Letting Go of Photography

“You’re a really good photographer! Why did you stop shooting Boudoir? ”
A good friend of ours asked me that yesterday and I had a really hard time framing my answer. I sputtered out, “After trying to convince women of their beauty for 11 years, I just kind of gave up.”


And, since the first answer that comes to mind is usually the real answer, I realized this is my truth. 

I gave up. It lost its lustre and I lost my passion for it.
However, I didn’t give up in the sense that I failed, more that I realized that in a world where 90% of people we see on social media and in print are filtered, what the fuck is point? Women have to have the presence of mind (or find it through life experience) to realize that they are comparing themselves to bullshit. 

I would often do a shoot with a gal, show her the final result, she would oooh and ahhh and say things like, “I can’t believe that’s me!” or, “I feel so beautiful and more confident than I ever have.” But then I would get, “Can you just tuck in my rolls a bit?” or, “ I don’t like the way my ass looks. Can you lift it up a bit?” Uhm, no. If you want your ass lifted, get off it and go to the gym. Boudoir is not supposed to be about digital nipping and tucking, it’s about seeing your body in a new light and learning accept it and love it, even if you are working hard to change it. Then she would start posting photos on IG or FB that were filtered AF and all I could think was, “Do you actually think that people don’t see that you’ve completely changed your appearance? Why are you so terrified of letting people see the real you? Why isn’t the real you good enough?”

Exerting futile effort is never a good feeling.

I know I did make a difference for some of my clients and it is a beautiful thing, but after so many just reverted to that place of insecurity that has existed for so long within them, I eventually just said, “Fuck it!”
I wanted to feel the passion and satisfaction of creativity running through my veins again, so I moved on to the one thing that has never left me feeling disappointed or burnt out—writing. 

I figure if I can’t reach women with photographic proof of their innate beauty, I’ll reach them with my words.

Are you a good houseguest or a bad houseguest? House Guest Etiquette a la Jo.

I just had the BEST weekend with the BEST houseguests, pretty much ever and it wasn’t just because they were my cousins, it was because they were so respectful of our space. They cooked, they cleaned, they bought (and brought) groceries and they were helpful and fun.

To be honest, we’ve had a few shitty houseguests in the past couple years, so it was so nice to see that my cousins were on the same wavelength as me. I was sad to see them go and, for me, that’s not a common feeling. I’m usually elated to bid our guests adieu, but it’s usually because I’m exhausted from entertaining them, cleaning up after them, and providing everything for their stay.

My idea of what makes a good houseguest stems from a childhood with a mom who had very particular Martha Stewartesque notions when it came to being a guest in someone’s home. She drilled it into me and, when people visit and don’t seem to have any houseguest common sense, I kinda lose my shit.

Here’s what my dearly departed Mama Wendy made sure I understood if I was going to visit somewhere. (Also, I may be paraphrasing a little here):

  1. NEVER be a wanker who overstays your visit. Always ask BEFORE you go for a visit how long your host is willing to put up with you. It’s not rude to ask someone this, it’s polite. It doesn’t matter how much we love our friends and family – everybody has a saturation limit when it comes to houseguests. For example, I’m good for around three to four nights and then my eye starts to twitch and I start to feel a bit stabby. If I tell you that I’d love to have you visit for the weekend, it means I’d love to have you visit FOR THE WEEKEND. If you then decide that you are loving my place so much you want to stay longer, I’m probably going to secretly imagine myself stabbing you in the eye with a fork while I’m politely insisting that I’m okay you extending your stay. News Flash: I’m not okay with it. Nobody is. Get the fuck out and, while you’re at it, make sure you’re gone by mid-afternoon on Sunday and mop the floor before you leave, just for good measure.
  2. Food is fucking expensive, so unless you’re visiting millionaires, don’t be a freeloading asshat. If you’re by yourself and heading to visit someone for a night, it’s usually fine to allow your host to feed you. But bring a gift-dessert or something (or, in my case, bring me ALL THE WINE) just to let them know you appreciate their hospitality. HOWEVER, if you’re bringing more than just yourself OR you plan to be there more than one night, chip the fuck in on food, homie. Bring (or buy) some groceries or, even better, make a plan with your host for meals and offer to either shop with them when you arrive or bring the ingredients for a couple of those meals. This will not only make you the most-appreciated house guest ever, it will also get you sincere invitations to come back. For reals.
  3. Get off your ass and help. Help cook. Help clean up after meals. Help clean up anything that is a mess or dirty. Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your shit laying around. Don’t treat your host’s place like it’s a hotel with a maid and room service. Again, that will just make your host stabby and nobody wants any version of Norman Bates for a host.
  4. Clean up your GD room when you leave. Strip the sheets and pillow cases and either put them in the laundry or wash them if your host prefers. Alternatively, if your host is much less anal than me and says it is unnecessary for you to strip the bed, AT LEAST make the bed then. Leave it as you found it. If you slept on the couch, use some common sense – clearly you need to clean up your bedding. Don’t be a fucking slob of a houseguest. This isn’t rocket science, people.
  5. Lastly, have some respect. If your host goes to bed early or you are a night owl, don’t blast the TV or stereo or dial up your buddies and FaceTime at midnight in a drunken stupor with your phone on full blast. Quiet the fuck down and have some GD respect.

Admittedly, when I was younger and didn’t fully appreciate the costs and tasks involved in running my own household, I was most likely NOT a good houseguest. I’m writing this in hopes that it will help the younger versions of me out there turn over a new leaf and start becoming more likeable when you’re visiting.

Peace out, stellar bitches!

Fool me once. A little introspective reflection on this fine sunny Sunday.

For the past four months, I’ve been diligently writing a book about our daughter, Cora’s, death, so I’ve been too mentally spent to blog much. However, blogging has always been my outlet, my therapy, my chance to get shit off my chest and flush it out and then keep moving forward, so before I fester much longer, I have to get this out and then move on.

Today, after A LOT of introspection and a few candid conversations with some very close friends, I finally find myself calm enough to blog about something that just about made my head explode the other day. I’m going to share it with ya’ll, but before I do, know that I have come out the other end having learned a VERY big life and business lesson and acknowledging my part in the truth of it all. I speak my truth and I don’t mind if it ruffles the odd feather.

A few years ago when I first moved to the Okanagan, before I built a house, I moved into a small walk-in basement suite that was actually an amazing little shooting space. Since it was a new space and a new area for me, I wanted to test it all out before I shot any paying clients there. I could have just hired a model. In hindsight, that would have been the smartest thing to do, but I was chatting with one of my friends about Boudoir and she said it would be fun to try, so I asked if she would be my model for some boudoir images.

The deal was that I would do a shoot with her and, in exchange, she would give me permission to use her photos for promotional material. With paying clients, I never post their pics unless I get their permission and many of them don’t want their photos posted, so I respect their wishes. These particular pics were meant to be my Go-To pics because they were free game.

She agreed without hesitation and we ended up doing two shoots so I could also try out some new techniques I’d been studying. I paid for the hair and makeup for both shoots (a total of $300) and we shot two sessions that are in around the $1500 price range for paying clients (or approximately $3000 for the two sessions). I also gave her twice the number of photos I would normally give to a client who had paid for an equivalent session. We both put a lot of effort, time and fun into the sessions and the pics turned out even better than I thought they would. I ended up with a huge variety of photos, ranging from light and fun to dark and sensual. We were both fairly jacked about the efforts and the results and, after I delivered her pics, she gave me rave reviews and told all her friends about me.

It was, all around, an amazing experience and I was really happy it had worked out for both of us.

Fast forward to approximately a year ago when I got a message from her asking me to remove one of the pics I had posted of her. It was a pic with no face in it, just a sensual black and white shot of her from behind at an angle. It was tasteful and hot and completely anonymous. She said that she didn’t want any of her hubby’s friends to recognize her, so I took it down. Even though she had agreed to give me free license to use the pics, I was understanding and took the pic down. I was a bit irked, but I STILL took the pic down because I love this lady and I didn’t want to upset her.

Six months after that, I posted another shot of her sitting naked in a lake, facing away from the camera, but her face is turned sideways so you can see her profile. Again, she messaged me and asked if I could remove that pic and use another one I’d taken that didn’t show her face. Again, I was totally understanding and, even though I was actually pissed off about it, I STILL removed the pic.

Each time this happened, I received an “I’m really sorry, Jo.” However, there was literally no acknowledgment of the value of our trade OR the fact that I had completely upheld my end of the bargain and she wasn’t reciprocating.

Fast forward to present day.

I have a Boudoir Ad running on FB right now and I have been using a pic of her in the Ad. She’s clothed, but if you look REALLY closely, you can see a bit of her nipple beneath her shirt. 

This week, she sent me another message asking if I could edit the photo so that her nipple wasn’t so visible because she was worried some of her coworkers would see it and wouldn’t be cool with it. She also added in the fact that she was “really sorry, but…”.

I sat there, reading the message a few times and feeling my anger build up steadily. I even tried to take a few deep breaths and drop down into my heart center to calm myself and take the request in stride.

It didn’t work. I was PISSED OFF.

Not only had I given her thousands of dollars worth of my time and work (including paying for the Hair & Makeup artists both times out of my pocket) AND given her extra photos, but I had also spent hours looking through thousands of my boudoir pics to find one that would be accepted by the FB Ad algorithm. Before I had even submitted a pic of her, I had tried 12 or 13 others and that were all rejected by algorithms for being “too suggestive”. When I had finally submitted her pic and it had been accepted, I had actually jumped up and done a happy dance in my office and air high-fived myself. I hadn’t dared touch the Ad since then because I was worried that it wouldn’t be approved a second time if I made any changes (besides retargeting) to it.

So, when I read her message, logical thought eluded me and my head damn near exploded off my shoulders. 

Normally, when a photographer and non-paying client do a trade collaboration, there is a clause in the contract that states that should the “model” require the photographer to remove photos from social media at any time, the model will be required to compensate the photographer for the full amount of the session. I didn’t add that clause to the model release I had her sign because we are friends and I trusted her. That was clearly a gigantic mistake on my part and it just pissed me off more because I was angry with myself for being so trusting and letting that shit slide.

I was sitting there, seething – angry with her and at myself – and I couldn’t calm myself down.

I wanted to say NO. I wanted to remind her of the value of the photos I had given her and how much they would have cost had she paid me to do the shoots. I wanted to tell her that she was being a complete shithead for thinking it was totally okay to continue to shit on our agreement.

But I didn’t.

I took the photo down and reworked the ad (going through the disheartening and frustrating submission process for the second time) because, again, I didn’t want to upset her.

The entire time, I felt frustrated and angry and completely pissed off at myself for being so stupid. So many thoughts were racing through my mind:

  • How can someone who is supposed to be my friend think it’s okay to agree to something and then back out of her end of the agreement after I’ve fully upheld mine?
  • Why can’t I just tell her to stuff it and let her know that I’ll be using the pics as per our agreement and, if she doesn’t like it, she shouldn’t have agreed to do the shoots in the first place?
  • Maybe I should just tell her that I’ll be more than happy to remove all the pics of her I have ever used if she pays me the $3000 for both shoots.
  • How can I have made such a rookie mistake by leaving the most important clause out of the Model Release?
  • Why do I keep allowing this kind of shit to happen?

And then my anger popped in a bubble of “OH SNAP!”

And there it was…Why do I keep allowing this kind of shit to happen?

