Google+ blog | A Camera and a Dream


4 T UMAX     PL-II            V1.4 [6]


So, if you’re one of the few dozen who has been visiting this site occasionally to see if there were any updates (spoiler… there weren’t), you might have stumbled back here to find that everything is a little off.  Different.  WRONG.

Yep, we switched hosts over the new year holiday, and ran into some technical difficulties in the process.  In short: Charo isn’t the webhostgenius she thought she was, and she’s furiously trying to get all our old content back up before anyone notices how badly she screwed the pooch.

(sidenote: writing about myself in the third person makes me feel good)

So, you know, hang tight and all that.  There may be some nasty bad links and missing content for a short while.  Once we get all of this site transfer stuff fixed, we’ll start working on some new content for you.  Who knows, we may even get back into this blogging business… it’s a lot of work, and the 2015 gave us both more than we could handle without trying to be bloggers at the same time, which is why we sort of fizzled out on the content.  We’re still working, we both still have too many jobs, but 2016 promises to be the year of simplifying, and if things go the way I want them to, we’ll be back in action with A Camera and a Dream before the summer months.

Hey, thanks for always being there, guys.


Happy Hour hands

Back in the day when I had no money but lots of time I decided that the only thing I could do to grow my business was put myself in a room with as many people as I could to tell them who I was and what I did.   I did this through networking.  Networking lunches, networking dinners, networking clubs, professional organizations. It was not uncommon for me to have 4 or 5 a week.

Soon my contacts grew and so did my business. But the downside was that I wasn’t getting any freaking WORK done.  I was still at that tenuous stage where I wasn’t making enough money to outsource, I was a one man band handling every aspect of my business.  All those hours of networking were eating into my day and I just wasn’t managing my time very well. I joined everything, and not all of those groups were instrumental in growing my business.

When I attempted to write off all of the after hours dinners (*cough*drinking) under the “Professional Development” tab of my end of year expenses my accountant may have used the words “IRS” and “Red Flag”.

I winnowed down the groups, buckled down and for the next 7 years stayed active in the few groups that really rocked my world, with no more than 2 networking events per month and shifted my party girl ways to learning how to manage my time and grow my business.

Then came 2008.

Most long-time photographers will tell you that’s about the time the earth started rumbling for the industry. The tide shifted and even those of us used to living on a variable income were squirming uncomfortably.  By 2009, I was back on the prowl to grow my network, but I did it smarter.

Look, there are tons of ways to market your business, and not one of them is the end-all and be-all.  What plays in Peoria does not always work in Atlanta, and you may hate walking into a room of strangers and handing out business cards.   But there are variations on marketing that you can adapt and you can make them work for you.

So when the call came in from Sarah Petty from the Joy of Marketing  to ask me about my experience with marketing my business through networking, I poured her a BIG OLE Vodka Tonic and said “Sit right here my pretty and lemme tell you a story”

Kidding.  I don’t even know if Sarah likes Vodka Tonics.

But I do know that she’s a marketing GENIUS and she’s asked 9 other super smart photographers to share their best marketing tips in GET BOOKED. It’s a  FREE Online Conference on Wednesday October 15.  I know I will be listening to what everyone else has to say because you know there is some collective wisdom in that group that I want to hear.

So stop by, listen to me fumble around and talk about networking and get yourself BOOKED.

Stay Sane, Happy and Profitable!


i quit note

A few years ago my friend Tracey invited me and my kids to the local 4th of July Parade. I asked if her husband was going and she said “Just me, Mark gave up parades for his 45th birthday”


She then went on to explain that every year on his birthday her husband got to pick one thing he didn’t want to do again in his lifetime. One year it was cleaning rain gutters. One year it was cleaning windows. And when he turned 45 he gave up going to parades. I thought it was the freaking most genius thing I had ever heard. Learning to say no had always been hard for me, and this idea of a Birthday Dispensation was everything I craved; a reason to say no on a day people don’t want to deny you things. I immediately gave up Christmas Cards for my next birthday. That was 6 years ago, and I have not regretted it. I hate making them out, I hate sending them and I could honestly give a crap about getting them. (I do admire the few tenacious people who still have me on their list, though) In the following years I gave up socks, magazine drives, baby showers, cleaning ceiling fans, and trimming my dogs nails (I no longer feel guilt for that $20 mani-pedi I pay the vet every few months).

