Monday, March 26, 2012

{R+M} | March ASP Winner

What does 16 years of marriage look like? 

For the life of me, I could not envision it prior to the session.  I have seen several couples who have been married for 10 years, and several who have been married for 30 or more, but the thought of 16 years eluded me.  Perhaps it is because when I look ahead to my 16th anniversary, I will have a son who is rapidly approaching his first year of college.  It is surreal to imagine it.

Enter ASP's March winners.

We started off the session with a little bit of a hiccup.  Salado is a popular art town, and it hosts several events on weekends throughout the year, so I generally expect a little bit more traffic on the weekends.  I definitely did not expect this weekend's festivities to engulf 3/4 of the town.  We were essentially banished to the far end of town, an area which I have not utilized to its full potential (in other words, I had no set locations for the shoot).  My clients did not so much as bat an eye at my ill-preparedness.  We explored the area together, stopping at picturesque locations that I wish I had known about before and have filed away for future reference.  I can't tell you how grateful I am to have such understanding and adventurous clients!

I chatted with them during the shoot, as I am wont to do.  It generally helps relax my subjects and makes the outcome of the portraits more natural.  Happily, I found that, though the conversation was great and we had a few laughs, they were perfectly natural just being together.  They seemed to fit into each others arms like two pieces of a puzzle.  They required very little direction beyond an initial modeling or suggestion.  But the one thing that amazed me the most was their reaction to one of my standard requests: "Tell me about your first date."

They looked at each other.  They smiled.  And then they burst out laughing.

I have had several clients that have been married for about as long as I have.  Without fail, that statement elicits a giggle, a chuckle, even uproarious laughter.  To see an identical reaction from a couple that has been together for so long was inspiring.  So, what does 16 years of marriage look like?  To be honest, it looks a lot like any marriage.  There is some teasing, some ribbing, some laughing, a whole lot of tenderness and patience, and, my very favorite part, oodles of affectionate gestures.  I can only hope that my art does their love justice.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

And March's ASP Winner Is....................................

.........................................................................Melissa Ashley!!  Congratulations, Melissa!  I will be in contact with you shortly to schedule your America's Sweethearts session.  Thank you to all who entered!


Friday, March 2, 2012

ASP - March Edition | Freebies

America's Sweethearts March edition is live!  Entries will be accepted today (March 2, 2012) through 11 PM, March 4, 2012.  For those who haven't gone over the rules and regs here, I have supplied them below.  Enter, spread the word, and have fun!
The Goods:

Couples selected for ASP will receive over $500 worth of products and services, absolutely free.

This includes:

*Pre-session consultation
*1-1.5 hour on-location session
*Low-res disc of watermarked images
*(2) Mini accordion books
*(1) 11x14 mounted print of the couple's favorite image

How To Enter:

Entering is simple.  At the beginning of every month, I will make a blog post to indicate the opening of the program.  Any and all interested parties will then have 48 hours to comment with their name and e-mail.  Spouses may provide a separate entry, but there may not be more than two entries per household.

Rules and Regulations:

*All entrants must be 18 or older to participate.

*Entrants must be in the Central Texas area to participate.

*Couples who have participated in a registered OpLove session with MMU Photography or any other photography business within 12 months are not eligible.

*Couples can be selected one time only for the ASP.  MMU Photography reserves the right to remove the entries of and/or refuse to participate in an ASP session with prior winners.  This is to ensure the fairness of the program.  I want to reach as many wonderful couples as possible.

*Winners must be willing and able to provide military identification at the time of their session.
*Winners must be willing to schedule and shoot a session in the month that they are chosen as winners.

*Military uniform is not required.

*Entries will be processed through to choose the winner.  The winner will be announced on the blog and will be notified privately.  Once notified, the winner has 72 hours to respond.  In the event that the winner does not respond, another name will be drawn.


*ASP is not affiliated with  Any and all adjustments and enforcements of the ASP rules and regulations are at the sole discretion of MMU Photography.**

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One Year Already?? | Business

March 1st (Today!) marks the first anniversary of MMU Photography officially being opened for business. It has been an invigorating year photographing beautiful clients, networking with several very talented photographers and growing in both my business and my photography. I have learned several lessons in one short year that have really taken my work and my professionalism to the next level, and I am pleased to be able to share them with you here.

 #1 It is the photographer, not the camera, that creates art.

