a new day dawning
It’s the first Friday of February. Holy smokes. We’re almost two months into 2011 already. I’ve been married 90 days at the end of this month. It’s amazing how time can fly. This being said, it’s high time I put my goals in writing for this year. Last year I didn’t declare any goals and I’m so grateful for that. You see, last year was a freak year. It was one of those years that can only happen once in a lifetime…thank God. For this reason, I wasn’t truly able to devote myself entirely to my business…way too much happened that I was barely able to keep my head above water. Enter the end of the year, and the decision to go full-time with my photography business was the right thing to do in both mine and Jeff’s hearts. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, we knew there would be a lot of sacrifices to make, we knew it was exactly what I needed to do.
Among the calamity of 2010, I did manage to do a few things that rank high in my list of personal photography accomplishments. Truly, they are what helped me catapult my business and fine-tune the more detailish aspects in the year 2011.
My accomplishments of 2010
1. Building a brand – this was monumental in terms of identifying where I belong in this world of photography. It’s difficult being one among thousands. When I made the decision to build my brand around love in it’s truest form – the heart – I found home. From my photo icon to my business cards to the way I speak…it’s all about the love baby. When I was in college a woman told me that my greatest strength was knowing how to “love hard.” As I grew older, gained new friendships and solidified old ones, I heard it from their mouths too. Many years later, I acknowledge that I’m a lover. It’s who I am. Sure, I can be funny, I can be spunky, I can be eccentric. Ultimately…in my truest form…I am a lover. It was the right thing to do to base my business around who I am.
2. One word. RAW. Since I began the use of this early on in 2010, I have never looked back. Hands down, withoutadoubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made.
3. Leaping into Lightroom – a huge squeezey hug has to go out to my friend and fellow Photographer, Becky Z, for this transition. The very first time I met her, she asked if I used Lightroom and then kicked me straight in the proverbial rump for not using it. I should also mention she transitioned me to the use of RAW at this same time…all credit goes to her. The great thing about Lightroom is that I have been able to actually see my images differently in-camera as a result of the investment. I know it sounds backwards, but knowing what I’m capable of doing with Lightroom in the way of light manipulation assisted me in making a conscious effort to use it less. I’m sure someone out there understands me on that one.
4. Manual flash. Holy awesomeness. To say the least, I was very intimidated by my external flash. So much in the sense that I avoided using it for nine months after purchasing it. Once I gained access into understanding manual flash, I was better equipped for low-light situations like wedding receptions, and felt more at ease doing specialized portraits that required the use of a flash.
5. Thanks to the amazing Jasmine Star, I have become more aware of my surroundings. Natural reflectors are crucial to taking well-lit pictures…that is…if you want to play hard and work less…which I do! It’s not essential to use natural reflectors such as windows, mirrors and whitewashed buildings to naturally light the faces of your clients…but it does help shorten the process of post-processing. Being an action person and not so much an edit person, this was something I wanted to know more about. So…I learned it…and I learned it good. I found that red walls don’t make for a good reflector but make for a great background. I found that taking the wall-mounted mirror off a client’s wall and placing it directly across from a window immediately lights up a baby’s face and leaves a pristine image in-camera. Thanks Jasmine. 🙂
6. Thorough contracts. I can’t express enough how helpful it has been to have several pairs of eyes review my contracts and on top of that a few pairs of legal eyes do a glance-over as well. I’m by no means a lawyer (though sometimes I think I was in another life with the way I’m all “technically…that’s blahblahblah” about stuff) so it was definitely one of those business items that’s worth the investment.
My goals for 2011
1. Nothing frustrated me more in 2010 than not having a fast turnaround for my clients after a session. With working 40+ hours at another job and trying to find time to edit without losing important family time as a result, I found myself constantly struggling to create a happy work/life balance. With the ability to go full-time, I have more motivation and time to dedicate to editing for a more efficient turnaround. I have already heard great things from recurrent clients who were already happy with the products they received but found themselves anxiously waiting in the past in upwards of six weeks for images – to experience a turnaround that was within two weeks from their session date was exciting for them and exhilarating for me. In giving myself a two-week turnaround on all images I have found that I’m more organized and better defined in my workflow to be, ultimately, as efficient as possible and super-satisfying to my clients.
