Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Chosen Few: What Does This Mean?

The idea of The Chosen Few was born out of circumstance, quite honestly. When I found out that I was pregnant with twins, I knew that 2011 would be an interesting year for me and that I should probably cover my bases by limiting my workload. Given I got put on bed rest for just about forever (really, it wasn't that bad...I know many moms that were on strict bed rest for MUCH longer than me and they were champs!), I was out of commission for a good portion of the year once everything was said and done.

What I found is that the few clients I did book got an interesting unexpected bonus. I found myself building deeper relationships with this small group, contacting them more frequently, dreaming up creative designs and stylized visions of their wedding days, meeting just to chat and catch the time their events came around, we were fast friends and I felt hugely invested in their special day, but more importantly, in their lives. The relationships I built during 2011 have proved to be a huge blessing to me in a way I never anticipated. From visits at the hospital, meals at home, nights sharing a bottle of wine and encouraging notes and texts, I found unique friendship. And as an aside, I found I was more inspired and more proud of their final images.

What a novel concept. Right? Maybe not. It seems to me that it is only common sense that your artistic expressions would benefit from deeper, concentrated personal investments in your muse, would it not? And yet, so often we see the chasm between client and vendor widen, and forget that we are in the people business, not the transaction business. And that we are first and foremost, artists.

Completely unbeknownst to me, I had stumbled upon a gem. One I've decided to perpetuate. Does it mean less transactions, and ultimately less cash flow, for me? Sure. I bet it does. But it also means that the clients I work with are a perfect creative fit. I am inspired by them, invested in them and enjoy every second of building our relationship in anticipation of their wedding days. And they get a better me. In every way.

The Chosen Few will be four clients selected annually for full event coverage that will get more than just a photographic technician on their wedding day. They will get a fully attentive creative designer who plans to invest time, energy, love and artsy spunk into their most precious day. It will be a process, a growing season, a collaborative development of your vision and expectations for your wedding photography. An engagement session will be a requirement with a special focus on defining your unique characteristics and story as a couple. We will chat, laugh, email, drink coffee (well, hot chocolate for me), pin to our little hearts' content, and dream, dream, dream. So that on your wedding day, you know without a shadow of a doubt, that everything you imagined will be right before your eyes and you can enjoy your day as you should, carefree, full of bliss and confident. It's your time to shine! I can't wait to tell your story. And gain new friends!

I promise I won't do this on your day. Well, not tooooooo much. And of course, I'll be laughing WITH you, not AT you. ;)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Affordable Wedding Portraits: The Prelude

I recently announced some exciting changes to my business structure that will dramatically shift my focus for 2013. Here is another piece of that puzzle which I had promised to explain further.

I am thrilled to now offer my clientele an affordable and uniquely creative approach to wedding photography. Traditionally, wedding photography has been a whole day affair, costing thousands of dollars and rightly so. The work put in by your photographer on the front and back ends of your special day far outreach what you probably think. We've all read the "Photographers make crazy money and it's not fair!" blogs and the corresponding "Why doesn't anyone understand what we do and how we do it?" reply posts. I'm not about to enter the fray with my own two cents, so I'll wrap that up quickly by saying that your memories are priceless and with that in mind, and a million other facets, the price you pay is well worth it. Every step of the way. And honestly, if you're reading my blog, you are interested in me well enough to know where I stand on that issue and why. So...moving along.

What happens to those people who can't afford to invest thousands of dollars into full coverage event photography?

I believe those people deserve beautiful and powerful wedding photographs too. With that in mind, I have introduced a new approach. Say hello to The Prelude. My newest package offers three hours of First Look and bridal party portraits. What does this mean? It means that we will be taking the time to develop a vision of your wedding memories with a practical mindset. We are shifting the focus from event photography to portrait photography and achieving the beautiful portraits you are dreaming about on your walls, in your albums and on your thank you cards, while letting go of the concept of full day storytelling.

Is this is trade off? Absolutely.

But consider the pay off.

If you can't afford to pay for a full coverage package from the photographer whose images you love and are forced to "downgrade" to a photographer that is in your budget, what happens to your final product? Which do you value more? The smaller collection of images you adore and are everything your heart envisioned when you thought about your wedding day or the larger collection of images that covers every detail of your day and saved your pocketbook, but are ultimately lackluster in your eyes because you chose them based on finances?

Let me be clear in that I am not trashing full coverage wedding photography. That is not my intent in the slightest, especially considering it is one of the services I happily offer and greatly enjoy. My goal is to provide an option for those clients who are ultimately disappointed in the end because they were forced to choose with their wallets instead of their hearts. And in this economy, we are all forced with those types of decisions from time to time. Here is your light at the end of the tunnel!