Almost every single time I did something in my business that I didn’t want to do, something that I could not figure out how to say “no” to I regretted it.  You know what I am talking about.  Doing that discounted shoot for your “friend” from high school that you haven’t seen in 12 years who expects you do to everything for even more of a discount.  Giving a sympathy discount to a bride who cries poor only to arrive at her wedding and find out that she has 2 Stretch Hummers rented for her bridal party of 24.

But yet I continued to do it? Why?  Because I rationalized needing the money and not turning away business. Because I rationalized that that extra $200 would “pay my light bill” when it really wasn’t $200 after taxes and paying myself and expenses. Learning more about my business empowered me to say “no” more often.  It was really HARD to turn away business when things were tight, but as soon as I stood my ground I lost clients I didn’t want anyway, and gained ones that I did want. Now it seems like a small change that had a huge impact on my business.  That tiny change to learn to say no that took me YEARS to implement could have changed the course of my business years before.

If you’re feeling this way then please take a peek at Joy Vertz’s new class Photo Biz Recharge and see if empowering yourself to make these kind of changes that Joy calls the 80/20 Rule will make a huge difference quickly.

This 6-week series is designed to give you ideas you can implement affordably and immediately. You won’t have to wait until week 6 for your business to take off – you’ll make things happen starting in week 1!

This class makes it easy to get advice that will help YOUR business:

– 16 video lessons filled with solid, actionable advice on bringing in clients, pricing, sales, workflow, and time management

– Quick-turnaround ideas, designed to be put into action that day

– Worksheets and downloads that help you organize your thoughts and plans

– Stellar support, with participants’ questions answered through recorded Q&As and a private Facebook group


This is a first time class and is being offered at a special price so get on it!

Be the change! Quit the things you want to quit!

Stay Sane Happy and Profitable,


P.S. My birthday is Oct 7 and I’m torn between giving up vacuuming and cleaning the bathtub this year. What would you like to give up?



When I was a kid I remember grown ups saying things like “I can’t believe the holidays are here!” and I was confused.  I mean, Christmas and New Years are on the same day every year, right?  Yet somehow these grown-ups were surprised every year when it “snuck up” on them.
This, my friends, is how I feel about Fall Foliage. For those of you not in an area of the country where the leaves do not change in a  spectacular way before the onset of winter you may not understand. But here in the Midwest, when this happens for portrait photographers it’s the biggest time of the year.

A day in the fall where it is 65 degrees and sunny with no wind for portrait photographers is the equivalent of that day that you finally hit your goal weight, on your birthday, on the same day the Packers win the Superbowl.

Unlike Christmas or New Years, we never know when that date is going to be.  The date dances somewhere between the first and third week of October, with some flirting with early November.  Mother nature dictates the when by mixing a special cocktail of rain, wind, plunging temperatures and hard frosts with some Indian summer days mixed in and serves it up hard when she damn well feels like it. And on some perfectly terrible years, she serves it not at all by blindsiding us with high winds and rain for a week straight stripping all the deciduous trees of their beauty leaving a wake of sobbing photographers with clients who will now send them emails that say things like “I know there are not many leaves on the trees anymore, but can you make it look like there are?”

Every year, I loathe and love fall because of this. Every single year I would find myself stressed out as shit as I tried to juggle my wedding and portrait schedule in the fall at the end of the season when I was at my highest burn out point.  Last year, I had enough.  And like everything else in my life and in my business I knew it was my own fault it had gotten that way and I began to implement changes.

Ask. Listen. Educate.

This phrase totally jumped out at me as I was reading Laura Siebert’s portrait e book series last week;  Step Inside, Get Real, Lighten Up.  Besides being chock full of amazing posing suggestions, games to play to get kids to help make great photos and some down and dirty technical information on shooting and post-processing she talks a lot about what she calls the social science of photography.  About conveying yourself as the expert with a quiet authority that gets people to listen.


A few weeks ago I talked about how one turn of phrase completely changed the course of a senior portrait session (Update: The sales session was a $1700 sale.  Yesssssssssssssss) I sat down and made a list of all the things I hated about the fall season and began to brainstorm on changes.  That phrase made me realize that not only do I need to Ask, Listen and Educate my clients to find out what their needs are, I need to ask myself the same things.  What changes do I need to make this season?  After all, I can only afford so much Vodka to get through it.