2. A five-day send out of products. This goes in stride with the two-week turnaround. After the images were uploaded to a gallery for clients and their orders submitted, it used to be difficult for me to get to a post office during the day to mail off packages because of the hours I worked at my full-time job. The trouble was two-fold — each package needed to be weighed and the grocery stores where they had USPS capability couldn’t put tracking confirmation on packages because they were too close to a federal post office. This left Saturday’s available to go to the post office, but only between the hours of 8 and 12. For those who are weekend Photographers, you all know this to be prime.session.time. Quite the pickle I found myself in at times. With my newfound time, the ability to have a faster turnaround time for product is much easier. Thank you God for the gift of hope that gave me the ability to quit my non-Photography job.
3. Invest in kid-friendly props. Preferably, I would like to figure out how to make certain camera-buddies such as an owl, frog or monkey. Additionally, I have found that I always end up with a rattle or squeaky toy in my hand during in-home sessions to alert the babes to look in a certain direction. Being an on-location Photographer, and knowing that parents can forget things in the midst of “put child in their car seat, pack an extra outfit in case of a blowout, don’t forget the bink” mode, I want to have a small bag of tricks for the kiddies in case their favorite rattle gets forgotten in the shuffle of life.
4. Focus on the details. I want to avoid just capturing the moment and relish in capturing the story of that moment.
5. Less, but quality, photos to clients. I’m no longer that Photographer that takes 1000 photos in a one hour session. I’ve become more selective in my photography technique and as a result have found I take much better pictures with that challenge. Even as my photographic eye has become more selective, I still find I’m in abundance of great images at times. In my experience, it can be overwhelming to a family to receive 30 great pictures — they don’t know where to begin in printing or canvasing one image as a staple in their home. I want to make that decision easier for them.
6. Develop proper pricing and amazing packages. This goal goes hand-in-hand with goal #5, as the reduction of photos will allow clients a more comfortable opportunity to select the images they truly want to own. I find it valuable that clients own their images – they’re not my pictures to keep – they’re the clients pictures to memorialize. I will still continue to include digital images in every package I offer…things will just be a tad different and much less complicated. I have worked endless hours in front of a Netflix movie (or five) fine-tuning my packages and pricing guides to offer a selection that is competitive with my market and still within a reasonable budget for my client base. It’s a very exciting part of this years goals…for me anyways! 🙂
7. The greatest takeaway I have from starting my photography business are the friendships I have made. I sit here today holding some of my clients very close to my heart as true friends. Without a doubt, though, the strongest friendships I have forged are with fellow Photographers. The photography business is competitive – duh. While moving upwards towards my dream, I found there to be some dream squashers and downright mean people. When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s important that you have a strong foundation of encouragement and love surrounding you…a clan of superheros of you will…to help extinguish the haters. Oh yes…there will be haters. As a Christian, I felt the call to organize a clan of Jesus-lovin’ superheros. After many conversations with fellow Photographer friend Chris about the need to have others around us who love God, the timing felt right and so formed Collective Faith. Bashfully, I contacted fellow east-coaster Katelyn James and she so graciously took some time to provide direction and encouragement to little ol’ God-lovin’ me about the upstart of a Facebook-based organization. Here’s to the opportunity for amazing blessings through this group in 2011.
8. After learning about manual flash in 2010, I am eager to create a project solely based around external flash-work. I have no specifics…and no real idea at the moment of what I intend to do…but something to allow me more time with this amazing accessory will be done this year.
This is the longest blog post I’ve ever written. It’s like, the combination of about thirty of my last blog posts. Pblthhhhh…it’s my blog. 🙂