boys, boys, boys!!!

I think these pictures really just explain themselves - smiles, joy, love, silliness, energy, squishy cheeks, chubby babies, goofy boys…  Enjoy.  :)

Dear Hope: I feel like I don't measure up

In an industry as saturated as photography, there is going to be some competition.  Some seriously fierce competition.  This industry certainly has some people who, in an effort to stay ahead of the crowd, feel they need to resort to name-calling, accusations, trolling and even outright bullying.  Hearing horror stories like this is bad enough, but when you are your own worst enemy and harshest critic, how can you overcome it?  Looking at yourself against a huge backdrop of talented (or not so talented) newbs, crusty veterans, the sibling or BFF who suddenly wants to be a photographer like you, the rockstars who seem to be having way more fun than you are, and the masters who seem to take amazing pictures in their sleep, it can be really disheartening feeling like you don't quite measure up.  The bad news is, it isn't just you who feels this way from time to time.  But the good news is, it isn't just you who feels this way from time to time.

I don't have any magic solutions to make insecurity go away, but I can offer up a few tidbits to help you put things back into perspective when you start feeling like you just want to curl up in the foetal position and cry yourself to sleep.  That being said, while this post applies to virtually any genre of photography (wedding, senior, family, fashion, pet) I'm going to use newborn photography as a paradigm.

1) You probably aren't doing anything first.  While we may develop a distinctive style, it is usually one that resulted from a long process of mimicking, copying, and practicing other people's techniques, shooting style, and subject matter whether we knew it or not.  I mean come on, haven't you ever thought of an amazing million dollar idea only to discover someone else already thought of it?  Every time I hear someone call out another photographer for copying their work, I can google several people who experimented 10, 25, 100 years ago with whatever it is they are claiming is their brainchild and accuse them of the same.  To wit, Anne Geddes wasn't the first person to make images of kiddies in washtubs.  Someone actually thought it was a cute idea before "child photography" even existed as a genre.  And parents did it without it being a genre.  So anytime you get your knickers in a knot because think you are doing it first, relax - you probably aren't.  Neither is anyone else.  We are all just copying bits and pieces of stuff other people have done first.  See the evolution of "babies in tubs" below:

2) You're one in a million.  One in 22,000,000, actually.  If you google "newborn photography" that's how many hits you get after .20 seconds.  With virtually any genre of photography, you are going to find not fives, not tens, not even hundreds but TENS OF THOUSANDS of other people doing what you are.  Google "Edmonton Newborn Photography" and it brings back 260,000 hits.  And if you hit "view images" you will note that most of the pictures are remarkably similar: softly lit baby wearing (or in) a knitted thingy and sleeping in a ball on an endless backdrop or in a kitschy container of some sort.  Variations include subtle differences like batman angles, textured blankets, and fancy backdrops, but it's mostly the same stuff.  If you google whatever genre you shoot, you will get the same results.  Promise.  Guess what?  Your competition?  They are one in a millions, too.  Just like everyone else.

3) Some people pay to be number 1.  But only for a little while and only if no one else thinks of it at the same time.  Being on the 75th page of the search results does not mean you are worse than 75 pages of other photographers.  Getting to the front page is about paid advertising, well-designed SEO, and other internet-y type things.  Running out to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get your name on the first page of the search results is a temporary measure and frankly, if all 260,000 newborn photographers did the exact same thing, you might still be on page 75.  Don't use your placement on search engine results as a measuring stick.  PS. Instances of things that organically go viral are far and few between, and there are companies you can pay to make your shit go viral and get you to Page 1…  and there ain't nothing viral about it.  Just sayin'.

