Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Grateful Photographer | Comox Valley Photographer

The end of this year marks the end of my first year in business... and I'm still standing!  That alone feels like an accomplishment.  There were definitely times throughout the year that I thought to myself, 'What am I doing?' or 'I've taken on too much.'  But those moments of self-doubt were always overshadowed by the many gifts that 2011 brought.

I'm grateful for the many clients who took a chance on a new photographer and hired me, when they had many other talented professionals to choose from.  I feel such tenderness when I look back at the people in the images I've taken throughout the year. Whether it was a wedding, a maternity session or new parents with their precious baby...I feel honoured to have shared in those lovely moments.

I'm grateful to the people who have mentored me both in business and in photography.  I've received such great advice from experienced professionals and their generosity blows me away.

I'm grateful to my fellow photographers in the Comox Valley who set the bar so high.  As artists, and as business people, I have such great respect and admiration for you.

I'm grateful to my family, particularly my mom, who has been my biggest supporter, fan, critic & salesperson.  Not only does she care for my daughters when I'm working, she is willing to do whatever it takes to support me.  She also gives me incredibly honest feedback.  I have such respect for her.

I'm grateful to my plumber, my electrician, my dry-waller, and my handsome contractor, (my husband,) who put so many unanticipated hours into creating a beautiful little home-studio for me.

I'm grateful to friends like Marci Hotsenpiller for hiring me to photograph a project that garnered a prestigious award. (More information on that one in a future post!)

I'm grateful to Kevin and Kristi for allowing me to photograph the birth of my nephew Ben.  The images I captured feel like my most important work to date.  (I'll devote a complete post to this experience in the New Year as well!)

I'm grateful to Community Futures, especially Helen Furgale, and my 'classmates' Kevin and Trish who inspire and delight me.

I mentioned my husband earlier, but I want to publicly express my gratitude to him.  Without Rich, I would not have been able to start this business.  No doubt about it.  It is no easy thing to support your spouse during their first year of business; particularly when entrepreneurial endeavours are a completely foreign concept to you.  We had our ups and downs, but what I am most thankful for is that Rich is an attentive listener.  We communicate well.  We make time, we sit, we talk, and most importantly, we LISTEN.

Perhaps what I am most grateful for, (which might sound kind of selfish,) is my own growth.  I have learned SO MUCH this year; about everything from bookkeeping to sump pumps to lighting set-ups!  And one of the biggest gifts was being reminded that 'mistakes are necessary.'  When I was a classroom teacher, I was always telling my students that I loved it when they made mistakes, because it gave me the opportunity to teach and it gave them the opportunity to learn!  Mistakes represent growth.

One such mistake, (and this was a whopper,) had a particularly beautiful outcome.  It actually occurred in 2010 when I was building my portfolio, but it was only recently that I received the gift that it offered me.

A young woman from Victoria contacted me to book a photo session with her extended family.  Her mother was dying of cancer and she wanted some portraits taken at their home.

As you can imagine, I felt very anxious during the days leading up to this important photo shoot.  I went to their family home ahead of time to scope out the location.  I followed the weather forecast and fretted about the lighting when I realized that it was going to be a bright, sunny day.  I checked and triple checked my equipment before leaving my house on the day of the shoot.  I was nervous.

I needn't have been, though.  The family was wonderful and the tone was light.  There were grandchildren running around, people were laughing, the scenery was stunning, and everyone was doing their best to hide their heavy hearts.

The photo shoot went smoothly and I felt great about the shots that I got.   I got home and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  It wasn't until that evening, when I started editing the photos that I realized I'd taken them all in the smallest possible format, meaning that the images would start to pixelate if they were blown up larger than about 8x10.  I knew that the family wanted some large portraits and I had intended to shoot in RAW format.  I'd blown it.  Every shot was the same size.

I felt physically ill.  I paced around the house, I perspired, I sat with my head in my hands in a state of utter disbelief.  I think I said, "How could I be so stupid?" to myself fifty times.  It was not my finest hour.

After exhausting all options, I knew that I had to call my client and tell her about my mistake.  With any luck, we could schedule another shoot before the daughter's family returned to Victoria.  It was an awful phone call.  There was no way that I could sugar coat things, I had to swallow my pride and confess my error.  My client was disappointed.  It had taken so much out of her mother to go through the first photo shoot, she didn't know if she could ask it of her again.  Especially so soon.  I promised it would be a shorter session.  We knew the shots that worked best.  We'd done it all before.

After an agonizing half-day of waiting for a response,  the daughter phoned me back to arrange another session for the next day.  Again, I was very anxious about the shoot.  We had all left on such wonderful terms after our first photo session, and now I would see them all again and admit, in-person, that I had made a mistake.

Once again, the family was amazing.  They went out of their way to make ME feel at ease!  "We shouldn't have distracted you while you were trying to set up," the husband said to me.  I felt humbled.  And grateful.

The second shoot went faster than the first, and before an hour had passed, I had all that I needed.  As a gift, I burned two discs of images for the family.  One from the first shoot and one from the second session.  It was the least I could do.

Needless to say, I haven't made that error since and I doubt I will ever make it again.  The lesson is a reward in itself, but the real gift came this past fall when I received an email from the daughter.  Her the mother had passed away, and her daughter was writing to thank me for the images I had taken the past summer.  She wrote that many of the photos I had taken were used in a slideshow for her mother's celebration of life.  She said that it was a real blessing that we'd had to have two sessions, because there were so many wonderful photos as a result.  A blessing.

(Here is one of my favourite shots from the first shoot:)

Does everyone witness such moments in their line of work?  I hope so.

So, thank you one and all for everything you've done, in large part or in small, for contributing to my  successful first year of business.  I appreciate you.  (Even the fact that you've taken the time to read my ramblings is very much appreciated, and will not be taken for granted!)

I hope that your hearts are filled with gratitude as you welcome the new year.  May 2012 be a year of continued growth for us all.

Peace and love to you and yours,

Monday, December 5, 2011

More than a Home for Sale | Comox Valley Photographer

There are a lot of fabulous aspects to my job, but one of the things I appreciate most is the variety it provides.  For instance, I typically photograph people, but a couple of weeks ago I was hired to take some interior shots of a beautiful home in Comox that has just been put on the market.  What made my task even more fun, was the request to create artistic images that showed specific details of the home.

I like to think of homes having a personality and this one certainly does.  It's inviting and warm, yet stylish and unique.   Have a look for yourself, and if you're interested in learning more, visit Glenn Proctor's site.