Seaside Maternity Session by Esther Louise Photography

So excited to be sharing this gorgeous maternity session by Ester Louise Photographer.  Shot on the beach using a Mamiya 645 and Fuji 400h film, they are perfection!  Film was made for this kind of session, don't you agree?!

From Esther:

"My favorite place to shoot maternity sessions is at the beach. I think it is such a perfect setting to capture the beauty and excitement of what is happening and I was thrilled when they were willing to splash around together at the end of the session as the sun set."

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Ester Louise Photography on Little Bellows.  Maternity photography photographed on film.
Ester Louise Photography on Little Bellows.  Maternity photography photographed on film.
Ester Louise Photography on Little Bellows.  Maternity photography photographed on film.
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 Images processed and scanned by The FIND Lab.

See more of Esther's work:
Instagram | Website | Facebook

Taura Horn's Simple Studio Session

It's no secret that I LOVE film shot in studio.  The simplicity is just so beautiful to me.  So when I saw these images by Nebraska photographer Taura Horn, I know I had to share them.  

Read below as Taura share a bit about the session and her lighting set up.

-Sandra Coan

Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio

About the Session

For Amalia's session with her children Bastian and Poppy, I had a specific vision of how I wanted to style and shoot it, from the color palette and lighting, but I really wanted to give her some of her own time in front of the camera. 

I feel like a lot of moms come to shoots and don't really want their photos taken and just want me to focus on their children because they think they don't look good enough, or they feel guilty for taking time up for themselves.  So you have to give them some space, literally, to just be women and not moms for a little bit.  Make Dad or Grandma or a babysitter take the kids for the morning while she gets her hair and makeup done, and we get to make some beautiful photos of her by herself.  She deserves to see proof of herself as a beautiful woman, and her kids deserve to look back when they're older and be able to see her as someone who has a life and energy while still being their caretaker.  So this first half of the session is really important! 

By the time the kids get there, mom is relaxed, I'm warmed up, and we're ready for the controlled chaos of working with kids in the studio!  I was really pleased that Amalia trusted me with every aspect of her session, from how she would be styled, to how I'd dress Bastian and Poppy.  These two share a birthday, and their photos were taken about at Poppy's first birthday and Bastian's fourth birthday to celebrate! 

Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio

About The Set Up

I used a Mamiya 645afd with 80 2.8 lens, and generally shoot Kodak Portra 400 between 2.8-4f. 

My lighting set up varies between simple and "how did I do that again??", using a 5' Bowens Octobox with white seamless. 

Most of the times (and for a few of these) I position it facing the subject, simple and beautiful. 

For some of these (you can tell which ones) and when I want super soft light I bounce it off one of the white walls of my studio and use the natural light from the sliding door behind me to soften it even more, and the window up behind the subject with the light that is bounced off the white house next door gives some hair light.  I used a black v-flat camera right to the subject. 

I love to play with lighting, you can get such subtly different looks with small changes.  (It actually took me a while to figure out how to shoot in the crazy space, though it seems obvious now! ) 

Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio

Film was developed and scanned by Richard Film Lab.  

See more of Taura's work
website | facebook | instagram

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights by Sandra Coan

About ten years ago I was gifted a set of studio strobes from a friend of mine who was closing her photography studio.  

I had always wanted to learn lighting, but looking at the strobe heads and soft boxes just stress me out.  It seemed hard and technical and not "my style".

So I told myself that lighting just wasn't for me, put the entire set up in storage and left it there for five years.  

During that time, I struggled with light.  

You see, I live in Seattle, and it's dark here a majority of the time.  When I was shooting digitally, I would just crank my ISO up to 6400 and make it work.  But when I made the switch back to film I knew something had to change.  If I was going to shoot film inside, in Seattle, I was going to have to learn how to use lighting.

So I did.  And it changed everything.

Since then I've become somewhat of an off camera lighting evangelist.  I sing it's praises every chance I get!  And every time I talk about it I hear the same reasons from photographers on why they don't want to use it.  So today I want to talk about the three myths that keep photographers form using off camera lighting and why they are just not true.

