The price of professionalism (Blogpost #9, reflections photography, yuba city, ca)

When a client contacts you and asks for your prices before they even research your quality and style, that raises a big red flags to all photographers. Most photographers are glad to provide pricing, but there is always that worry that the inquirer will only become a client if the price is right.   Should it not be if the quality is right for the price?  Rather than searching for the lowest price to capture precious family moments, look at who the photographer is, what their brand is, what they offer, and the quality of their artform.   It depends on what the client wants their images to reflect.  A client's preference could be anything from a snapshot from a phone to a high quality a portrait that draws they eye and speaks to the memory the image has captured.  First and foremost, decide, as a client, what you want the final outcome to be and what your expectations are.   Are you wanting to assist the budding photographer and help them grow their craft?  Are you wanting artistic images that reflect the experience of the photographer and your preferred style?  Either way, it is important to know what to look for before hiring and understand the reasons behind the prices.

So, what should one look for when hiring a professional photographer?

  • Quality of work and personal style.
    • Does their style and quality match with yours?  
  • On trend with latest styles.
    • Does the photographer's artwork provide a versatile range of moods, styles, poses, and finishes that fit your needs?
  • Continually improving their artform, equipment, and education.
    • Does the photographer work to continue educating themselves and improving on their form, equipment, the industry, their standards?  
  • Licensed and insured.
    • Does the photographer take their business and craft seriously enough to be licensed and insured?
  • Service oriented
    • Does the photographer offer quality service, a wide range of product choices, and realistic delivery times?
    • Do they provide excellent customer service and communicate with their clients?
    • Does their pricing match their product and service?
  • Branding
    • Does the photographer have a brand that clearly communicates their platform, their artwork, and what they provide to their clients?
    • Is their website visually appealing, easy to navigate, and informative of their products, service, and style?
    • Are they active on social media, promoting their image, brand,  and attempting to reach clients?

If the answer to these questions is yes, expect to pay for the time, effort, and care they put into making sure they offer you quality, service, and images you are proud to display and share.  All of the above items cost the photographer their time and their hard earned money.  Professionals invest in themselves to provide the client a better product, service, and experience.  Professionals continually strive for growth.  They are not just someone who picked up a DSLR and decided to call themselves a photographer, rather, they are someone who has taken their money, time, and skill and risked it in an ever changing economic climate.

Aside from their equipment, here are some of the costs of being a professional photographer:

  • Business licensing
  • Permits
  • Studio and office expenses
  • Equipment insurance coverage
  • Liability insurance
  • Web hosting
  • Lab fees
  • Gallery fees
  • Processing fees
  • Accounting fees
  • Continuing education expenses
  • Promotional and marketing items
  • Graphic design outsourcing expenses
  • Software and storage fees/dues
  • Vehicle expenses 

Remember, professionalism comes at a price.  You will get what you pay for.  

I'm (not) sorry I got you hooked on Outlander and messed up your life (REflections Photography, Yuba City, CA - Blogpost #6)

Pssst, come here...I have something I want you to try.  Yeah, you're gonna really like this.  It will totally change your world.  Expand your mind, enlightenment.  Come one, just one hit.

 

Pictures create images that people can reflect on for years to come.  When I take that picture I want my clients to be able to be swept back to that moment in time when they were seniors in high school, newlyweds, new parents, the moments when their children were small, etc.  I want to capture that memory, put that image in their head.  Somewhat the same is how our favorite books create an image in our minds and stays with us as a cherished memory.  A moment in time that resonates so strong, it alters your future.  Like a photograph, you can go back to that feeling and get that image just by re-reading.  Once you experience that moment, you aren't the same anymore.  You get swept away by the reflection of where you were when you read it, how it made you feel, and knowing you can capture that again just by opening the cover and stepping away from your reality.

I read.  A lot.  More than I should (as if there is such thing!).  My home is filled with books.  I had to put two large bookshelves in my dining room to hold 'some' of them.  Some are in closets.  In the garage.  I hoard them on my kindle so my husband won't know (do not tell him, ok?  This can stay just between us, right?) I spend more on books than makeup (and I like my pretties).  It drives my non-reader husband crazy.  Hey, I could have worse habits!  He cringes because he knows that when I see a bookstore, my heart starts pounding, and we are going to be spending some time in there.  A used bookstore sends me over the edge.  I could spend hours, days.  The library; just give me IV sustenance and I could live there.  I have this dream of having a bookstore/bakery with all my artwork hanging on the walls.  

