Photography Industry/Business

The Best Part of Weddings

A couple of years ago I was staunchly in support of wedding photographers not charging outlandish prices...  Until I overbooked.   I know that you can crank out a wedding edit in a week if that's all you do.  In retrospect now I realize why it takes a month to get a wedding edit out and sometimes six weeks, because in between shooting four weddings, and a full time job, along with sessions, family and attempting to have a life of my own I've felt like I was drowning in obligations.  But, there is still something I love about weddings.  But I will warn you wannabe wedding photographers who have that Canon Rebel and are shooting over the shoulders of the paid photographers to be careful what you wish for.   

 

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Weddings are glamorous, sure, but after you go to a wedding every week for a month straight...  They all begin to blend together.  They are all unique, yet they are all the same.  Ceremony and tradition call for similarities among this event that we humans in the western world call weddings.   

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But I love weddings, and simultaneously I'm tired of them.   

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The best part of weddings are the families... The best part of weddings for a photographer is going through the photos and seeing a lot of clear shots with great exposures.  The best part of photographing a wedding is creating a lasting (quality) memory for your clients.  Now, I'm sure all of us who have shot weddings for a few years will look to our first wedding and cringe, those times when we didn't totally grasp lighting and technical settings for our cameras.  Where we didn't realize where our focus was.   But, seasoned photographers look at those photographers with terror because we know exactly how much goes into it.  We aren't bashing you for wanting to have the confidence to shoot your best friend's cousin's special day for $100 (we did it too).   But we know that in a few years you'll look through those images and feel embarrassed about your work.   

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I cried coming home from a wedding this fall, because I was so sick the only place I needed to be was in bed.  My entire body hurt but I knew that it was an obligation that I couldn't step out of, it's not like calling a substitute for your class (which is a whole other nightmare sometimes).  The wedding had been booked for months and I had been sick for two weeks.  These people are depending on you, when they book you.  

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^^ There I am^^^^   Shooting a wedding.  By the time the ceremony is over I am SO TIRED.  Can we have cake yet?  

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By the time the cake is cut and the dance begins...I wonder how the bride and groom can make it.   Weddings are normally at least six hours, often eight hours and sometimes twelve hour days.  Be prepared.   

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Pricing doing something I love is a struggle.  Because it's subjective, I love photography.   But, I also find that the more I work the more I value my time.   I also value my experience and the amount of equipment I bring to someone's big day.   I know that I can give them images that are of a good photojournalism quality.  I am not into all the fake posing and silliness but allow them that option and to bring their own creativity to the day.   

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Yes, it's slightly out of focus... but it was my first 30 second exposure at a wedding and I love it....  

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But the best part of weddings are not the money spent on all the little details...  the best part of weddings is these are one of the few things in life that on that one day, at that one time end happily.   

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Even if you have a headache the next day....  

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Weddings are about enjoying  yourself, and I think that even as an exhausted photographer... there are still things to enjoy about every single wedding I am fortunate enough to capture.  But would I have booked that June 2011 wedding knowing what I do now?  Hell no.  Nope, not even in a million years did I know what I was doing then.  But I'm glad I did.   I'm sure my portraiture blogs are contradictory to what I wrote a few years ago but that seems to be natural with knowledge and experience.   I often lament why people didn't tell my my photos were horrible in 2009 and 2010 (which in my opinion they were).   But that is life, sometimes we need encouragement as we learn and grow even if we aren't the best because that experience and practice is what makes us better as artists and people.   


Studio Lights

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Have you ever agreed to do something that was over your head and experience?  Yeah, like shooting that very first wedding when you had a decent camera with a kit lens and no clue about what you were doing?  I did that in 2011.  So this time I agreed to volunteer to help the parent-teachers-student association at my school if they needed it.  Well I ended up shooting the homecoming dance at my high school.   The thing is I've never been a "portrait" photographer in the studio sense.  So, two weeks ago I headed up to Bedford's camera store in OKC to get a lighting kit.  Yeah, I still am clueless.  

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 My first shots -  a creepy porcelain doll and of course the dog..

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Moki was not a bad model.

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So a week ago Saturday we were at the High School Dance - first time using the backdrop and light set up.  I was busy shooting the kids with a flash and the old 7D.  

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This is the first time I've shot in jpeg in YEARS.  So when I came home and loaded the photos on the computer I was very unhappy then I realized the size of the files was SO TINY that there was no way I would get the output I am used to.  

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So these back drop photos I'm labeling "semi-professional"  but it was a learning experience and you have to start somewhere.  I probably won't want to do this often. 