It came down to 4 things. Yes, I know my handwriting is crap and YES that is an Orange Sharpie on a steno pad.  They are my favorite when I am

4 things needed to change.  Here’s what the changes are going to be:

Crammed Schedule+ Crap weather:  I sat down and looked at my calendar and picked the dates I am available from now until Mid November.  I picked a variety of dates and my favorite times of the day and locations  around the city to photograph at. Then I implemented an Online Scheduler for my clients.  I created an email blast to my clients with the link to the scheduler saying

Brown Deer Park click here for dates
Whitnall Park, click here for dates
South Shore Park, click here for dates
Doctors Park, click here for dates
For Sessions at your home or a different location, click here

When they schedule their session, it will inform them of the rain date.   Now you don’t have to use an online scheduler, but I’ve used this one for a while and my clients are used to it. They like the automatic reminders and so do I. But it just as easily could be done by calling your clients or emailing them to contact you directly to schedule.  Let’s circle back to the rain date thing, as this is new for me and I’m going to give it a try.  The rain dates are days I have blocked off on my calendar in case a session gets cancelled.  This year I am going to assign clients a rain date for every session.  If it doesn’t work for them that’s fine, I can let them know the other rain dates I have scheduled and they can choose one of them.    If I have a day where no rain dates are needed, I get a day off.

So right now I can look at my calendar and I know exactly what days I am going to be shooting now through November 14  (With an appeal to mother nature on this. Help a sister out, wont you big momma?)

Cheap Asses: No Mini Sessions.  I’m going to address mini sessions in an upcoming blog post.  There’s nothing wrong with minis, but at this peak time of year I decided that I am not offering them.  Why would I when I can book full sessions?

Sales Sessions Hard to Schedule:  This problem was a direct correlation to the fact that if I am shooting portraits in the evenings (when most people are available)meeting with prospective wedding clients and shooting weddings on the week ends, I was having a hell of a time finding time to schedule in person sales. My new schedule solves a lot of these problems by building in more time for sales sessions but I am taking it a step further and I’m going to take the leap and train someone to do my in person sales this year and see how it goes. Won’t lie, I am both terrified and totally LOVING the idea of handing my sales off to someone.  My friend and Numbers Nerd Guru Joy Vertz gave me a sneak peek into her new Photo Biz Recharge video series that talks about this in depth and got me excited to give up the part of my photography business that I don’t love, the sales process.  Photo Biz Recharge opens for reals on September 22, so go sign up to learn more.

This fall I’m taking charge of my schedule and my life, and getting my fall back.  I plan on being Sane, Happy and Profitable…and maybe stress eating a few less bags of Candy Corn because of it.   Nah.  I freaking love Candy Corn, who am I kidding?

What changes are YOU going to make?



trust, honesty, respect

I’ve been a photographer for a good long while, and while I can’t profess to being good at every part of it (I suck at maternity and refuse to do boudoir) for the most part I feel good about the “Professional” part that I put in front of my chosen career when people ask what I do for a living.

Yesterday my professionalism was sorely tested by Helicopter Mom. 

Helicopter Mom called a few weeks back looking for photos for her high school senior daughter.  In the space of 5 minutes I was informed  of the following things:

Her daughter was gorgeous, and I mean GOR-GUshhhhhhhh and any photographer that was lucky enough to point their lens at her would be a very lucky photographer, indeed.

Her daughter was a world class athlete, a VERY BUSY world class athlete, who simply had a very tight time schedule that needed  to be accommodated. Oh, and she is going back to school next week so her time is going to be even more limited.

That she  had lots of “connections” within her daughters Academy that could possibly mean “big business” for me.

I wasn’t keen on booking Helicopter mom’s baby  but I’m a whore smart business person and I treated Helicopter Mom the way I would any client. I went over the packages available, made some suggestions as to locations for looks she would like and followed up via email sending my Pinterest pages for clothing suggestions along with the online scheduler with my availability for the next several weeks.  I told her that I was very booked with other clients in the coming weeks, but if there was a chance the times I had available meshed with their schedules I’d be happy to work with them.

She booked two weeks later after I totally forgot about her. I groaned when I got the notification that they booked.

The senior girl was in fact lovely but extremely nervous and not especially good in front of the camera. This was made worse by Helicopter Mom’s constant barrage of “not that smile” and “Your hair is too puffy”.  I immediately went to my go-to technique for getting a mom to shut up, I gave her a gigantic reflector and had her hold it up so it blocked her view of her daughter.  You’re welcome for that tip, by the way.