Growing up, I wasn't a big reader.  It wasn't cool to read.  I had more important, active things to do with my friends.  However, when the teacher said it was time for silent reading, I may have groaned right along with the class but secretly, I was euphoric!  Books from 5th grade stand out the most as planting the "love to read" seed: Nothing's Fair in 5th Grade, The Indian in the Cupboard, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia...sigh

 

I may be viewed as lazy because you can find me reading when I should be working, exercising, cooking, or cleaning.  Really, it's an addiction.  All the things you should be doing are waylaid by your need to get your fix.  Like a drug.  Like a habit.  My daughters are readers as well, so they understand.  You'll find them snuggled up with a book when they could be on their tablets or phones (SO PROUD!) You say to yourself "Just one more chapter" and it turns into finishing the book and realizing you've stayed up way too late to be a functioning part of society the next day.  Maybe, just maybe, this is why books and coffee go so well together.  Like a codependent relationship.  Rainy days, books, coffee, maybe a pastry and no plans....best.day.ever.

You can travel around the world and enrich your life without actually going anywhere just by opening a book.

 

 

I admit that when my children were smaller, I didn't read as much.  Mama duties came first.  I probably went about 5 years without reading more than a couple books per year.  Between diapers, nursing, sleep deprivation, there just wasn't time.  But, when I eventually started to become myself again, not just the mom, I threw myself back into reading.  Always interested in history and my heritage, although mostly interested in fiction, I began with reading all of John Jake's books.  I mean, it just went one after the other after the other until there were no more.  His North & South series, then onto the Kent Family Chronicles, then the Californians.  I love anthologies.  I ripped into Fern Michaels' Texas, Vegas, and Kentucky series, then, I was turned onto a series of books that forever changed my life and what I look for in a book (no babies were neglected in the creation of my obsession).  Now, I read a book every couple of days.  They fill my house and my TBR (to be read) list is ever growing.

 

So let's discuss for a minute the book that messed me up for other books.  That one that you measure all other books against.  The book that messed you up so you had to mess others up with it.  Outlander.  Although written in 91, I didn't even know of it's existence until 2004 when it was recommended to me because of my interest in Scottish History and looking for a good book to read.  Being a Scottish lass myself (well, made in America with mostly Scottish parts), I was immediately hooked on this story.  Then, to find out it continued for several more books (and counting), I became obsessed.  Was it because the hero in the story reminded me of my husband? Um, not so much a tall, scottish, red headed highlander from the 18th century.  But, in personality, strength, and honor, yep (now if I could just get him to don that kilt and master the accent...).  I know what you are thinking: Fabio emblazoned bodice ripper. Nope.   Although the book has been categorized as fantasy and romance, it is more historical fiction than anything else.  My favorite.  Historical fiction novels that aren't soft porn are hard to find, though!  Just this past year, the author teemed with Starz and made the books into a television series!  Dream come true for those of us obsessed.  So yes, I am a pusher of this book.  I pushed so many people into reading the Outlander series, that I am sure it's messed them up as well (in the best way ever).  I've received texts from those reading saying "OMG" and "WTH?"  and I love it.  I needed company in my obsession.  I'm the dealer in the dark who says "Hey,  wanna try this book?" I am really not sorry.  I'll take every one of you down with me.  I've purchased about 5 copies of the main book and loaned them out.  Finally, I just went ahead and bought the whole series on my kindle because I know I'm not gonna get my hard copies back.

 

Ok ok ok, moving on.  Moving back to other books, because all books matter and there is life outside of Outlander.  No really, there is.  This series set in motion the need to dive into other similar books.  A placebo book before the next fix is released (or the next episode is on).  The Wilderness Series by Sarah Donati, The Plantagenet Series by Sharon K. Penman (this one, wow, very enlightening on the history of the English Monarchy), The Robin Hood Trilogy by Denise Domning (A little more romance than history, but very cool read), The Garden of Allah series by Martin Turnbull (Golden age of Hollywood).  All highly recommended by this bookworm.  

