The New Year, New Challenge

Hello again. It's been over a year since my last post. Pretty embarrassing. 

My husband has challenged me to blog twice a month in 2017! Seeing how I didn't even get one out in 2016, I requested a simpler task...like only once a month. But he is holding strong at 24 blog posts this year. 

So I figured a good place to start would be to reflect on my life and business last year. 

2016 got off to a rough start. Going into my 3rd year being self employed, I started to understand why people say life can be lonely as a small business owner. It felt like days would turn into weeks without talking to anyone besides my dog, Hydi. At first I didn't mind, I tend to be a bit of a hermit. But when it turned into a lack of work, panic attacks turned into a regular occurrence.

I had to make the effort to double down and change my day to day experience. 

I realized that one of the first things I had to do was put modeling on the back  burner. I ended up turning down an offer to be represented by an agency because I realized modeling was not a long term goal of mine. I didn't want the distraction any longer. 

The next thing I wanted to do was look at ways of expanding my photography work. Ryan (the husband) was involved in a lot of networking groups. I attended some of the social mixers with him and got to talk a lot about what I do. Opportunities to work outside the realm of family photography were starting to appear. It turns out something as simple as talking about your goals can open up doors! By the end of the year I was able to add a sizable amount of professional portraits/head shots to my portfolio. I hope to share some of the work with you that included some politicians, corporate clients, doctors, dental offices, and campaign brochures in future posts. 

I also had to opportunity to get my face out there once or twice. I was a guest on This Week in Photo 3 times in 2016. You can go here to check out the episodes I was a part of. 

Being featured in Lavish Living Magazine was also important to me and my business this past year. I was introduced to the publication early on in 2016 when I was featured as The Face of Sacramento Fashion Week. The publisher found out about my business and did a follow up story introducing my photography business to the Folsom/El Dorado Hills area. You can view the write up here

My biggest take away from last year was that it is possible to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and that people want to help you. All you have to do is talk about your goals. I also learned that I have a strong network of women in my life.... and I am pretty sure they are taking over the world. And you know what...I want to go with them!

Until next time!

~Christine

The First Year

I've officially made it through my first year of being self employed. It was bizarre. It was terrifying at times, but mostly it was fabulous. I've had some time to reflect on my year. Here's my list of 5 things that sum up my life this last 12 months.

 

1) The "how's it going?" question.  

'Hey Christine, I heard you went out on your own, how's that going?" Always leading me to decipher if the person asking wanted to know if I was succeeding or failing. Then accepting that not everyone wants to see you make it. Or maybe they do, but they assume that because I have chosen photography, I don't have much of a chance.  I got to a point when, no matter the intentions of the person asking... I answered "Well I'm not starving", poking fun at the age old "starving artist" adage. The truth is, I am very lucky to have supporters in my corner.  My husband thinks I have what it takes, my parents think I'm finally on the right track, I have a mentor helping me along the way and a handful or friends who believe in me. 

 

2) The "fake it till you make it" mantra

I started my year thinking this everyday. Up until last week it was still my motto, but it was a cop out. It was a way for me to take less responsibility. I've realized, I'm not faking anything. I'm working my tail off. I'm emotional when I need to be, and am truly happy with the work I am doing. If I'm faking my way through it, how can I possibly capture true and honest portraits? Sure there are many things about running a business I am learning as I go, but that is true for anyone. The important work, the images and my connections with my clients, there is nothing fake about it. 

 

3) The realization that I like my work.

As my body of work grows and I curate my favorites, I am proud. I am encouraged to keep going. If you had asked me 5 years ago to photograph a newborn baby, I would have probably run the other direction. I had every intention of working towards a boudoir/glamour business. But I am so happy with the direction my clients have taken me. I LOVE working with families, I love seeing them every year and being a apart of their traditions. I think documenting families as they grow is important work and I'm happy I get to be the one to do it. 

 

4) The crippling fear of everything!

So maybe this is just how I am, I can't say this is unique to my being self employed, but it's still very true. Maybe this is just how I operate, but it's (usually) incredibly motivating. Being an artist, having a creative profession, you hear time and time again "you can't compare yourself to others" Well, why the hell not? I'm terrified of failing, so the best way I know to avoid that is looking at images I love, study them, compare myself to them, and then figure out how I fell short and improve upon that! I LOVE looking at others work,it hurts and inspires all at once. I spend more time then I care to admit looking at photographs. Are there days it's discouraging? Obviously. But it's necessary and you can't let it slow you down. Failure, money, marketing, growing a business... yes there are days I don't want to get out of bed, but then I remind myself of item 3) I like my work... and that helps me put everything else away and keep moving forward. 

 

5) The Top Twelve

"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop" 

-Ansel Adams  

If it's good enough for Ansel, it's good enough for me. 😉 

Here are my 12 favorite images I made this year... 