The Prelude will be comprised of a few pieces. First, we will work together to draw up a vision of your ideal wedding images based on your personalities, style and approach to your special day. Then, we will plan a First Look portrait piece on your wedding day that provides the perfect intimacy for you and your beloved to celebrate your excitement as a bride and groom. Finally, we will plan a bridal party piece where everyone can come together to join in with the anticipation and delight in being a part of your lives in this special moment. The end result will be a body of work that was created by an artist that inspired you creatively and highlights the emotions you felt, people you love most and the beauty of marriage in every way you had imagined, while still giving you piece of mind and a collective sigh of relief. Yay!

If you are interested in learning more about this new approach, visit the website and be sure to fill out the contact form so we can start dreaming up your unique wedding portrait session and reviving the hope that you can have the images you've always desired.

PS. A client meeting is still required to book The Prelude to ensure a proper creative fit, and like other KB Packages, they are geared towards clients looking to explore beyond posed snapshots and are interested in developing a unique style in their images that is all their own.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Know Your Limits

For my regular readers, you're very familiar with my challenges with OCD, my greatest and worst talent at being overly ambitious, driven and a raging perfectionist. You have also seen my journey over the past year of rebranding, redefining and reshaping my business so that I am able to give the best parts of me to the areas of my life that deserve it most.

It's time for another piece of the puzzle to fall into place. Just today, I announced that I am officially booked through October. I have committed to myself, my family and those friends in this industry that hold me accountable that I will not be taking any additional bookings through this time. I will be leaving available space open for possible Shutterbug photography classes, and depending on the interest level, those spaces may become confirmed dates or they may become family weekends. In short, I won't be trading those spots for additional sessions.

I am working hard to know my limits. As I've always said, this ultimately benefits you most as the client. Developing a better understanding of my workload, available time and creative energy, and continuing to hone in on how that is tangibly defined in my business means that my clients know that I am actively pursuing the business model that will give them the very best results by making sure I am my very best me. So...a few new things...

I will be focusing my energy in a few specific genres:

1. Education
The Shutterbug Photography Series will continue to progress at full steam. My heart is truly invested in encouraging people to value knowledge. I absolutely love empowering people to take control of their cameras and understand what they are doing and why. It's incredibly fun for me to teach (you KNOW I'm not short on words!) and watch the light bulbs flash as the fundamentals of photography finally come into focus. This series will continue to be geared towards amateur photographers seeking to improve their personal photographs of family and friends.

2. Engagements
This is an area that constantly challenges me to develop new approaches, ideas and creative design. I connect closely with my couples and really enjoy the intimate relationship that comes from discovering the uniqueness of two people's life story together. I commit here and now to dig deeper into this special spot in my heart.

3. Boudoir
I adore boudoir. I take a fine art approach to celebrating the female form and find my deepest inspiration here. There is nothing better than introducing a woman to her own natural beauty. I am hoping to grow this area of my creative expression and have some very exciting projects in the works.

4. Weddings
My wedding approach will be changing significantly in 2013. I will be available on a regular basis for those clients who are most interested in their wedding portraits and less interested in full day event coverage. What I mean by that is that my main package will offer a First Look portrait package for 2-3 hours and possibly ceremony coverage only. This package dovetails with my love for engagement sessions, and is a next step approach to taking the time to develop your wedding portraits with fresh creative brainstorming and the creation of a unique and incredibly special time spent together celebrating your journey and love. It will also prove to be an affordable option for those who desperately want powerful images, but may not be able to budget for full wedding coverage. I'll explain more on this later.

I will only be offering 4 full coverage weddings each year. These weddings will continue to fall under the banner of "The Chosen Few" and will follow similar package offerings as are presently in place. This was a tough decision for me, but one I firmly believe in and one I've seen working for me over the past year.

Focusing on these 4 genres naturally leaves a few unanswered questions. I will no longer be doing newborn, family or maternity portraits. I may choose to continue with present clients from time to time, but the majority will be passed on to very worthy and trusted friends in this industry who have a deep heart for such special moments. I will also no longer being doing basic event coverage (birthday parties, holiday parties, etc.) and will offer similar recommendations.

This is a lot to take in, I'm sure. It's a lot for me. But I feel led by God to focus on my family and to know and respect my limits. And I firmly believe that obedience to what's on my heart will prove to be a huge blessing in the future. It will take some time to get my website and approach in order to reflect these changes, so I appreciate your patience and continued support as I develop as an artist. You guys rock!

And so do my little 'dids.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Praise You in This Storm

This is my dear friend, Laura, and her Daddy, Doug.