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I'm definitely confident at event photography. 

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My friend had her baby so last night I drove a couple of hours with my lighting set up to attempt to get a decent newborn shot.  

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The trouble is -I don't have the patience for newborn photography.  I also don't like the artificially posed -photoshopped images.  I like "real"- I like the emotion of a crying infant. I like the real child not an artificial moment.   So I got to meet the baby dragon yesterday and he's precious. I really didn't want to photograph him as much as I wanted to hold him.   

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But I also got to see my other friend's new baby...  Oh, so much cuteness.  My kids were born in the 90s and 2001, we didn't infant photography the same way.  We dressed them up and propped them up at the Walmart portrait studio and was happy if they didn't cry. Our societies standards have absolutely lost it in what people want for portraits.   Come on, someday you'll be happy to have those snapshots of your little ones.   

Anyways this is an introduction to studio portraiture for me. 

 

I'm clueless, but that is what makes it fun.  
 

 


The Sun, The Moon, The Stars...

I will never be caught up with work.  I have to accept it and get over it.   It is the nature of the job.  

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Yesterday was the first day I've felt "good" since September 8th so what did I do?  I stayed out until almost Midnight with the moon and the stars....  

I have spent the last year and a half thinking I will be caught up on my portrait photography work too, which is usually a brief respite in between booking.   Now, I have a clear date where I am not booked, and it's a nice feeling. I realized that September and October would be insane for me, I didn't realize that I would also spend three weeks of September sick. 

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My neglected blog, here is the blood/super moon...eclipse, I get on my high horse when I see people fawning over the moon when really the universe is quite amazing if you take the time to look away from your screens and be aware of it, without Facebook telling you to. 

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Like a good American, I took a selfie with the eclipse... 

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While you were watching this....  did you see....

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This...  it was out there, next to the eclipse.  By the way, I think it's awesome people have photography skills but can we stop being in awe of composites? 

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This evening I had a portrait session so I snapped a few shots of the sunset before I went home.  Between driving and work I haven't had a lot of time for anything lately. 

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It's 11 and I made it home by 8 this evening from my shoot.  An hour of rest and then to load images.  

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And I'm too tired to do anything else, so hopefully I will get some work completed tomorrow.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  

 

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So You Want To Be A Wedding Photographer...

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I think people romanticize the job of being a photographer, particularly a wedding photographer.  They need to stop it.  Just like the profession of a teacher is glorified and even sometimes viewed as some saintly profession (also stop).   First of all.  Stop.   Right. There.  The weddings that I have shot over the last two weekends (yes one a weekend) have been booked for months in advance.  That means if some cool, amazing thing comes up on my schedule I can't go. I'm booked. I'm obligated to be at this wedding no matter how I feel (and believe me I've felt awful the last two weekends).   

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So now factor in that you've been tied down for months in your future obligations, that means when you start that new job you still are obligated to shoot three or four weddings this fall and do a good job of it.   Even if you go home sick, tired, crying and crawling into your steaming hot tub (which I did).   Then begin the process of culling photos, meanwhile having the sudden onslaught of Fall bookings start hitting your business inbox.  Oh, and don't get me wrong I'm incredibly grateful for my clients and their trust in choosing me to do their portraits.   But, I had a taste of burning myself out on portraiture last Fall, yet continued to shoot.  Do you know how hard it is to turn down clients for someone who is willing to work (like me).   

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Here is my Lil' Miss being the flower girl - she's one of the reasons I'm "into" portrait photography now, I was taking her portraits before I knew what the "f-stop" was...When I was incredibly naive,excited and clueless about photography in general and I thought that little $600 Rebel was a high tech piece of equipment with the "kit lens" that came with it.   Why didn't someone tell me how awful my photos were five years ago (they were).  I didn't know any of the technical details.  I was shooting purely on love of composition.  

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I'm actually kind of irritated that everyone thought my photos were good a few years ago and they weren't *By all means go look through my extensive archives of not so great photography from 2010-11-12-13 and some of 14.   But, I'm grateful for the knowledge that I've gained since then.  I'm tired.   I have two more weddings this Fall and this budget photographer who loved giving her time away in the past will no longer be doing this.   I have posted in the past about how rockstar photographers convince these young, naive, shooters not to give their work away.  Yes, don't.  Don't give your work away after you reach a certain level of satisfaction with your quality and if you continue to book no matter what your price, I guess you are doing it right.  

