Thursday, July 31, 2014

Remove Steps & Make Things Easier to Increase Your Success Rate

Ok, weird mystery. I love blogging for myself but I hate creating blogs for the Happy Film Company. What's with that? I dread it and I procrastinate it and then two weeks later I realize I haven't blogged a family photo shoot and I'm fallin' behind and gettin' stressed and oh help.

Likewise, I have these fantastic writing spells where I blog here everyday for a weekend and then a creative drought arrives and you guys don't hear from me for a month. Again....what the heck?

I work at a yoga studio near my house and I get an awesome employee benefit - unlimited yoga classes. Lucky much? But day after day I struggle to get myself to yoga mat. Clearly my years of blaming my 'lack of yoga' on 'lack of money' is a theory that is flying out the window as we speak.

So this leaves me wondering...why do I have things in my life that I want to do....but don't do.
Maybe it's because I have so many thoughts in my mind, so many events on my calendar, that these little tasks seem daunting. My favorite motto that helps me with tricky conundrums like this....Simplify Simplify Simplify — Henry David Thoreau 

Every difficult task, break it down into small pieces and figure out which pieces make you suffer the most. See if you can remove those pieces or change them to make them easier to swallow. It's like Canned Responses in Gmail. If you don't have to type out your name at the end of every single email, that's one less thing you have to do, which makes it one step easier to get through your inbox each day.

I've started making little changes, like keeping my yoga mat in the car - always ready to go. I now schedule my appointments & photo shoots so they end just in time for me to make it to the next yoga class on the schedule.

Up until this week, I've always uploaded a photo of myself at the bottom of every blog post. For some silly reason my blogging platform still doesn't allow you to create signatures or templates. Whaaaat??? I know. So anyway, that 30 seconds of uploading a photo is a pain every time and I'm so over it! I've stopped including that picture and already blogging is a little easier for me. It makes me kinda sad because I like including my photo at the end of of my posts because I think it make it more personal but if that step is tripping me up and making me avoid blogging, it's probably not worth it right now. Sacrifices.

When you're struggling to do something in your life or business, step back and look at the specific steps that you're dreading. See if you can change one little step and maybe the whole experience will change too! :D


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Export Photos Out of Lightroom with Different File Names & Rename Files After Export

One of my favorite things about having wonderful photographers who are part of the Happy Film Company team is that they send me questions. I love questions because I love teaching photography and questions give me inspiration for new material. Like this little video I made last night on special request for one of the girls. Her question was how to export files from Lightroom and give them different names. Now, there is a fantastic chance I've totally misinterpreted her question and I'm about to take you guys on a 4.5 minute rabbit chase down a very unhelpful hole. But fingers-crossed, I got it right and this video will answer this question for everyone out there who is wondering.

How do I rename photos when I export photos from Lightroom?

Oh, you're not going to believe this. After writing the paragraph above, I double checked the text messages on my phone and realized that she was totally asking me a different question. So I guess I jinxed myself. haha After reconsideration, I think this is the question she was asking...

How do I rename files AFTER I've exported them from Lightroom?

haha If I still haven't gotten the question right, please try asking me again Miss. V. ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adventure Inspiration from the Couch :: Laura Dekker's Maidentrip

I lie on the couch, staring out the window towards the beautiful Cascade Mountain range and wonder to myself...why am I lying on the couch? I felt like I should totally have been up in the mountains. But all I really wanted to do was lounge around and watch TV. Don't worry - not the channel flicking kind of TV. I pretty much gave that up in high school. Nowadays when I watch TV it is always on Netflix / Hulu and at least has some purpose behind it rather than looking around for whatever is on.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, the sun was shining and I decided to watch a documentary (I love docos!) called Maidentrip about the Laura Dekker - the youngest person to circumnavigate the world as a solo-sailor. I'm so totally loving my adventure documentaries these days. They are so inspirational. As the final credits rolled onto the screen I felt this urge to go adventuring too. But the reality is, my knees suck too much to let me be a mountaineer, I don't own a bike, and I currently have no experience working on a boat. So I probably have a long way to go.