4) You're seeing what they want you to see.  When you go look on colleagues' blogs or Facebook pages or read their tweets, the assumption is that every session they brag about is paid and paid well.  We have no idea how much they actually charged, if it was a model call or mini or freebie of some sort.  In a day and age where stealing images is rampant, we don't even know if every picture was shot by them.  Likewise, when their latest tweet is all about sunshine and roses and how busy they are and what a great day shooting they just had and how many bookings they are getting, unless we are a close personal friend, we have NO way of verifying it.  The fact is that person may have had a shitty day with horrible clients and they are so busy they haven't gone to bed with their husband in months because they are post-processing hundreds of clients from a Groupon gone wild and they are teetering on the brink of alcoholism because it's the only way they can wind down from the massive amounts of stress they are suffering with.  And all you will ever see is, "Wow - working on a client's beautiful pics - can hardly wait to open the next file!" The only negative posts will be things like, "Sure hope this cold doesn't stop me from keeping up with my amazing clients!"and "Gosh, I'm so sad I only had enough money to buy one new lens."  While it might be true, it might also be a cover up or an outright lie.  Nobody's life is that perfect all day, every day.  Developing a positive, chipper online persona is likely a good business decision as it keeps people in a happy buying mood, but an online persona is not actually legitimate measure of how much more wonderful and perfect everyone else's life is, so take it with a grain of salt.

5) Getting rich and famous takes work unless you're born into it, and even then you need to work at it or you'll fall into obscurity and be worthless as a product endorsement.  Contrary to what you might want to think about people being "discovered" I promise you that most people who appear to skyrocket to the top have gotten there by a) being connected with the right people and b) intense and relentless self-promotion.  Before you stop to marvel at how your work must be crap compared to so-and-so's because they got "discovered" and you didn't, I would hazard a guess it wouldn't take long to find out how much time and money they have spent attending the right events, rubbing elbows with the right people, and schmoozing their way up.  The difference between poor and un-famous you and rich and famous them is they were born into the right crowd or have played the game right.  Being rich and famous ins't all it's cracked up to be either - the bigger they are the harder they fall, right?  PS Serial killers are famous and con artists are rich…  and some people are rich and famous but do you really have any reason to pay attention to them besides the fact they are rich and famous?

6) Even more contrary to popular belief, being successful doesn't necessarily mean being rich and famous.  Remember I said you need to use your own yardstick and not someone else's?  Maybe you aren't being featured as a guest lecturer at WPPI and maybe you haven't been charging enough to buy that yacht or a second home in the Hamptons, but if you're getting consistent work, glowing referrals, and making enough that you at least break even at the end of the year doing what you love doing, what do you really have to complain about?  So what if the competition appears to be living the high life?  We are taught by a consumer society that success means being rich and famous and we don't know what "enough" is anymore.  If you can ditch the desire for excess, you might start seeing your own success.  And maybe less is the new more.

So.  Maybe you can't change your competition or magically eliminate all your insecurity, but you can change your perspective.  All it takes is using a slightly different yardstick.

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like.”

― Nigel Marsh

Hopefully, I have said something in this article that helps you reframe your feelings of insecurity, put things into context, and feel (oddly) connected to your fellow photographer who probably looks at YOUR blog and says, "Man, I just don't stack up…"  Now, go have a nice day.



Tax Time! WHEE!!!

This is a note out there for my photography friends as well as any other small businesses who are collecting GST.  As a rule of thumb, we all like to pay as little in taxes as possible.  GST, unlike income tax, is a simple in-out equation.  While some people feel like when they owe GST at the end of the quarter or year they are losing "income" the truth is that it was never your money to begin with, and if you owe GST it simply means that you collected more GST than you spent.  Translation?  You a) made a profit or b) need to buy more things in Canada so you can claim input tax credits (ITCs).

Unfortunately, lots of small business owners and sole proprietorships deposit their GST in the bank and spend it, resulting in a huge IOU to the feds and no cash to cover it.  Here are a three easy tips that will help you avoid getting caught grabbing your ankles with your pants down.

1) Deposit GST in a separate account as it is collected.  Rather than depositing your GST in the same account as your income and expenses where it can deceive you into thinking you have cash to burn, you might want to consider stashing it away in a separate account.  The easiest way to do this is to go directly in to the bank to make your deposits or develop a habit of logging in to your online banking after depositing funds and manually transfer the GST the same day.   Keeping your GST completely separate will make it 100 times easier for you to not accidentally spend the GST you've collected, especially if you aren't keeping your books regularly.

