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Whats Coming in 2015

We have so many big and exciting things in the works for 2015 and I can't wait to spill the beans on all of it! We have been busy bees over here working on some exciting projects that have had me waking up way before my alarm each morning because I am THAT excited. I am such a total lame-o sometimes! :) Some of it will be kept under wraps until next year however I wanted to share some of what's coming! 
Chris and I are passionate about helping photographers strengthen and grow their business and pursue their dream. Chris and I mentored some truly incredible and determined photographers this past year. Seeing how they used the tools and insight to change and grow their businesses was so inspiring. We are BEYOND excited for our 2015 Mentoring Program to launch in January. We will only be offering mentoring to only a limited number of photographers so if you are interested, contact us to be sent the details when it launches!

For the past few years, Chris and I have hosted our annual Beginnings Workshop with the focus on creating strong business foundations. It is so important to have a strong business foundation whether you have been in business for 10 years or if you are just starting out. The workshop intensive includes discussions around developing an actionable business plan, creating powerful client relationships, strong branding, posing, shooting tips and trick, workflow and many other important aspects of a strong business. We are so pumped to be hosting a new workshop later this spring, which will be different then ones we have offered previously. Details will be shared next month here on the blog and seats will be limited so keep an eye out for when registration opens!

Our blogsite is getting a major facelift! We have been working with some incredible folks over the past few months to make some awesome changes and create new content for our site! I am so excited for this and can't wait for the relaunch! More to come soon!

And last but certainly not least... This year was one of the best ones yet and we were blessed with one of the most amazing gifts - our son Greyson. Now that we have wrapped up this year's wedding season and things are slowing down a bit, I will be taking the next 6 weeks to recharge, relax, and spend more time with our little guy. Not much will change other then I will be blogging a little less during this time through January. I am hoping to post to the blog every Tuesday and Thursday! :)

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Identifying And Using The Best Natural Light

It's no secret that I just love shooting in that even, golden, soft (dare I even say buttery?!) sunset light. It's just pretty darn gorgeously ah-mazing. I make sure to discuss with our couples the benefits of shooting in this light as they plan their wedding day timeline and shoot their engagement sessions during this golden hour. However, many times especially on wedding days we don't always have the luxury of shooting in this perfect light... Sometimes it's in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is harsh and bright, there are hot spots and spotchy patches of shade everywhere or there is direct sunlight with no shade, and so on. This kind of light can be challenging but it's not impossible to achieve gorgeous images using the light to your advantage!  
As a primarily natural light photographers (we leverage existing natural light and use flash when necessary, like indoors if need be) we look for the best light and direction to shoot in at the location we are at. This is typically the FIRST thing I look for before setting up the photo and giving direction to the subjects being photographed. Yes, before backgrounds, surroundings, or anything else. Usually I can just see where the light is that I want to shoot in, but sometimes I will hold up my hand in front of myself to see how the light is falling or other times I will use Chris as a stand in to see how the light is looking. Clearly it's definitely not a super complicated or fancy process, but a super important one. Once I identify the light I want to shoot in, then I will look at the background, surroundings, colors, etc and go from there. This is because for me, the lighting is one of, if not the most important elements to me technically. 
Many folks have asked how I know how to identify great light to shoot in. Okay, ready for the boring but totally true answer? Practice. And then more practice. Along with some practice, practice, practice. Practicing and training myself to see how light falls on subjects, how light reflects, and how it changes through out the day were things I did from the very beginning and I still constantly do. When we were living in NYC, on my walk to work I would see how the light would reflect off buildings and where I would position a couple to photograph them in that light. When running errands, I would point out spots that had awesome light falling on it. When riding with Chris in the car I would look out the window while we were stopped at a red light and think where would the best light be and direction to pose a bridal party in that spot. I would then think about what the background would be, what my settings would probably be, etc. It was this constant training while not shooting along with lots of hands on practicing that has strengthened this tool and confidence to shoot gorgeous images in any light.  
Sometimes finding the best light isn't that obvious, like when shooting in open shade. It can be hard to know which location and direction to shoot in is the best. Below is a perfect example... We were setting up for family portraits at a wedding and I was testing the light using Chris as a stand in. There was a ton of open shade so I had Chris stand where I thought I wanted the family to stand. I wanted him to stand facing the clouds illuminated by the sun. The clouds were acting like a huge diffuser, casting down a soft beautiful light. However after taking a test photo I realized that the sun was more to my right then I thought (not in back of me) and the sunlight was falling across Chris's face from his left to right side. There were dark shadows around his eyes and there was no fill light on his face. This wasn't the look I wanted to achieve. I didn't want to use the light in a super artistic way for these photos, but really wanted the families faces to be clearly seen. For me, it's important for everyone's face to be well lit and clearly visible especially in these more traditional family portraits. So I had Chris turn 90 degrees, facing more towards the illuminated clouds. The light softly filled his face eliminating the dark shadows. I then looked to make sure the background was what I wanted and set up the family for the photos in that spot. All of this took less then 30 seconds, so by the time the family walked from the limo to where we were standing we were ready to go and went right into setting them up and shooting. 
I encourage you to practice identifying great natural light even when you don't have a camera in your hand! Train your eye to see how light falls on a subject and how changing your viewpoint changes the direction of the light and overall look. Then do some hands on practicing again and again. And again. Practice seeing how different light photographs. And know that sometimes it's just a matter of adjusting your subjects or your position slightly in order to use light in a dramatically different way! 
And because who doesn't love a good 'ol horribly drawn stick figure diagram.... ;)

