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.  🙂

Revive this blog, STAT!

OH MY!  Don’t look at how long it’s been since I blogged!!  I’m hoping to sneak a few posts in here quietly before people notice the Grand Canyon sized GAP in the dates!  EEK!  It’s not that I don’t have things to share…it’s that I have TOO MUCH to share and I just couldn’t keep up with it!  And my blog design needed an overhaul so badly that I just wanted people to stop looking at the old one.  But it’s winter up here in the greater Chicago area and I have myself some much needed downtime to catch up on things like organization, accounting, lesson planning…and BLOGGING!  Hopefully we’ll be hearing from Katye and Bridget here and there too.  And my goal is to go back and blog all the 2012 weddings and engagement sessions…it’ll be a fun trip down memory lane!

But FIRST, a sneak peek of a really amazing fashion shoot we just wrapped up this past weekend for Emblazon Salon in South Bend, IN.  The theme was Elemental and we did some really crazy cool stuff so I hope you come back to check that out around the middle of February when I will be able to share them.

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Why I shoot in RAW

We’re going to start things off with a before and after shot because I feel like this is the type of post I’ve seriously neglected in the past. And I think this is a parlor trick that will interest both photographers and innocent bystanders alike.

Last month I was in Hawaii for Jon and Katye’s wedding (I’ll be blogging a lot more about that later) and of course, everywhere we went, the scenery was incredible! When you’re photographing a destination wedding, that location tends to become the “theme” and it’s important to include that in as many of the pictures as possible. You want to bring home that feeling of awe and excitement with you to relive over and over. So for this picture, I found it absolutely necessary to include the ocean and the palm trees in the picture. It just wasn’t going to be an epic moment without it! But if you’re a photographer, you know the lighting nightmare I have here. They’re in half shade while the palm trees and ocean were in full blazing sun. The camera can’t get a good exposure on both…you’re going to lose one or the other. And since they were at the edge of a balcony three stories up, there was no way to get a flash out in front of them. And I CERTAINLY wasn’t going to use on-camera flash (don’t get me STARTED, don’t EVEN get me STARTED!! haha). Some might wonder if I could have bounced some flash off of the balcony above but it didn’t stick out far enough to light all the girls and I didn’t want to curtail the moment by directing them to easily lit locations. Also, the direction of the light would have still given it an unnatural look and I loved how the natural light was looking.

So what did I do? I went halvsies. I under exposed the girls a little and over exposed the sky, the palm trees, and the ocean. And it looks AWFUL, doesn’t it? This is an example of one of the FEW pictures I’m totally embarrassed to show people on the back of my camera. I mean, EVERY picture gets some special treatment in Lightroom and some sharpening in Photoshop, but usually the effect is still completely recognizable so I show many of them to my clients as I go. But this is one I would hide because I don’t have time to explain my vision for the end result and how much different it will look…and why!

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Believe it or not, this is the same picture and all I did was use Lightroom to increase the exposure on one half of the image and decrease the exposure on the other half using the brush tool. If I had shot in jpg, there would be no pulling those clouds and blue sky back out of this picture. But in RAW, there’s so much more information still there. It’s really incredible. Shooting in RAW isn’t something you should use as a failsafe to catch you if you screw up the exposure…it’s a means of expanding the latitude of your pictures.

Now, does this mean that the next time you try taking that picture of your niece in the shade of a tree and the background is white that all you need to do is turn your camera to RAW and you can come home and make it better? NO. That will look horrific and fake….don’t do it. The background and the subject should be lit SIMILARLY, not entirely different. Please use this trick responsibly! 🙂

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I hope this has been enlightening (pun intended). Enjoy discovering RAW!