Guess what, kids? This is not the first time this has happened. Years ago when I was still in Kamloops, I did the exact same thing with another friend and ended up with the exact same result. [She was going through a divorce and we were spending a lot of time together and I could see that she badly needed a pick-me-up, so I offered to shoot her for free if I could use the pics for promotional purposes. She also wholeheartedly agreed and we did a killer shoot in a natural waterfall and the photos were amazing. Then, a year later, she got a new job and was suddenly worried about her reputation and asked me to take the photos off social media, and I did. And again, I got an “I’m really sorry to ask this but…” and nothing else.]

That first experience left me feeling completely hurt, totally used, undervalued, and disrespected. It made me question my friendship with her (and, honestly, it was never the same for me after that and I have never trusted her since) and question why I would offer someone something so valuable when it was so easy for her to just renege on her end of the deal without a second’s thought for how it would affect me or my business.

Imagine my chagrin when I realized that this was the second time I’d allowed this experience to unfold in my life. It immediately brought me to the “fool me once” saying.

This time, though, the anger went POOF the second I realized I basically set myself up to re-live the experience. I immediately let the anger go to focus on the lesson. This time, the motivation to NEVER repeat this mistake again has sparked change in me AND in the way I will be approaching my business from now on.

Not kidding, it was actually a fucking blessing in disguise and it brought to light other instances (too many to count, actually) where I have offered to shoot for free and then been ridiculously disappointed when the people I shoot don’t share my work, thank me, or even leave a simple review on my FB page or Google.

This has made me realize, quite clearly, that I can’t shoot for free and have expectations for reciprocation UNLESS I outline those expectations clearly, in writing, and have people agree to them, in writing. Or, more importantly, shooting for free never seems to end well for me, so I won’t be putting myself in that position anymore.

I may be thick, but I get there eventually.

I’ve learned that it is much safer for my peace of mind and my business if I just hire a professional model when I want to try something new. I’ve learned that I am too generous in certain areas of my life and that, even though I still want to be generous, I need to focus that generosity in ways other than donating my time and energy to shooting friends and family for free. And, most of all, I have learned that I am still allowing myself to react to the shit that others do rather than reminding myself to breathe, take a step back, and put myself in their shoes for a few minutes before reacting.

That last one means more to me than the other two because I want to live my happiest, most-fulfilled life and I can’t do that if I’m allowing anger to cloud my thoughts and clutter up my heart, giving free reign to my ego to point my finger at others and forget to point inward.

Lastly, I love how life brings me these challenges that strip me down to the heart of the matter and show me when I’m a big part of the problem. There’s nothing more motivating and humbling that having my self-awareness smack me across the face.

Angela & Kevin – First Okanagan Winter Wedding of 2018

When I first met Angela back in 2012, I felt her energy long before we were introduced and I knew instantly we would be friends. Flashback with me to the day before a wedding out in Cherry Creek. I was walking down the stairs to a beautiful backyard garden and I felt a warm and happy feeling rush through me. I looked over at the ceremony site and there was Ang, chatting with the bride and groom. My feet bee-lined for her and we instantly hit it off! Ever since we’ve had a connection and I LIVE for weddings where she is performing the ceremony! She’s warm and funny, but more than that, she’s all about energy and she’s an empath, like me, so we totally understand each other. Also, like me, she wears her heart on her sleeve and isn’t afraid to show her dark side just as much as her light. These are the people I’m drawn to – the ones who keep it real, admit when they are angry or down or being less than stellar, but also know that their light balances them. Ang is part of my tribe, even when we don’t see each other for a long time or keep in touch as often as we could.

I touched base with her a few weeks ago to see if she was available to marry one of my couples and she hit me with the best news ever – SHE was getting married! I was over the moon happy for her and, as she told me her story, my heart swelled up to bursting and I was so thrilled to be part of her day!

There is something so satisfying and heartfelt when twin flames, who have been separated for more than half a lifetime, finally find a way to burn together. This is how it is with me and my guy and this is how it is with Angela and Kevin.

Best friends and inseparable in high school, they were in love then, but didn’t realize it, and they lost touch over the years and went on to live their lives. Marriages came and went. Children were born and raised. Life happened. But through it all, they never stopped thinking about each other and wondering what life would have been like had they taken the leap back then.

And then, unexpectedly, it happened. They reconnected and the moment she saw him, 30 years disappeared in a blink and she knew that she was home. It was the same for him and they decided that they’d waited for each other long enough.

Maybe they were rushing? Maybe they were acting like two crazy kids in love? Maybe they were being irrational? No way! I believe they were meant to be separated for those 30 years so when their paths finally came together again, they could easily walk in sync with open hearts and a perfect understanding of what real love is – raw, open, at times messy and painful, but also sprinkled all over with little moments of pure fairytale and feeling of coming home at last.

Welcome home, you two. So much love coming your way and I can’t wait to share moments with you for many years to come!

 

 

Oh Weddings! How I missed you!

Oh, weddings! How I’ve missed you!

Wed_fave_2017 (363 of 21)A few months ago, when I sat down with the intention to choose my favorite wedding photos from the last 10 years and blog about them, I had no idea it would turn into such an emotional roller coaster. I found myself laughing hysterically, blubbering about the best sappy moments, giggling at remembered speeches, snorting at dance floor shenanigans, and energized by my work. It was the first time I’ve truly realized what an impact my own photos (and those of my regular second shooters) can have, even on me. Every time I opened a new wedding, it was as though I were right there again, re-living the moments and feeling all the feels.

I have seen a lot in ten years of shooting weddings, some of it hilarious, some of it unbelievable, some of it heart-wrenching.

There was that time a couple bridesmaids got into a fist fight over who the bride loved more; the groom who dropped the rings over the side of a boat and then one of his groomsman took off all his clothes and dove to retrieve them…in November; the mother of the bride who got so hammered she fell backward on the dance floor and flattened the band’s equipment in spectacular fashion; the officiant who farted, really loudly, in the middle of the ceremony in a church, leaving everyone too uncomfortable to laugh…until I snorted and everyone let their guard down and had a good, hearty chuckle.

Hilarious.

That one wedding where a bridesmaid actually pulled her cell phone out of her cleavage and started taking selfies in the middle of the ceremony until I snatched her phone out of her hand and shook a no-no-no finger at her, bringing huge guffaws from the guests.

Unbelievable.

There was also the wedding where I walked into a dressing room and found the groom making out with the bride’s sister (awkward); the father of the bride who died of a heart attack only one day before the wedding but my couple chose to get married anyway (and the bride’s brother walked her down the aisle and danced with her in place of their dad); the groom’s youngest brother who passed away a couple weeks before the wedding (in a workplace accident) and was given a place of honour (with his picture) at the head table where he would have sat, had he lived.

Heart-wrenching.

All of the stress (good and bad), the smiles, tears, belly laughs, awkward and intimate moments, and the days I would leave after working a 14-16 hour day, exhausted, but with a giant spring in my steps because we had absolutely killed every shot that day. It all came flooding back to me as I browsed through my weddings.

I honestly thought I was finished with my wedding shooting career, but feeling the impact my work has on me and realizing it’s much more intense for my clients, I suddenly found myself soul-searching for answers.

Isn’t this the epitome of why I loved being a wedding photographer?

Isn’t it amazing that I have the ability to bring people back in time to relive their moments as though they have just happened?

Were the long days of shooting, the endless hours of editing, the wedding-day stresses and troubleshooting, as well as the time put in to maintain client relationships, all worth it?

Uhm…YES!

Yes, they were all worth it.

So what happened? What made me decide to throw in the proverbial wedding towel?

Hmmm…

I’ve already written about the difficulties I went through after dying and coming back. I was an insatiable sponge that absorbed all the energy around me, positive or negative, and couldn’t wring myself out, no matter what I tried. Some days I felt as though I were actually reading people’s thoughts, not just picking up their energy, and it was horrible. I didn’t want to know what was going on in anyone’s head. Keeping up with my own thoughts and feelings was more than enough.

Add into the mix that I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer in love with my own husband and was starting to feel like a fraud while capturing the kind of love I was no longer in. Eventually, after working such long, relentless hours (by choice, mind you), fighting off all that energy and ignoring all the signs that my marriage was pretty much over, I lost my creative self somewhere under my own depleted and confused energy.

So I quit. I walked away from something that I was really damn good at and had always enjoyed and convinced myself it was for the best.

And it was, for a time, but not anymore.

I’ve taken the pressure off myself to continue with full-time photography and switched my career focus to something completely different, so I no longer have to shoot 15 or 20+ weddings a year to make ends meet. Now, I can bring the fun and enjoyment back into my work! I can shoot when I want, for my own enjoyment and creative release and to capture all those magical moments that live on forever in a snapshot.

I’m amazed that this has come back into my periphery and that I have allowed it to so easily seep back in and inspire me, but I’m embracing and rolling with it.

And, before I leave you with a link to a slideshow of some of my fave shots from ten years of weddings, I want to send a shout out to the dozen or so clients who sent me messages letting me know how much they still love their photos and asking me to reconsider my decision to get out of the wedding biz. Your messages tugged on my heart strings, brought tears to my eyes, and made me laugh my face off (big, snorting, belly laughter). You guys are the reason I love this gig and your love and kind words were a turning point for changing my thoughts about this and bringing me around. You guys are fairly rad hoomans!

[SIDE NOTE: A couple years ago, I had a huge mishap with two hard drives and lost 20+ weddings from the beginning of my wedding career, so I’m missing a lot of great moments. That was a good lesson to learn about triply backing up wedding archives after I’ve shipped them off to clients]

The photos in the slideshow are not, by any means, my “best” shots, and they won’t mean something to everyone, but they mean something to me and will always make me smile my face off when I look at them. If you would like to see more wedding shots, you can visit www.jojohnson.ca/wedding

Slideshow can be found at http://www.jojohnson.ca/blog/weddings/ (sorry, it wouldn’t move from one wordpress blog to another so I had to use a link. 🙂

