the need to check your emails or tweet something? It's like an addiction that consumes your life. 

I've been asking around lately and I'm starting to see a pattern. Everyone needs to find an interest that is 'primitive.' Something that takes you back to the basics. For me it's gardening (& singing...LOVE singing!). Feeling the soil wiggling through my toes (I garden barefoot FYI). For my friend Sophie, it's playing with children. For my friend Dana, it's running. For Miggy, it's being in water. 

You have to find an interest that is disconnected from the worldwideweb of technology and constant data transfer. You have to find something that you enjoy doing that will be there even if all of our modern technology were to black out and leave us in the dark ages. Something that is REAL.

When you're doing this activity, your mind can wonder freely. It can think about work if it wants to — this is the time when your work problems can be solved with the least amount of stress. It's a time when you get to explore what's going on inside your mind and deal with it. If you don't want to deal with it, it's a time for your mind to focus on other things that are comforting and enjoyable. 

I wonder how many 'primitive activities' are out there. What is yours?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Relating to the Older Women I Photograph

Photographing older women (and I don't mean old women...just women who are older than me) can be an intimidating experience. I think I get all psyched out because I have no way of knowing what's going on inside their heads. I know what teenage girls are thinking - what they like - what they want to look like etc... I know what girls around my own age want. But it's hard for me to relate to how older women are feeling about themselves and what they want their photo shoot experience to be like. 

Sure I can guess. I get feedback here and there. But my confidence isn't as strong when I'm creating an experience for them. I don't know if their bodies will be able or comfortable in some of the poses. I don't know if they need their glasses to read the model release. I don't know if they want to wear "mature clothes" or prance around in a tutu. I'm afraid they just humor me — rolling their eyes in amusement as they wear a tutu as a sign of support for a young business woman tryin' to make it in this economy. 

I know this makes me sound age-ist or something but I'm just trying to be honest. I'm more than happy to treat them like I treat ALL women in the studio. I mean they are still just women, after all. Maybe I over think it. I'm just trying to be sensitive to other people's feelings. It's tricky water to navigate. Oh and there's the whole issue of being in the leadership role in my studio but feeling strange 'bossing' around older people because I'm fresh out of school — a world where age determines rank. I guess the age difference makes me feel young, inexperienced, unsure of my mission and message. I'd like to think that I come across as being sooo fabulously mature for my age and nobody has any idea that these thoughts are going through my mind. No doubt this will all fall into place naturally over time. Plus, as I age, every year I can relate to another age of women, right!? Plus side.

The first woman I photographed who was older than me was Jan (see photo below!). I'd been photographing women for maybe 2 weeks at this point. I was super enthusiastic, bounding with energy and wondering if I was going down the right path. Her story confirmed for me that photographing women was exactly how I want to spend my life. Read Jan's story here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Life is Getting REAL real Fast

We are scared. For the first time in our lives, Miggy and I are having to make some grown-up decisions and start living life for real. We got married straight out of university & we've been living with our parents ever since (for the past 2 years). Life has been easy for us. Everything's comfortable. Now we're getting ready to move out, find jobs and live on our own. We're in the final stages of deciding where to live. We've spent weeks researching warm sunny possibilities. San Diego, Phoenix, & Hawaii were all on the list. Portland & San Francisco sounded great but the weather scared us away. 

We've worried about whether we'll have enough money. Can we afford to live in a neighborhood that isn't dangerous? How will we get our cat there? How will we pay bills while we search for jobs? Will I keep my photography business going...full/part time? Can I work for a while and then resume my business? Shall I continue building my portfolio while I'm gone. If I get a job with a paycheck (ahh that sounds nice) will I miss my self-employment freedom too much? Will I miss my grandma too much? What about Cheryl & Hanna. I'm so sad to move away from them. Will all my photography buddies be really disappointed in me for leaving them with unfinished projects? I feel bad about that. How can we keep working together from long-distance? How can we keep thePhotoChicks podcast going? I'm 100% up for finding a way to make it work. 