But it dawned on my, I have my camera and although I do say so myself, I ain't that bad at using it. For the 30th time in the last month, I started daydreaming about being an adventure photographer / film maker. I love the idea of documenting exciting and inspirational adventures. So far I have one part of that puzzle - camera skills. Now I just need to start venturing off the couch. haha

What adventures are you dreaming of today?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

THFC Photographer Critiques :: Recomposition & Cropping Under Trees

Light glowing through trees — without a doubt this is my new favorite thing about being a Seattle family photographer in the spring/summer time. Trees trees and more trees...give me more trees! 

So I was pumped when Victoria (one of amazing photographers who works for my family photography business, the Happy Film Company) did a shoot together last month under the tall trees at Greenlake Park in Seattle. After I posted the pictures on the blog, Victoria emailed me asking why her pictures from this location were not included in the final collection. 

I made her this little video to explain how to recompose photographs to really show off the beauty of tall trees and make them look amazeballs with people standing/sitting underneath them. The main trick to showing off trees in family portraits is tilting your camera upwards. You can get down low on the ground (yes, even on your belly) and then focus on the family. Hold the focus (don't let it go!) and tilt the camera up until the family is at the bottom of the frame and you can see all the glorious leaves above. #awesome

Did I mention I love trees? haha

Great job Miss. Victoria for taking beautiful pictures and thank you for being my example in this video.

Monday, July 14, 2014

thePhotoChicks Podcast — Golden Oldies & New Interviews

When was the last time you sat around laughing at yourself? For Miss Cheryl Ford, apparently that's all the time. haha (Sorry for the spotlight Cheryl.) I just love it when Cheryl sends me a text and tells me she's listening to our old podcast episodes and laughing out loud. It's pretty shameful but we do find ourselves hilarious — I think that's a good thing though. haha Those were the good old days of thePhotoChicks, when Cheryl and Chamonix spilled their guts about photography business and life and we went on tangents about cupcakes and road-trips and laughed hysterically at nothing. Nowadays, we're still having fun but we've cranked up the cool factor on our podcast.

We are now interviewing other photographers every week, asking them all the same set of questions and hearing about their personal journeys in the photography industry. Even if no one ever listened to our episodes, Cheryl and I would still keep this podcast going. We are so inspired by every photographer we meet (on Skype) haha and each 30 minute episode is an amazing outlet, a little change from the everyday march of running a business.

We love hearing from our photography buddies and interview alumni who send us little messages and Instagram photos when they're listening to thePhotoChicks. Apparently, our show is great entertainment while you edit photos. Perfect! That's exactly what we want and it's so rewarding to be contributing to the photography community in this uber-techie way. We love it.

If you'd like to listen to thePhotoChicks podcast, here are some of our most recent episodes (and some of the golden oldies). Enjoy!!

Interviews:Interview with Naomi Levit — Wedding & Portrait Photographer (Hawaii)
Interview with Katie Cann-McTaggart — Seattle Wedding & Portrait Photographer (Seattle)
Interview with Tobin Smith — Glamour Portrait Photographer (Vancouver, Canada)
Interview with Carly Bish — Wedding & Portrait Photographer (Seattle)
Interview with Melissa Kilner — Wedding Photographer (Seattle)

Golden Oldies:
Mistakes We Made in Our First Year of Business
Annoying Things About Photographers
Business Dreams & Photography Fantasies


Sunday, July 13, 2014

{Grateful on Sunday} Bringin' Home the Benjamins & the Gorgeous Pacific Northwest

Things are falling into place. It feels so good when you work so hard and finally you start to see results. This past month, my bank account has started growing and I set up my IRA and a brokerage account and people are starting to book photo shoots because they're finding me on Google organically (which still feels like a complete miracle!) and I've been able to make some fairly big purchases (like a new computer monitor and harddrives) without feeling guilty or going in debt. Feels good. Very good. It's especially rewarding because I've been making this money out of what feels like nothing. Granted "nothing" means like three years of 24/7 working and thousands of dollars on equipment, software, and workshops but whateva... it feels like nothin' haha Don't think I'm some gangsta swimmin' in a pool of hundred dollar bills or anything. I mean, we're talking a couple thousand dollars. That's it but it's so much to me. :D #feelinglikeabigshot This week (a.k.a. month) I am so grateful for this financial growth! 