 I know that, to many artists, this is a no-brainer. Would the evocative works of Pablo Picasso have had less impact if he had used inferior art supplies? Of course not, he was the creator, regardless of whatever medium he chose to work with and whatever quality of tools he chose to use to ultimately bring his vision to life (although I am sure Picasso used quality brushes). As a more pointed example, the gorgeous work of Lee Morris (using his iPhone for a fashion shoot) springs to mind ( Whether one is using a Canon Rebel or a 5D/1Ds Mark Whatever, the vision of the photographer is what comes through in the end result. You will find people with top-of-the-line equipment with no desire to learn the true potential, and photographers running successful businesses with a consumer grade camera and one fabulous lens. Top quality gear is awesome, and makes certain obstacles like grain in low light shooting easier to overcome, but I honestly believe that starting with less than the best helps you grow into your art. Of course, knowing the awesome capabilities of the 5D Mark 2, I am definitely upgrading the first chance I get, but my 5D classic has served me well, and I think the challenges of its lesser capabilities were well worth it for the start of my photographic journey. They helped me learn. Which leads me to my second point.

#2 Learning = Growing

This cannot be stressed enough: If you have no desire to learn, you will not grow. I started off with a 5D classic and an 85mm with no true intention to start a business. I had outgrown the limitations of my point and shoot's manual settings, and wanted more control over my photographs. Well, I got my camera, learned manual within the first month, and was shooting exclusively in RAW a week later. I was so proud of myself, and so ready to challenge myself by shooting something other than my pets and my son. So I filed with the state and began portfolio-building. At every shoot, I had a gaffe of some sort. Perhaps my exposure was off in a shot because I forgot to adjust my settings, or the framing was atrocious because I had taken one step too far to the right. I am not proud to say that I used Photoshop to my fullest advantage in correcting my mistakes. I felt invincible. But then I noticed just how long it was taking me to edit my sessions. So, instead of relying on Photoshop to be my crutch, I began to eyeball my meter more. I started to pose my clients rather than give them vague instructions. I checked my LCD more frequently to make sure there were no blinks rather than taking 4-5 shots just to be sure. And I have grown. My workflow now consists of a punch of color and contrast, retouching, and a b&w conversion almost exclusively. My point is, if I had continued to ignore my mistakes rather than learning from them, I would have been burnt out within a few months. Learn, grow, and never think that your journey is over.

#3 Pin down your style, and stick with it

When you look at photographer's sites, which are the ones that capture your attention? The one with the dreamy, faded portraits that make you feel the warmth of the sun just looking at them? The bold, bright, crisp portraits set against a funky urban backdrop? I find myself attracted to all types of beautiful artwork, but I am most notable drawn toward simple art, clean lines & bright colors. Because this is the styling I prefer as a consumer, more and more I have seen my work evolve from the sun-kissed haziness I once strived for to more natural portraiture. Go with what feels natural for you, with what you consider beautiful. Once you have a developed style, you will find that consistency to be one of the aspects that attracts your clients to you. It also helps with your workflow to have a specific vision for a set of images.

#4 Finding a balance is crucial

Time does not stop for those who are busy. That is especially true in my household. Dinner will not stir itself, the sneak peek will not take "just a second" to write, and the baby will not cease turning on and off the computer until he has my full attention. I admit that it can sometimes be frustrating (and may even seem impossible) to balance a work and home life, especially if the two mesh in a small space 80% of the time. I have learned that it is okay to pace myself. I can edit a handful of photographs, make a meal, play with my son, and then return to my work for a short amount of time before the cycle begins again. There is no penalty for keeping yourself and your loved ones healthy and happy. After all, they are one of the biggest reasons I pursued my own small business in the first place. Prioritizing your time is key. My clients are very important to me, but my family always has and always will come first.

#5 This is a business

I have wanted to run my own business for several years. I find that I have a knack for customer service, a passion for creating, and a drive to succeed, all of which are what ultimately steered me into photography as a profession. I do, however, find myself balking at times when I come upon a purely business decision. It could be something as simple as which ledger to purchase, or as complicated as what liability and equipment insurance work best for me. In the flurry of beautiful photographs, awesome clients, and excellent products, it can be easy to forget that one simple fact. This is a business. I am liable for my business, and responsible for the satisfaction of my clients. My photography takes up a very small percentage of the hours that go into my business: Quality assurance, correspondences, paperwork, research and budgeting overcome the art side of the business quite rapidly. Keeping in mind that this is a business, a way to contribute to my family, it keeps me grounded. It helps me make decisions out of necessity rather than putting them off. It may not make me a better artist, but it certainly makes me a better businesswoman.

So there you have it. Five lessons I have learned about photography and owning a small business over the course of 366 (thanks to the leap year!) days. To all of my wonderful clients, thank you for believing in me and supporting me this year. Here's to another year of growth, successes, and lessons learned!

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