I've known Laura for quite awhile now. She's one of those rare clients that becomes a friend. She also happens to be one of those rare clients who isn't angry when you're put on bed rest and can't shoot her wedding, but instead comes to see you at the hospital. She's that person. Who cares, prays, loves. She learned it from her Daddy.

Laura contacted me several weeks ago with a special request to take some family portraits. Doug's ongoing battle with cancer was proving to be a challenge and everyone wanted to make sure to spend some time together celebrating the family and what they stand for. I was honored to say the least.

I wanted to be sure to capture the essence of this family. And at the heart of their deep bond and commitment to each other is one thing. Jesus. So while other families played in the background, this family gathered together to hear their Daddy read from his most precious book. His Bible. I remember his little granddaughter shushed a barking dog passing by, because even she knew this was important.

I learned just last week that Doug went to be with the Lord. I was heartbroken for my friend. For her family. But celebrated with them in the joy that Doug is pain-free, perfect in His sight, in the glory of the Lord Jesus. How great a gift we have in His salvation in knowing that we will be reunited with those we love. Doug will be so greatly missed. I didn't know him as well as I did his daughter, but yet the few times I had the great pleasure of seeing him, he was warm, caring, funny. He greeted me like a family friend and made me feel loved. He made a deep impression on me in that short time, as a follower of Jesus, a man of strength and character, a husband, a grandpa, a Daddy.

And in typical fashion, Laura posted this song to her Facebook last week and I realized. She is her Daddy's little girl, through and through. His legacy lives in his family and I know he is being rewarded in heaven. Well done, good and faithful servant.

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

By Casting Crowns

I only look hot when I'm laughing.

That got your attention, didn't it?

Seriously, though. I got together recently with some amazing friends for playtime. We're all photographers. And we were to do head shots. These are my friends:

As you can see, we're a very serious bunch (I resisted the urge to post photos of our recent 80s night). And more importantly, there's a ridiculously good reason why we spend our lives behind the camera. Quite frankly, we found ourselves totally frozen at the prospect of sitting for our own portraits. We were all arms, hands, legs and awkwardness. What do I do? Where do I look? What do I wear? And the idea that we were posing for each other and that the results would be passed around, maybe used in blogs, maybe loved, maybe hated. Well, quite frankly, it was a bit intimidating. Even with friends.

I learned a couple of things.

1. I need to practice being behind the camera more. It's important to know how you feel as clients. I found myself hearing for the very first time some of the direction I give and realizing how awkward and unhelpful it was on the other side. I found myself feeling insecure and a bit frumpy. I realized I don't spend enough time identifying how my clients feel and discovering new and creative ways to move past the roadblocks that can stall out a session.

2. It's incredibly important to have good, deep, trustworthy friends in this industry. And it's important to work those relationships hard. I'm talking about going beyond vendor coffee house warm fuzzies and encouraging and challenging each other to new heights on a personal and collective level. Trust is paramount and it's a blessing not easily discovered. You have to look for it. Hope for it. Pray for it. And ultimately, earn it. I am so grateful for these ladies (and a few more who were missing or happened to hide...), and know we have something rare and big here.

3. Apparently, I only look hot when I laugh. (At least, I think so) I don't think that's a bad thing though, do you? Because I'm pretty much always laughing. At somebody. Usually myself. Usually... ;)

PS. I can't take the credit for any of these lovely images, obviously. Here are the props that go to my amigas (although I don't know who did what...):

Chelsea LaVere, Bit of Ivory Photography
Sarah Mariel, Sarah Mariel Photography
Valerie Demo, Valerie Demo Photography
Christene Schaaf, C.S. Photography, Inc.
Jessica Sevin, JL7 Photography
Somer Chambley, Somer Anne Photography

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

It is the absolute best day ever! My very first real, deal Mother's Day. I can't say enough about today and how long I've waited for it and how much I love my little men. I mean, seriously, it goes without saying. Look at how darn cute they are!
But more importantly, I celebrate my own Mom on this very special day. She is Grandma Extraordinaire and I am so grateful to have her creative, whimsical, musical spirit to teach my children how to appreciate the world, color, art and the wonder of using your imagination. She can sing along to any show tune, Disney movie or 80s song. She can draw cartoons, angels, caricatures and more. She is always silly. Always playful. I rely on her to teach kids how to be kids. And I thank her for making me who I am by instilling such a deeply appreciative understanding of the importance of art, expression and music. I'm a living, breathing reflection of what was important to her, what was important to my own Grandma Extraordinaire, and honestly, I owe my career as a photographer to her. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you and can't wait for my kids to learn all the good, fun stuff of life from you!
I celebrate today with new mamas, Sarah, Carla and Katherine, who welcomed Lucy, Jackson and Eleanor into the world this week just in time for their own very first Mother's Day with their new family additions! So happy for you!
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