Not all books are created equal, we know that.  Not all are going to be good.  I rarely do not finish a book once I start it.  However, there have been some that are so dreary, or boring, or pointless that I just put them down.  If it's really bad, it gets a bad Amazon review (ahem, 50 Shades of Gray AKA WTF is this crap?   Friends don't let friend read 50 Shades of Gray)

 

I do venture outside of Historical fiction.  Some of my favorites in the romance category are anything by Robyn Carr.  Good stories, well developed characters, and many anthologies!  I also enjoy the more literary fiction writings of Kristin Hannah,  Sarah Gruen (although her last book was terrible), Ann Easter Smith, Francine Rivers, Lucia St. Clare Robson, and I continue to be entertained by mystery writers CJ Box and Craig Johnson as they speak to the cowgirl in me.  

I know that Nora Roberts has a huge following and is a reading fan favorite.  I admit, she has some I like.  And while I enjoy her books, I get bored as they all follow the same formula.  Before it happens, I already know what's gonna happen.  Her Montana Sky and Carolina Moon are a couple of my all time favorites, though.  And, the Garden Trilogy is good.

So, here is a list of must reads for you:

  1. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  2. Into the Wilderness Series (Sarah Donati)
  3. The Lord John Series (Diana Gabaldon)
  4. The Virgin River and Thunder Point series (Robyn Carr)
  5. The Kent Family Chronicles (John Jakes)
  6. The Joe Pickett Series (CJ Box)
  7. The Walt Longmire Series (Craig Johnson)
  8. Riding Lessons & Flying Changes (Sarah Gruen)
  9. On The Island (Tracy Garvis Graves)
  10. Ride the Wind (Lucia St. Clare Robson)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Auntie Mame (Patrick Dennis)
  • Call Me Tuesday & Call Me Cockroach (Leigh Byrne)
  • Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  • Firefly Lane (Kristin Hannah)
  • A Gentle Rain (Deborah Smith)
  • Anything by Dorthea Benton Frank and Ellen Hildebrand

Here is a list of ones to walk away from quickly, and maybe boycott the author (JK, to each their own)

  • Anything written by EL James or Stephanie Meyer (come on, we are better than this).
  • Hungry for Happiness (James Villas)
  • A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrick)
  • The O'Briens (Peter Berhens)

 

 

Now, reflect on what your favorite book was and share below!

Hey, don't you wanna go read?  Everyone's doing it.  Don't you want to be enlightened and expand your mind?  

Lady-suits, missing youth, the Yuba City mall, and the mommiest-mom ever (REflections Photography, Yuba City, CA - Blogpost #4).

I don't love the mall we have in our town.  We could blame it on the economic downfall of the past decade, but to be honest, it's badly designed, there are a lot of empty stores, and most people drive to Sacramento to do their shopping in the bigger, better malls.  It had a good run in its first 10 years with stores like Wet Seal, Rave, Afterthoughts, Kay Bee Toys, Kinny Shoes Miller's Outpost, and B. Dalton.  NONE of those stores still reside in the mall.  Now it is a sad shell of memories,  cell phone stores, Zumies, Lids, Aeropostale, and Bath & Body Works.

I have an almost teenager.  How the hell did that happen?  I mean, technically I know how it happened, but how did she get to be almost 13?  I say she's 7, tops.  It's heartbreaking.  She's not a little girl anymore and that is now visually apparent to both her dad and me.  That is how I ended up at the mall feeling like the mommiest-mom in the world.  

When your almost 13 year old daughter needs a new bathing suit RIGHT NOW because her dad says the one she has no longer makes her look like she's only 12 and she has a class field trip to the lake the next day, well you don't have time to run to Sacramento or Roseville after work.  After visiting 3 stores in our town, I finally broke down and drove my full size truck to the mall and tried to squeeze into their tiny parking spots that were designed in 1989 for the future smart cars (good looking ahead in a town where the farming and truck owner community is still thriving).  It's already a bad trip and we haven't even gotten out of the truck yet.  Upon arrival a lady yelled at me for parking in two spots by accident (slightly over the line).  Actually, that's not true.  I stole her spot (I had the right of way) and she stopped behind me and waited for me to emerge from my truck.  Here we go, going to have a shouting match at a place I hate.  But, she was kind, and told me that I was taking two spots and could I move over.  Of course.  I felt horrible for thinking the worst of another person.  Apologizing that my truck is hard to park in this tiny spot, she understood and waited patiently for me to move.  I got the look from my daughter. Shut it kid, let's get this over with. 