Destination Wedding Woes & The Shit We Carry With Us

wedding couple destination wedding cuba
If you know me, you know I’m not afraid to share my thoughts and feelings and, often, after I’ve had some time to process, I need to blog to get it out and forget about it. This one is long, so if you have shit to do, this will probably distract you…
A couple years ago, I had one hell of a shitty experience shooting a destination wedding (due to both my own shit and others’). It was the straw that temporarily broke my wedding-shooting back and I gave up shooting weddings for awhile until I could find my way back to a healthy wedding-photography mindset, which I’m happy to report, I have.
And, ironically, it had zip to do with my ability to shoot a wedding and everything to do with my ability to allow self-sabotaging insecurities creep in and overrun my creativity and talents. Ya’ll know what they say about hindsight, right?
Although this wedding was in Cuba in 2015, the story actually starts wayyy back in high school (think early 90s…yah, I’m getting up there) and it carries on into the present. It’s not pretty or easy to talk about, but I’m going to spit it out here and then let it go.
In high school, my main crowd was made up of what is probably best described as the “In Crowd”. Of course, that’s totally tongue-in-cheek because our graduation class was a whopping 34 people so how many crowds could we actually have? Amiright! Anywho, this crowd was made up of a core group of ladies and, at the head of those ladies was a quintessential Mean Girl. Let’s call her Penelope.
Caveat: High School sees people put up with a lot of shit that our adult counterparts wouldn’t put up with for ten seconds, so try to keep in mind that these days, I wouldn’t keep people like this within a mile of my day-to-day life.
Penelope was pretty and popular and, as these things go, had minions who followed her lead, no matter how shitty and cruel it was. Penelope would, essentially, “allow” the rest of our girl group to like me one day and then shun me the next. I spent my entire high school experience walking around on eggshells around her-always fearful of what I would say or do next that would change my status with her from “friend” to enemy. One day she would laugh when I was being my quirky, outspoken crazy self and everything would be good and the next she would shun me and call me a loser for being the same way. It was a constant roller coaster of being accepted and rejected and I rode that shit for years. Sometimes I would be accepted and allowed to hang out with Penelope and her Posse and sometimes (for months at a time) I would be shunned, ignored, or, even worse, publicly ridiculed. Like that time, for example, in Grade 10 when I was, once again, on the “you’re not cool enough to hang out with us” list. One day after gym class, Penelope and her bosom buddy Petunia (who I will introduce below) and the rest of my so-called friends made fun of the way I pulled up my pants (because, apparently, I did it “weird”), pantomiming (pun-intended) me pulling them up over and over again and laughing hysterically until I left the locker room (and school) in tears. I stayed home for two days, pretending to have the flu so I wouldn’t have to face all those chicks while I was still so hurt by their teasing.  I think it was around the start of Grade 12 that I reached my saturation point and I finally began to activly seek retaliation for Penelope’s mean girl behaviour. I sought out opportunities to undermine her, embarrass her, and hurt her feelings whenever I could and every time I managed to stick it to her, it felt really good.
[NOTE: This was ridiculous and utterly childish vindictive bullshit behaviour, but I was 17 and didn’t understand the world the way I do these days. I did what any kid would do and I fought the pain of being treated like shit by treating her like shit. I felt justified at the time. It seemed only fair that after being shit on for years, I was finally starting to give her a taste of her own pain-inflicting ways. I don’t regret it and I’m not ashamed of it. It was simply how I coped without knowing enough to learn and grow from the life lesson behind it.
Strangely enough, we even hung out for awhile after high school. I can’t tell you why because I didn’t even LIKE Penelope and our relationship was strained and unfriendly a lot of the time, but we did have some good, genuine laughs now and then and perhaps thats why I stuck with it. She finally just phased me out of her life and I was totally okay with it. Kind of relieved, actually. It wasn’t until after she phased me out that I realized how dysfunctional our “friendship” had been and how much easier it was without her in my life, but I learned A LOT from that relationship and learned to recognize my vindictive tendencies. If someone hurt me, I retaliated. I hadn’t yet learned the “just forgive them and forget them” method of living a much happier life, but recognizing my patterns through that relationship helped me to learn it.]
Petunia was another gal in the same crowd and she was, by far, the one who followed Penelope’s lead most often. Petunia has a giant heart and has always wanted to see the best in people, but she’s also really easily led and didn’t even realize how cruel she was to me so often while we were growing up. And, despite all the shit of high school, I’ve always loved her.
In 2014, Petunia called me up and invited me out for lunch and told me she was getting married in Cuba. She wanted me to be part of the wedding and, thinking about Penelope who was going to be the MOH, I politely declined, but said I would definitely attend. We ended up agreeing that I would shoot the wedding so I could still be a part of the day.
However, by this time I was pretty jiggy with my intuition and, from the moment Petunia told me she was getting married, my gut alarm bells started clanging to the tune of, “JO! Stay away from anything to do with this wedding!” And, like the ridiculously stubborn Scorpio I am, I shushed my gut and told it that everything would be great – after all, 20+ years had passed and we were all very different people. It would be a much different experience than high school. We’d all grown up and had some life experience to change us, right?
Nope.
To make matters far worse, Petunia said something like, “Peter (let’s pretend Peter is the name of Petunia’s Fiancé) isn’t going to be super excited about the cost to get you to shoot our wedding, but I’ll convince him that it’ll be worth it.” Great! Can’t wait to rise up and meet that challenge. Ding Ding, gut alarm. Ding Ding, gut alarm.
I tried to psych myself up for a week hanging out with Penelope, Petunia and another friend of ours (let’s call her Poppy) whom I love all the way up to the moon and always have. I figured that if Poppy was there, any shit that happened would be worth it because I would get to hang out with her after so long.
I also invited my Sis-In-Law and another friend to come for the week. I figured that I could hang with my own peeps if I didn’t want to hang with all the wedding guests and it would be a good opportunity to chillax and get some much-needed bestie time in.
Nope again.
Firstly, before I get into the point of this entire post, let me just fully disclose my giant fuck-ups with this wedding.
1) I told Petunia and Peter that I would be happy to shoot them doing other things besides the wedding – if they went on excursions or whatever. What I totally forgot about and didn’t really think through was that I get brutal motion sickness, so when they decided to take a bus tour through Havana and a catamaran tour, I couldn’t go on either. Trying to shoot on a bus would have done me in, but trying to shoot on a boat would have put me where I’ve been too many times (arms wrapped around a rail, supplying a never-ending stream of chum and bile to the happy fishes). When I say I get motion sick, it doesn’t even really describe how brutal it is. I end up feeling like death for days afterward. (I tried to make up for it by shooting a bunch of photos during their stag/stagette night).
2) I completely ignored not only my gut about what a terrible idea it was to even attend the wedding, let alone shoot it but I also ignored the concrete realization that my own marriage was done and I was not in a good mindset to shoot a wedding. My husband and I had been down a long road of shit and heartache and inability to comprehend each other after our daughter died and we were separating. (I tried to ignore that feeling because it was much too late to back out of shooting the wedding and I was trying to pull up my big girl professional panties and do my job).
3) I foolishly believed I had dealt with all the shit feelings I had about Mean Girl Penelope from our younger days and trusted that I was capable of being my usual self –the chick who doesn’t give a fuck what others think of me and who trusts in her creative and artistic talents.
That last fuck up, on top of everything else, is what did me in. I may have believed I had moved on and was fully capable of being my adult self and recognizing and dealing with my insecurities as they reared up, but I had never actually been around Penelope to test that theory and have some practice with it.
Triple nope.
Do ya’ll know what ignoring your intuition and insight gets you? A shitshow, that’s what.
The first night we were all together in Cuba and everyone was drinking it up and having a good time, I let myself relax and thought that it was all going to be all right after all. Everybody was getting along well, we were all laughing about funny things that happened in high school (because despite the emotional roller coaster, I still had some good times), and enjoying ourselves. I woke up feeling happy and excited to do a rad job on Petunia’s wedding, yet still, my gut was not having it. 
The next night there was a stag/stagette and, near the end of the night when she was a bit drunk, Penelope was kind enough to tell me, “Peter really didn’t want you to come to shoot the wedding, but both Petunia and I convinced him it was a good idea and that you will do a great job. I hope you do.” She giggled and walked off and I stood there, feeling a flush creep up my face and insecurity begin washing through me. I fucked off back to my room, put my camera away and journaled the entire night, in an attempt to analyze my feelings and get them under control. (This is what I do when I need to process, I write it all out and analyze it until I find the hidden meanings, the lesson, or the solution).
The following day, I was sitting with Peter, waiting to meet with their wedding coordinator while Petunia was up chatting with some other people, and Peter and I were chatting about weddings and my wedding experience. I mentioned that I had heard that he didn’t want to hire me because I was expensive, but I wanted him to know that I was good at my job and he wouldn’t be disappointed. I was still feeling insecurities creep in from Penelope’s comment the evening before (and, truthfully, journaling about it had not helped take the feeling away) and I was also feeling a bit annoyed because I had already given them a HUGE discount (I halved my regular price, actually) and here I was, dealing with how “expensive” I was, yet again. I was feeling fed up with people not realizing my worth (ah, the Ego eh…) and when Peter made a comment about Petunia mentioning I was thinking of retiring from shooting weddings, I lost my shit for a sec and snapped at him. I told him that weddings were too much stress and too much work (which they aren’t) and I was tired of people bitching about how expensive wedding photography is and being completely ignorant of the amount of time and work that goes into photographing a wedding. Needless to say, that conversation didn’t go over very well with either of us and totally left me looking like an asshat who hated shooting weddings (which I didn’t and still don’t). It wasn’t my best professional moment, although it was a raw and true one, but at that point, my anxiety level was rising about a meter a minute and I was already in danger of drowning.
After that, everything snowballed.
By the morning of the wedding, I was stressed-the-fuck-out. I told my Sis-in-Law at breakfast that I could feel that it was going to be a shitshow and, well…what we focus on, we create. Simple concept. Profound result when we allow shit thoughts to take over.
It was, literally, one thing after another…
It started out, right off the hop, with Penelope telling me what she thought I should and shouldn’t shoot. “Oh, no, don’t get a shot of Petunia brushing her teeth in her wedding dress. That’s just tacky.” “You should get a shot of such and such while they are doing such and such.” This happens to me ALL THE TIME when I shoot weddings and I just smile and nod and, if their idea is good or will fit in with what I’m doing, I’ll happily snap a suggested pic. However, after about the sixth suggestion, I was fucking annoyed that Penelope seemed to think she knew how to shoot a wedding better than I did. (yes, hell again, Ego, fancy seeing you here again so soon…;)) Moreso, though, there were now regular looks being exchanged between Penelope and Petunia and I was picking up on all of them. Looks that said, “Are you seeing this? The photographer is refusing to shoot photos. Can you believe it?”
Here are two of these look moments that stuck out to me and completely unravelled my confidence (even though I knew the shots WOULD NOT work and had proven it by trying it during other weddings and failing):
The wedding party wanted to do pics at the beach, mid-day. I told them that, from my experience, there would be too many people, it would be stiflingly hot, the light was too bright and would cast too many shadows under their eyes, etc. I suggested we shoot at the beach near sunset when the light was good, there would be next to no people, and we could get a lot of good shots in a short time. Penelope gave me “Don’t you think you should taking the kind of photos the bride and groom are asking for?” to which I replied, “She hired me because I know what I’m doing and I hope she trusts me enough to know the reasons I’ve given her are true rather than wasting time at the beach when we could be shooting elsewhere and getting good shots.” And that was followed by “the look” between Penelope and Petunia again.
I was chatting with someone while we were waiting for a few wedding party people to meet us at a room and a sweet moment developed between the Peter and his stepdaughter. I heard Penelope said to Petunia, “You should get Jo to take a pic of them ” and Petunia immediately nudged me and said, “Look at them. Can you take a pic?” but by the time I turned around and brought up my camera, the moment had passed. Petunia asked me to re-create it and I explained that, if I asked them to do it again, it would not have been a genuine shot and it would have shown in the photo. I told them there would definitely be other moments and I would catch one of them. Again, that look. I’ve tried to re-create real moments after the fact and, trust me, they are ingenuine. That’s not me. I’m not going to force a moment just because someone sees me with a camera and tells me I should. There are HUNDREDS of moments during a wedding day and we can’t be expected to capture every single one. We grab the ones we see – the genuine, unscripted ones – and they end up being spectacular.
The rest of the day continued along the same lines…
I realized around dinner time that all the insecurities I had taken away from being around them in high school had come back full-force and that I had completely reverted to that “please just like me” pathetic person I had been back then, willing to put up with any of Penelope’s shit just so I wouldn’t have to be shunned or see her give that fucking look to Petunia. It was at dinner that I finally decided to have a glass of wine and just say, “fuck it” and go with the flow. I don’t normally drink at weddings until the end of the day and, even though I had tried to drink a beer earlier that afternoon, I’d only made it through a few sips before setting it down and forgetting about it. The wine helped a bit and at least relaxed a bit of my anxiety. After dinner, I tried for an hour to wrangle the wedding party to get them down to the beach for sunset photos, but it was like herding cats and, by the time I finally got them down there, we had about 15 minutes of light left and I was completely exhausted after a day of fighting my own shit and theirs. The pics weren’t my usual caliber and I was completely defeated.
In a nutshell, it fucking sucked.
Ironically, during the reception, I somehow found myself standing with Poppy listening to Penelope while she told us about how much her daughter struggled with her little school friends. “One day they like her and the next they tell her they don’t want to play with her. Girls are so mean and it’s so hard to see her struggle like that.” Poppy and I stood there, mouths hanging open, looking at each other in complete disbelief that the Queen of the Kingdom of Mean Girls still didn’t have a fucking clue what a colossal cunt she had been all through school. At that point, which was near the end of the evening, I’d had enough and I didn’t need to be there to shoot anything else, so I packed up my shit, grabbed another glass of wine for the road, and headed back to my room.
I went to bed that night and cried myself quietly to sleep. I was mortified that I had allowed insecurities and anxieties ( from more than 20 years ago) completely rear up and take over. I was frustrated because I knew that the photos of the day were not the amazing, creative, happy quality I usually produced. And, mostly, I was pissed off for allowing my ego to get my back up when faced with a semi-drunk (and a few completely drunk) wedding party peeps who were pushy, didn’t want to hear my advice, and made me feel like I sucked and didn’t know what I was doing.
So how did it all end, you wonder?
No surprises here.
Petunia didn’t like her photos.
Peter wrote me a scathing email about how I was an “amateur masquerading as a professional”, how I’d “misrepresented my abilities and duped his wife into hiring me” and how I’d spent the entire trip in a “tequila-infused stupor” (even though I had only consumed tequila or been drunk on the first and last day of the entire trip and had barely drunk anything for the rest of it). It bothered me that he could say such shitty things, but I was also expecting it from him, so I wasn’t surprised. If a person doesn’t want to hire you from the get-go and you hear it from multiple people, it’s not a stretch to receive an email about how much you sucked.
The one thing, out of the entire email, that yanked my chain and made me feel genuinely angry was that he also said I didn’t make his wife feel beautiful at all during the entire wedding. That one pissed me off. Petunia had been ridiculously insecure about her looks since we were in Elementary school and, during the day of the wedding, I told her (probably 25 times) how ridiculously gorgeous she looked, how she made such a stunning bride, how she chose a perfect dress for her body type, how gorgeous her hair and makeup looked, etc. If there is something I’m going to do while I’m shooting ANY WOMAN, I’m going to make her understand that she is beautiful in as many ways as possible. I purposely sought out opportunities all during the day of shooting to let Petunia know how amazing she looked. So when I read that bit, my head blew off my shoulders and spun in circle like that chick in the Exorcist…for a few minutes anyway. BUT, ironically, looking back, I realized that if a person is focusing on an insecurity, they don’t hear the truth of what’s being said, they hear what they want to hear. Just as I was focusing on my insecurities surrounding high school bullshit, so Petunia was focusing on being uncomfortable with her body and being the center of attention. She probably didn’t hear my words of admiration at all. It also explained why she didn’t like any of her photos, even though she was a fucking knockout in all of them. In the end, I couldn’t change any of it, so I let it all go.
I responded by editing all 300+ photos anyway, refunding all of their money, and sending them a short email that said I was sorry that I didn’t meet their expectations and I hope that they can still look back on and enjoy the photos anyway. I didn’t try to defend myself because, really, they wouldn’t have listened or understood anyhow and it hardly mattered anymore. People believe what they want to believe, so why waste time trying to convince them otherwise. And, obviously, there went that 34-year friendship with Petunia. That stung a bit, but the nature of life is that people come and go.
Then, in a huge dramatic fit, I decided that I was done and I gave up on weddings “forever”, had a slight mental breakdown, and went to a “few” (ahem…nine or so) counselling sessions to learn how to deal with all of the baggage I’d been carrying around since high school. That’s how I learned about “Playing the Victim” and how to prevent myself from ever falling into the trap of giving my power away to someone else by allowing them to dictate my emotional responses. It’s how I learned, for good this time, that people can be assholes and definitely deserve blame for the heinous shit they do to us, but WE are 100% responsible for our reactions to that shit, not them.
So, all in all, it was a rad life lesson about listening to my gut (which I now do regularly), owning my shit (which I do 100% of the time), and forgiving assholes for being assholes and moving on.
And I’ve come to my senses about giving up weddings. I’m good at them. I enjoy them. I’ve come through the grieving process of my own marriage ending and I can look at love with a clear heart again. Time to get back at it. 🙂