If I were a single lady I think I wouldn't be so worried. I'm a plunger — I dive right into adventures. I think I do this because otherwise I'll talk myself out of it. It's the same whether I'm starting a business or jumping off a cliff into the ocean. I just have to go, go, don't think, just go!! Miggy on the other hand is a calculator. I mean, the man has jumped off a 60ft cliff into the Mediterranean (nuts, right?!) but when it comes to moving out of our comfort zone into the big adult world, he's been a research junkie. We did 10hrs of math this week — using Mr. Ben Franklin's pro's & con's strategy (see chart below haha!). Our top result confirmed what we already thought... Southern Cali or Hawaii. So we're job & house hunting this week. I've applied to a bunch of jobs. I actually have an interview on tomorrow. We have some dates in mind and our stomachs are tied into knots.  Life's going to get real, real soon. Ugh. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Changing Photography Styles & Updating Your Portfolio

super bright— desaturation — painterly — dark & moody — realistic — fresh — high contrast — low contrast — high saturation color — black and white

My photography style has morphed all over the field in the past two years. I started off over-editing — cringy worthy! I dreamed of a day when I would be able to take a picture that just looked life-like — bright fresh realistic colours. Then I learned the beauty of over-exposing slightly as it create glowy skin and clear detail. Then I moved into my Seattle studio. The light was so dark in the Pacific Northwest winter and I was on earth could I get glowy smooth skin in this dark basement? I was underexposed on so many shots and I learned how to embrace the shadows. My style got a little moodier. Then I started playing around on Photoshop and making my photographs look like paintings. Then I got lazy and stopped editing. I just delivered realistic life-like portraits to my clients. But these bored me. I felt bad and uninspired. Life-like is beautiful BUT it's no longer my style. I've fallen in love with the painterly effects. I want to my portfolio to look less like a photographer's and more like a painters. I want to 'paint with light.' 

As I've watched myself transition through these stages, my website portfolio has gotten sloppier and sloppier — different styles side-by-side. I fear it confuses my potential clients. There are so many different styles there - there's no way they could know what to expect. Sometimes they would request a certain style but I can't always deliver that and sometimes their photographs don't look good with that style. You will end up shooting whatever you show on your website. My clients kept asking me for bright fresh portraits. But what I love are the dark moody images these days. My fear was that nobody would want the dark portraits BUT maybe the people out there who DO like dark portraits don't realize I offer that because they only see the bright photos? See my problemo?

So I've been taking some time to reassess. I've sorted through my portfolio. What do I love? How do I shoot differently to create each of these styles? Which photos are out of date? What am I going to keep? It's a challenging and fun exercise. I dare you to try it!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don't Just Accept Your Body... Embrace It

Man! Will there ever be a day when I look in the mirror and completely LOVE what I see? Most of us live in the future; looking forward to a better day when we are thinner, bustier & less-pimply. One day we'll get our acts together and finally be our ideal selves. But what if that day never comes? Are we going to be looking back at our lives, wishing we'd appreciated our young supple bodies when we had them? Are we going to moan about how we look until the day we die?

My grandma was complaining today about how much weight she's gained. She's going to my cousins' winging in Florida this week (he's becoming a Naval helicopter pilot) and we were trying on new outfits for her to wear on this trip. My mom and I thought she looked great but grandma kept staring at her tummy in their mirror — it was her main concern and nothing we said could change her perspective. I completely sympathize with how she feels but it made me realize that growing older is NOT the solution to self-esteem & body-image issues. You have to stare them in the face and take them down right now...regardless of what your age is. If you can't figure out how to be happy in the present, you'll never be happy in the future.