Position A. The light fell across Chris' face from the right to the left from my viewpoint. He was standing in open shade, so its more subtle then it if was bright sunlight, but you can see the one side of his face was brighter then the other and he had dark shadows on his face.

Position B. Chris was facing the illuminated cloud (behind me) which created soft fill light on this face. What may seem like a small difference in direction created a HUGE difference with the lighting and overall look of the photo!

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Q&A: How Do Deal With Negativity

Do you ever find others being really really critical of you and your work, in a mean and not helpful way? It can be hard to hear such harsh words from others, especially others in the industry, and not let it bother me. How do you handle this? Help! 
Ahhhhh, yes. I wish I could say that I have never been the subject of harsh words and scrutiny from others, but the truth is I have. Especially when I was newer to the industry. I can say from personal experience it's really hard to have folks that you have admired and respected say such hurtful words... words that were not helpful constructive criticism. Their lack of encouragement and zeroing in on my weaknesses as a photographer was really hard to just let roll off my shoulders. When I was first starting out my confidence was about the size of an apple seed and this negativity seemed just sooo big. 
The sad reality is that there will always be people that will be mean, right? There will always be people that will doubt you. They will question that you can do this. They will focus on your weaknesses and insecurities, pointing them out and reminding you of them... over and over again. These people will always exist. But the amazing thing is, their words don't have to bother you. They don't have to cause you to question if you really can run this race. I made the decision a long time ago that I didn't have the time and energy to listen to and /or worry about these people. But more importantly, I wasn't living this dream for them. 
One of the biggest things that has helped me when these sour winds have blown my way, is to take the time to refocus on WHY I am doing this. WHY I became a photographer in the first place. I will take some time to read through the sweet emails and notes from my past couples about what their photos mean to them. I will go back and look through some of the photos from their wedding day. I think about how incredibly lucky I have been to get to know them and their stories... That they chose Chris and I to capture the memories of their wedding day. No one else. Our why is grounded in reminding couples and celebrating with them the unique beauty of their stories. I'm not looking for the approval of other photographers... that's not part of my why. Never has been, never will be. So like rain rolling off the feathers of a duck, into the water their sour words fall. Pour your energy into becoming a better photographer and serving your clients on an even higher level. Celebrate and refocus on WHY you are doing this, how far you have come, and how lucky you are to do what you love. 
And as you refocus again and again and their words fade away just as fast as they came, don't forget how small these mean spirited words made you feel. Let them fuel you to encourage other photographers, especially those that are just starting out chasing their dream. Be that person that inspires and motivates them, cheering them on and telling them they can do this. 
Or in the wise words of Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate, so try and "shake it off." :)

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Working With Our Ideal Client