A Reflection Like No Other- Vernon Boudoir Photography

One of the job perks of being a Boudoir Photographer is constantly being given the opportunity to show our clients how their loved ones see them. We don’t see ourselves the way others see us – especially the way our spouses or our children see us. When we look in the mirror, we tend to focus on our flaws while the people who love us see all the little things that make us beautiful to them. If only we could look in the mirror and see ourselves the same way the people we love see us!
This is what Boudoir Photographers do – we use our cameras to become a reflection of the beauty within each of our clients. It is uplifting, fulfilling, heart-exploding work and I can’t imagine how empty my work life would be if I didn’t shoot Boudoir.

Feeling blessed today and looking so forward to the year ahead.

 

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boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

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Robyn2015-42

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boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

boudoir, vernon, photography, sexy photos, beautiful lady, okanagan, kalamalka lake, jo leflufy photography

Give me a call at (250) 320-4418 or check out my website at http://www.joleflufy.com and book a session today! The time to shine is now!

Finding a Wedding Photographer: Important questions I would be asking.

A few weeks ago I received a long and, at times, completely irrelevant, list of questions from a prospective Bride. Some of them were totally legit, some made me merely shake my head, but many of them had me laughing uproariously. My reaction to the list was not this lady’s fault, but rather the issue was that most prospective wedding clients have never been married before and, therefore, really have no idea about what kind of questions they should be asking a wedding photographer. Many people, like this lady, probably do a Google or Pinterest search and then copy someone else’s “recommended questions” list. It really made me realize that it’s time a photographer actually put out a list of questions that WE would ask if hiring another photographer to shoot our wedding. I, of course, have compiled a list for ya’ll and, while it probably doesn’t cover every question I would ask a wedding photographer, it definitely cuts to the basic important ones that would help me decide who I wanted to hire.

Before I get into the list, though, I do want to talk about a few things that I feel are a really important part of choosing your wedding photographer.

Firstly, there are a bazillion wedding forums out there where people recommend photographers for each other. Someone will post something like, “Looking for a talented and affordable photographer for our wedding. Who would you recommend?” and then there will be 500 comments from people saying stuff like, “Check out such and such! She shot our wedding and the photos are absolutely amazing. We highly recommend her!”. While I appreciate it when people like my work enough to tag me in these posts, I always say the same thing: Make the choice for yourself and don’t base it on what you’ve heard about photographers or their work from your friends and family. Photography is one of the most subjective professions and just because your homies love the look of a photographer’s pics does NOT mean you will too. Before you contact ANY of us, do some research. Look at A LOT of photography websites and Facebook pages in your area, read their testimonials and reviews, and then choose ONLY the shooters whose images you instantly LOVE. I’m serious. If the images don’t speak to you, don’t bother contacting the photographer. You’ll save both parties a world of disappointment. Narrow down your selections to five or even ten photographers whose work you like and then make a plan to contact (and meet) with each one (I’ll get to the why later when I explain the questions).

And, regardless of your budget, please…PLEAAAAASE, don’t contact a photographer and immediately ask about packages and prices. For people in my industry who spend a ton of time learning our craft, honing our skills, and spending hours fine tuning our editing styles to make our photos look uniquely our own, there is no bigger insult than having someone contact us and just ask about our prices. It pains me to admit it, but we photographers have fragile egos when it comes to our work and the thought of people “shopping around” for the most affordable photographer, rather than wanting to hire us based on our work, just doesn’t sit well with any of us. We like to live in our bubbles and believe that our clients hire us because they love us, for being the people we are and because they love our work. So, if you find a photographer whose work you absolutely love, but you are on a limited budget, use some finesse. Tell them you love their work and you would love to meet with them to hear about what you can do for each other. You would be surprised what a face-to-face can do to make miracles happen and magic ensue. I’m being brutally honest when I say that I turn away dozens of prospective clients every wedding season because they send me emails inquiring only about my prices and packages…and I’m not the only photographer around here who does this. I want every client I work with to have a connection with me. I want us to get along, be comfortable working together and build up some trust so they know that, even if I’m suggesting crazy shit,  the end result will be worth it. I can’t even gauge a prospective client if all they do is ask about my prices. So, if you are an engaged couple who is having a really difficult time finding someone to shoot your wedding, it could be for the very simple reason that your approach may, in fact, suck.

Also, the kind of camera a photographer uses has zero reflection on his or her ability to take amazing photos. If you look at a website and the photos speak to you, that is all that matters. This topic has been coming up a lot recently in some of the photographer forums I follow. I recently (because I had made a joke about this very thing to some of my buddies) made up a totally new camera for a prospective bride who asked what I shoot with. I laughed hysterically at her face expression because I told her I shoot with a Kensington 6800 BA. She stayed serious and wrote that down and then I said, “Ask me what the BA stands for?”. Bad Ass! LOLOL.  Then I explained to her that my cameras, no matter how amazing they are, don’t take good photos, I do. Asking a professional photographer what kind of camera she uses, especially after already telling her you love her work, is the equivalent of telling a plastic surgeon that he does amazing boob jobs and then asking him what kind of scalpels he uses, as if that would have any bearing on the final result.

Okay, I could blah blah blah all day about this, but we’ve all got places to be and things to do. Keep in mind, this list is made up of questions that I would ask if I were hiring a wedding photographer. I would already assume that, once I’d narrowed my search down, the photographer would already have a good handle on how to shoot a wedding day and I would know if that were actually true after meeting with them and asking these questions. Oh, and keep in mind that I’m kind of a snob, so I would only want the best of the best to shoot my wedding and to be certain I was covered in all areas.

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Shit I Would Ask A Wedding Photographer

(Please note: I’ll print the list again at the bottom, without explanations, so you can copy and paste it or print it if need be. The explanations are there for people who need to know the whys behind all the things.)

Start with THE golden question and say it nicely because nice goes a long way.

  1. Hi, I’m such and such and my fiance and I have looked at your photos and really like what we’ve seen. Are you available on such and such date? (Do NOT ask anything else until you hear back from the photographer because, if he or she is not available, you have wasted your time asking other questions.)

Then, if you hear back and they have your date available, then go ahead and ask these questions, in this order:

2) Are you comfortable and experienced with shooting in all lighting conditions and do you have image examples to show us of a variety of different lighting conditions you’ve shot in? (bright light, dark places, areas of high contrast-such as places with bright light and lots of shadows, places that don’t allow flash photography, etc.. You definitely want a photographer who is not going to panic and shit the bed if the lighting conditions change suddenly and unexpectedly. How much would it suck to hire someone who says they are a pro and then find out, after the fact, they don’t know how to use flash photography and off-camera lighting in tricky moments?)

3) Do you have a current business license to operate in your area? (If you hire an unlicensed photographer, be warned that they are, most likely, operating a business illegally in their municipality. If they can’t be bothered to pay for a license that costs less than $100, what else can they not be bothered to do?). If they don’t have a license, hire at your own risk. You get what you pay for.

4) Can we meet, either in person or on the phone? (WHY, you may ask? Well, would you hire that same plastic surgeon above based on hearsay and just trust that he’d make your boobs look spectacular, even if you’d never had a real conversation with him or a pre-surgery consult to make sure you don’t come out with boobs the size of your head or lopsided or worse? Why should it be any different when choosing your photographer? Don’t you want to get a feel for his or her personality and don’t you want to see if you will get along and be able to work together? Most people spend an entire day with their photographer. What happens if you hire someone without meeting and then find out on your wedding day that the photographer is a complete ass hat? Ain’t nobody got time for that.) There’s no reason ya’ll can’t have a phone conversation, even if you’re on opposite sides of the world. If the photographer says no to meeting, hire at your own risk. You get what you pay for.