Here we go.

Myth #1: Lighting is hard

I used to think this too.  But it's not.  In fact, it's really, really easy.  Just force yourself to start.

Take your strobe or your flash, put it on a tripod, put a light modifier on it, and tell yourself it's a window.

Light is light.  

If you can do it with the sun shining through a window, you can do it with a bulb shining through a soft box!

Myth #2: You Can't Be Spontaneous When Using lighting

This was my biggest worry what kept me from using lights for year.  You see, I work with kids. And kids run and jump and move a lot.  I wanted to be able to capture that movement.

And I can.  In fact, strobes make it better!

The flash freezes movement, so you can capture a kid in mid jump and not get motion blur!  

#awesome

Sandra Coan Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights

Myth #3: Lighting looks fake. I want soft and natural.

This is the biggest lighting myth around.  Lighting, when done right, can look as soft and beautiful as natural light.  

This is how I do it...

I turn my lights down until I get a reading of F4 in the shadows.  That way I can soot at F4 or even F2.8 and have a prefectly exposed image that looks soft and just like natural light. 

Not sure how to meter with strobes and flash, check out my FREE guide on metering in all kinds of light!

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights by Sandra Coan for Little Bellows

Pro Tip: If you are going to be shooting with off camera lighting be sure to check your camera's sync speed.  The sync speed is the fasted shutter speed recommend for your camera when working with a flash of any kind!

Shooting Your Rolleiflex With Strobes | Sandra Coan

For a little over a year now, I have been obsessed with shooting Rolleiflex in studio with strobes.

A few weeks ago after I shared some Rolleiflex images, I received a question from a reader asking about how I sync my strobes with to the Rolleiflex.

Click the video below to see my reply!

Sandra Coan how to use a Rolleiflex with studio strobes

Do have a question about using lighting with film cameras?  Feel free to ask in the comments below.  I'll be sure to answer! 

Fuji Natura 1600 35mm Film with Examples

I admittedly haven't used Fuji Natura film much - only two times - but after getting examples for this post I'd love to use it more, except I don't want to pay for it.  It's a very versatile low-light film that has a ton of latitude in daylight and low-light situations. 

Image by Megan Dill, rated at 800

Image by Megan Dill, rated at 800

One roll of film is a whopping $12, way more than 400h or Portra films.  It's only manufactured and sold in Japan which contributes to its high cost.  It's known for its excellent colors and fairly fine grain for a high-ISO 35mm film.  If you're not a fan of pushing lower ISO films you should give this one a try!

Many photographers prefer shooting Natura 1600 at 800 ISO instead of 1600, and you'll see below why that is.  (I even read some blog posts of photographers shooting it at ISO 100 with great results!)  The grain isn't as noticeable at 800, and just like any other color film, Natura does well with at least one stop of over-exposure.

Below is an example of the films' versatility.  I used it during a Night Walk on a recent trip to Costa Rica (it was amazing!) and rated it at 1600.  I didn't use the whole roll that night so decided to go for it and use it up the next day (still at 1600 obvs) and got great results.

Rated at 1600

Rated at 1600

Rated at 1600 with intentional light leak on the right

Rated at 1600 with intentional light leak on the right

Rated at 1600

Rated at 1600

Now here are a few more examples of Natura 1600 rated differently:

Image by Joyce Kang, rated at 800

Image by Joyce Kang, rated at 800

Image by Justine Knight, rated at 1000

Image by Justine Knight, rated at 1000

Image by Angie Mertz, rated at 800

Image by Angie Mertz, rated at 800

Image by Ashley Crawford, rated at 1600

Image by Ashley Crawford, rated at 1600

4 Reason I Love Shooting Film With Strobes

Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

When I started using strobes it was out of desperation.  I wanted a way to be able to shoot film through the winter.  Thats it.  It was intended as a temporary fix to get me through to the spring. And then something unexpected happened.

