Go Big…or Go Home

It’s with both sadness and joy that I bring you this announcement.  Rawsii will no longer be accepting photography clients, effective immediately.  Some of you will be excited to hear, however, that next year I will once again be offering my online classes for beginners!  And, keep an eye out…I’ll be posting information for THE VERY LAST Rawsii session available for purchase through the YWCA auction in May.

I want to write a long and detailed explanation of this announcement, but I’m finding myself struggling with where to start.  It’s been such a long, complicated decision making process with many lines of reasoning and overlapping influences.  Honestly, I have wrestled with it since Jadon was born seven years ago.  That was when I felt that being a mother and being a business owner began to clash.  It’s difficult to give the best of my creativity and energy to the life behind the scenes when the high profile front is all that most people will see.  It’s much more energizing, glamorous and gratifying to work long hours to meet those client deadlines and run off to exotic locations for photo shoots.  My family has survived on my leftover time, and increasingly so as the years have gone on.  Truly, the only way it’s worked at all is that my amazing husband has self-sacrificially picked up the slack for me.  And in spite of frequently coming home from work to a messy house, unfinished school work, dinner not made… he never once asked me to quit.  He encouraged me to follow my dreams, loved me through my low points, and gave me an amazing example of love that he could only have learned directly from Jesus.  He’s the real hero here.  He knew from the beginning that I’m a “Go Big or Go Home” kinda girl and he loved me for it.  But I’ve reached a point where I can’t get any bigger without sacrificing far more than I’m willing to sacrifice.  So it’s time to pack it up and…go home.

People have often asked me “How do you DO it all?!”  And at first I was ashamed to answer.  I thought that if I admitted I wasn’t actually doing it all as well as they thought, I would just look like a failure.  But I realized I was doing women everywhere a huge disservice by allowing them to think I was succeeding at EVERYTHING.  As if it was actually possible to do so.  I’m willing to admit that maybe for some it is possible, but I will no longer assume so when I look at someone who appears to be wildly successful.  We’re human.  We can only do one thing at a time.  That means that when we’re succeeding at one thing, we’re NOT succeeding at something else.  Truth is, balance has been elusive.  Healthy eating has completely gone by the wayside.  Creativity in the classroom has dwindled.  All in the name of fulfilling my artistic visions.  I should have stopped working a long time ago but I was afraid.  Yes, I know, many of you view me as fearless, but I was afraid.  Photography is my way of making personal connections with people.  It introduced me to amazing people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.  It took me places I would never have gone on my own.  Most of all, it allowed me to love people in a unique and personal way when I felt awkward with any other form of expression.  But to my detriment, it became a crutch.  It became the ONLY way I knew how to love people anymore.  Relationships became more shallow and the more people I met, the more alone I felt.  I was afraid that if I gave up photography, I would be giving up the primary thing people liked about me and I would be a boring person with nothing to offer.  It’s been a couple years since I had that self realization so I’ve been asking God to work on developing other parts of me, to make me a deeper friend, sister, mother, and wife outside of my artwork.  And as He’s begun to accomplish this in my life, a strange thing has happened.  The desire of my heart has begun to change with it.  Yes, I still LOOOOOOVE taking pictures.  I still love being a part of some of the most intimate and important moments in the lives of truly gorgeous people.  And I will miss it.  But I’m not addicted to it anymore.  I’m drawn to my kids and the thought of developing myself as a better mom, a better teacher, a fellow adventurer in this thing we call life, a spiritual guidance counselor for them, and eventually a friend.  I want to be fully engaged, excited to live each day with them.  I want to stop waking up every morning feeling as if I have “one more thing” to do before I can attend to my kids.  I don’t want them to feel like the world revolves around them but I want to take their hands and show them that the world revolves around God.  There is no greater calling for a woman than to raise children who love God with their whole heart.

While in Vegas for WPPI, I felt that things became especially clear.  I saw a contrast of the paths that lay before me.  It was a bit more black and white than it had ever been before.  I had a truly anointed conversation with a wildly successful Christian photographer whose children are already grown.  His words and life story impacted me deeply.  It was so timely.  But as I look back I can see that EVERY time I have taken a huge step toward professional growth, God has put people in my path that have curbed my appetite for it and brought me back toward Him.  God has been so gentle in His leading.  He and James have both been so patient with me.

Maybe it was the experience in Vegas.  Maybe it’s the new house in the country.  Maybe it is my baby girl growing up and feeling that our family is just not quite complete yet.  Maybe it’s home schooling needing more time and creativity from me.  Maybe it’s how God has answered my prayers and drawn my heart closer to His and further from the world.  Maybe it’s a desire to be healthier.  But more likely, it’s a carefully orchestrated symphony directed by God with more instruments than I’m aware of and timing so complicated I will only understand when I get to heaven.

Now, it’s going to be kind of awwwwwkward because I’m making this grandiose announcement that I’m quitting but I won’t actually be gone for quite awhile.  But such is the life of a wedding photographer.  Life is planned out for me years in advance.  I have commitments through the end of 2014 already!  But I will not be accepting any more work from this point forward.  And next year I plan to teach the online classes again because it’s something I can do without leaving the house, for only a few hours at a time, at any time of day.  And it doesn’t require committing to anything years in advance.