It didn’t last, she yelled from behind the reflector.  At one point told me “Make sure not to do side views, her nose is really crooked”   I sent the senior to change into another outfit and tried to chat with her about taking it down a notch and letting me do my job when she pulled out the big guns.

She took out her phone and showed me that she had brought her daughter to the location the day before and she took photos of all the poses and locations that she liked and wanted me to recreate them.

Horrible locations. Dappled sunlight. Cheesy poses like her hands on her cheeks while she looked off into the middle distance.By this point I was losing patience and I was ready to hit her with the litany of this is not what you hired me for, you pay a professional for a reason, no I won’t do that, when something made me stop. I was so pissed and so flustered that I ran out of words, unusual for me.  But I stopped and I said

“What about these photos do you like?”

Her responses were that this pose was “youthful” and this one was “Innocent” and this one was “the smile that she does when she is really happy”

And I realized that Helicopter Mom was just a mom who was having a really really hard time with her kid getting older and she was one of those types that simply didn’t like not having control.  Professional or not, I think my attitude of “I know better than you” was hindering the relationship.

I looked her in the eye and said “My last kid goes off to college on Sunday. It’s hard, isn’t it?  And Helicopter Mom and I shared a teary moment.   I said ” I’ll do these locations if they work and a few of these poses I can work with too. But you have to trust me and let me take the photos.  If you can help and get that smile that she does when she is really happy by telling her how great she looks the photos will be awesome.”

And then, it was.

Stop: Yourself from making this about you.
Drop: Your tone and body language that is off-putting to an already defensive client.
Roll: With doing things that is a compromise without compromising your final product.

In this busy season I wish for all of you… Stay Sane, Happy and Profitable!


outtakesA whole bunch of you emailed and commented wanting to know the outcome of my hysterical “I want all the outtakes” clients.  It took me this long to follow up because, well, nothing really happened!

I delivered the outtakes as high res files via digital download.  A few days later, two of the outtakes that I had deemed sufficiently pornographic and/or unattractive, showed up as profile and timeline photos on the bride’s Facebook page.  I don’t know if it was a purposeful jab at me, or if they truly loved those awful blurry shots enough to display them.  I just know that there they were, yellow cast and light trail spookified eyes, glaring at me on my timeline.  I hid her profile after that.

I did add one line, bolded, to our contract that states “RAW images and outtakes are never delivered” under the “Release and Usage” clause.  This line is in addition to the many lines throughout the contract that state my ultimate control over determining which images are suitable for release, which would be b&w versus color, and so on.  I could probably expound on the outtakes specifically, but frankly this has never come up before, and with more careful pre-booking discussions and a better FAQ, I doubt it’ll ever come up again.

Scratch that.  I’m SURE it’ll come up again.

So let’s talk about this.

How do we prevent our clients from micromanaging the editing and release part of our jobs?  We know that most of them don’t really read their contracts or the FAQs or the client information sheets and pdf files and brochures we hand out.  Having policies in place is fantastic, but when you have a client who just refuses to acknowledge your policies, and wants what they want CONTRACT BE DAMNED… well, what then?

One thing I have considered is ADDING the outtake/discard release to our pricelist.  For like $2,500 for the high resolution, print-ready discards and outtakes.  That way, there IS a monetary value attached to the outtakes, and if they really really want them they can, you know, just order them!  Hey, I’m happy to hand over my motion blurred, one-stop-over, mid-blink Exorcist shots.  The ones of the floor, the ones of my feet, the ones of the ceiling… they can have ’em!  $2,500, please.

Would you consider adding the outtakes to your pricelist?  If not, how do you plan to tackle this demand if and when it ever comes up?  Post in the comments, or email us through our contact form.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


“We’re so disappointed.  We feel like you missed so many things, and we thought we’d get more pictures.”

I’m gonna admit right now that my initial response wasn’t good.  Even though I know better, I wrote back immediately, a tad defensive and very confused as to where the hell they were coming from.

It was a nine hour coverage with two photographers.  We promise an average of 50 edited and delivered images for every hour of coverage.  They received a total of 1,106 images – roughly one shot for every thirty seconds we were there.  That wasn’t enough?!  What are they smoking?  What on EARTH could we have missed, we were there from the first popped Xanax in the dressing room to the stumbling, drunken, whirlwind clusterfuck of a grand exit.