5) What does your Wedding Photography Contract cover? (If they don’t have a contract, be wary and get ready to move on if they aren’t willing to draw one up. Nothing says “I’m a total amateur” like a photographer claiming to be a pro who doesn’t even have even a simple wedding contract.). At the very least, a contract should cover the following:

  • Date of Wedding
  • Names and addresses and contact info of all involved parties
  • Time and duration of expected photographic coverage
  • Amount owing for deposit and date it is due
  • Amount owing on balance and date it is due
  • All coverage, products and services being promised by the photographer (including Turn Around time-how long the photographer will take to get all of your photos edited, books made, etc.)
  • Any extra fees, such as travel or per diem food allowance, the photographer is asking you for
  • What happens if something prevents you from getting married and how the photographer will be compensated
  • What happens if something prevents the photographer from shooting your wedding and the back up plan or how you will be compensated
  • A cap on how much the photographer will owe you if something goes wrong and you decide you want to sue him or her (the normal cap is the price of the package you are purchasing, no more)
  • Anything else that is pertinent to you and the photographer being covered in all areas.

I can’t stress enough how important a contract is. Make sure the photographer you want to work with has one or is willing to draw one up with you. If not, MOVE ON.

6) Can you show me an entire wedding that you’ve photographed? (This is REALLY important-to me anyway. We photographers love to showcase our favourite and often our best shots on our websites and social media pages, but you can’t really get a sense of whether a shooter knows what he or she is doing unless you can see an entire edited wedding. Seeing an entire wedding will give you the best idea of what a shooter is capable of and whether or not he or she knows what to capture and what to look for while shooting. If the photographer won’t let you see an entire wedding or if they tell you they have never shot a wedding on their own before, hire them at your own risk and don’t overpay them. Experienced photographers in our area will charge anywhere from around $2500-$5500 for a full day of wedding coverage. If the person you are trying to hire can’t show you a full wedding, don’t pay them that much money or expect to get an amazing result. Even if you love their work, chances are if they can’t produce something simple like a full wedding, they probably haven’t shot a full wedding and they are not going to do an amazing job on all your photos. Why take a risk on one of the biggest days of your life when you can find someone whose work you love and who can deliver the whole shebang?)

7) Do you use a second shooter? If not, are you willing to use one for our wedding? (This is, of course, not a deal breaker by any means, but it does add a great deal of extra awesomeness to a wedding day. I shot weddings by myself for three years and I can say, with absolute certainty, that shooting a wedding alone does not produce half of the kick ass results that shooting a wedding with multiple shooters does, especially if you hire a crew that is a well-oiled machine and knows how to work together really well. Think about it, as a single photographer, it’s pretty hard to grab pics such as a kick ass shot of the bride’s face over the groom’s shoulder as she comes up the isle while at the same time grabbing a shot over the bride’s shoulder of the groom’s face as she walks toward him. There are, literally, dozens of mind blowing moments missed when only one photographer shoots an entire wedding, even though it’s not the photographer’s fault – one person can only see and do so much. Add into the mix the length of a wedding day and anyone, regardless of how creative he or she is, will start to lose their creative energy. When we shoot Full Days, we work anywhere from 12-16 hours straight and that is exhausting when we are wrangling people all day long AND having to be creative and fluid. Adding another shooter into the mix means they can spell each other off and rest a bit here and there to recharge their creative batteries.  My crew and I have caught moments that a single photographer could never catch and my clients tell me, all the time, how blown away they are that we caught such and such doing this or such and such doing that.)

8) If the photographer offers wedding books or canvas prints, etc.: Can you show us examples of your books or any other products that you offer your wedding clients? (This is a no brainer and a perfectly reasonable request. If they don’t have anything to show you, hire them at your own risk.)

9) Can you give us the phone numbers of three of your past wedding clients so we can call them and see what they say about you? (A photographer’s past clients can tell you a lot about his or her work ethic, customer service, etc.. Just as you wouldn’t hire a plastic surgeon without hearing some good word-of-mouth raves from his real clients, don’t hire a photographer without some either. And, just to keep it interesting, look through the photos on the website, with the photographer, and choose random clients!)

10)Do you have Liability Insurance? (This covers the photographer(s) while shooting and also covers you and your guests if he or she, I dunno, goes psycho and starts swinging a camera around and smashing people in the face with it or pushes a guest off a cliff in a heat-crazed rage. It also covers the photographer if something happens to the equipment and your photos are lost and/or damaged. And it’s relatively inexpensive, so if the photographer claims to be a pro, he or she will most likely have this. If the photographer has no insurance and isn’t willing to get it and show you proof, hire them at your own risk.)

11) Run us through a typical wedding day with you? (This is where I explain the difference between First Look weddings and Traditional weddings and run them through a typical timeline of both and what needs to be done during each type. This will really give you a good idea of how seasoned a photographer is. The really good ones will know little details about what needs to be done on the wedding day, such as making sure the bride has time to refresh her makeup before the ceremony or where to position shooters during the ring exchange to get the best angles or when the photographers need to eat in order to ensure no candid moments get missed during the reception, etc.. Trust me, you’ll immediately be able to sense if the photographer has his or her shit dialled in while they run you through a typical day. Go with your gut. If you feel less than confident with their run through, hire them at your own risk.)

12) Can you explain your pricing and packages to us? (Yes, after alllllllll that, it is time to ask about prices. And, if the prices and packages are WAY out of your budget, don’t panic. There are many ways to figure these things out without just giving up and walking away and without both sides feeling like they are missing out. If I meet with clients and I know I’m going to love them and love working with them and my prices at first seem a bit too much for them, I have alternatives to offer that still keep me within my desired profit margin. For example, I am willing to offer half day coverage and hourly rates for weddings instead of full day and leave it up to them to choose what aspects of the day are most important and what they want covered. I also offer payment plans (which clients jump on all the time) where they can pay the initial deposit and then make equal monthly payments until their balance is paid in full. Many photographers talk about their clients finding money for photography from elsewhere in their budgets, such as buying a less expensive wedding dress, dialling down the flowers, going less lavish on the decor, etc.. The bottom line is, if pictures are important to you and you really want a certain photographer to shoot your wedding because ya’ll get along like besties, there is always a way to make it happen. People make the cost a huge big deal, but it’s often not a big deal at all if you truly value photos and the work of the photographer. At the very least, if you go through this process and do decide that you can’t afford the photographer, you’ve already established a good relationship and that photographer is likely to recommend some of his or her buddies who have similar styles and may be more affordable AND you’ll know how to handle the next photographer interview after going through the process once. Win/win!)

13) Do you have any special requests from wedding clients or is there anything you are not comfortable doing? (For example, I have it written into my contract that all guests must stay in their seats during the ceremony and stay seated while they are taking photographs. It saves me the stress of having a guest step in front of me or any of my shooters while we are capturing important moments. I also request dinner for myself and my shooters and I won’t accept lists from couples of shots that they believe I “must” get during the day. My reasoning is that I’ve shot close to 100 weddings and they’ve either never been married or been married once, a long time ago, so I know better than some list they got off Google or Pinterest what I need to be shooting. I do, however, give them a Q&A form that asks if they have any special ceremonies planned during the day (so my crew and I know they are happening and are ready to shoot them) and also asks for a list of family photos they want taken. These are just a few things I discuss with all prospective clients while we are meeting.)

I could probably list a dozen more questions, but the ones I’ve listed are, IMHO, the most important questions to ask in order to know whether you’ll be hiring someone legit or not.

Also, to top this off, a seasoned pro photographer will cover all of this, and a whole lot more, without any questions at all, but if you feel like you need to bring something with you, my list is a good place to start.

Okay, this is a buttload of information, so here is a recap, in short form, that you can print and bring with you to the meeting.

Here’s a recap:

  1. Are you available on our date?
  2. Are you comfortable and experienced with shooting in all lighting conditions and do you have image examples to show us of a variety of different lighting conditions you’ve shot in?
  3. Do you have a current business license to operate in your area?
  4. Can we meet, either in person or on the phone?
  5. What does your Wedding Photography Contract cover?
  6. Can you show me an entire wedding that you’ve photographed?
  7. Do you use a second shooter? If not, are you willing to use one for our wedding?
  8. Can you show us examples of your books or any other products that you offer your wedding clients?
  9. Can you give us the phone numbers of three of your past wedding clients so we can call them and see what they say about you?
  10. Do you have Liability Insurance?
  11. Run us through a typical wedding day with you?
  12. Can you explain your pricing and packages to us?
  13. Do you have any special requests from wedding clients or is there anything you are not comfortable doing?

Now that this blog is done, I’m thinking of writing another one called “Shit to NOT ask wedding photographers while interviewing them”, just because I know it will make a lot of my photographer friends bust a gut.

Until then, good luck with your search and I wish you all enough of whatever it is you need.

One Love, people. One Love.

Let go of that baggage and embrace your life experience. And, also, bums.

I’m totally off the grid these days – still finishing this year’s two final weddings and editing, oh, 14 Boudoir sessions to get them out in time for Christmas, so I don’t have a lot of time to bloggity. However, this happened and I feel it’s worth sharing.

Had a text convo with a friend last night and they said they have a lot of baggage and it was suggested in a negative way. I slept on it and woke up with it still on my brain. I just sent them this and I’m posting it here because I believe everyone can benefit with a change in their outlook on their so-called “issues”:
“There’s really no such thing as baggage. We are what we are and anything we carry with us is life experience, not baggage. If something from our past makes us believe we are damaged in some way-incapable of something for whatever reason – then we perceive it as negative and we call it baggage. In reality, it’s just part and parcel of our life experience thus far. The trick is to use it to improve upon ourselves and not repeat mistakes. You don’t have baggage anymore than I do. You have life experience. Everything you’ve lived up to this point has shaped you into who you are today and that is not negative or damaging in any way. You are who you are because of that so-called baggage and I love who you are and who you’ve become BECAUSE of that life experience. Embrace it. Use it. Learn from it.”…unless you are actually carrying suitcases. Then, well…
Jo’s words of wisdom #259. 

And also, this, because it’s one of my fave poses to put my clients in lately!

untitled-302T

One love ya’ll. One love.

When I’m naked, I’m free…of clothes! Valentine’s Day Sessions 2014

I don’t know what possessed me to propose this crazy idea to my friend and fellow photographer, Rozalind Ewashina, but sometime last November, I asked her if she wanted to team up with me for a Boudoir Party. The idea was that we would choose a weekend and offer 16 ladies hair and makeup and a 20 minute session with each of us in different settings. Both of us usually take two to three hours to shoot an individual boudoir session, so the thought of shooting eight per day and only having 20 minutes to shoot each gal was a really good challenge. When you only have 20 minutes, you have to kickstart your creative energy and just get ‘er done. We asked Amber from Sheer Radiance to join us to do Hair & Makeup and we got ‘er done.

Yeah we did!

It was rad and we were completely exhausted by the end of the second day, but super jacked by the results.

Here are a few of the shots I took of these beautiful ladies and, even though we haven’t received a review from all of them yet, I’m posting the ones we have received so you can read what the experience was like for them.

VDAY 1

VDAY 2

“I first met Jo and Roz when I was looking for a photographer for my wedding. Out of everyone local I knew I wanted one of these very talented ladies. They both have creativity out the Wazoo and take truly breathtaking shots. They have such beautiful styles and different eyes for how to make things unforgettable.