I am also so grateful for officially launching the Maui branch of my family photography business (the Happy Film Company) and seeing Seattle & Maui side by side on my website,

 trees, trees, and more glorious evergreen trees everywhere I go, 

the beautiful sunset on the valley that I get to watch everynight,

finally starting to understand how the stock market works and dipping my toes in,  

going to Value Village with my brother and finding this gorgeous green creature, 

and then taking that gorgeous green creature home with us and laughing THE WHOLE WAY home as I drove behind them,

publishing my very first wedding video, 

FINALLY after three years of putting up with my broke-ass-but-still-clingin'-to-life-card-reader...I bought a shiny new one!

discovering a crazy delicious recipe that everyone is asking for,

treating myself to a girl's date with my neighbor and getting Shellac for the first time,

#PNW views from the middle of Lake Washington (views so good they nearly make you crash your car),

 colorful houses, 

driving with the sunset behind me, 


homemade cake for breakfast, 

pretty letters from friends,

getting green juice as a surprise gift from Cheryl who couldn't stomach it haha,

taking action and buying my new computer monitor #makeithappen

 wild daisies,

my iPhone that lets me take pretty pictures all day long (easily a.k.a. without having to haul around my gigantic camera) 

the color of the trees when the sunset hits them, 

What are you grateful for today?


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pricing Your Photography by Demand Instead of by Principle

"$10,00, Are you kidding me?" the lady said to Picasso. "You only took 5 minutes to do that sketch. Isn't $10,000 a lot for 5 minutes of work?" — “The sketch may have taken me five minutes, but the learning took me 30 years,” Picasso retorted.
Photographers love throwing this story around. It's a way to make yourself feel better when people tell you your photography prices are too expensive. It's like we have to remind ourselves that we are amazingly talented "artistes" and our digital images are "priceless works of art". Well, I'm kinda over it. 

I'm tired of watching people's faces fall when they look at my prices. I'm tried of explaining why a digital image is more valuable than a print. I'm tired of puffing up my chest and pretending to be some fancy million-dollar artist that I'm not (yet).

I want to stop charging prices based on principle and start charging prices based on demand. 
I'm not going to charge $3,000 for a box of photos because "that's what I should charge because I'm a fancy-pants talented artist that's worked hard to get where I am and now you get to pay me for it." 
I'm going to charge $3,000 only when there are 3,000 people banging down my door begging me to photograph them and they're all offering to pay me $4,000 to be first in line.
The price increases because there is demand. 

I think it's ridiculous to charge through-the-roof prices when you're just getting started and your inbox is empty and your voicemail-box is empty and your bank account is....empty. Some people say that slapping that high price tag on your website right from the beginning will make you look more experienced and desirable. They say it's important to enter the photography market "at the right level" rather than trying to climb up the ladder. (I totally bought into all of this when I was starting my business.) 

I agree that you shouldn't sell yourself short and market yourself as a "budget" photographer when you want to be a luxury photography. Not a good idea. But if your goal is to be a luxury photography, the reality is ... you're probably going to take a few years to get there. Your prices will be much lower now than they will be in the future. Fact. Accept that fact and be comfortable with charging a fair but modest amount now. 

A lower (more realistic) price point will make it easier for you to get new business in through the door — which is what you really need right now. As the business pours in, the prices can start to slowly climb the mountain. And like I said before, when the clients are climbing in through your windows and vents, then you can start charging ridiculous prices because people will basically be throwing money at you. (Now isn't that a nice idea...haha).