When I got the first email, the bride was specifically asking about some of the more unflattering photos – moments they wanted memorialized forevermore, moments that I would KILL my daughter for acting out, they wanted to see those parts.  I explained rather defensively that these moments were not flattering and didn’t turn out very well, which escalated the email exchange in a hurry.

They wanted every nip slip, every simulated act of fellatio.  They wanted it ALL.

The bride stopped talking to me and sent her mom in to deal with it. Mom had more complaints than her daughter.  Not only were the X-Rated parts missing, but so were pictures of Great Aunt Sharon.  Who the hell was Great Aunt Sharon?  I’d never gotten a list (even after requesting one from them NINE TIMES), and when we shot the formals I asked repeatedly if we’d gotten everyone.  Great Aunt Sharon wasn’t very important in the moment, but now that she was only in “a couple” shots, she was the most important guest at the wedding and she was SURE there were photos of Great Aunt Sharon in the outtakes.

Mom wanted me to just send over all the discards.  I explained patiently that the discards were not an option and that was when the shit hit the fan, and the groom was called in to deal with me.

Dun-dun-DUN.  When the groom is summoned to “deal with” a problem, you KNOW it’s bad.

It was then that I realized these people were not going to be happy until they got something from me.  All the effort I’d spent explaining and re-explaining the contract they signed, my editing philosophy, the state of their discards, was getting absolutely nowhere.  I could spend the next six months in a heated email exchange or, worse, find myself slapped with a frivolous lawsuit demanding that I turn over the discarded images that they “thought” would be included.

The groom’s email was kind and well written, unlike the bride’s and MOB’s rather hysterical submissions – this told me that he was prepared to long-haul it, and that I needed to figure out a way to swiftly end the conversation. Rather than responding right away (which was my mistake in the first exchanges with bride and mom), I sat on his email for about 24 hours.  Didn’t think about it too much, other than to call Kim and get her take on the situation.

The way I saw it, I had two options: stand my ground and keep arguing ad infinitum (potentially ending up in some weird legal battle), or concede, but at a price.  I chose option #2.

Dear Groom,

Thank you so much for your kind email.  I am sorry that you and your bride feel the coverage was incomplete.  As stated previously, we delivered over 100 edited images for every hour of coverage, more than double what you anticipated, and we do feel as documentary photographers that your wedding story was told beautifully and fully.  I won’t pretend to understand why anyone would want to see the “outtakes” from a shoot – the images we discard are technical failures (out of focus, motion blurred, etc), unflattering (subject caught mid-sentence with mouth in weird shape; subject’s eyes half lidded and Exorcist-y; dresses falling down, bits of fat where fat shouldn’t be), or duplicates (when we photograph details and formals, we choose the best one or two images from the set and deliver only those, as most people don’t care to have seventeen shots of their cake).

Your contract includes the edited selection of images that tell the story of your day, and as stated in the contract, we are the party that determines which images make it to that final cut.  Outtakes and discards are not included, but may be purchased for an additional fee.  If you feel strongly that you need to see the images that we purposely excluded from your take, I’ll be glad to invoice you our fee for processing and releasing those files to you.  They will be lightly edited, exported, and delivered in the same fashion as your original wedding files.  Our fee for this service is $1,000. Please let me know if you would like to proceed.

 I wanted them to recognize that their request was completely outside of the norm, was not worth what they’d potentially have to pay for it, and that their delivered images were plenty.

To my utter disbelief, they bit on the offer.  An hour later and I had their payment in hand.  What?

Right now, about 927 of our dear readers are thinking “I would never do that. That’s my ART. My name is on those images and they shall never see the light of day!!!”

And another 927 of you are thinking “1K? Fuckyeah, I’d do that”

In the course of our 30 some years of combined business Kim and I have run through so many scenarios where we’ve played out the pros and cons with each other where we boil it down to the nitty-gritty to figure out how to resolve issues. And two things that we find that come up over and over and over are these:

What does your contract say? (Mine said nothing about outtakes…it does now)

Is this a hill to die on? (Hint: it rarely is)

Thus was born our new e book “The Proven Awesomeness Formula: Preventing and Dealing with Difficult Clients”

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We have an interesting job – we’re invited into the homes of our clients, allowed to see them naked, vulnerable, self conscious, elated, on the verge of new life paths, with wonky nerves and insecurities all rolled up into one bride, one new mom, one nervous father, one aggravated groom, one insecure teenaged girl and her mother who is having trouble dealing with her leaving the nest. We get to visit with our clients on a personal level that very few other service providers in any industry do.~Charo


This book is a comprehensive guide on how to handle clients at their best and their worst, and how to handle yourself at your best and your worst.  We’ll walk you through scenarios with clients that will help you form strategic ways to handle client relations with proven results so that you can spend time doing what you actually make money at: shooting.