If I don't like something about myself I have two options:

A) Do something about it. Lose weight. Have a makeover. Go to the doctor. Whatever it takes. 
B) Embrace it. Don't just 'accept' it. Don't resign yourself to how you look. It's not just shrugging your shoulders and saying "Oh well, I'll live with it." Embracing how you look is empowering. It's a decision to focus on the positive.... what you like about your features, how they contribute to your life and make it better. Don't shrug it off, own it! It's easier said than done — it's a lifelong series of choices and actions — a journey of developing self-love. It may take a long time but that time is going to be passing you by anyway.

embrace (verb) hold someone (or something) in one's arms, esp. as a sign of affection

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Draw, Ignore the Fear & Give Yourself Creative Freedom

You know that feeling you get when you've just created something really pretty and you wonder if you should add more or leave it alone? Quit while you're ahead or push the boundaries!? It's a tough call and it's so disappointing when you decide to add more and then it all gets messed up — total disappointment :( So this morning when I sat down to draw, I challenged myself / gave myself permission to keep going until I hit the final wall — until I was no longer curious about what else I could do. I wanted to experiment with letting my creativity explore free of fear of messing up. Where would I go without holding back? (I took a photograph every stage of the way as insurance.) Right out of the gate my blue eraser stained the paper blue. Great.... 

First, I drew the hydrangea flowers with pencil. Then I tried shading. Still not happy. So I painted their outlines but that just looked so cheesy. I started smearing the watercolour paints but that just looked messy. Could I save it? Then I started throwing the paint because I LOVE splattered watercolours! It starts splashing onto her face and I was worried it would look weird to have spots on her face but I kept going. Then I grabbed my can of gold glitter spraypaint! I tried to give her golden hair but accidentally sprayed across her cheek. I tried to rub the paint off with a wet tissue but it turned her whole check blue. I rubbed the blue off with a dry tissue but it tore the paper and smudged all the pencil. FAIL. 

I took the image into Photoshop and retouched her skin smooth :) Hooray for retouching! Then I dropped it into Exposure 4  and added some funky effects & pasted on my logo. It makes me think of a postcard that I'd find in a crafty little bookstore that sells notebooks and Kindle covers that make you wish you could buy them all. ha! 

So, VOILA!! That's my creative challenge for this week — start drawing and don't stop until you literally run out of ideas or reach excited satisfaction — IGNORE the fear of messing up & take photos along the way! Id' love to see what you come up with! Tag me in your photo(s) or email your creation to me at HAVE FUN!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Designing New Watermarks for My Photography Artwork

Oh what a dilemma. A headache...that's fun & addictive. When it comes to design, branding & editing photograph, I slip into creative quicksands so darn fast and get reeeaal stuck. It's because I love all the possibilities and I thrive off of the freshness of switching things up regularly — when I was a kid I would rearrange my bedroom at least once a month — nothing's changed. When I first started my photography business I wasted days of my life switching between logos that in retrospect were pretty terrible. Now I've made some progress and things are lookin' a little classier but I still love the thrill of updating my 'look.' 

Last week I spent a couple hours playing in Photoshop. Having guidelines that keep my brand identity consistent really helps because it gives me room to play within a defined box. I know I'm not going to go adventuring with completely random fonts. I ALWAYS and ONLY use Century Gothic & Garamond. I have the flexibility to just use my name, combine my name with my job description (Women's Portrait Photographer) or website or signature. I can use a border around my photographs of paste my watermark logo directly onto the image. I can have the typed name in the border and the signature on the image — this makes it look more like painted artwork. 

I do struggle with the choice between using the pretty swirly signature that looks gorgeous and artsy but is hard to read AND the less interesting but very legible typed name. At the end of the day the whole point of putting my name on the photo is to help the viewer identify the artist and be able to find me if they want to hire me, right? I like have words on the image but I also don't want the words to distract from the subject.

Oh the possibilities will drive ya completely bonkers but ever since I set some rules for myself I've found designing things for my business is more enjoyable and less stressful. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming images that will have my new watermarks! 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Hunt for Our Future

Miggy and I have been on job websites for days. We've been sitting in the forest, talking in the car, staying awake late into the night. What are we going to do? We've been wrestling with possibilities and exhausted with the stress that comes with making big decisions. 

We've spent multiple summers/years living in our parents homes and we are feeling the itch to get out into the world and spread out young adult wings. We are tired of counting pennies when we go grocery shopping. We dream of having date nights that require more formal attire and being able to visit our friends around the world. Miggy wants dogs. I want to buy organic vegetables (lots of them!...from the farmer's market). I long for peace of mind — no longer having to worry about being able to pay the bills next month and not having to use credit cards. I don't have any debt right now but any minute a bill might arrive that might force me to swipe the card. 