2) Opt in to file quarterly instead of annual GST returns.  Lots of small businesses do what bookkeepers refer to as "shoebox accounting" meaning, you throw all your receipts into a figurative (or maybe literal) shoebox and hand it over to your accountant or tax prep guy when it's time to file your annual return.  By signing up for quarterly remittances you will get into the habit of setting aside a few hours once every 3 months to track your income and spending.  The bonus side effects of filing quarterly are smaller GST payouts and pretty good idea of your company's success!

3) Learn how to keep your own books.  I assure you that in tax prep world, every person who gets handed that "shoebox" dies a little on the inside.  You don't need to be a certified accountant to do your own bookkeeping, and with so many options ranging from free to still totally affordable software out there, you're sure to find one you love.  Wave and Google Drive spreadsheets are my personal favourites, but you may want to check out QuickbooksKashooStudiocloudFreshbooks... While it might take a bit of trial and error figuring out which one works with your business model and budget, the awesome part is when it's time to file your GST instead of having to manually wrangle a huge stack of receipts and contracts into some kind of order so you can do manual calculations, you simply hit "Print GST audit report" and it's all done for you.  Ba da bing.

I teach basic bookkeeping using Waveapps.  If you're interested in joining us for a day of guided tax prep on Saturday, February 15, 2014, please feel free to sign up here or contact me via the form on this blog.  Cost is $150/person with a maximum of 8 participants.



copying the masters

Here at the Schock-Walls household, we like to do family portraits a wee bit differently.  I was feeling rather inspired.  I'm so pleased with how these turned out.  I'd love for some of my families to allow me to do this for their sessions in 2014, for something completely different.  Without further ado:

Mylo as Zuber-Buhler's Young Girl Holding a Doll

Serejane as Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring

Madisyn as Da Vinci's Mona Lisa

Kaelan as Rodin's The Thinker

Wil as Munch's The Scream


Bill and Hope as Klimt's The Kiss

Producing these was equally fun and challenging, from finding the images we were going to use as inspiration to figuring out how to shoot them and finally adding effects in Photoshop like patterns and textures (and even the Edmonton skyline…)

whoop whoop!!!

Picture, if you will, me, skipping, as it were, gleefully chanting, "Look who's getting married, look who's getting married, look who's getting married!" and you *might* begin to understand how excited I am for this engagement.

You might think it's because the bride to be is AWESOME for asking to shoot at glow-bowling for her session...

Which is partially true but...

We also went to the club where they met and I got to hear about his great pick-up line: "What are those tattoos?" which was also awesome but you'd still only be partially right...

No, the reason I am SOOOOOOO excited about this engagement is because...

I've known J for many years now and have seen her go through some tremendous and sometimes heart-wrenching life changes, and this handsome man came along, swept this gorgeous lady off her feet and made her smile brighter than I've ever known.

This man stole the heart of my favourite part-time model, loves her and her kids to death, gave her a beautiful new baby girl, and pampers her like the lady she is.  He is humble, generous, funny, and cleans up pretty good, to boot.

Folks, this is what Live. Laugh. Love. really looks like.  Ain't it beautiful?  (Close your eyes and you will hear "Can you feel the love tonight" in your mind lol)

J, I think you know how happy I am for you - no one deserves to be deliriously happy more than you.  M, welcome to the pack and a huge thank you for being made entirely (or at least mostly) of awesome.

Dear Hope: my client left me - what do I do?

You've had a great relationship with your client for years then one day out of the blue WHAMMO - their new Facebook profile picture (that you didn't take) is accompanied by the caption, "~photographer that is not you~ is the Best.  Photographer.  Ever!"  Or maybe you bent over backwards to accommodate someone and earn their loyalty by giving them a break on pricing but see that a few months later they have new photographs posted by a different photographer who is easily twice as expensive as you.  Or maybe a family member or close friend hired someone other than you for their wedding.  You're hurt, angry, and feeling betrayed.  What is the appropriate response?