When spring finally came around, I found that I liked using my strobes more than I liked using natural light.  Crazy right?

Well maybe not... here's the thing.  

  • Strobes are consistent.  When I use them, my light is the same at every. single. shoot.  My meter readings are always the same, regardless of the weather.  Using artificial light has allowed me to shoot film 100% of the time and has freed me from stress.
  • Strobes bring out the best in film.  Film loves light.  And strobes give the perfect amount of light every time.  So my images are always perfectly exposed and beautiful.
  • Strobes do not have to look "flashy".  I love strobes, but I HATE images that look artificial and "flashy".  I want my work to be soft and airy and, when used properly, my strobes give me that look.
  • Strobes are easy.  Seriously.  I know that they seem complicated, but they are not.  Everything I do is done with one light and one light modifier.  Thats it.
Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting
Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

I encourage you to give off camera lighting a try... and stay tuned, I'll be sharing a series of post here to tell you just how to do it step by step.  It's not hard, and it will absolutely change the way you shoot film, for the better!

If you can't wait and just want to dive into off camera lighting right now, check out The Missing Link: A Film Photographer's Guide To Off Camera Light.  It's is a complete how-to... everything from what equipment you need to lighting set-ups- full of text, diagrams and video tutorials! 

Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

 

 

 

 

4 Reasons I Love Ilford Hp5 Film

We thought we'd start highlighting all the amazing types of film that we use in both our professional and personal work and I wanted to start with one of my favorites - lovely Ilford Hp5 film.

35mm rated at 1600, +2. Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 1600, +2. Image by Kim Hildebrand

1.  Versatility: This film is always in my camera bag because I can use it anywhere.  Hp5 is noted for its excellent overall performance in a wide variety of lighting conditions.  You can rate this film from 320 all the way up to 3200 and it will look amazing!

120 film rated at 320, +0.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

120 film rated at 320, +0.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 400, +0. Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 400, +0. Image by Kim Hildebrand

Rated at 800, +1.  Image by Jackie Fox

Rated at 800, +1.  Image by Jackie Fox

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Heidi Alhadeff Leonard

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Heidi Alhadeff Leonard

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Megan Dill

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Megan Dill

2.  Contrast:   It's contrast, while high, is less pronounced than that of Tri-X, which appeals to shooters that prefer a more even tonal scale.  Because it is less pronounced than Tri-X, the highlights and shadows respond really (well if exposed correctly) when using it in a low-light situation where you intend to push the film.

Rated at 400, +0.  Image by Alpana Aras

Rated at 400, +0.  Image by Alpana Aras

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kristin Wahls

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kristin Wahls

120 film rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Lea Ciceraro

120 film rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Lea Ciceraro

3.  Grain:  I found an informative article in the Adorama Learning Center comparing Hp5 to Tri-X, which is considered the gold standard among street and documentary photographers.  Hp5 is noted for its fine grain, high-edge detail, and excellent overall performance in a wide variety of lighting conditions.  Usually, grain on a pushed 35mm b/w film is too much for me, but I love it on Hp5 film!  Last, the grain is still absolutely beautiful on medium format when pushed 3 stops (see example below)!

35mm rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

Image by Amanda McKinley

Image by Amanda McKinley

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Tamara Aptekar

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Tamara Aptekar

4.  Cost:  Ilford Hp5 currently costs $4.39 per roll of 35mm or $4.69 per roll of 120, not bad!  Note that Tri-X isn't much more ;)

So if you haven't tried out Ilford Hp5 film, I encourage you to give it a try!  It's quite an amazing and extremely versatile film.

Aria Photography : Carmel by the Sea

Aria Bethards of Aria Photography shares a recent session in beautiful California.  Her vibrant work has me swooning for warm coastal breezes and sand between my toes!