When I saw that they were teaming up to do a boudoir session, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Before, I was a bit nervous, but once I arrived and we were laughing and having a great time, I didn’t even think twice anymore.
‘You tell me what looks good and we ‘ll do it!’ I was totally comfortable and so happy that l’d have these photos as a memory forever.
 They both were always there when ever I had a questions or needed help with anything.
Jo saved me on my wedding day, keeping me on schedule and doing last minute dress repairs! OMG!
While I can’t say enough good things about the finished products of my wedding and the boudior photos, I just wanted to say how blown away I am each time I see myself and how each of them captured how I truly feel inside.
They are more than worth their fees and you won’t be able to get from anyone else what these ladies make happen. Their talent is unique and special and something that no one else can duplicate.
Whenever anyone mentions needing a photographer, I tell them they won’t find talent better then either of these two ladies. It just CAN’T happen!
Love you both!
Xoxox”
VDAY 3

“Hey life form reading my review about my boudoir session with Jo Leflufy and Rozlind Ewashina, I don’t know if you are aware, but you are beautiful.

You need to get off your self doubting ass and get your photo taken.

Well that’s what I told myself, and I’m super glad I did. After my session it helped me realize and reconfirm the following things that will blow your mind:

• When you feel good about your body other people will feel good too

• There is nothing bad, dirty or wrong about being naked

• If you can do this and feel amazing what else can you do that you’ve been putting off?

• I felt safe, understood and sexy

• When’s the last time I laughed this hard?

• I do what I want! Bitchez

Before the session I felt some butterflies, during the session I felt special, after the session I felt AMAZING! And well my husband always says he is f#$king amazing – I guess its true.”

VDAY 4

VDAY 5
VDAY 6
VDAY 7
“I finally was able to look at the photos from the boudoir photo shoot and you and Jo did such an incredible job!!! Thank you so much again, I am so, so happy with how all of the pictures turned out and it was such a great thing to try!!
VDAY 8
VDAY 9
VDAY 10
VDAY 11
VDAY 12
Just a few of the shots I really liked from all those sessions and so many huge thanks to all of them and to Roz and Amber for making both days a shit ton of fun and laughs. I love you ladies all the way up to the moon!
We were privileged to have an amazing group of ladies trust us with their naked selves and every one of them rocked it! I can’t wait to do something similar to this when it warms up outside. I’m thinking May is a nice month for getting naked in the great outdoors. Let me know if you are interested in giving yourself this kind of kick ass gift. Call me at 250-320-4418 or email me at joleflufyphotography@gmail.com.
Have a great Tuesday ya’ll. I wish you all enough…

Hey Brides and Grooms…Read this!!!

Hey there Brides and Grooms! I’ve been thinking about posting a list like this one for a long time, but Mike beat me to it and, well, could not have said it better!

Have a read about the best way to make your wedding day photos not suck.

 http://offbeatbride.com/2013/11/bad-wedding-photos

Happy Tuesday peeps! I wish you all enough.

You never post photos anymore…

Bahahaha…last weekend I heard from a few people that I never post photos or blog anymore. I am laughing because if they could just see my Instagram feed or personal Facebook page, they would see how many photos I actually post – just not photos of my work most of the time.

I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet, I promise. I am just coming off a rough marriage stint and a distinct lack of creative blogging energy (it happens to ALL bloggers now and then) and I’ve been redirecting my focus to all of my weddings for this season.

Since this is the last year I’ll be shooting weddings before Ian takes over shooting for me next year, I’ve been putting in extra effort to make each wedding as memorable and creative as I can possibly make it. You could say I’m going out with a burst of photographic genius…or trying to! I have decided to save my blogging energy until the end of the season when I will be posting a montage of this year’s most memorable and favourite moments, with a little commentary about why those moments were so damn special to me. Wedding Season 2013 has been nothing short of amazeballs so far and I expect it will only keep on impressing me and my insatiable need to be surrounded by love and laughter.

So stay tuned for an end of the season post about my last season of weddings. I hope it will be more than worth the wait!

I will have some blogs finished up in a week or two about other hot topics on my mind and I hope they will provoke thought, inspire laughter and ensure happiness.

Enjoy your evening, my friends.

I wish you all enough.

I’ve been shooting a lot of bugs this summer (because they fascinate me – and other weirdos like me…no names, Cristina Ostapovitch) and I caught this little dude ripping pieces of chicken off of my chicken bone the other night.

Nom Nom Nom
Nom Nom Nom

From Fearful to Fearless. Christina’s story may light a fire under your ass AND inspire you!

I’ve heard it all before -every excuse a woman can throw out there about why she isn’t ready to come and do a session with me (or anyone else)-but, by far, the most common is the dreaded, “I have to lose five pounds before I’ll feel comfortable enough to get in front of a camera.”

This makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork to detract from my frustration at hearing any woman insist she needs to change something about herself before she’ll be beautiful enough to warrant photographing. It especially aggravates me when the skinniest ladies say this to me, and they are perfectly serious, because I just can’t understand what causes women to be so ridiculously hard on themselves. I always try to be patient and positive and leave them feeling confident that I can work with any woman, of any size or shape, and make her feel amazing, beautiful, confident and in love with herself by the time our session is finished. But, honestly, on the inside I want to grab them by the hair, march them up to a mirror, strip them naked and point out every part of them that is absolutely beautiful JUST THE WAY IT IS FOR EFF SAKES.

Insert sound of frustration here: Arrrrrrrrrrrghhhhh!

I know, I’m yelling a lot in this post, but if you had heard people say this to you hundreds of times in your career, you’d be ready to take some drastic measures to keep it from getting to you too. So, short of pulling my potential clients’ hair and stripping them naked (which probably wouldn’t go over that well because they hadn’t actually hired me yet), I’ll just yell on my blog instead and hope it gets through to some of them.

OR, they can read this post about Christina and then sit and reflect for a little while because I’m more than willing to bet the farm that she can put that last five pounds into perspective for anyone and take you out of your fear zone and into the fearless zone where she now spends much of her time.

Christina recently came to me for a shoot. And she got naked. Not so remarkable, considering about 95% of my clients get naked, but there’s a lot more to this story.

How much do you weigh right now? Are you one of those women who obsessively weighs yourself, frets about gaining an inch or two, feels down and sad if your pants feel a little tighter than usual? Well, imagine for a moment, that you stepped on a scale one day and saw 399 staring back at you. That is what Christina used to weigh before she made the life-changing decision to start working toward a healthier version of herself. 399 pounds. How’s that five pounds looking to you now, skinny ladies?

Christina used to weigh 399 pounds. I remember meeting her the first time and thinking that she was larger than life – not because she was obese, but because she stands at over six feet tall and she is friendly and vivacious and has the most kick ass British accent. She stands out. Not only that, but there is something about her that draws people in and makes us feel at ease – a light, if you will. It shines from her without her even noticing it, but anyone who has spent any time around her will agree that she is just the kind of person that you will find yourself wanting to spend time with, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. I love conversations with Christina because she’s intelligent and hilarious. She’s one of the only people I know who can leave my sides aching from having a serious conversation. Perhaps Larger Than Life wasn’t quite right and Full of Life would have been better.

Another thing I noticed about her was that she had a hard time getting around easily. She got out of breath coming up my stairs and was slow to stand up from a seated position. It was obvious to me that her weight was affecting her quality of life and I secretly hoped she would decide to do something about it before it was too late. Excess fat on a person is never healthy and can lead to so many life-threatening conditions and, honestly, I didn’t want to think about what life would be like for her family if they didn’t have her smile or her laughter around to comfort them on a daily basis.

One day, while surfing Facebook, I noticed a pic of Christina in one of Sabrina Sinclair’s Fit By Design classes and I, literally, squealed with delight and fist pumped! I was ecstatic to see Christina working hard to make a healthy change in her life. I messaged her and she told me that she’d been working out with Sabrina for a few months and she had started to build muscle and lose inches and weight. That was all good, but the best part was that she was starting to feel healthier and she was starting to actually, GASP, enjoy exercising (something she attributes to Sabrina’s teaching methods and encouraging ways). It was really great to hear and I kept in touch with her every once in awhile to see how she was doing and to encourage her if she needed it. And, selfishly, I hoped that someday this lovely woman would come to me for a shoot.

Imagine how excited I was when Christina contacted me and asked me if I would shoot her. Uhm…DUH! I waited for a few months until she found the perfect outfit and was ready to come and see me, but I honestly was not prepared for what I saw when she showed up at my door.

She looked like a different person to me. Not just thinner, but even more radiant and light-filled than usual. This lady was radiating positive energy and I immediately felt the urge to giggle uncontrollably.

I gasped, “How much weight have you lost?” and then my jaw hit the floor like it had been ripped off and thrown to the ground.

“80 pounds and 80 inches.”

Uhm, Holy Shitsnacks, Batman! That’s a pound per inch. A POUND PER INCH.

And she’s not done, by any means. Her goal is to lose 200 pounds and although she says it doesn’t put her at her “ideal weight” by clinical standards – she would actually need to shift an additional 30lbs – but she figures 200 pounds seems like a nice round number and she “doesn’t want to be a bone rack”. LMAO.

Here we have this amazeballs woman who is around the half way mark of her weight loss goal, which still puts her in a heavier weight category than probably 95% of my regular clients, and she still came to me for a shoot.

No excuses about not being good enough, pretty enough, etc..

Was she nervous? Hell yes, it took her months to contact me about the shoot. But did she give me any excuses as to why she couldn’t do it? Did she tell me she wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t pretty enough, her skin wasn’t clear enough, she had cellulite, etc., etc., etc.? Nope. She just swallowed that fear and stepped out on the ledge into the abyss of fearlessness that awaits all of us if we can just find the courage to step out.

I am so proud to know this woman and so privileged that she trusted me enough to shoot her and share her story will all of you.

It was one of the best shooting days I’ve ever had and, later that evening, when I was telling Greg about how much the experience moved me, I teared up when I thought of how the pics turned out and how blessed I feel to be able to photograph such a diversity of women in my line of work.

So, for all of you out there who are constantly striving to lose that five pounds so you can look prettier or sexier or whatever, I implore you to take a page out of Christina’s book (but, not literally, because that book will be for her husband, Kelly) and love yourself RIGHT NOW -just the way you are – and let me help you to see the best of what you have.

Thank you, so much, Christina, for being everything that you are – courageous, witty as hell, and oh so beautiful on so many levels. Much love to you, my friend.

CNorwood-10-Edit CNorwood-11-Edit CNorwood-21

Special thanks for fantastic Hair and Makeup going out to Dana Shaw (250-318-4757)!

Happy Tuesday, peeps. I wish you all enough…

Meet Mr. Petrie, Owner of F3 Fit…He kicks my ass three times a week, but I’m okay with that!

This is Robert, my trainer, or as like to think of him, the guy who makes my ass hurt. 🙂

F3 FitnessThis is what he does when I tell his wife that he makes my ass hurt.

F3-12Actually, he does that a lot. He’s a funny guy!

But all laughing aside, Robert’s training has been making a huge difference in my performance on the track and I’ve only been training with him for about five weeks. I was already decently fit when I started going to him, but I’m kind of blown away by how much my stamina and strength have improved by leaps and bounds (pun intended, derby people!) and, even though I have a back injury right now, he’s helping me to work through it by strengthening my weakened muscles and improving my balance. This was really apparent two weekends ago when I was jamming through the pack and ended up going through a line of blockers backwards on one foot, with a hop or two, and then flipping around and skating away. It was in that moment that I realized how much of a difference training regularly makes.