When I meet someone for the first time and they find out we are a husband and wife wedding photography team, one of the first questions we often get asked if we have ever had a Bridezilla... Whenever we get asked this question, it makes me smile because I know the person asking is going to be disappointed from my answer and lack of a juicy story of a crazy bride. But the truth is, we haven't had a Bridezilla. Not one. When I tell them we haven't had one, the person usually tells me we are lucky. While we do feel extremely lucky, I know that it is not luck that our couples are amazing people that are anything but zilla-y. Yes, I made up that word. Just go with it... :) 
But this question brings up an important topic. We have indeed been contacted by and/or had consultations with couples that were not a great fit. While our work and website act as filters and draw certain couples to us, that doesn't always mean that we are a good match. Initial email or phone conversations can sometimes raise some flags or make it clear that they are not our ideal client. We will then recommend another photographer that we think would be a better fit based on what they are looking for. And sometimes we don't know that we are not a great fit until I meet with a couple in person during a consultation and discuss with them their wedding and what they are looking for in their wedding photography. During a consultation, just as much as a couple is making sure we are a great fit for them, I am also making sure they are a great fit for us and a couple we are excited to work with. If I do have a consultation with a couple that raises some flags, I will have an honest conversation with them and will not proceed with booking them. It's not always an easy conversation to have, but one we think that it is important to have and one they deserve. Because just as much as we want to make sure we are working with couples we connect with and love our style of photography, it is also in the best interest of the couple to have and invest in a photographer who is going to be an excellent fit, connect with them and deliver what they are looking for. 
Now what are some of these flags and things I keep in the back of my mind when in initial conversations with a couple? Well for each photographer I am sure they are different, but for us some flags are if photography is not important to the couple, if they don't seem excited to be getting married, if they are looking for a style of photography that is very traditionally posed or uses a lot of artificial lighting throughout the day, etc. These flags don't necessarily have to be "bad" things or qualities, just things that may make us and our style of photography the best fit for them. And sometimes it's a combination of things.  
But does it really matter if we work with couples that are our ideal clients and a great fit? For us the answer is absolutely. Our WHY that our business is built on and the spirit of our photography isn't focused on making the most amount of money, shooting a certain amount of weddings just to achieve that number, travelling to as many places as possible, or any of the like. For us, it's always been about the relationship we build with a couple and us getting to know their story. It's about connecting with our couples and celebrating this amazing time with them. It's about documenting the sweet moments of the day that marks the beginning of their marriage. So if we feel like we aren't the ones best suited to do this for whatever reason, we are upfront and honest with them and let them know. This doesn't happen very often by the time we meet them for a consultation, but if it does, it is important to us to let them know. 
So call it luck? Not really... Working with couples we are a great fit for and who are our ideal clients is why I have an unexciting answer when asked if we have ever worked with a Bridezilla. It's not luck, but a constant focus on letting the WHY of our business remain at the heart of things... not money, numbers, or anything else.

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That Next Step

I know what it's like to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock for the third time in one morning. I know what its like to lay in bed staring at the ceiling contemplating if that sneeze counts as being ill and you should therefore call into work sick. I know what its like to get ready for work but the whole time think about an excuse of why you can't go. You sit in your car and give yourself a good pep talk of why you can't turn the car off and walk back inside your house. I know what its like to get up every morning and dread the day ahead. You stare at the clock at your desk all day counting down until you can leave and give yourself the treat of a coffee break at 3:00pm because you made it that far into the day without leaving. I know because I have been there.  
When I was stuck in that corporate 9-5 job that I swore was literally draining the life out of me, unhappy doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I couldn't imagine doing what I was doing for another week, let alone another decade. I wasn't sure how I walked down this road so far into a career that my heart wasn't in. The feelings of being deflated and defeated were all too familiar. I was unmotivated and got to the point where I felt passionless for my job. 
However, I also know what it's like to wake up before your alarm clock because you are so excited to get to get the day started. Yes, this happens. And I do know what it's like to not want to go to bed because you are loving the project you are working on. You can't believe your days are filled with the work, surroundings, and people that make your heart so full. You are completely and utterly happy. I know what it's like to not be able to fall asleep not because you are dreading the next day, but because you are so excited at how awesome the next day will be. You feel lucky and grateful. You feel alive.  
I know what both of these feel like. And I know when I was miserable in my corporate job, my dream job seemed light years away. It felt like it would only be that: a dream. But don't give up. Trust me. It's not as far as you may think. But chances are it's going to take a lot of work and it won't happen over night. And chances are you will have to be reminded of that along the way. There will be setbacks and failures and mistakes. There always are when pursing what you're passionate about. But the biggest mistake is to think that what you really want to be doing with your life isn't possible. Because it is. I know. It's not too hard, it's not too far, it's not to crazy of a dream. 
And I can promise you one thing: doing nothing about it will keep you in the very spot you are in. No one is going to knock on your door and offer you your dream. It doesn't work like that. YOU must take that first step. Yes, it is probably one of the hardest ones. But with that step you are moving forward and that much closer to what you want to be doing. So call that person who has inspired you, reach out to that company, set up that meeting, read that book, send that email. Whatever that next step is, big or small, TAKE IT. 
This concludes this Monday morning pep talk. :)

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