Flourish, Pt 1

So I'm finally ready to talk about Flourish, the amazingly fun and incredible workshop I went to in January in Louisville, KY. Flourish is run by three photographers who I really look up to: Angela Anderson, Kitty Maer, and Kim Reed. The workshop was basically their opportunity to tell us everything they have done that has worked for their businesses...and also what hasn't worked. All three women have very unique styles and approaches to wedding photography, and bring vastly different levels of experience to the table, so I figured that somewhere between the three of them I was sure to find ideas that I could apply to myself and my business...and I wasn't dissappointed.

Day 1 and Day 3 were classroom days, in which we spent most of our time listening to presentations and asking questions. Day 1 focused on business basics, starting with a worksheet Kim, Kitty, and Angela created to help each of us determine our costs of doing business and basic living expenses in relation to our package pricing. It may sound elementary, but a lot of photographers jump into doing business without any sense of a financial plan, budgeting, or any idea of the real costs of doing business. Professional Photographers of America (PPA) recently completed a benchmark financial survey of wedding and portrait studios, the first of its kind, in which they determined that the average home studio has to take in over $100,000 a year just to break even. If the studio operates out of a storefront, that number jumps to $250,000. And in reality, between the costs of equipment, computer hardware and software, and storage/uploading/editing tools, photographers as a whole end up spending way more now to run a digital photography business than we ever did with film.

Anyway, the worksheet basically confirmed for me what I already knew, which is that I have to take in slightly more than $3500 per wedding avg. in order to pay my expenses and break even. I so wish I had done something like this seminar 4 years ago! I really envied the one or two attendees who were just starting their businesses...that first year of doing really well in bookings, yet still being broke at the end of the year, was a hard lesson to learn. I think that budgeting is one of those things that, the longer you put it off, the more scary it seems and so you put it off even longer. I'm so glad to be past that point now.

After the budgeting discussion we talked about other key aspects of business, such as marketing, customer service, and contracts. I left for the hotel that night buzzing with ideas and with really warm feelings about how friendly, generous, and supportive both workshop leaders and attendees were turning out to be.

In addition to learning, Flourish was also about treating yourself for all the hard work you put into your business. I viewed it as part education, part vacation (of course only a workaholic like myself would go to a workshop for "vacation!:P) The workshop fee included accommodations at 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, which is part modernist four star hotel and part art museum. The lobby is divided into gallery spaces and artists rotate throughout the year so there is always fresh work up, and each room comes with your own Ipod preloaded with your favorite genre of music. Here's a shot of my room:


The workshop fee also included 3 gourmet meals and 2 snacks per day, and quite a bit of champagne. Unfortunately at first I couldn't enjoy any of it, due to my coming down with a raging stomach flu. By the night before I left for KY I knew I was sick; on my way there, I slept most of the flight, but I think being on the plane itself weakened my immune system as my symptoms peaked during the initial night there. I left dinner early, and spent most of the evening staring at the inside walls of the hotel bathroom...

By the end of the first full day of the workshop, I was feeling MUCH better, and was so excited about everything I was learning that I couldn't get to sleep right away. Plus I was ravenous from having eaten so little for the past 36 hours, and room service was closed, so I was "forced" to raid the mini bar. This particular mini bar has sensors in it, so if you remove anything for more than 10 seconds you automatically get charged for it.


Alas, Brian was back home in CA, so I wouldn't be using the $10 21C branded "intimacy kit".
Okay, now picture how fast I had to set up this shot so I could get the kit out and back in place behind the pretzel can within 10 seconds. :)

The little bottles of alcohol were cute, but I instead decided to go with something a little more familiar for late night snackage...

Of course all that sugar led to this shot: : )

It took about 20 tries to get the bed jumping shot right. Which then led to this:
...which was what I was trying to accomplish anyway.

I haven't taken a self portrait in a looooong time...but I did a lot of them in art school. Quite a few of which involved the bathroom mirror in various houses I lived in during my 20s.

I think I look kinda cute here. Note the strategic upward head tilt, to minimize double chin-osity. That's why they pay me the biiig bucks. :P

Day 2 was a shooting day. We had guided shooting opportunities with 2 couples for an Engagement session, and models for a bridal session and "lights out" session. Lights Out is the term Kitty and Angela use to refer to their avant garde-style boudoir work...Anne Ruthmann calls hers "Film Noir Boudoir". I like that a LOT, but she was smart enough to trademark it. So I'll have to think of something else to call mine. :)

Below are a few behind the scenes shots from Day 2. For the actual results of the demo sessions, you'll have to wait until the next post!

this is Kim Reed rockin the engagement session demo at Flourish

Here is a candid photo of me on day 2, taken by Indiana photographerAnne Ruthmann (whose work I also love and am inspired by; having her there was a huge bonus)
meflourishjpgshot by Anne Ruthmann, and here is Anne's Flickr.

Latest Vendor Collages

I am chomping at the bit to post about all the incredible experiences I had at Flourish photography workshop in Louisville KY, which I attended two weeks ago...but there is so much to write about, and I think I need just a few more days to organize my thoughts. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of the collage pages I made recently for wedding vendors I worked with last year.

Silicon Valley Capital Club, San Jose

Winter is my chance to catch up on making custom books and print pieces for all the florists, designers, venue coordinators, caterers, and other vendors who made last year's weddings so fabulous. Any vendor who asks would have already gotten images on disk by now, and/or maybe a few prints for their portfolio...but when I've done a wedding with someone whose work really inspires me, I feel compelled to give them something more.

Like photography, a lot of other wedding-related businesses are artistic in nature. So much of what these artists do is about the intangible experience of their clients: using color, light, taste and/or textures to create a mood or feeling the bride is looking for. It takes more than one image to convey these things to a prospective bride--the whole story must be told. That's what I try to do with my vendor pieces.

I love providing wedding vendors with beautiful pictures of their work. I think that as a photographer I am in a unique position to be able to give something of real value to them, with only a minor amount of extra time or expense on my part. And hopefully in doing so, I am increasing the chances that I will get to work with these awesome people (and their awesome clients) again and again.

Hiddenbrooke Golf Club, Vallejo CA

Florist Stacey Miller Designs, San Francisco City Club, San Francisco CA

PS. If you are a wedding vendor or venue manager who has worked with me before and you haven't gotten collage pages and/or a book from me yet, please email me with the wedding date and bride's full name, and your logo in pdf or eps format attached. Thanks!