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A part of me loves the weddings, it's challenging like being in a classroom.  It's intense, it's stressful and somehow my love of solitude is turned into a high stress job.  But, weddings in the end are fun, happy and cheerful.  But by the time the bouquet is thrown this girl is ready to collapse into an exhausted ball of tiredness and watch Netflix.  

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But weddings are TERRIFYING.  I shot my first wedding in June of 2011 for $100.  I had a Canon 7D and the 28-135 Kit lens that came with it, I was somewhat confident but I was totally clueless on many levels.  I cringe when I look through the photos, but with knowledge and practice I've improved greatly and shot quite a few weddings now. Weddings still cause me great anxiety.  You get one shot, one shot not to mess it up. It's a scary business and a huge obligation when you take on someone's most emotional day and make it yours.  I attended a wedding last Spring as a guest and I watched a timid girl not taking the shots an missing many moments at a wedding and it was a horrible feeling to see it happening. 

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It is rewarding.  I've reached the point where I'm satisfied with my portfolio and will no longer be selling myself short, and honestly do not need the business. I want more gear and more experience with different types of photography because I'm a perfectionist.  But do I have to shoot weddings, nah... I turned down some because my pricing was too expensive when in the past I would work with anyone's budget.  Life teaches us what we need to value, sometimes we need to value time.   

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Be cautious when taking on weddings.  If you don't have experience offer your services to go with an experienced wedding photographer as a second or third shooter. I'm currently shooting weddings at what most would consider cheap prices, yet being able to price yourself into the realm of luxury is something that comes with consistency and confidence as a competent photographer.  

  When  you are the photographer you are helping create their memories, you are an observer, a voyeurs view into someone else's life, their moments and happiness.  Then you go home and share those memories, you were a key player stealthily documenting the special occasions, don't mess it up.  I'm still terrified before every wedding.  Fear is healthy.  

Today, I don't really want to be a wedding photographer.  Today I miss the wonder of going on a walk in the country and finding some odd, random thing and framing it in a pleasing composition.  Today I miss the simplicity of only knowing my own work and naively not knowing about the world of photography forums and photo-geeks.  Today I miss the wonder I found in what I did alone, without knowing your competition was being snarky behind your back or reading your page waiting for a chance to confront you (oh, believe me that has happened).    But, if you want to be a photographer go for it.  Just don't get angry if you don't book, get better.   


Repeat After Me

Your clients are not your friends.  Your clients are not your friends.   In my first year I would just tell clients to go ahead and friend me on Facebook so I could create  a shared album of their images, but often your clients are photography shoppers and in a few months you'll see them use a different photographer and well, it's annoying.  I think your clients can become friends because you meet interesting, awesome people to interact with, but as it is you are in business.  You are doing business.   

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In the last year I've had an amazing amount of business, which was exhausting and I have not spent the time to value the investment of my time.  I needed those opportunities to help build a portfolio, but now I'm transitioning into valuing my time, knowledge and effort. 

But, your clients will go after the "bigger, better deal" - they will take that "cheap mini-session" from a competitor; they owe you no loyalty.   So, be cautious in your friending.  I think we are such a "friending" society that we forget that the bulk of the people we know are acquaintances.  I am learning slowly not to volunteer my energy, gear and equipment.   

Don't discount yourself for the business or to please others, unless you specifically are working to build your portfolio and feel that it will benefit you.  

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That being said, I love all the people I've met in the last year in my small town, it makes it a nicer place.    

There is no such thing as a free lunch.... that being said I'm reworking my pricing to reflect my investments.   There is nothing wrong with being a budget or cheap photographer, there is a market for you, but always be considerate of yourself first.   Professional photography reflects a huge learning curve and there are plenty of people out shooting for pay who lack knowledge, equipment and experience.  A word of caution for you before I go back to work on my edits this evening.  


The Photographer's Self-Esteem

Today I have spent a portion of my morning discovering new photographers, exploring photography blogs and reading about photography.   As I look at different amazing portrait photographers my inner voice tells me that my work is awful and my photography sucks.  Which, rationally I know this is not true.  Being a photographer means you are on this unreasonable quest for the perfect shot.  The perfect image, the perfect moment.   

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Do you see Jupiter and Venus?  They stand out as they do their interstellar dance and appear to gravitate towards one another.   

Five years ago in the summer of 2010 I began this page.   I began this page idealistic and confident in the work I created because photography is not difficult, it is simple.  Photography is one of those things that everyone does that is deceptively simple.   We can immediately get feedback and be told we are an amazing artist *until we realize that we are not.*  The work of others affect how we feel about ourselves.  Once you go down the rabbit hole of learning about the technicalities of shooting you steadily improve but at the same time lose that initial optimism that you had at the beginning of your "passion" as a photographer.  