So, here I am, in my denim capris, comfy old navy tee, giant purse to hold all my mom-stuff, mom pony-tail, comfy sandals, walking through the mall of my youth, yet not.  It's 105 degrees outside and I have been running around like mad all day.  I'm not looking or feeling my best.  I am irritated that she can no longer wear her bathing suit we bought in the Spring because it reaffirms that she's growing up and that it's been a REALLY long time since I could wear a bikini.  I am not feeling trendy, or young, or giddy about who may be at the mall that I know.  Nope, I feel like the a mom, a wallet and a voice of reason.

First store: Pac Sun.  We walk in and the man-uh I mean kid working asked "Can I help you, ma'am?"  No you did not.  No.you.did.not.  Smile Rachel, smile and accept the help.  Customer service is waning and he offered help.  20 years ago he'd have been flirting with me and my bestie.  I ask him where their swimwear is and he points me to a rack with bikinis.  I use the term lightly because it was strings and some lycra.    HAHAHA, no f'ing way.  Before I can say anything he says "I know, I know. I have a niece her age and I hate the suits they have for young girls."  You have redeemed yourself for the ma'am young man.  Pac Sun and it's tiny clothes just got some points in my book.

Store 2: Zumies.  No one asks if they can help us.  That is ok.  The music is so loud I couldn't hear them if they had.  Maybe they had and I didn't hear and now they think I'm a total stuck up mom.  Sorry Zumies, I can't hear you!  Bathing suits are on the back wall.  Slightly better.  Bikinis again, but that's ok.  They are more modest.  I get excited because they are cute.  Daughter says NO.  Hate ruffles.  NO.  Great.  Next store.

Store 3: J.C. Penney's.  One of the last original mall stores.  Is everything on clearance here?  I like clearance.  We go to the bathing suits.  They literally have giant old lady bathing suits and toddler sizes.  That is it.  I look at the old lady-suits and think "huh, this would hide the kid-damage to my body."  I suddenly get it.  I understand the mom suits.  Horrified, I drop it and we leave the store.  When the lady-suits are appealing, abort mission, abort mission!  Clearance or no, get me away from the lady-suits!

Store 4: Rue 21.  Is this store a f'ing joke?  Do people actually dress this way?  They have bathing suits.  Some modest.  With ruffles.  Nope.  I want to check "A Children's Place" because maybe they'll have something in her size, which is a 12 because she's tiny.  I get the teenager "you've got to be kidding me" look.  Ok, moving on.  Can we be done yet?"

Store 5: Styles for Less.  The less grungy cousin of Rue 21.   Nope, nothing she can wear, we are out.

Store 6.  My least favorite place ever.  I'd rather be in Walmart in Olivehurst on the first of the month when the crack heads are emerging.  Please, not Ross!  She says "Lets try Ross, since it's right there."  Oh Lord no. Please anything but Ross.  But, I've come this far, and I want her to find a suit, so we go in.  It looks like a wasted battlefield.  It smells like cheese and sweat.  There are kids running and screaming.  Nothing is on the shelves, it's all on the floor.  There is a security guard who looks like he's seen a lot and maybe been winged a few times from friendly fire.  This is the only store in the mall with a security guard.  So telling about Ross.  It looks like the day before the end of the world and everyone has come to Ross for provision and there was a struggle.  