Here’s a sampling of what you can expect

Setting yourself up for success: Handy every day usable procedures to follow in your business that will just make your life a lot easier (and make your clients happier, too)

How to identify a problem client: There’s a difference between a problem client and an uninformed client… do you know what the difference is?

Now what? How to handle that email that rocks your world, and not in the good way.  How to respond, what to say and the steps to resolve the problem.

What to do when they really are a psycho:  How to break up with a client and the aftermath you can expect personally and professionally.


To show our love for our ACAD readers,on this, the one year anniversary of our blog we offer you a kick-ass discount of $20 off this comprehensive guide by entering the code ACADLOVE at checkout

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Stay Sane, Happy and Profitable!




atmosfera vintage

This blog post is spurred by this article I read recently about letting your kids have a 70’s summer (which is brilliant).

(A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh)
(A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh)

The year was 1972  and I was riding in the front seat of my fathers pale lemon yellow 1970 Ford Galaxy Sportster hard top coupe. He had a Tareytons cigarette dangling from his lip and he probably had a Brandy& 7 “Roadie” between his legs.   And we we singing…at the top our our lungs, car windows open on the first fine spring day to grace McFarland Wisconsin of that year.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight

(A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh)
(A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh)

I remember my hair whipping around me, bouncing up and down on the seat untethered by a seat belt happy to be singing and on my way to Arby’s for lunch.  My baby sister was home with my mom, and this was a rare treat to get him all to myself and to go into Madison, the “big city” to have my usual: a hot dog and a Jamocha Shake.  I can’t tell you many more details than that, because like many random childhood snippets that embed in your memory this one ends there.

You may be thinking of my father as a badass 1970’s dude with a totally rocking Jim Croce mustache, aviator glasses and gold chains, and he was.

My father was also a failed traveling salesman who was hardly ever home while leaving my mother to parent and be the ever-lasting bad cop to his good cop. That car that he loved was about to be repossessed,  his marriage to my mother was failing  and he was taking me to Arby’s because kids ate free there during the work week and he couldn’t afford anything else.

I think of those days in the summer of my youth through it seems like a more simpler more beautiful time even though now as an adult and a business owner I understand it was nothing like that.

We do the same in our business. We wax nostalgic for the days when film was king, before everyone had a digital camera, when we were just the photographer and not the lab too.  The clients, oh the CLIENTS.  They’ve changed too, right?  They’re more demanding!  They want it all for nothing, they don’t understand our ART.  They’re unreasonable, cheap and just plain awful.  It’s not like it used to be, right?!

It really isn’t different though.  Technology has changed, photography has changed and our clients expectations have changed along with them.  With that, we have to change.  Hate being the lab?  Hire an editor, and do more shooting instead of sitting behind the computer. Feel like all you do is play bad cop with clients posting photos with the watermark cropped out?  Re-work your contracts and do more client education on the front end of your sessions.  Noticed a huge dip in your closing rate for getting clients in and booking them?  Take a hard look at what you need to change in your marketing and sales techniques. (Pssst…  Joy Vertz’s new  “Book More Earn More, Turning Calls into Clients” class is open and at a discounted price for a few more days)

It’s not the clients. Your clients from 2008 were not superior in any way to the clients of today. My father was not a better father in the 70’s than he was in his later years, despite the patina of my Tang-colored memories of him.

What’s changed is how you’ve handled the change.

So grab yourself a Tab, and make up a big bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese and go be the change.

Sane.  Happy.  Profitable.


P.S. Random factoid. My father called Kraft Mac and Cheese “Orange Death” and did not allow it in our household. He also did not allow American Cheese, White Bread or Pop Tarts in the house.   He was a Foodie before they were called Foodies and believed in local sustainable farm foods back in the 80’s…as he chain smoked and drank Korbel Brandy by the gallon. Is it any wonder our generation is confused  about what exactly we are supposed to believe in?

