Making progress

Maybe it’s no big deal to you (why would it be?) but this is a such big deal to me. Several years ago I started following the amazing portrait photographer, Sue Bryce. After building a career of photographing women, she created a second career of mentoring and educating other photographers. I fell in love at first sight. I’ve never seen an educator give away so much knowledge and I credit her with helping to build my business.

In the last few years she developed an accreditation program called The Portrait Masters. You submit images that are viewed by a panel of international judges and they award points. Once you receive 25 points and have your portfolio reviewed, you are named an Associate Photographer. It’s quite an honor and it’s one I want.

During the round of submissions last month, I was hopeful I’d inch my way a little closer to accreditation. Fifteen of my images merited and I’m now just a few points away from this big step. Honestly, it’s a little difficult to comb through past sessions and decide what to submit. Judges look for technical aspects that are naturally different that what a client would look for. I may love an image but it may not approach a professional standard in their eyes. In the end, it’s a great learning experience to evaluate your work in this very critical way.

Mostly I’m happy that I have such beautiful clients. Post a comment if you know someone pictured above or tell me which one is your favorite.

Spring Forward

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Luckily I didn’t have to be up early this past Sunday, as Daylight Saving Time kicked in. John and I had attended both the 901FC soccer game and the University of Memphis Tigers basketball game downtown the night before, and made time to meet up with friends afterward. We needed recovery time.

I’m happier about the later light during the day (better for those afternoon photo sessions) but I do not enjoy dark mornings. I know that spring is on the way, and as proof I was delighted to get my copies of DeSoto Magazine, featuring my friend and client, Margaret Stokes. She has a darling urban flower farm just a few miles from me. The article, written by my friend and client, Karen Ott Mayer, is just as delightful as Margaret is, and I was so happy they were able to use the photos I took of her over the course of several months (she took advantage of my social media subscription to document most of her growing season).

So I’ll try to be patient, knowing that the morning light will get here soon enough.

Transforming every morning

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On weekdays, when I have to get up earlier than I like (because apparently my school district thinks teenagers will perform well on five hours of sleep), I have this thing that I look forward to. Once my husband has left to take our girls to school, I settle down on the sofa and pull out my Morning Pages journal. I put the date at the top of the page and start writing. Whatever pops into my head. It could be “I’m so sleepy” or “Keep writing” or it could be a discussion with myself on how to market my business or how to better (meaning “faster”) clean my house or a recounting of a weird dream. It doesn’t exactly matter. The point is to spend about 30 minutes writing three pages every day.

This comes from one of my favorite books, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Once you’ve known me for a bit it’s likely I will mention Morning Pages, because the habit is so ingrained and I love how it has changed my life. The Artist’s Way is a 12-week guide to discovering your creativity. There are twelve chapters, with questions and assignments at the end of each. You are expected to take yourself on an Artist’s Date every week (that’s some kind of outing, alone, that is purely for your pleasure) and do Morning Pages every day.

The Artist’s Way is not easy to do. I failed to complete it twice before I finally made it all the way through the whole book, and I’ve done the full program a second time as part of a group. And it has opened me up in ways I never could have predicted. I have a hard time putting this into words, but basically it forces you to spend time with yourself. Which sounds a little ridiculous. We are with ourselves all the time, right? But this is in a way that requires you to listen to yourself deeply. No one is allowed to read your Morning Pages. In fact, I rarely go back over them myself (although I have the past 17 journals saved on a bookshelf, in case I ever become famous and the world needs to know how my brain works). So when you know you can write freely—and you have to fill up three pages—you find yourself being brutally honest. With and about yourself.

The joy is in the discoveries. I not only write about the past, but I like to write about the future. Julia talks about letting the universe know what you want. One morning I wrote about how I would love to see Stevie Wonder in concert. (Aside: Stevie Wonder has been my boyfriend since high school and I will fight you over this.) Anyhoo, I’ve never been to a concert of his and wrote about how cool that would be someday. Within minutes, I turned on the radio and heard an ad for a Stevie Wonder concert in Little Rock. Dude. I manifested that. Ultimately I chose not to go (the timing conflicted with something else) but the idea that I can be clear about what I want is intoxicating.

Here’s another. A friend/business coach asked me to think about how much money I’d like to make each year, then multiply that by ten and then figure out how to do it. Crazy, right? But I’m up for a challenge, so I started writing about what my business would look like, in great detail. And this thing led to that thing and six months later I was opening up a portrait studio outside of my home and moving toward that money goal. This is a true story. I wrote something down and now I get to turn the key in the door of my studio and feel that rush of excitement (I made this!) any day I want.