There are 10 bathing suits on the rack.  9 lady-suits and one, shining gem of modesty and youth.  She grabs it, but behold!  The hanger says it's not her size!  Devastation!  But wait!  It's on the wrong hanger!  It is her size!  (This is where heavenly light shines on us in this wasteland and Angels sing!).  She says she wants to try on the top.  You know what's worse than shopping at Ross?  Ross dressing rooms.  I follow her over and she enters, and a man outside the dressing room area eyes her appraisingly as I wait outside for her.  Really dude?  Really?  I am right freaking here and I will kill you, creeper.  I have the ability and the means to do so.  I stare him down and he looks down at his feet.   I decide to join her outside her dressing room door for her own safety and so I don't strangle or shoot what may be a creeper or dad waiting for his own child to come out of the dressing rooms.  She opens the door and it's a perfect, modest, fit.  Thank GOD!  Let's get the heck out of this hellhole.   

.As we walk back through the mall, I am regaling her of stores that once were when I was her age.  Before cell phones, before facebook, before snapchat, before MP3's when you could buy tapes and CD's at Camelot Music (which is now FYE that sells really random fandom stuff).   When you met up at the mall with your friends, stayed for hours, called for a ride on a payphone with quarters or your calling card.  Where you'd see other kids your age, not this desolation.  It depressed me to the point I wanted to go grab my friends, throw on a baby tee, bongo jean shorts, sun-in my hair, strap on some keds and strut the mall (I wonder how many steps on a fit-bit that would be).  Fortunately because there weren't many other kids there, she wasn't embarrassed to be seen with me, the wallet.

Yep, I got old.  Don't know exactly when that happened, but I totally blame my almost teenager and my pre-teen with their skinny jeans and their hopeful youth.  Jerks.

Homegrown (REflections Photography, Yuba City, CA - Blogpost #3)

I do enjoy my modern conveniences, no doubt.  I like my truck with the electric windows, I like my microwave, my stand mixer, my flat screen, my cell phone, and of course my modern camera.  I prefer to 'camp' in a trailer with wifi and cable.  I mean, if you can, do, right?  However, sometimes I think I somehow got born in the wrong era.  60 years too late or something?  I could totally go off the grid if I didn't have to drive to work every day.  I grow my own food, hunt my own meat, catch fish, can drive a horse/cart (mom still needs to show me the proper way to put the harness on, but I digress), cook outside over a fire I built, and I still read real books  (on my kindle sometimes, but mostly paper pages).  I can my own produce, make jam, cook from scratch, and I can sew a little (I'd be better at it if I just had more time to focus on it).  Seriously, I want a ranch where I can live, garden, farm, ride, cook, clean, can, read, sew, and homeschool my kids.  Will it be harder than hell?  Hell yes.  Life is hard.  What I do now is hard.  I want a different hard.   I fully believe I could handle that...(ssshhhh, let me dream....)

On the subject of growing my own food,  I have been gardening for about 12 years now.   Some years are bountiful, some years not so much.  I do not care where you live or what your space is, you have room to garden.  Whether it's a 1 acre spread or a few containers on your balcony, you have room.  You also have time.  Trust me.  Take a day and get them planted, then take five minutes a day to pull weeds and water.  What you are left with is amazing tasting produce that you grew on your own.  Over the years my garden space has grown.  Thanks to my AMAZINGLY talented and handy husband, I went from a little 8x8 plot to this:

Don't mind the weeds, I hadn't had time to spray them with vinegar to kill them.

Don't mind the weeds, I hadn't had time to spray them with vinegar to kill them.

This year's spread includes: onions, tomatoes, garlic, pumpkins, cucumbers, crook-neck squash, potatoes, grapes, cilantro, corn, rhubarb, basil, thyme, chives, and oregano.  Also, every tree in our backyard is earning it's keep: Cherries, apples, pears, lemon, and almond.  

Each year we are inundated with tomatoes.  I always overplant and some end up rotting before I can harvest.  They get out of freaking control.  Attack of the killer tomatoes.  Well, I decided no tomatoes this year as I don't love to eat them and only use them to make sauce or salsa.  However, those little rotten ones that fell off the vine last year replanted themselves EVERYWHERE in my garden.  Last night, before the rain came, I transplanted them to one of the boxes where I had just harvested potatoes.  So, we will be inundated with tomatoes again this year.