I wouldn’t be improving so quickly if he wasn’t great at what he does. Let’s face it, I have all sorts of shit wrong with me – back injury, brain tumour that messes with my blood pressure and hormones, recurring shoulder injury – and he works with all of it and doesn’t even miss a step. Not only does he just seem to know how hard he can push me at any given time, he also instinctively knows when he needs to make me simmer down and take it a bit easier. I can’t do that on my own because all I know how to do is push, push, push, until I’m exhausted or good and broken. I don’t have the ability to tell myself when enough is enough and I need a break, but I don’t have to anymore because he does that for me. Good trainers are a dime a dozen, but intuitive trainers are not. Add into the mix that he’s also an athlete (he and my hubs used to play hockey together) and, well, it’s a winning combo.

He also enjoys busting out into impromptu dances while I’m working at something particularly challenging or while we’re sitting around, waiting for my head to stop spinning. It’s nice that he’s not like some of those extremely modest trainers out there who are all business and strut around as though they are the shit! This guy knows his stuff and also knows how to laugh and have fun. He enjoys what he does and it shows.

But hey, personal training isn’t all that he does. He also runs bootcamps and does group and corporate training! I asked him if I could crash his bootcamp this morning (really effin early, I might add) with my camera, so I could take some pics of him for my blog. This is what I saw…

He brings families together, like this father and son who were bonding while working out!

F3-19He makes grown men cry on a regular basis.

F3-17

 

He’s so skilled, he can teach people to levitate!

F3-6

 

He makes other ladies’ asses hurt too, so much so that they pray for him to make it stop!

F3-4

 

His presence attracts UnderArmour Whores (and here I thought I was the only one)!

F3-21

 

He lets his clients torture their buddies and enjoy every minute of it!

F3-8

 

 

He’s also all about equality when it comes to torture!

F3-15He also likes to make the ladies work on their boobs (it’s okay, Mrs. Petrie already knows this)!!!

F3-16He exercises people’s brains by asking them to do exercises that require a lot of concentration and coordination.

F3-18

F3-20

 

He makes people love themselves!

F3-23

 

In fact, he does a lot of good stuff for a lot of people!

If you would like to see what Mr. Petrie’s bootcamp class is all about or if you would like to talk to him about private training or group training (and you don’t mind your ass going from saggy and low to high and tight at the speed of light), then the information you will need is below and, trust me, he’s worth every damn penny! You can also check out his website at F3 Fit

Outdoor BootCamp

Start April 22nd to May 31st
No class on Monday, May 20th
The Bootcamp will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday 630-­730 a.m. at Riverside Park (meet at the
Bandshell).
It will run continually in 6 week intervals throughout the spring and summer…
Sign up for
DropIn = $15/class
1classes/week = $14/class ($84*)
2classes/week = $13/class ($156*)
3classes/week = $12/class ($216*)
* May 20th Victoria Day­ May Long Weekend= Minus One Class of total
Payment, we take Cash, Cheque, Credit Card*, and Debit Card*
(* Unable to process at park please come to Kamloops Fit Centre)
#119­805 Notre Dame Drive
Kamloops BC V2C 5N8
Canada
When signing up for 1,2 or 3 classes, you have an opportunity to have a body composition assessment and
a diet consult at Kamloops Fit Centre for a discounted price of…$50
Each session will focus on fundamental movements, building a foundation that will improve your fitness.
Working with full body exercises each day will highlight a different body part.
If you have any question please email (info@kamfit.ca) , text or call (250-574-1809) Rob at anytime.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

I am reading the Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte right now and I’ve been discovering a lot about myself, again, while reading the book and participating in a Fire Starters group every second Thursday – a fab group of ladies (who we refer to as Passionistas) who meet, discuss each chapter and the worksheet that goes with it. We have been meeting for months and I have gained nothing but awesomesauce from it. Met new people (because we keep it open for anyone to join at any time), developed some great friendships and been continually inspired by the compassion, empathy, drive, humour, and all around amazing share capacity of these ladies. If any of you are interested in coming to a Fire Starters meeting with me, just let me know and I’ll hook a girl up!

Anywho, about a month ago, I was reading and I came across the heading, Fuck Your So Called Principles…yes, Miss LaPorte does have a tendency to throw in a well-timed FBomb here and there and it makes me giggle. I read that heading and was immediately intrigued. There was an entire section in there about the concept of being right versus being happy and it really made me think hard about humans in general and my own take on the concept. I think human nature has a tendency to want people to agree with what we are saying, be on our side, root for our cause, etc.. Often (really often…) people lose their shit when other people don’t agree with their beliefs, ideas, needs, wants, etc., and it leads to so much unnecessary conflict.

I keep coming back to my most recent example of irreconcilable conflict caused by two totally pigheaded, uncompromising, inflexible and ridiculous children (me being one of them) who spent over a year in constant conflict because neither of us was adult enough to admit we were holding a grudge, hanging on to our “principles” just to spite the other, or wiling to extend each other an olive branch and agree to disagree so we could find a way to compromise. For a year I was angry, self-righteous, totally blind to my own ego (even though I insisted that the other person was all these things and I was not). It made me sick, sad, pissed off, defeated, spent and almost made me quit the sport that I love so hard it feels like it’s always been a part of me. Until one day I woke up and, after a lot of deliberation, asked myself if I wanted to be right or I wanted to be happy.

When I put it to myself that way, it was a no-brainer. I’ll take a delicious helping of happy please and thank you! And that was it, I chose to back down, apologize to everyone who my poor behaviour choices had affected (including my team, the person I’d been in conflict with, my poor husband who had listened to me bitch constantly for a year, and several of my derby friends who I vented to regularly) And, then, just to solidify happy for everyone, I also made the decision to distance myself from the situation and move on.

It was really hard to leave my team – the group of ladies who I had been skating, growing, living and loving with for two years – and there were times when I felt a bit lost, really sad that I no longer had them in my life on a regular basis, and, admittedly, a bit regretful that there wasn’t another way to heal the rift and keep my old team and new team in my life on a regular basis- but, in the end, it came down to one thing: happiness.
Happiness is a choice and, if I could go back in time, I would make the same choice over and over and over again because I have discovered that I don’t need to be right. I need to be happy.

And I am very happy!

So, next time you find yourself stressed out, pissed off, angry, resentful, toxic because you are in conflict with someone, ask yourself the super simple question: Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?

A bit about how some people believe words are part of the bullying epidemic

I know there are so many facets to the bullying issue, but the one about words being weapons is really resonating with me today.

Just off the top of my head, the word geek when I was a kid, was a word with very distinctly negative connotations. Even though I was a really active kid, I was also a bookworm. I was called a geek by other kids quite a bit and I grew up thinking that it was really uncool to have my nose in a book when I was around other kids because it was such a “geeky” thing to do.

However, fast forward 10 years, when I was in university for the first time, and if someone said something along the lines of, “You’re such a geek!”, guaranteed it was directly related to the fact that someone was bloody brilliant and there was nothing negative about it.

Fast forward even farther, to present day, and I think of the word geek with fondness and a bit of whimsy. I used to be a geek and I enjoy being smart and I admire the shit out of my friends who are still geeking out-especially those who I did my Chemistry degree with-and making a difference in the world in their chosen fields (chemistry, genetics, biology, engineering or whatever else). Being a geek, in my mind, is pretty fucking cool! Geeks are the ones who make the biggest differences in technology, medicine, innovation, etc. These days, I still think of myself as a kind of geek now and then and it makes me smile!

Is there a point to all this? Of course.

Wednesday is the day we will be encouraging kids everywhere to wear pink and raise awareness for bullying. And, as an aside, Greg had the TV on tonight while I was reading a book, and there were four anti-bullying ads on in less than 30 minutes while he watched. One of them sent the message that “words hurt” and to stop being part of spreading the pain.

And, honestly, my first thought when I watched the commercial was that words are just words and they only become hurtful when someone teaches us that they are supposed to be hurtful. Words can be ridiculously powerful, but only when we choose to interpret them as powerful. Our reaction to them is what makes them influential. I know, I’m 38 years old and I have had many, many years to understand this simple and powerful concept, but kids are insatiable sponges who absorb everything that we teach them. If we are going to spend a ton of time teaching them to be kind to each other, it makes sense to also teach them that words only have power if we give them power.

Because, lets face it, for every couple of kids who are going to really get the anti-bullying message, there are just as many who are going to be perfecting their bullying skills. It sucks, but it is reality. And, because, as a kid, I was both bully and bullied (most kids are easily capable of playing both sides of the coin when placed in different situations), I know that kids are capable of many things that their parents don’t give them credit for.

My mom was an amazing lady and she taught me to love myself for who I am and what I am and to not waste my energy on anyone who didn’t like me for me. That’s a pretty kick ass lesson to teach a kid, but there is one thing that she never taught me. The easy lesson that words are just words. I had to figure that one out on my own, but now that I have, I realize that it would have been the easiest thing in the world to teach me from the very beginning. I didn’t have to put stock in the nasty shit that other kids said to me about my skin disease or my poor wardrobe or having my nose in books all the time or my giant lips or whatever else they teased me about.

Had our daughter lived, I would have done my best to teach her that she should be kind to others, but also that there are some nasty people out there in the world who enjoy hurting others with their words and actions and she has all the power to control her own reaction to every situation.

And, just to be clear here, I think bullying is pretty shitty (especially the physical side of it that can and has lead to injuries and deaths), but I think if we teach our kids that words hurt, it only perpetuates the problem by making them believe it. Why not teach them that they have all the power to let words hurt or just see words as words? I think the really important part about the anti-bullying message is that we teach kids that they get to make their own choices and they get to choose what becomes powerful in their lives and what doesn’t.

Are you truly generous or just kinda sorta?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to truly be generous lately and I’ve realized a few things about myself and a lot of other people who think of ourselves as generous.

In a nutshell, we are not truly generous people.

Sure, I am kind and I often do nice things for others and think of myself as a super generous person, but I often feel the opposite of generous feelings about the people I give my time, energy, effort, money, etc. to, especially if they don’t reciprocate.  I get annoyed if I give someone a gift and they don’t seem to be particularly grateful for it. I sometimes feel put out if I spend a lot of time referring people to other photographers around town and those photographers don’t do the same for me. I judge people who whine about not being appreciated when they give their time or energy to others and don’t get recognition for it (yet, I often whine about the same thing). If I do something particularly awesome for someone, I usually feel as though I have to tell someone so they will know how nice I am (and I know a ton of other people who are exactly the same) and, if I don’t tell anyone and the person I did something amazing for doesn’t tell anyone or gush about how awesome they feel because of it, I feel annoyed, as though I’ve wasted my time.

Does that sound generous or self-serving? Exactly. Serve me up a dish of my awesomeballs self, please!

Awhile ago a friend of mine was going off about how often she does nice things for people and how they never return the favour. She was angry and said that she was thinking that she should shorten her list of true friends to cut out the self-serving ones. My first thought when I heard this was that I often felt exactly as she does and have often thought about doing the same – weeding out the people who I feel are not generous at all. After a few days, though, I realized that by thinking that way, I was perpetuating exactly what I didn’t like about those people. I did not enjoy that feeling at all.

I asked myself, Why do I feel the need to be recognized for the nice things I do or my kind nature? Why is it so important for me that others think I am kind and generous? Isn’t it enough to know, in my heart, that I am?

Apparently, up to that point, it wasn’t enough, but I don’t think I had ever really examined it before and I didn’t realize how truly “ungenerous” I was. I sat down and wrote a list of all the nice things I have done in the last few months and, beside each good deed, I wrote about the feelings I’d had about those deeds since. HOLY SHITSNACKS PEOPLE! Can you say selfish asshole???