Anywho, I love being home in my Snoqualmie valley, with my beautiful baby vegetable garden, a FREE big photography studio, a FREE bedroom, and lots of shared food BUT we're starting to feel that itch to move on. Our criteria is sunny weather for Migs, warm weather for me, we like being near the water, we'd enjoy having a place of our own, space for me to grow vegetables (pots will suffice for the time being), and steady paychecks that pay bills and make future dreams come true and sparkly. It's such a rough decision, especially the idea of leaving behind loved ones and awesome teammates, but we've reached the end of the sidewalk and we've got to jump somewhere.

We're thinking California & Hawaii. Any suggestions my friends?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Wardrobe for my Portrait Studio — A Black Tutu & A Floral Shoulder Piece

Last Christmas I made my first tutu — GIANT and snowy white. I let it sit on the mannequin for months, thinking that it was 'too extreme' for the average woman! I was waiting for some rockstar diva that sleeps in high heels. Silly me, making stupid assumptions. Then one day I nervously said, "Maybe you'd want to try on the tutu?" And then BOOM.... I learned my lesson. I offer the tutu to every woman who comes in my studio and I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't feel gorgeous as she glides around the studio in tulle. But the time has come for some variety! I made another tutu this week, fluffier - multiple layers that are all different lengths! This time I used my mom's sewing machine and the tasks was easy-peasy — I didn't even prick my finger once! I boiled the skirt for an hour in black fabric dye and hung it outside off the deck in the sunshine to dry. Of course, once on the mannequin, I needed to spice the outfit up a little with a gorgeous floral shoulder piece! It's my first time making a floral piece like this — it's all pinned together at the moment but later this week I'll plop on a good movie and stitch it all into place. 

Yesterday, one of the most beautiful 15 year old girls in the whole world come to my studio for a photo shoot with her mom & her grandma and she let me photograph her in the new black tutu! She had so much fun — she was literally dancing in frontof the mirror and throwing the fabric around even before I picked up my camera. Stay tuned for those portraits — coming later this month!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reality Check on My Business — Surviving Not Thriving

I'm just surviving with my photography business...not thriving (I can't save any money so we can eventually move out of my parents' house). I'm struggling to motivate myself to work in my studio space, feeling embarrassed by asking clients to come to my home with all the animals roaming around, tractors in the garden, my brother's mechanics garage & beat up cars hanging around, unfinished construction projects everywhere, hodgepodge furniture, a grass entrance (poor women who arrive wearing heels), some broken glass around the door frame (rubble from my brother's childhood airgun battles) and even just having a bathtub in the bathroom. The space is really designed to be a living area or bedroom and I've been struggling to get it to feel like an artist's studio. It's hard to run a creative business in a space that doesn't have my own style & inspirational energy (just humor me here). Plus, I just feel like I don't have enough division in the space — an area for makeup, viewing, shooting etc... they all just jumble together. I know I'm super lucky to have what I have — much more luxurious than many photographers I know working from their homes. It's all relative but knowing that doesn't help me much. 

I realized I'm avoiding marketing because I'm afraid of getting more clients because then I would have to host them in my studio and deliver a high-end customer experience — which is hard to do, very tiring and only made more difficult by this location. I'm burned-out from 2yrs of workaholic behaviour and I'm afraid of falling back into the pattern. I've really fallen behind this summer — offering less than golden service (not serving my signature cookies, not playing music, not burning candles, taking forever to reply to emails and deliver orders, taking simple pretty portraits instead of pushing the envelop and creating original artwork for women). I just don't feel like the experience I'm offering at the moment is matching up to the high prices that I need to charge. This discord is really off-putting and I'm left feeling like I don't want to work at all. Plus, as lovely as it can be working from home, it's also a great challenge for me to feel the focus and productivity - always getting distracted by animals, husbands, gardens, kitchens etc... Would having a commercial space  — a designated professional work space — help all these issues? 