REflections of rodeo (REflections Photography, Yuba City, CA - Blogpost #2)

For those of you who aren't familiar with what a jr. rodeo is, it's gymkhana.  For those of you who don't know what gymkhana is, click here.  My girls do jr. rodeo.  Yes it's scary, yes it's dangerous, yes you could get hurt.  So is football, basketball, soccer, riding in cars, crossing the street, going to school nowadays.  I have been accused of being a helicopter parent sometimes, but I don't wrap them in bubble wrap before they ride. I have threatened to..but so far I've restrained myself.  

So, what does a photographer/rodeo mama do when her kids take the arena?  Shoots them of course.  But why stop at just my kids?  Nope, I do my best to get all riders.  These kids are working their tails off and so are their horses.  They are on animals that could kill them in an instant should they choose to.  Instead, they trust these kids and perform because they are asked to.  There is a special bond between horse and rider and I wanted to capture that for them all.  At first, I charged per image.  However, I changed my view on that.  These kids are the future of rodeo.  If being able to spread the image of what they do to the world helps preserve the sport of rodeo, I'm going to do my part.  Also, it is not just for the kids, it is for the parents to enjoy and reflect upon as well.  The amount of time and money put in so their children can compete in these events rivals any other sport, I'll bet.  Afterall, the equipment needs to be fed, boarded, chauffeured, health maintained, etc.  That folks, is not cheap.  Not cheap at all.

The coordinators of most of the rodeos allow me in the arena to shoot these kids doing what they love.  Risking injury and riding on adrenaline to win a prize.  When I capture those moments, they kids are pretty grateful.  They download their images and share these pictures, have them printed, or use them as their profile pictures on social media.  I get asked why I don't charge for this service, often.  I do charge for prints because they cost me money, not just my time, but downloads are free. I donate my time during the rodeo and in post processing.  I usually shoot anywhere from 350-600 images and cull them down to about 100, edit and provide for the participants. I do not sell many rodeo prints, but downloads and page visits are high, honestly.   I will say that standing and kneeling in that arena, baking my pale freckly skin in the sun, jumping out of the way when that 1000 pound beast is barreling toward me, helping a kid who may not be able to get their horse in (or maybe falls off at the end and my mommy/"medical" training kicks in), is really hard on me.  However, that is also my payment.  Capturing their rush is my rush.  Giving back to them when they've given their all is my payment.  It helps grow my craft and business,  and hopefully it helps them reflect on it as they grow as competitors.  You can see some of the rodeo images here.  The pure joy on their faces, the fear, the determination, and the time and money spent by parents, volunteers, and supporters of these kids makes it all well worth my time and effort.  To all the rodeo moms, dads, kids, and supporters, thank you.  Thank you for allowing me to do this.  You've helped me grow as a rodeo mom and as a photographer.  

 

Side note/question: Does everyone else still have major fear when their kids get ready to go into the arena?  So many fears cross my mind: tripping horse, bucking horse, rearing horse, dragon swoops in grabs my kid, bee stung horse, meteor, etc. etc. 

What to expect when you are REflecting (Blogpost #1)

Welcome minions, er, uh I mean blog followers and loyal REflection gazers.  Before I begin, I just want you to know I am a rambler.  Not like the Allman Brother's song, because I'm not a long haired dude, I don't care for Cher, and because that was 100 years before I was born, but, because I lack the capacity to shut the hell up and my brain is totally random.  I will interrupt you.  Not to be rude but because I just got so excited about the latest random thought that came to my brain.  Ask my friends and clients.  They'll tell you "damn, she talks forevs" (because many of my clients are seniors in high school, hence the abreevs).  Ok, but seriously, tangents will happen in this blog.  It won't be just about my shoots, clients, and artwork.  Nope, you get to be subjected to whatever my brain conjures up that and I insist you be interested in too!  Yep.  Could be about my artwork.  Could be my current favorite book.  Could be my favorite TV show, my obsession with Disney, my kids, my horses, my dogs, my husband, my garden, my baking, songs I like, other artists I admire, my 9 siblings (we will get into that, haha), my bestie, random product plugs....be warned, yet share my randomness.  At times, I'll get philosophical and attempt inspirational.  At times I will get silly, offensive (not really), sad (pfft, not likely), and annoying (highly likely).  Yep.   Welcome.  Enjoy.  Comment.  Help me build my SEO.