Friday, July 11, 2014

Creating my Very First Wedding Video for Layla & Chris

Feet were flying at me from all directions and I was army crawling along the ground. I was in the middle of a wedding reception dance party and I JUST HAD to get that video footage of peoples feet — close up! (See if you can spot the dancing feet in the final video!) haha Rick shouted over to me, "If you're going to get that close to the action, you have to dance." I laughed and almost started to dance (like a happy wedding photographer) but then remembered I was shooting video and I couldn't move (or heaven forbid everything would be shaky as heck!). I was so excited when my good photography buddies, Rick + Anna, asked me to come with them to one of their weddings and be the videographer for their first wedding highlights video. This was my first wedding film and I'm so excited to share it on my blog today. Here is is! Congratulations Layla & Chris! You're both crazy sweet and I loved making this video for you! Enjoy ;) 

Layla & Christopher Wedding | June 7, 2014 from the Happy Film Company on Vimeo.

My Mission: Prowl the wedding for 11 hours. Collect gorgeous candid video & audio footage. Assemble it into a 5minute video within 2 weeks.

My Biggest Challenge: keeping that darn camera still & smooth AND coming up with interesting ways to move the camera while recording (I was trying to avoid just panning ALL the time).

My Biggest Lesson Learned: a tripod would probably work better than a monopod — especially a video tripod that has a ball and socket at the base and a rotating head on top. that's one of my next investments for sure! the monopod is great for moving around quickly but it's kinda wobbly.

My Biggest Reward: just knowing how special this video will be to this family now and in 10 or 20 years — they won't care about any shaky video footage because there are lots of really special moments in there for there

My Favorite Footage to Record: i got most excited when i was recording the bride's dress because I saw on the back of the camera how the crystals on the dress were glimmering and I basically just freaked out with how pretty it was haha

My Favorite Footage to Edit: the dancing! it made me so happy watching people dance and look so joyful — especially when the groom and his dad & brother busted a move

I'm Most Embarrassed Of: the little moments in the video when it shakes or bumps or isn't quite the color or exposure. im not really embarrassed about these things but they do stand out to me as something I definitely want to improve on next time

I'm Most Proud Of:
the moment when I uploaded the video to Vimeo and I saw it online for the first time. i'd spent so much time with the video — just the two of us — and I was proud to click publish and put it out there in the world. Just seeing it in the Vimeo player made it look suddenly more professional and for a minute I was really impressed with what i'd created and that I'd actually done it. Mission complete!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sending "Elle Woods Style" Welcome Videos to Photography Clients

It was 2am. I was sitting like a mouse in my in-laws kitchen — gross computer light glowing on my face. I saw the ad for a "Social Media Assistant" at creativeLIVE and I was sold. What would set me apart? I HAD TO GET THIS JOB! It was kinda scary but I made a video. I did one take and told myself that even though it wasn't very professional or polished, it would show my personality and hopefully win them over. Well, I had the job in less than 48hrs.

Two years later, I applied for another job with a video. Less than 48hrs, I had the job. 10 months later (i.e. yesterday), I applied for yet another job with yet another video and boom, they liked me and I'm hired.

When it comes to applying for jobs, sending a video with the application is valuable because 1) it does make you stand out and 2) it's basically an interview — they get to see your face, listen to you speak, hear a little about you etc... before they even ask for an interview, you hand (a.k.a. send) it to them. Now you're already at the next stage of the application process — leaps ahead of anyone else who has applied. It worked for Elle Woods after all. ;)

With "normal" jobs, you're usually the one that approaches the business and you hope they hire you. With photography jobs, your clients are approaching you and you hope they hire you.
Either way, you're trying to sell yourself and win people over and get them to say, "You're hired."

I send little 2min "hello, i'm Chamonix" videos to almost all my potential clients (sometimes it's hard to produce if the computer isn't behaving). They usually love it and make some comment about how they "loved the personal response." These videos are my way of creating that personal connection quickly before they move on and hire someone else.

When I started making videos it was awkward and embarrassing. But with practice came comfort and with comfort came fun. Now I love making these little videos and I would encourage everyone to try it. Maybe one day someone will send me a video... ;) I can't wait.