Here are some of my thoughts associated with my acts of kindness:

  • Such and such didn’t even acknowledge that I’d done that for them. That hurt.
  • I have done SO many nice things for her, without being asked, and she has NEVER done anything back for me out of her own free will. Why do I even bother with people like her?
  • Didn’t even get so much as a thank you and I totally went out of my way to do that. That person is really ungrateful.
  • I know that photographer picked up that job because I specifically referred them to her and I know they told her it was me. Didn’t even get so much as a “hey, thanks”. I guess I’ll take her off my list of referrals.
  • Two people wrote me back after I put in three hours of effort to give feedback. Why do I even bother?
  • Two years of my effort, love, dedication and help and I didn’t even get invited to the Christmas party. Wow. Nothing says, “you mean nothing to us” like not being invited. Totally better off without them anyway.
  • He didn’t even notice that I did it. That’s awesome. What a jerkwad.

Yes, super negative and not exactly the list of feelings I’d expect from someone who thinks of herself as a generous person. While I don’t always expect something in return for my generosity, I do expect something (or at least wish for something, even karma-wise) quite often and this, my friends, is NOT true generosity.

What is?

In a nutshell, continually giving of your love, time and energy freely and never expecting a damn thing in return. Ever.

But, what about those people who take advantage of your kindness and take, take, take, without ever giving back to anyone? Shouldn’t we at least avoid those people and give freely only to those people who deserve it? Uhm…no. If everyone in the world who was truly generous only gave their energy to people who were deserving, they would not be truly generous. We never know when even the smallest act of kindness can cause a huge ripple effect that can change lives. If we refuse to be kind because we believe people aren’t deserving of our kindness, we are actually creating less kindness in the world. See what I’m saying?

I have taken a trip within myself and realized that, up until a few weeks ago, I did not understand the meaning of being truly generous. I want to be truly generous and not just kinda sorta generous. I don’t want to care if other people see my generosity or if they are grateful for what I do. I just want to be kind and generous and feel good about it, in my own heart.

The hardest part is being kind and helpful to people who I used to believe didn’t deserve my time or my energy for all sorts of reasons (mostly because I felt that they were too selfish, ungrateful, entitled, undeserving, etc.). If I can give time and energy to those people and just be happy that I’ve done something nice for them and not expected anything in return or felt the need to be recognized, then I will be a truly generous person and my soul will be growing by leaps and bounds.

I’m always up for a soul challenge, though, so I say GO!

Speaking of souls (and, particularly enlightened ones),  here is a pic of my lovely friend, Florriann! We did a fun shoot on Saturday because I needed some girl time with her. We never see each other enough, even though we live only 10 minutes apart. She is one of the kindest, most generous and lovely human beings I know. 🙂

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Have a great Monday, my friends. I wish you all enough…

 

Gratitude Without Attitude

In keeping with my change from Gratitude & Attitude to Gratitude Without Attitude, I have some new things to add today.

Yesterday was a really fantastic birthday. I worked almost all day and accomplished a lot (which is strange considering I haven’t been sleeping much lately again) and then I headed to Armstrong to practice with those fantiddlyastic ladies. And, I was super bossy at practice and my mouth never stopped moving, which can most likely be attributed to the fact that Kush wasn’t there to tell me to shut my pie hole when my ADD took over and shiny objects abounded. LMAO. 🙂

The best part of the day was coming home to hang out with my guy at the end of a long day and drinking one of these:

I’m not a huge beer fan, but I have to say that these are absolutely DELICIOUS! I can only drink one, or at the most two at a time but seriously super tasty stuff. Vanilla aftertaste is the best part. A six pack of these bad boys was my birthday present from this guy (shown here with me 11 years ago and now today)…my previously “little” brother, Ian.

Apparently, sometime between then and now he decided to outgrow me by about a foot or more. Either way, the kid’s pretty rad and, as he wrote on my birthday card, I’m changing the way he thinks about people in their late 30s. (p.s. Assssssssholio). 😉

I have a little bit of time while I’m stuffing my face at lunch to get in a bit of a blog about the things I’m grateful for today and I thought I’d put in pics for each one, rather than just blather on about them and bore you all to beer-flavored tears.

Obviously, I’m grateful for Ian because he bought me beer and I cheer for this particular beer.

Here’s the rest of the things I’m grateful for at this particular moment:

  1. Bengal Spice tea. Yummmmy yum yum yum yummmmmers. 
  2. This dog. Ridiculously adorable and so well behaved that I must be the second coming of The Dog Whisperer…;) 
  3. These two cats because they are always beating the crap out of each other one second and then ganging up on the dog the next. I am a big fan of Teamwork. Booyah. 
  4. This guy and this kid. Both are always teaching me and forcing me step up and learn shit about life and love. 
  5. Lastly, this chica. She makes me laugh all the time and I’m super happy that she lives with us and that I get to hang out with her all the time. Today I’m especially grateful for what she wrote in my birthday card…It made me laugh SO hard. Oh so hard. Ali’s a funny kid!
  6. Lastly – and I don’t have a picture for this – I’m grateful for the perspective my life, thus far, has given me about everything that goes on around me. Each time I use that perspective to make a decision, I am rewarded with a new learning experience and new challenges. Life would be dull and not worth living if it went smoothly all the time and didn’t make us think and adapt. I’m grateful for life experience and the path it has taken me down. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, always. 🙂

Okay, lunch is over. Booooooo. Time to get back at er. 🙂

Have a great Tuesday, my friends. I wish you all enough…

The Zen of Nakedness

With every boudoir shoot I do, the subject of getting naked comes up. I usually ask at the beginning of the session if my client is interested in doing any naked shots and the answer is almost always something along the lines of, “Uhm…I’m not really sure if I’d be comfortable with that.” I don’t push the issue and I just smile my little secret smile because I know that, 9 times out of 10, we are soooo gonna drop the gear!

At the beginning of the session, my ladies are always so nervous – some even get really shaky – and it takes me approximately 10 minutes to cure them of their nerves. I get them talking, make them laugh, make them twist themselves into really unnatural, pretzel-like positions (because if someone perceives that they look absolutely ridiculous, she can’t help but laugh and loosen up). “No, really!” I tell them. “It feels really weird, but it’s soooooo sexy.”

10 minutes and we’re always well on our way to nekkid!

After 30 minutes or so, I casually drop the question again. “So, you think you’d like to do some nekkid shots after all?” Yes, I think I would be up for trying.

Of course you would be!

The crazy thing about shooting a woman who was shaking, fully clothed before me a mere half hour before, is that some kind of switch gets flicked when the clothes come off. It’s as though my client realizes that she is completely naked before an almost absolute stranger, so she may as well throw caution to the wind and just relax and enjoy the experience. The atmosphere of the shoot becomes calmer, the laughter more forthcoming and the experience almost zen-like. The clothes come off and the rest of the session flows like Vinyasa Yoga.

The best shots I do involve not a stitch of clothing and I barely ever get the opportunity to share those photos with the world because they are so powerfully private and intimate for my clients. I don’t mind, though. Just knowing that I’ve helped yet one more woman love her body for its beauty and perfect imperfections is more than enough vindication for me.

I’m thinking about having a session done entirely naked, so I can hang up some giant canvasses of my own beauty and imperfections. A constant, visual reminder that I am everything a woman should be – strong, sensual, powerfully feminine!

And, since I won’t be posting any nekkid shots for you today, I’ll appease you with these shots I just grabbed of Juno The Wonderdog and Orange Julius Caesar chillaxing while I work. 🙂

Happy Monday, my friends! I wish you all enough…

Success Comes In Many Forms

Sometimes I have to stop and catch my breath when I realize how far my business has come lately. I humbles me. It makes me eternally grateful that after a few years of trial and error and struggling here and there, I finally found my groove. I somehow survived where so many others have crashed and burned and I am really proud of myself for staying the course when it could have been so easy to give up so many times and just go work for someone else.

Returning home last night after shooting a wedding, I went downstairs to Greg’s man cave, grabbed an ice cold beer from his giant beer fridge, and plopped myself down beside him on the couch. Sigh. What a great day! It was good to be home, but the day was amazing – despite a full on thunder and lightening storm complete with torrential downpour during the outdoor ceremony. The main reason, though, Ian (my youngest brother and most excellent second shooter) and Grace (my beautiful, attentive, witty, hard-working assistant).

Ian not only provides me with creative company while shooting – a great guy to bounce ideas off of – but whenever I feel my creative energy being zapped and just need a break, he’s always there to jump up with his camera and get to work while I chill for a bit. I don’t know if he understands how helpful that is, but it makes a giant difference in how smoothly the day flows. His constant back up keeps my energy level up and keeps me calm because I know that I can count on him when I need to. He’s hilarious too and he keeps me chuckling all day long. Yesterday, while we were rushing through some wedding party shots before it started to pour, yet again, he put on his best Clint Eastwood voice and said, “Nobody blinks. Nobody gets hurt.” That kid makes me laugh! I also trust him, implicitly, to take all the detail shots – dress, shoes, rings, decorations, cake, flowers, centerpieces, etc. if I don’t have time (and, often, even when I do) because he has an amazing eye for them and he can always find a new way to put a creative spin on the same old same old. 🙂 Lastly, he’s worked with me enough now that he understands my weird hand signals and eye movements (most of the time) or he just anticipates what I want him to do and does it without me having to tell him. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to work with someone, especially a sibling, so closely and be so in sync. It often boggles my mind that there are nearly 20 years between us because I feel like he’s so much older than he really is when we’re working and I, honestly, don’t know what I would do without him.

And then there’s Grace. I hired her back in January on a really sporadic basis to assist me with Boudoir shoots. I needed someone to set up lights, rearrange sets, help pose my clients, hold the fan, hold my reflector, etc. and she wanted to learn more about photography, so it seemed like a win/win. I was wrong. It’s way more, for me at least. She’s so quick to learn and it took no time at all for her to start anticipating what I needed during shoots. Now she does things I don’t even ask her to do, but want her to do anyway. I’m fairly sure she can read my mind and I’m stoked about it. Her learning curve with me is steep, but she’s been hauling ass up the mountain from the word go! I’ve recently started using her for weddings to carry around our gear, help with the lighting, and even pick up a camera when there is time for her to practice. I’ve noticed two things about Grace during weddings – she never complains, even when she’s carting around 20 to 30 pounds of equipment in stifling heat and she is just as amazing as Ian at taking those time-consuming detail shots that usually take up too much of my precious time. Yesterday I handed her one of my cameras and told her to go to town on the bride’s accessories (dress, ring, jewelry, clutch purse, etc.) and the photos she ended up taking were spectacular. I concentrated on the dress and the bride and took a minimal of other detail shots and she let her creativity flow and thoroughly impressed me!

Last night, as I sat on the couch, nursing a beer and hanging out with Greg, I thought about what success means to me and I realized my definition has changed – broadened – since the last time I thought about it. It’s not longer just about evoking emotion from my clients and thriving in my business. My idea of success has evolved to involve bringing other people along for the exhilarating ride and sharing my experience along the way. I am feeling so fulfilled today because I have Ian and Grace right there with me, sharing in my experience. When I feel successful, they feel it too and I hope they realize that it is due, in a large part, to having them along for the ride. They are, in my mind, totally indispensable and I ridiculously grateful for both of them. Success comes in many forms. For me, it has come in the form of two awesome assistants who make my life a whole lot easier. 🙂

Good night my friends. I wish you all enough…