I’ve already received so much affirmation from so many people about this new direction.  I’m encouraged.  Thank you!  It’s easy to be understanding about it when it doesn’t affect you personally though, so please continue with this attitude when I have to say, with tears in my eyes, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t shoot your wedding even though I ADORE you, I just can’t.”  There will be no exceptions.  Not for family, not for friends on any level…none.  If I start making exceptions for some people, it begins a game of justification that would eventually have me photographing everyone and their cousin.  I’m happy to provide you with a list of trusted photographer friends and professionals locally and around the country who are more than capable of filling my shoes.  They’ll LOVE capturing your stories and your beautiful smiles…I know they will because I have.  🙂

The Definition of Professionalism

I’ve been pondering professionalism lately.  It’s a rather ambiguous term the way we use it, don’t you think?  And if that wasn’t annoying enough, the very concept that there is a word that indicates appropriate behavior for a business person bothers me just a little bit because it implies to me that one might have two sets of standards…one for business and one non-business situations.  But if I’m honest, there ARE certain things I do differently when I meet with clients in my home office.  Even my kids notice me getting ready and ask, “Mommy, do you have a client today?”  I put on a little bit nicer clothes, I do my hair and makeup.  I wear SHOES.  So is THAT what professionalism boils down to? Wearing shoes?

Yep, I’m going to go all word study on ya.  And where better to turn for a word study than the dictionary, right?

  • professionalism (noun):1. professional character, spirit, or methods. 2. the standing, practice, or methods of a professional, as distinguished from an amateur.

And since the world “professional” is used in the definition, we kind of need to define that too.

  • professional (adjective): 1. following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain

SO Helpful.  It says professionalism is basically how you intentionally act when you’re getting paid.  HOW. INSIGHTFUL.  But in our capitalistic society where we’re constantly tweaking the formula for financial success, we hear the term and think of a lot more specific things.  We’ll say, “They seemed very professional!”  There are probably even some specific things that popped into your mind the moment you read that.  But when we sift through all the subjective stuff, what do we REALLY mean by that statement?

I believe we mean that the person conducted themselves in a way that made us confident in their skills and commitment to us.  They convinced us that they cared very much about our business, that they knew what they were doing, and that they would deliver it as expected and it would be worth the money we paid them.  But what was it about them that convinced us of all that?  Was it their modest, tailored clothing that said, “I care about looking nice without being flashy.”?  Was it their luxury car that said, “I am financially successful.”?  Was it their million dollar smile that said, “I like you.”?  Maybe it was their relaxed or intensely focused personality that made us comfortable.  Or their soft or firm tone of voice.  What about their style, their words, or even what they chose NOT to say?  While the field of business makes a difference in all of these topics, they are all objects of scrutiny to people advising professionals how to act to secure business from you and I, the consumers.

Personally, I think that every person trusts for different reasons.  Everyone has had unique life experiences that mold and shape them and cause them to trust or distrust for an equally unique recipe of reasons.  Some people trust the business man with the luxury car because they think he’s motivated mainly by money and assume he’ll work hard for them even if his personal feelings towards them may change.  Others DON’T trust the same person because they don’t think a person who cares a lot about money will have their best interest at heart.  Some people are looking for a person who dresses conservatively, others are looking for people who wear name brands, still others want a person with more unique self-expression in clothing.  Some individuals resonate with an upbeat personality because they see energy.  Others see a bouncy person and think “flighty; untrustworthy.”  There’s a certain image we conjure up when we think of a “professional business person” but when it comes down to it, professionalism is deeper than that and different to each one of us.  It’s easy to recognize these little things in the decisions we make for ourselves all the time.  But as a business person trying to appeal to more than one person, how do you decide what “character, spirit, or methods” to apply to your business?

It seems to me that clients are looking to answer one primary question: Will my expectations be met?  Of course they have to like the product or service at the price you’re charging, but that won’t mean a thing if they begin to pick up signals that make them feel like they would have to lower their expectations to match yours.  So your number one goal as a professional should be to communicate clearly and concisely what they can expect from you.  Precision is key.  You don’t want to pretend you’re delivering MORE than you can, nor do you want to under sell yourself.  You need to nail it.  To do this there are two things you need to sit down and ponder:  1) What are the general expectations of your target market? 2) What are you communicating by your words and actions to your potential clients?  Ideally, these two lists should align closely.  If they don’t, then one of them needs to change.  Either you need to make some personal changes to meet the expectations of your clients or you need to start expecting the quantity and quality of clients you’ll attract without changing.  Simple as that.

Make those lists.  Don’t worry about the very differing opinions of everyone regarding professionalism unless they are also your own.  Bottom line: BE the business person that you would want to hire.  And if that’s not achieving the desired results, figure out which list needs to change.  When you have met or exceeded the expectations of your clients, they will walk away happy with your level of professionalism, whatever that may be.

Best of 2012 – Silhouettes and Reflections

I confess…I’m a save the best for last kinda girl.  And I’m drawn to silhouettes.  It’s no secret.  Reflections are a close second.  These pictures are artistic fuel to my soul.  Swoon!!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little flashback as much as I have.  Now it’s time to move onward and upward.  Here’s to 2013 and being better than yesterday!

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Best of 2012 – Storytelling

This is category I’d love to populate more.  A lot of images are storytelling but I put them in other categories because I loved them for their other qualities more.  These are images I felt could not avoid the intrigue of the story.  When I look at them, I build a before and an after in my mind.  I’d love to hear what stories they evoke in YOUR minds!  I wonder if it’s anything close to what I’m imagining!

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Best of 2012 – Lost in the Moment

As I was sorting through images from the year and figuring out the categories, I began to notice there were a bunch of pictures I loved primarily for one reason…I felt like my subjects simply forgot I was there.  They were SO completely lost in each other that I could have walked away and they wouldn’t have noticed.  I can’t get enough of that!  When people love each other that much (and trust me that much) I just feel like I’m witnessing something sacred.  We see movies where actors play pretty convincing roles, but this?  This is for REAL.  And I’m pleased to be able to share those moments with you…I hope you feel the same as I do.

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