I've also been watching my portfolio get more and more chaotic by the minute. My photography style is changing and I need to reorganize my website, branding materials and client experience to make sure I continue to offer a consistent product that has a clearly defined ideal client. I have two different styles that I love and I've had to pick which direction I want to head in. I've gotten a little confused along the way and this needs to be sorted out.... but I'm at the starting line looking at a very long marathon. Exciting but ughhh. 

Is it worth renting a commercial space to turn into my studio? It's a risk. I could 'waste' that rent money when my bank account is already having tummy grumbles. But is it one of these risks that will pay off? Will the new space offer that more professional environment that will encourage more clients and higher spending? What should I do? 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to Make Your Photography Brand Consistent & Recognizable

Today, we're talking about brand consistency. Once you have a brand, it's your job to make sure that the world knows who you are. Our brains LOVE repetition. They say you have to see an advertisement 3 times before it makes an impact on your mind. That's why you're starting to see shampoo companies paying for 3 back-to-back pages in magazines. It's the same ad, three times. In your face. It wouldn't work if each of those pages was a different design, with different colors or a different layout. The consistency is strengthening the brand's presence in your mind.

This is where it gets fun! As far as I'm concerned, the whole world is a magazine! Place your ad everywhere you possibly can. Not just the obvious places. Get creative. Branding opportunities are everywhere!! Plus, with a clear brand and a desire for consistency, most of those tough decisions (like which slippers to buy lol) will be made for you...easy breezy!

Check out this video I made sharing some of the ways I have fun branding my own business. Enjoy!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Use False Eyelashes? — Q&A with Makeup Artist Hanna Mazur

False eyelashes! They go on 99.9% of the women I photograph because they add that extra ouuu-la-la! I'm always surprised how many women have never worn them before coming to my studio. As a professional dress-up-player, false eyelashes are part of my everyday existence (even though I hardly ever wear them myself - ha! probably because when I do wear them I refuse to take them of for days!). My clients are always asking about eyelashes so I recruited my favorite makeup artist, Hanna Mazur, to write a wee Q&A blog post for you! How awesome is she! Enjoy learning my friends.... 

Q: What do false eyelashes feel like?
A: The longer and more dramatic the lash, the heavier the lash will feel. Figuratively it feels like two giant butterflies sitting on lashes, :) They definitely take some time to get used to, but once skillfully applied, clients forget they have false lashes on 5 minutes after the application.

Q: How long do false eyelashes stay on?
A: I recommend removing them by the end of the day, they are not lash extension and can thus are not meant to be worn for more than a day.

Q: How do you take off false eyelashes?
A: I recommend applying a little bit of olive oil or an eye makeup remover on a q-top on the strip of the lash, waiting a minute or 2  and then gently start removing them starting from the outer corner of the eye.

Q: What type of eyelashes you use and the type of glue? 
A: I use a lot of Ardell or Red Cherries Lashes. The style varies depending on the eye shape and the look desired. Generally, the taller the person is, the more dramatic lash they can pull off.

Q: Should I use strips vs individual false eye lashes? 
A: Individual lashes are a great alternative to strip lashes. Although they do require a more precise application, they look more natural and forgiving. Most clients who have never had false eyelashes applied are more open to trying individual lashes first. Depending on the style of makeup choose the appropriate glue color, e.g clear for natural, black for more dramatic. My favorite lash glue is by Duo Lash Adhesive by Ardell.

Q: Are false eyelashes really necessary for the photo shoot?
A: Do not feel pressured: although they do produce a phenomenal dramatic effect, false lashes are not a must. If you are not sure of not comfortable having a lash on, there are other techniques which can produce similar effect (although less dramatic), and a knowledgeable make up artist will recommend. Lash glue does content latex, and it is definitely something to consider for people who are allergic to it. 

Hope this helps!


Thank you Hanna! & Thank you Rachel Tuttle for modeling your beautiful eyes for the photo series above!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Video Tour of the Photography Studio

New furniture & DIY tasks! My photography studio is getting a little makeover. Last night I grabbed my iPhone and recorded a wee improv studio tour for you! Any interior design advice is super welcome — we need it lol :D