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Last night I took my new Tamron 15-30 which is a hefty lens -just for a few minutes-  and my tripod fell.  Me in slow motion screaming- Noooooo-----  and fortunately it seems okay since I continued shooting with it.  It was close to a tragedy.  It is far heftier than a Tokina 11-16 made for crop sensors.  It is a much  more sensitive lens, with a nearly full moon If I shot a thirty second exposure wide open my photo looked like it was daylight.   Technology is amazing. 

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This is one of the first frames from last night.  The moon was too full to do justice to the shots I want to take.   This was shot at a ISO 400- I normally shoot at ISO 800 with a Canon 6D and a Tokina 11-16 wide angle lens (on a full frame camera - shooting at 16).   I tried 800 and it was an over-exposure.  Yes! This lens shoots over exposures at 11:30 at night!  How amazing is that? 

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I haven't decided on the white balance I want on these images.  One thing I'm working on with photography is consistency within my edits.  Because I'm noticing that I don't like looking at photographers work when it is all over the place.  It is nice being able to do a certain kind of work but you are the one who defines your own style.   

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But, in photography (as in life) you spend your time comparing yourself to others-  I think I was happy with photography when I didn't know anything and it was all magical.  Ignorance is bliss, but it is nice to know the technical skills and the how and why behind how your images are processed.  

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As with anything you can take your deficiencies and learn to be better.  It took me years of being envious of astrophotographers to finally take the time to go teach myself how to do it.   Now, I just want to be better at it.   I never once as a child sat down and said I wanted to be a photographer.   I began this blog as a teacher so I could have better photos to use to teach with.   Which, now I've come full circle and this fall I hope to use my knowledge of the world gleaned through photography to become a better teacher.   

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I took a few frames of Cubby after I got home because I wanted to make sure my precious lens and camera were functioning like they were supposed to.   She was tired too.  

 


First Attempt at Long Exposure Photography

I have decided to broaden my photography horizons and work with my ever present insomnia.  But I don't believe I'm an insomniac since there are hours of the day I have no trouble sleeping.  I still get my eight hours every night or morning.  I would post the other photos I captured today as I went to Western Oklahoma to find an abandoned church but I'm excited to show you my first long exposure night photograh that I used a remote shutter and tripod with.  No, it's not the stars, but it's a start.   

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ISO 400 50mm f/2.8  1/10th second   

I love being able to learn new things. I may be awful at long exposure photography and I don't totally understand everything but I'm reading and I do want to work on this more.   I think this will be amazing in the summer, right now it's a little chilly.  So my remote shutter and camera settings- I feel like I did when I first got my rebel camera (a little clueless but impresssed with the technology). 


No, You Can't Have "All The Images."

For the record I've dealt with this issue more than once in my photography career and if you google topic you will find not one but HUNDREDS of posts devoted to the topic of why the photographer OWNS the images.  We do.  The cops can't search our cameras without a warrant and the client does not have any right to all the images.   I've dealt with this in the last month and every person I've known who DOES photography has dealt with difficult people who demand everything.  One point I'd like to make is if you don't think you're going to like the finished product of your images why did you hire the photographer in the first place when you can see their work.  

I think this is the problem every photographer of any skill level runs into.  That client who asks "So, do I get all the images."  -  Your answer should be no.   Why? Because those images are your images, not the clients, unless you promise all the images and you shouldn't.    Sunday I did a session for one of my favorite clients and I am using some of her images for my examples in this post. 

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A lovely moment at USAO in Chickasha.  

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Or was it so lovely?  This image is a victim of camera shake (it was cold).   So when  you over deliver or try to give the client what they think they want, you just look like a bad, horrible, awful photographer.  If you gurantee twenty photos a session give them that and not one more.   In fact I'm thinking there is usually one signature image in a session that stands out and blows you away.  But, I'm sure there isn't much of a market for promising one image.   

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But I loved this image. 

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This is perfect (although I don't like the gas station that I can see in the background) there are pitfalls in not shooting in the middle of nowhere.  

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The following frame was not as great.  So, when  you give all the images  you are really selling yourself short.   Don't do this! 

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This shoot was one that we had talked about since August!  

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We made it to the lights just as they opened.

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  I read a blog that said if you label yourself a "natural light" photographer that you do not understand lighting.  I'm finding truth in this statement because lighting is an area I'm working on for portraiture.  It is amazing that when you feel like you know a lot, you finally realize that you have so much to learn.   This is the true in anything that you do.  I used a flash in the image above - because afterall photography is about light.  