In Aria's words:

"I recently took a much-needed escape to the most quaint little town of Carmel-By-The-Sea in Northern California. As soon as I drove up to the small village, my heart melted at the sloping wood shingle roofs, colorful painted houses dotting the cobbled streets, and the smell of sea salt and cool ocean breeze. What made this weekend even more special was taking my littlest of 4 children, my baby Oliver, and having that quiet, uninterrupted time together. When you have a house full of little ones, there is wonderful chaos and energy and noise. ;) And while wild adventures with my silly clan is my jam, every now and then it is sweet to have one-on-one time with each child to fill up both of our love buckets. And this weekend in Carmel did just that."

Details:

These were shot on a Contax 645, 80mm f/2.0 lens, with Fuji 400H film. Processed by the wonderful The FindLab (www.thefindlab.com). 

See more of Aria's work here:

website | facebook | Instagram

We are currently accepting film and travel submissions!  Head on over here to read our guidelines and show us your work!

In-Home Newborn Session with Light & Lustre Photography

Darryn Wellstead of Light and Lustre Photography did a fantastic job capturing tender moments in this beautifully lit (and decorated) nursery in this newborn session.  Plus, that round crib!?!  Thank you for sharing your work with us, Darryn!

In Darryn's words:

"This is one of my favourite in-home newborn sessions done to date. It was dark and dreary outside, and I think the images capture the intimacy of the family getting to slow down and enjoy the time at home with their new baby as the season transitioned to winter. The session deals with a mix of lighting conditions, textures, and tones. I love the soft light contrasted with the darkness in some rooms, the softness of mom and baby contrasted with Dad's gruff appearance. Finally, this wee one had some of the best grumpy faces I have ever seen on a newborn, which was fun to photograph. :)"

Film: Fuji 400h film
Cameras: Canon Elan 7ne + 50 1.2L and Sigma 35 Art, Pentax 645n + 75FA (in full gallery)
Lab: Canadian Photo Lab

See more of Darryn's work here:

website | facebook | Instagram

We are currently accepting submissions!  If you have a session you'd like to share, please do so here.

A Creative's Journey : Week 4

Between no school for a teacher in-service day, a sick child, the weekend, and a snow day I didn't get ANYTHING done this week.  It's so frustrating.  I bet I spent 2-3 hours total this week on my business.  It's amazing how as an entrepreneur, I can feel totally caught up and super proactive one minute, then totally behind and floundering the next.  When I stop working, the business stops, too.

That's why I love outsourcing and scheduling as much as I can so it doesn't ALL stop.  So today I wanted to share my top 4 vendors I use every week:

1.  Richard Photo Lab - Film development and proofing.  I shoot a session.  I mail the film to the lab.  I get on with the rest of my work.  I get an email that my photos are ready and boom, I download them, cull, then deliver to my client.  It has freed up so much of my time it is WELL worth the price of shooting film (plus, hello beautiful skin tones!).

 

2.  Later.com - Instagram scheduling.  I freaking love this site!  I finish up a session, export my favorite images, and import them into Later.  I can schedule out an entire week (or even the entire month) in one sitting.  I can add captions and hashtags right from my computer.  I can preview what my grid will look like and move things around some more without losing any information.  And another best part: I don't have to always email or Dropbox my images to get them on my phone to add to Instagram.  I love that!

3.  Wordpress blog - scheduling blog posts.  Yep, you read that right.  I still use Wordpress and am super happy with it!  I can bang out 3 blog posts in a morning, use the bulk image uploader, cut and paste my alt tag info, keyword, and add links, then schedule them out for the week.  It's so convenient and pretty easy once you have a process down that you like.

4.  Bookkeeper - no more time spent double-checking transaction details, coding, and reconciling.  I've saved at least 8 hours every quarter around tax time now that I have a bookkeeper.  That's almost two days worth of time for me!

Now for this weeks' scoreboard:

  1. How was I brave this week:  I had to speak publicly to a group of 40 prospective incoming parents at our school tours, and I do not like public speaking.  My heart starts racing and my palms get sweaty.  But I pushed into the fear and did it anyway (baby steps).  If I'm ever going to get over it, I have to lean into it.
  2. How was I kind this week: I did not strangle one of my kids.  #kidding but seriously, having a child home with me for the past eight days took its toll.
  3. How did I fail this week:  By hardly getting any work done.  My head is swimming.