The Leap

"Jump and the net will appear" was not exactly the avenue I took when trying to make dreams a reality. I'm brave, but not that brave. I've been hemming and hawing about starting a career in photography for years. A string of 9 to 5 jobs left me frustrated and unfulfilled. I'd come home from work so irritated, I'd spout off about all my ideas, compare myself to others "if they can do it, I can do it!",  but at the end of the day I didn't have the confidence to act. 

So what changed? It was about a 2 year process, first I decided I needed to learn and practice taking photos WAY more, which oddly enough turned into me taking very few pictures and getting IN FRONT of the camera.... a lot.

I joined a Meetup group called the Click Monkeys here is Sacramento, CA. I met photographer and educator Tim Engle. I actually hated going to the Meetups at first (sorry, Tim), I would only sign up for ones with large groups and a lot of space (like at the Old Sugar Mill or Ikea). As far as I was concerned it was just a bunch of old guys spitting out stats and settings. That stuff didn't interest me, and I was terrified of looking stupid, but I kept plugging away... quietly...in the corner. 

Tim is a great teacher, and at one point had offered to photograph me, he explained to me that I had an opportunity to learn things about photography not many photographers would ever experience. "Being in front of the camera will change the way you see when you are behind it" he said to me. Now it makes total sense, but at the time, I'm pretty sure it went in one ear and out the other. 

Photo by Tim Engle

Photo by Tim Engle

Fast forward another 2 months or so and I find myself looking to move to Tennessee (queue the needle scratching across the record). My husband was going to take a job transfer for a temporary project. This prompted the desire for some new couple portraits since we would be apart for a few months and I wanted cute pictures for "we've moved" cards. We hired Tim and it was really the first time I got to talk to him one on one.  He talked about some other things he was involved in including the haunted house at the Preston Castle, which I will come back to. 

Another 2-3 months passed,  Tim posted on Facebook a last minute opening he had for a shoot at his studio. He has a fine art series in the works involving mud. For whatever reason I was intrigued by this idea and contacted him about getting involved. Two days later, there I was, in his studio, getting covered in mud by my now wonderful friend, Stacey Barton. I wish I could share some pics, but the series isn't finished yet. But that pretty much was the start of a crazy year of modeling. 

I'm going to go off topic here, but stay with me, it will come full circle. I watched a class given by Ramit Sethi of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" fame. There was a lot of knowledge in that course, but there is one thing that really stuck with me. I'm going to paraphrase: "How do you, someone with no industry experience and nothing to offer someone who is currently successful in the industry you are seeking, get help from said professional? You have to find a way to bring value to their life in some other way, don't think about what you want them to do for you, everyone wants something from them, think about what you can do to become valuable"  I say again. BRING VALUE! This idea is so often overlooked. If you change your thinking and instead of what you can get from others, you think about how you can bring value to other people lives, doors start to open.  So how does this relate? I bring you back to the Preston Castle. 

preston castle

The haunted house was coming up and Tim, along with the Preston Castle Foundation was gathering their volunteers for the 2 weekend fundraiser. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, I'm such a wuss and I hate being scared, but I reached deep down to that place where I can convince myself to do things that I'm not sure about, and I volunteered. I went to Good Will and found a costume I though was appropriate to the history of the Castle (I think I have a picture I can include), and I went. After the first night, I was done, I did not want to go back the second night. I tried to back out, but Tim basically told me no. So I went for the second night. I did a good job, I scared the snot out of some people. It was a really good exercise for me to get out of my comfort zone. I went back for a second year, and I will be out there again.  I can even say I'm the Castle's favorite ghost, well except for the real ones of course.  

The only thing I had to offer was my time, that was the value I provided. And it was appreciated, it helped me start to earn the trust of a professional who otherwise had no need for me. I was given the opportunity to assist and to model much more often. I kept proving myself, I worked hard and it has paid off. When paying jobs came up, I was the first one to get a phone call. When big jobs came up, Tim knew he could trust me.

I feel like I could go on about his topic for a while, but I will spare you.  I guess my point is this, when the time came to make the big change, there was already a net I had spent 2 years making, it may have had some holes, but I felt safer. The holes it had are mostly about my own photography and my own brand, but I can happily say they are filling in quickly!

~Christine

Here I go!

I have been telling myself for years that I was going to make a website. In fact, I think it's even made it onto my list of New Years resolutions more than once, which doesn't actually mean a whole lot cause that never gets me very far. The best way to get something done is to start when you are thinking about it. So here it is, better late than never! Nothing fancy, just my honest attempt to make a site where I can share my work with you. 

dogwood

Now that I can check the website off my list, I am going to replace it with blogging. I hope it doesn't take me as long to cultivate my blog as it took me to create my website. I've met a lot of inspiring people in Sacramento this past year and a half and having their support makes it much easier to trust my voice. 

I'm excited to share stories with you. Stories of people I meet, the people I get to work with, of the things I do and the experiences I have. I'll tell you about how I work and what photography has done for me.

I think my first story will be how I ended up here (the quick version). So until next time. I will leave you with a favorite quote of mine. 

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it
— Elizabeth Gilbert