P.P.S Our little ole blog is coming up on it’s one year anniversary soon, and we’re close to hitting a personal milestone of 1000 subscribers. Know a friend that might enjoy our information, humor and general sarcastic posts?  We’d love you forever if you’d share our link with them.  Because sharing IS caring, you know.






Puppy Poses 1

As I sit at my computer filling out the financial aid forms for my youngest son to go to UW Madison in the fall, my almost 14 year old dog wanders upstairs on shaky legs.  Her grizzled gray snout looks over at me, and I can see the lumps and bumps on the side of her ribcage, the fatty tumors that have popped up more and more in the last few years.  She had a scare a few months ago, and I paid more than I every thought I would to save her at this age.  She wags her little stumpy Springer Spaniel nub of a tail at me, and squats and pees on the carpet next to me.  She does it with no remorse  and without asking to go out as she has done since she was trained as a pup soon after we got her.  When she is done, she goes to lay in her dog bed near me.   I sit silently not reproaching her and go and get the carpet cleaner that’s been used almost daily lately.  Despite the noise, she sleeps through me cleaning up the mess.

Suddenly I know that by fall not only will I have an empty nest with no kids, I will have one less dog.   How did this go so fast?  How did my life go from lunchboxes and field trips and dog park runs and exhausting midnight to 3AM editing sessions (because that’s when the house was quiet) to grown men going off to college and the end days of my freckled-faced pup?

“You’ve gotten so big!   They really do grow up so fast, don’t they?”

Remember when grown ups said that when you were young and how eye-rolling  STUPID it was?

Turns out, they were right.  Now I have to use reading glasses more often than not, and I am constantly asking my son if he doesn’t need a light on to read his book in the living room.   At 47 I’m starting to seriously think about retirement because if those damn kids grew up THAT fast,  then I bet my AARP card and Depends are right around the corner.

TMI Public Service Announcement: You know who else was right?  Doctors.  Do your Kegels, ladies.  Just trust me on this one.

This isn’t meant to be depressing. My dog has had a long life and has been well loved, and that’s the best gift we can give to an animal.  My boys are smart and handsome and independent and will go on to do great things with their lives.  And if I pee a little when I sneeze now, my friends still love me.

In examining the last 18 years that seemingly has gone by in minutes, the same holds true with my business.  If I had listened, had really listened to the “grown ups” when it came to my business, I would have done a lot of things sooner.  I talked about my great tax debacle here so let’s start with that:

Taxes:  The minute you start taking pay for your photography services is the minute that you need to start considering that some of that money does not belong to you. While this will vary by your state, country, etc, you need to get it right sooner rather than later.  Pay someone who knows what they are doing to tell you what you should be doing. Set up a  separate account and get into the habit of automatically funneling money into that account so that when the taxman cometh you have money set aside for it.

An Accountant: Seriously, just get one.  I know your husband usually does the taxes, but unless he is a CPA convince him  not to. For less than $500/year you can get a good one and the benefits and write offs you are probably missing are worth it.

Roth IRA: I cringe when I think how late I started mine.  Part of it was that I got divorced, and I had counted on the retirement fund of my now ex husband. So yeah, I’m gonna say it… some things just don’t last forever and it wouldn’t hurt to have something of your own in case.  You  need to talk to a licensed tax adviser to find out the ramifications for you and your business.

HSA: Sometimes it feels to me that my head will explode if I have to tackle one.more.thing. that I don’t understand like something that is so outside my comfort zone like insurance and health care.  It boggles me like a 9th grade calculus exam.  But after I started my HSA (Health Savings Account) I was boggled that it was that easy.  Basically a health savings account is a place where you put money to pay medical expenses and that money is not taxed.  It didn’t seem to me that it would make a big difference, but I was shocked last year at how much it did save me with co-pays and medical expenses, glasses prescriptions and prescription drugs. There are some limitations to some, so you have to read over what is included and not included.  But it’s as easy as a checkbook and debit card that you use to pay expenses.  And there are also certain write-offs on it you can take as a business owner, ask your accountant about that.

Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University:  This is a bit of a weird plug.  (And no, it’s not an affiliate link but one can dream) I took this class a few years ago and it changed the way I looked at money and how I ran my business. Not being a numbers nerd by nature, I have to be hit over the head to understand.  It took me years to understand that some of that money was not mine for taxes, and apparently another few years to understand that just because I had 5K in my checking account didn’t mean I could go for a week in Key West.  I will warn you that it is a Christian-based class, but the church-y parts didn’t really bother me as someone who is non-practicing.  The classes are inexpensive (around $100 per couple) offered at many different places (usually churches) and consist of watching Dave Ramsey’s videos (and he’s a funny, dynamic speaker) and then breakout groups.  While I don’t abide by every principal he teaches, the simplicity of it is amazing once you apply it to your life.  And right now my Key West envelope has over $800 in it!

Stop Being a Gear Whore: Just stop.  Stop buying lenses and lighting that a commercial studio would not invest in and more bags and bigger and better bodies. Make do with what you have unless what you have is so dismal that you cannot make photos.  And if you can’t, borrow or rent.   As time has gone on I’ve found myself using less and less and being a happier photographer.  Dave Ramsey says I can’t have that 5D Mark III until spring of next year and numbers don’t lie.  For now, what I have will work.
What have you learned over the years?  What do you wish you had done differently? Leave them in the comments, we’d love to learn from you.

Stay Sane, Happy and Profitable,

P.S. Here’s some great management tools for your buisness that you might want to check out:  Modern Tog’s Easy Client and Money Manager, Joy Vertz’s How to Price Photos Video Series,  The Free Book Find the Right Price for your Business and Zack Prez’s Business Planning Cookbook (available for $20 off only a few more days!  Ends May 20)





Here in the Midwest on the day after your wedding we have this weird ritual called “A Gift Opening”.   Basically what it is is that you go over to the bride or grooms parents house and have brunchy food like cheesy potatoes and tater tot hot dish and open all your gifts in front of immediate friends and family and your bridal party. There’s always one member of the bridal party who is so hung over that they show up green to the opening and they look miserable the entire time they are there.  I’ve never liked them, and when I got married 20 some years ago, I refused to have one.   I wanted to get the hell out of town and head off on my honeymoon, and I had no interest sitting around baby-shower style while people oohed and ahhhed over my new pot holders.  My stepmother was appalled and brought up for YEARS that I didn’t have a gift opening.  At Christmas time for years later I’d open a gift that I already owned and she’d say “Oh, do you already have TV trays/A blender/A set of wine glasses? I’m so sorry, you must have gotten it for a gift, but you see I didn’t know….”

If I had a gift opening, do you know what people would have watched me open?  Picture frames. Glass ones, brass ones, wooden ones, carved ones….we received 23 picture frames as gifts.   I’m sure in the guests heads this made perfect sense, why not give a photographer picture frames!  Genius!!   I think I just used the last one up a few years ago, re-gifting them to people with photos of my kids and their kids.

Welcome to 2014 .  I just spent 30 minutes setting up a wedding registry site for my associate wedding photography clients from Gively.   I’m thrilled with how easy it was to set up, and my clients are freaking out about how cool it is.

What Gively is

  • Full customizable  website that seamlessly integrates with your branding.
  • You control the items you want to include in the registry.
  • Options to have different price lists for different clients.
  • Pre-scripted emails to send to clients, and for them to send to friends and family.
  • Very easy for clients to set up, all they have to do is add the number of services that they wish to be gifted.
  • All payments handled via PayPal directly to the photographer (no percentage of the sales go to Gively)


Some of the things I included on the registry was additional hours on the wedding day, engagement sessions, album upgrades and then the thing that has been the biggest hit for me, generic credits that the clients can use towards any product or service.     If Aunt Judy has a budget of $100 for Barbie and Ken’s wedding gift she can buy them two $49 credits  that they can use for any product or service my studio offers.  Clients can even use the credits towards their final balance if they wish.

Want to see what a personalized registry looks like? 

Promoting it as a free service from our company has been really well received from clients, especially when they find out that all they have to do  to share the site is hit the mail icon where it has a pre-scripted email to send as well as easy links to social media with direct links to their registry.   I suggest to the client that if they feel odd about soliciting people to put in the hands of their most outgoing bridesmaid to help spread the word!

I’m excited to see how this increases our add-on sales this year!

This is the first wedding registry service of it’s kind that I have seen that is easy to use and fully customized and since we love it so, Gively has offered a special price to our blog readers of $14.95 a month instead of the regular $19.95 per month!  Just use this link to sign up and you’ll be on your way.

You can even offer picture frames on it!  :)

Stay Sane, Happy and Profitable,