Beauty Photography

My first pageant

I sit here this morning, sipping coffee and watching the sunrise.  Pondering all the feelings and thoughts I have after attending my first Miss America Maryland pageant.  I'm also pondering why my dog insists on waking me up by putting his paw in my face, but that's neither here nor there.

I went into this event with a few preconceptions but truthfully not knowing what to really expect.  I've had the privilege to work with five of the young women competing for this scholarship and was rooting for each of them.  Two for Miss Outstanding Teen Maryland, and three for Miss Maryland.  I've also been lucky enough to connect with several others through social media.  All of them have been a joy to work with and have shown me the next generation is full of bold, energetic, compassionate, caring people.  If my generation doesn't screw up the world too much, I think their future will be just fine.  

The biggest thing I took away from last night was the genuine love these girls have for each other.  As a photographer, I'm an observer by nature.  I was in the balcony last night with a prime spot to not only watch the event, but watch the contestants when they were not "on".  As each contestant performed their talent, or walked the stage, these girls of a sisterhood would cheer and applaud.  The whole crowd of parents/family/friends would cheer for whoever they were there for, but these girls would cheer for their fellow contestants with the same energy and volume that I would expect at a World Cup match.  It was touching.  As a man, when competing I've been told to hate your opponent and conquer them.  But this was the opposite.  True love for each other, and that love was palpable. 

I have to mention the outgoing Miss Teen Maryland Chloe Wildman.  I've gotten to know Chloe and her mom a bit over the past year.  To say this young woman is someone special is not giving her enough credit.  Her farewell speech was her singing and few things make me cry but her cover of "Never enough" from The Greatest Showman made this old grinch's heart grow three sizes.  She walked off stage to a standing ovation.  Now that's an exit.

I've had to pleasure of shooting with Kathleen Masek, the outgoing Miss Maryland, and like to call her a friend.  Her grace and poise in passing the torch to the new Miss Maryland is something we should all strive for.  She is the embodiment of what the Miss America organization stands for.

This was a beauty contest through and through.  And I don't mean physical looks.  These young women showed what true beauty is.  Support, love, grace, and left me with a feeling of joy that I'm still trying to process.  It is my greatest hope that I can help contribute, in my own small humble way, to the continued growth of these and future generations of inspiring young women.

Many hats of a budding working photographer

As a budding working photographer I have to wear a multitude of hats.  The dream is to one day be able to have people who are much better than me deal with the things that aren't in my wheelhouse.  As with all things in life, it's a balancing act.  Right now I am a photographer, IT guy, social media director, marketing director, retoucher, set builder, and technology guru.  That's a lot of plates in the air.

It's my natural tendency to focus on only on the things I'm good at.  Hence my lack of social media and the rats nest of wires and systems I have.  But it works for now, and until I can afford help I'll keep plugging along.

I bring all this up because of a conversation I had with a doctor the other day.  I was in for a routine check up and he asked about doing portraits for his staff.  He wants images for his website and office.  When I told him my price (which is pretty low in our area) he was shocked at how expensive he thought it was.  I try not to take offense at these things because people are often uneducated at the cost of running a photography business.  I explained to him why I charged what I charge, but I could tell he didn't see the value.  Which is always a little discouraging.

My father is a natural salesman, a gene which unfortunately I did not inherit.  And it's one of the biggest hats I need to wear.  To be able to explain the value in my product, which is if we are being honest a luxury item, is tough for me.  I am one of those people who sees the price of something I want, if I can afford it then I buy it.  I don't haggle, I don't argue.  If I want something and can afford the price offered then I get it.  If I can't I either save up or go without.  Which is an attitude not suited for selling.  I need to explain why my price is what it is, and show the client the value.  A large hat for me indeed.

I'm not sure why I bring all this up, other than it was thought rattling around my head.  I'd love to hear how other people explain their value to prospective clients.  Or better yet, get someone else wear that hat ;)

Motivation Monday

Have you ever woken up in the middle of a bad dream and realized it's time to get up and start your day?  Ugh...I just want to go back to bed and hit restart.  But you can't, right?  Life isn't a video game and there's no "undo" button.

So here I sit, completely unmotivated to write something, edit something, go to my regular job.  But you have to keep moving forward don't you?  Time doesn't stop, as much as we'd love for it to.  Those little moments of a quiet morning with a cup of coffee, watching a sunrise, or sunset.  Seeing a child laugh or a dog roll in the grass just for the sheer joy of it.  

So you write the blog, edit the image and get your ass to work.  Sometimes just the act gets you motivated.  Push on and push through.  It's not always pretty, well thought out, or well executed.  But as long as you try and continue moving forward.  Some days are oatmeal, some days are bacon and eggs.  Today is oatmeal but here's and image to remind me that there are bacon and egg days ahead, to always move forward.

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Support and balance

Let me just start off by saying I have the most amazing wife.  She encourages me to pursue my passion with photography in so many ways.  Not the least of which is when models and makeup artists come to my home studio for a day of shooting.  

We've built our home to be our sanctuary.  Our place to block out the world and all of it's pressures.  To escape and recharge.  I'm sure most people see their home in this way.  Yet she allows and even encourages me to let people invade our space for the sake of my photography.  I've talked to other married photographers and I've heard stories of spouses not allowing models in their home, and only being able to shoot in a rented studio.  I just thank my lucky stars I'm with someone who doesn't feel that way.

That being said, I have a tendency to get carried away.  Shoot after shoot, using up the few precious days we have together when we aren't at our jobs.  I need to be reigned in sometimes.  Which is good.  I know it's a balancing act.  I can see why some famous photographers have been divorced.  You get caught up in all of it.  Planning, shooting, post work, social media, blog posts, connecting with new people.   It's all a balancing act.  It'll never be perfect.  If left to my own devices I'd be shooting every day, massively in debt, and probably miserable.  Hating what is now a passion.  I want to nurture us and my passion.  Balance...that's the key, and the hard part.  But as the great Jimmy Dugan once said "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."

Big Shoot Nerves

I've got a big shoot coming up and I'm pretty nervous about it.  It's a group shoot of three mermaids to be done in a studio.  No budget available so I can't rent a large place, and I only have my small home studio.  I'm going for a soft feel with the lighting.  Which means a big light source.  Big lights, small space...ugh.  Hence my nervousness.  I've been scouring the internet looking for solutions and have some ideas.  In the end, I'll do what I can and make the most out of it.  I'm sure part of my trepidation is a recent failure with another big shoot.  I had planned for months with a local clothing boutique to do some outdoor fashion shots.  The idea was to travel light with one light and do a run and gun session.  Using little areas of downtown I had scouted ahead of time.  The day of it kept threatening to rain.  Finally we are ready and outside for the first setup when the skies opened up.  We were lucky enough to use the boutique as an impromptu studio, but I didn't have any of the proper equipment to get the quality of images I had expected.  My fault 100%.  The models were great, the makeup and styling were fantastic and the boutique couldn't have been more helpful.  Photographer fail.

So here I am with another big shoot coming up.  Nerves.  Yeah, I gotz dem.  But when you fall down, you dust yourself off and get back up.  Learn and move on.