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Same place, almost the same moment.  No flash, this image has qualities that I like despite not being as clear.  So, if you're new to the portrait industry just remember you own the copyright of your images; not your subjects.  No, they can't have all the images because you want your images to represent your best possible work and by giving away all the images you are not representing the best possible side of your work.  

 


Rise Above This

I will Rise Above This .  Yesterday stunk, like all day ruined- hurt, angry and awful.  I was upset. I cried more than once, I couldn't sleep all night.  It was a day that I allowed someone else's crappy attitude and ignorance to shape my emotions.  If someone says "I don't mean to be rude and hateful"  You totally know that's their intention and you should just not read any further or interact with that kind of individual.  I also learned that I will be trusting my instincts and screening my clientele much closer.  I will no longer book without an actual real conversation. So if I'm blogging from an honest perspective about the industry of photography then I should continue to do so in case I help someone else.  1. I will be taking control of production to print aspect of my business (to prevent this from happening again).   

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Of course it's upsetting to read someone say "I'm so disappointed in you."  But, it can make you angry when you truly believe that it an unjust perception.  But, I cannot control the wind, weather and people's perceptions. I'm also not diappointed in myself, or the shoot.  I'm sad that someone didn't think that their own family was as beautiful as I perceived them to be during the shoot, that is what is disheartening.  I haven't photographed anyone and felt that didn't have some beautiful qualities, the point is finding the beauty despite the flaws.   Nothing in life is perfect.  I'm far more of an artist than I am a people person.  It's amazing how quickly someone who initially struck you as beautiful can turn ugly in your eyes.  I've had more than one client that I could see was super critical about their children (not this shoot but a few others that I've done) - during the shoot and I know that I will be forever booked or busy if they decide to seek out my business again.   

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Some people will never be able to find beauty in negative spaces....  

So I psychoanalyze and reanalyze people and why they may act the way the do and why I may react the way that I do.  I know it is when I let a disc leave my house I have no control to teach someone that the crop and printing company effects how their prints come out.  IT is frustrating even as a photographer to realize that certain sizes must be resized or cropped differently and that is part of the technical aspects of photography that you must explain or teach to clientele or else they just don't understand.  

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And hate me now if it keeps you alright.  

So I'm refunding the clients money.  1. Because they weren't satisfied (even if I was).  and 2. Because I would never provide this person a second shoot or do any type of work for them (if I'm not happy I would easily offer to reshoot for free).  So it is the right thing to do even if I spent my time (an hour drive there and back) and three to four hours of editing and over delivering on images (I gave 60 images instead of the guaranteed 20).  I will no longer be providing clients with more images than I guarantee because of this and I will not be giving discs so they can print themselves.  I will have control of the entire process and refuse to have my work messed up because of a print kiosk or website.  

I am not all about the money. I don't WANT MY photography or my vision gracing the walls of someone who doesn't appreciate it. They don't deserve ME or my time, talent or effort.   So a 99% satisfaction rate isn't bad at all now is it?  So they say for one bad experience you need ten positive ones.   

So resolutions are I will not do shooting at anyone's home/ranch without references (safety issues, ladies).  I will take control of my business from production to print.  I am an artist above all and cannot work in a factory setting.   

But it snowed today!  So I went out and did what I love...  

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I love the snow.  LOVE it when it is snowing.  So, I got dressed and made my husband go drive me around in the snow!   The world offered me a gift and I had a better day!  

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I appreciate the community that I live in this year.  I've met and done a lot of business in this small town.  I like Velma.   

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How can you not love a beautiful snowy day.  It cleans the air and paints the world with it's soft, white blanket.   

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A negative experience is how you create change in your life.   Because you want to learn from things that hurt you.  You change.  So, I as a relatively new *busy* portrait photographer am beginning to understand the inflexibility that many others have.   You have to be inflexible or people will take advantage of your good will.  

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As I said yesterday, I didn't get into photography for this.  I love photography for its sacred geometry, for this amazing technical knowlege that I'm mastering, I love photography for allowing me to see how beautiful the world is every day.  When I know not everyone takes the time to find beauty in the obscure.   I am a writer and I will write my opinions and feelings, because if you can't find your voice or the power to write or use your words and opinions along with the courage to share them, then what do you have in this world?  And if my experiences help one, just one person, than it is worth it.  

"I'm sick of complaining about a beautiful life..."

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