First, and most importantly, make no assumptions.  You have NO idea why they chose to use a different photographer, and no right to know.  Maybe they got a Christmas bonus.  Maybe the other photographer had a sale.  Maybe they got bored with you.  Maybe you offended them.  Doesn't matter.  As another photographer put it, "You don't buy all your clothes at one store to protect the other store's feelings..."  Rather than project onto your client, use the opportunity to review your business model.  Were you price shopped on a special?  Did they not like the pictures?  Did you take too long delivering your products?  If you have an ongoing problem with client retention then you probably need to make some changes.  But if it's an anomaly, chances are very very good that they went elsewhere for reason(s) beyond your control.  If they love you, they will be back, and if they don't, then you didn't want them anyway. by Malia Moss
Next, unless you know you did something wrong, do not take it personally.  If you think you *might* have offended or disappointed them I suggest you only ask if you won't act defensively should the answer be yes.  If all you're going to do after hearing an answer you don't like is defend yourself or accuse them of being too sensitive/backwards/narrow-minded then it's probably best to leave well enough alone.  If you do ask and they say yes, you do NOT have to apologize for offending or disappointing them (none of us can control what offends or disappoints other people) but it would be proper etiquette to apologize that they feel offended or disappointed, and let them know it was not intentional.  If you feel so inclined, you can even ask if there is anything (within reason) that you can do to make it up to them.  This shows that you value their thoughts and feelings.

(fill your own apology like this one in online by visiting here!)

Lastly, be gracious.  The same way you have no control over what offends or disappoints anyone else, your bruised ego is not your client's fault.  Unfriending, deleting their sessions from your blog, a mutual friend (or you) leaving a passive-aggressive statement like "These are almost as nice as the pictures ~insert link to your website here~ took last year!" or sending a private message explaining just how awful their new photographer is and why...  totally not cool.

Now, if you find it difficult to keep from feeling hurt, you are welcome to unfollow or unsubscribe from the person's tweets or status updates or whatever, but if you hope to be on the list of contenders the next time they need photos I suggest you suck it up and leave a polite, honest comment on the new photo.

Even if the pictures are not what you consider to be great photography a simple note saying, "You guys look great!" or "My, the kids have grown!" not only puts your former client at ease about your openness to them coming back after "cheating" on you, but has the pleasant side effect of making you feel like a bigger person.  And if the photographer did a really great job, slip in a compliment - we all love getting a nod from a colleague, especially when it's someone we admire and respect!  So go on - be nice!  You'll like it, I promise!

Happy 2014!!!

Hello, my pretties!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!!!  What are YOUR New Year's Resolutions?

Of course I have some New Year's Resolutions of my own to share!  Quick 'n dirty, here they are:


Also, I've migrated all the old posts from pre-2011 when my miserable attempt at rebranding went stale and landed me with nothing but an absentee website.  
Uh, wait... that means


Anyhoo.  I apologize in advance to anyone who is subscribed - I have NO idea what my subscription provider is going to do to you.  I am hoping it recognizes all 1200+ of them are historical and not new posts or y'all are gonna lynch me...  Yikes!!!

And, because no post would be complete without pictures, here is a sneak peek from a concept shoot I did in early December.  This is the first in a mock editorial-style series inspired by the endlessly inspiring Alice in Wonderland.  The entire series will be published when it's completed, likely in late autumn 2014, as some of the sessions require warm, dry weather and greenery to shoot.

The hauntingly beautiful Anna Lector (you may recognize her from our silly Unicorn Shoot) and I worked under the art direction of my 9-year old daughter Serejane (who did an AMAZING job!)  And since my make-up artist called in last minute with a sick munchkin and my hair person was a straight-up no-show, I did the hair and make-up on this, which turned out not too bad if I do say so myself.  Booyah!

Looking forward to reuniting with some past clients, meetings some new ones, and making sure this year is made of nothing but awesome.  Cheers to you for 2014!