branding your business | studio headshots

Can I be honest? 

I think I can. People tell me they appreciate my honesty.

I am not sure I was born with that gene where I cannot be. Sure, I make up stories in my head every day, but mostly, I strive to tell the truth about myself and to myself. 

I taught English for many years, and I feel like this blog about branding your business should begin with an ode to Charles Dickens:

It is the best of times, 

it is the worst of times, 

it is ultimate freedom,

it is relentless discipline, 

it has seasons of sheer joy, 

it has seasons of utter despair, 

it is a life we would not trade for anything, 

it is a life that brings lots of long days turned sleepless nights.

I began my path as an entrepreneur in 2011. My goal was to see if I could make it one year. I never really allowed myself to think about creating photographs as a long term career. It was something I loved and something people asked me to do. Only recently have I begun to realize that day by day, quarter by quarter, year by year, I’ve been doing this for a while now. I still feel so new, and I am riding one of those waves in business where I need all new computers and to upgrade my tired equipment, so in some ways I feel like I’m just starting up. It’s still scary sometimes because in an age where everyone has a camera in their pocket, I pay my mortgage and taxes and save for retirement with what I earn as a photographer. 

During that time, I’ve experienced a number of highs and lows. If I were to name why I’m still here photographing people, it’s not because I have the most talent. It’s because in moments of desperation, I reach out to others for help. 

And, during one low period in particular, I remember reaching out to fellow family and newborn photographer, Sabrina Gebhardt. I don’t really remember what all she told me, but I took copious notes, and I left that meeting feeling like I could keep on, keeping on for a little while longer. Gosh, that must have been at least five years ago. Since then, she’s begun mentoring photographers, and I would recommend her to anyone and everyone. She is a natural teacher with a passion for sharing what she’s learned. I consider her the queen of lifestyle photography and a baby whisperer. 

As a photographer, she understands that photos matter. I’m thrilled to be creating some branding photos to help her share the various services she offers. 

There was a time when I would have been really nervous to photograph a fellow photographer, but I honestly relish it now. I know how much we hate being in front of the camera, so I just see my job as putting a person at ease. 

People sometimes ask how many looks they can expect in an hour studio headshot session, and this session shows what’s possible. 

This was my first session of 2020, after an entire month “off” where I tended to back-end business work but did not photograph anyone. Sabrina has taught me to call this type of work my “CEO Day” which sounds so much better than “administrative tasks.” I actually look forward to my CEO Days when I crunch my numbers and handle my website and today, I’m actually writing this blog. Anyway, when I arrived to the studio, I had 2 frames remaining on a roll of medium format black and white film that I knew I needed to purge. I’d used it to test my equipment the night before with my family. So, I began with this double exposure. Except, there was some “camera advancement malfunction” so it’s four or five exposures. I dig it though. 

From there, I began to photograph in color. We kept it neutral. I love a white shirt for headshots. And as a photographer, wearing a white shirt makes you a natural reflector, so it’s fitting for her. 

behind the scenes at the DarkRoom.

What’s of utmost importance in selecting clothes for your session is the fit. If you wear something baggy, I’m not above using a backdrop clip to make it look more fitted.

From there, she added a jacket, and we stepped outside for some casual lifestyle images. The power of good branding is that you can charge more for what you do. For instance, Starbucks can charge $6 for coffee. Remember when that was insane! My son recognizes the Starbucks logo anywhere and yells, “CAKEPOP CAKEPOP CAKEPOPPPPPP” until I pull over. I know lots of entrepreneurs who balk at paying for photos, but photos build your brand, and if you use them right, you certainly see a return on your investment. More on that another time. 

Because she works in studio but also at home and is a casual lifestyle photographer, we wanted a set to communicate all of that. We took this rug out of the DarkRoom bathroom and layered some backdrops because I just like stuff to have some dimension. And chaos is part of Sabrina’s brand. 

Carly, deep in thought, trying to read my mind and execute my vision with these layered backdrops. She nailed it– as always!

She just went to mirrorless (like me, except a different model). #cameranerds

As a photographer educator and mentor, much of her work is done behind the scenes. She is a colour lover, so we added some pink here. 

One of the services she offers are simple portraiture in studio of babies, toddlers, and now adolescents where she captures the stage they’re in. I just thought it would be fun to play on that with her many accoutrements in tow. 

What would a headshot session of a photographer be without a photo of her with her camera. I mean, as I was talking with her I said, “In your quest to be creative, you ever miss the obvious shot?” I try not to. So, I feel like this photo shows her essence. 

If you’re in need of some photos for your business, I offer two packages: one in-studio session like this, which starts at $350, and a full narrative brand session designed to offer you content for at least a couple quarters. Info on that is found HERE

a week off the grid | a week in Cabo

Nearly a year ago, I told my wife that I wanted to go on a retreat during the first week of December. And, my pattern when I want to do something is to say I’d like to do the thing, and then list all of the obstacles and talk myself out of doing the thing. It doesn’t matter that a big part of my career as both photographer and mother is to encourage and inspire people to do the thing. When it comes to myself, I’m often more the doubter than the dreamer. We all need people in our lives who help us be great. I am so grateful for  the people in my life who say, “Yes, you can” and “Come on, I’ll help you.” 

This fall didn’t pummel me this year because I planned well and held my ground and ultimately kept my word to myself, which I’ve found is the best predictor of how much other folks can trust me.

And, I spent five days in the desert near Cabo, where a chef prepared three meals each day for me and I practiced yoga twice daily. I made few decisions with the exception of a day trip to Flora Farms. Over the course of the week at Prana del Mar, I became so gloriously bored that I created new things and crunched last year’s numbers and reflected on how grateful I am that I get to live this life. Whether it’s the posh life for a week or the peanut butter cracker-inbox overflowing-plastic paradise life I live the other 51 weeks of the year, I try to live it gratefully. 

For you film aficionados, these photos are mostly a combination of Portra 800 and Cinestill Daylight 50, shot on a Nikon F5, processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.

dallas fort worth in-home newborn photographer

The first-born baby photo shoots are honestly so laid back. The second-born baby photo shoots are FUN. Toddlers make everything an adventure. There are car rides and snack breaks. 

I’m thrilled for this family, whom I began photographing when they were engaged. They engage in that dance that comes with two children under two with grace. Parenthood is complex, and I love how these photos tell the various aspects of the story. The day was overcast, and if I was a “natural light” photographer, I would have needed to reschedule. Armed with my off camera strobes and soft diffusers, I was able to create some beautiful airy photos. And, of course, I always love the mood of hard window light, too. For you film nerds, these are Portra 800 and Ilford Super XP 400, which is my favorite black and white film (although I suppose it’s technically processed like a color film). 

At the end of the session, each of them looked exhausted. It was nap time, and I was packing up. And, I realized Mom was humming the same song to Son as Dad was to Daughter. I melted. Each family has its own rhythm, and to witness how parents attune to their children is truly a thing of beauty. 

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