Morning Pages are not for everyone. It’s a commitment (some days I don’t feel like it or have to get going early or I’m on vacation, etc.) and it you have to be willing to listen to everything, not just the good stuff. I just wrote about an experience that I found to be taxing but also worthwhile, but other people I care about found it difficult and disappointing. I hadn’t anticipated their perspectives and the pages were a good place where I could explore that. We all got something different out of the experience and it will make me more attentive to that in the future. Sometimes I’m just an ass. I let myself get too tired or hungry and I say something stupid or thoughtless. Because I’ve trained myself to look for truth, I can realize my faults a bit more quickly and make amends. This is often hard, but necessary. Morning Pages are a place for truth.

Now, you still have to do the work. You can’t write “open a portrait studio” and then stay on the couch and expect it to just happen. But these pages do act as guides for me. They are a place to consolidate thoughts and make mistakes and try things out. They have captured all my emotions: good and not-so-flattering. They have transformed me into the person I am, and will continue to transform me, each morning.

Is The Artist’s Way something you would be interested in? Leave a comment below and I’ll send one lucky winner a copy of the book and a comp book for Morning Pages. I’ll pick the winner March 14, 2019.


Portrait Masters • November 2017

Last fall I was excited to learn that my mentor, Sue Bryce, had created an accreditation process specifically for portrait photographers. You enter your images, they are judged by an international panel, and you receive merits, all building up to three levels of certification. Not really knowing what would be the outcome, I submitted a handful of images. And I was delighted to earn bronze merits on these six! I learned a lot by looking at the top 20 point-earners in each of the categories, and I've just submitted another round for the spring contest. I feel so grateful to have beautiful clients who make my job easy. Stay tuned for the next announcement. 

March is for Malala

Just a quick word to remind you about about my plan to help educate girls around the world this month. Did you get a chance to catch the documentary "He Named Me Malala"? on the National Geographic channel last week? It's a work of art with an important message about girls. 

As a mom raising two awesome girls, it's a cause near to my heart. I want them to have every opportunity in the world and I want the world to hear their voices. Ever since seeing the film I've felt called to do something to support it. So with every session fee paid in March, I will donate $25 to the Malala Fund. And I just got word that for every donation in March, an anonymous donor is matching it. So that means $50 for every session fee paid. 

If you were thinking of doing a spring session, please contact me as soon as possible. If you don't need a session right now but would like to contribute to the Malala Fund, you can click here.

Do girls deserve an education?

A few weeks ago, my family cuddled up in the den and watched the documentary "He Named Me Malala". Honestly, it was mesmerizing. The story itself, about a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who advocates education for all girls and was shot by the Taliban, is already compelling. But the movie is truly a wonder, with beautiful illustrations that fill the screen and give even more meaning to the story. It's a companion to the book you see above, with newer developments in Malala's life.

If you haven't had a chance to see the movie yet (we picked ours up from Redbox), here's your chance. National Geographic Channel is debuting it this coming Monday, Feb. 29 at 7pm central. It's presented commercial-free and you can learn more about the #MalalaFund that supports education for girls worldwide. As a mom raising two awesome girls, it's a cause near to my heart. I want them to have every opportunity in the world and I want the world to hear their voices. I loved showing them a girl who has changed the world just by speaking out. And I loved the story of a father who believes so completely in the greatness of his daughter. 

Ever since seeing the film I've felt called to do something to support it. So let's get on that. With every session fee paid in March, I will donate $25 to the Malala Fund. If you were thinking of doing a spring session, please contact me so I can add you to the list of people who are standing #withMalala. If you don't need a session right now but would like to contribute to her cause, you can click here. Either way, I hope you get a chance to tune in and learn more about this amazing girl and her amazing family.

Five ways to show your daughter you love her.

Are you a fan of Parks and Recreation? My girls and I are and this year I'm going to surprise them with a little Galentine's Day celebration. Galentine's Day, according to Leslie Knope, is when you celebrate your female friendships on Feb. 13. I'm still working out the details (and don't tell them if you see them!) and I thought I'd share some fun-loving ideas with you. Feel free to alter them to fit your particular family.

• Love notes. Slip a note under their bedroom door announcing that they are going on an adventure today. Leave hints or just give them directions: get up and get dressed! Now!
• Day date. Divide and conquer. Each parent schedules a date with each kid over the course of the weekend. Let the kid decide where you are going. Sit back and let them talk about whatever they want.
• Follow the leader. Pick a dessert and bake from scratch with the kids. Let them read the recipe, let them measure and stir and frost and make a mess. Here's the gift: stand back and let them do it. No critiques! If cooking isn't your thing, do a craft or some other activity. The point is to let them lead. 
• Surprise hugs! My younger daughter is a surprise-hug ninja. I plan on turning the tables on her next week and loading her up on hugs. Moody tweens and teens act like they don't want parents around, but letting them know you care with a quick hug can remind them you are always there for them. 
• Silly selfies. Most tweens and teens are never without smart phones. Grab yours and challenge them to a crazy face duel. If you encounter resistance, start out by showing them adorable puppy videos. No kid can resist. 

I hope you enjoy spreading a little love to your family next week. Let me know if you used any of the ideas and how they turned out (would love to see your selfies on Instagram!).