How did you do this week?  What did you cross off your list or what challenges did you face?  I'd love to hear so tag your stories and photos #acreativesjourney !

XX,

Kim

A Creative's Journey : Week 3

Mired in the Minutiae

This week I've been furiously trying to get through tedious work.  Non-paying work.  I've been purging backlogged stuff that's been sitting on my desktop, post-it reminders I've had up for 6+ months, papers that are stacked on my desk.  As a creative, its great to get all these awesome ideas in my head and make plans to put to action BUT at some point it's too much.  It's crippling.  I mean, look at this picture.  Seriously.  The clutter is distracting me from getting my real work done.  It's paralyzing me.  There are so many ideas, so much to do, that I look at my desk and don't know where to start.  Do any of you feel this way?

 

So I'm spending a few days reviewing my notes and deciding if they're actionable and worth looking into.  Do they fit into the goals I have set this year?  If not, I'm either purging them or jotting the ideas down on my Trello To-Do list for a future look down the road.

Along these same lines, I'm purging a lot of stuff from my Desktop.  Look at this.  It's embarrassing!  How can I get anything done?  And guess how many browser windows I have open?  Any guesses?  I have 13 open.  About half are personal things - parenting articles, vacation references and ticket outlets.  The other half are work pages - tutorials, reference articles, SEO, retail, my blog, this blog, and not one but TWO online courses.  It's too much.  So anything that isn't related to my to-do list for the week or the near future or not related to my 2017 goals, I am closing or bookmarking for later.

 

This goes for everything on my Desktop, too, including emails.  I have 329 unread emails, bookmarked to read later.  I'm stuck in the minutiae.  Too much distracting me from getting my work done.  I have vowed not to buy another online course until I've gotten through the three I bought last year.

So join me in clearing out your work space!  Set yourself free so you can get your paying work done and stick to a schedule that will propel you forward, not paralyze you!  I'd love to hear your de-cluttering story so feel free to tag #acreativesjourney.

Now for this weeks' scoreboard:

  1. How was I brave this week:  I set up a meeting with a podcaster who wants to collaborate with me.  ME?!  I automatically think, what the hell do I have to contribute or say?  But then I stopped those voices because I knew it was mostly fear talking, and I set up the appointment.
  2. How was I kind this week: We are helping take care of a friend's daughter who's Uncle passed away.  The struggle is real when having to skip out of down to meet with family and attend a funeral when your spouse works long hours or is traveling.  Believe me, I've been there.
  3. How did I fail this week:  How did I fail?  Hmmm, I don't think I was brave enough or honestly worked enough this week to fail.  The kids had no school Wednesday so we went skiing, then Isaac was sick Thursday and today.  So I guess my fail was not setting aside enough hours to actually work.  This week was a crapshoot for me.

What about you?

A Creative's Journey : Week 2

Here it is, late January and I'm just now solidifying my 2017 goals.  I vowed last year that I would get on top of this earlier this year, like in late fall, to get a jump on 2017 yet here I am again.  Anyone else with me?  Do you set goals for yourself and your business?

Portra 800

Portra 800

I'm kinda embarrassed to tell you that last year was the first year I was really intentional with setting goals.  LAST YEAR.  And I've been in business for 8 years.  Ouch.  I learned a few things about myself in the process.

1.  Writing a goal down and telling someone about it had me 100% invested in reaching it.  It became real.  It became believable.
2.  I learned that goals have to be specific and measureable.  The goals I had that weren't, took too long to reach, or didn't get met at all.
3.  Concentrate on quality, not quantity.  Having 20 big goals became overwhelming vs. having 3 well-thought-out goals.
4.  Review your goals throughout the year!  I put my goals in my work journal and referred to them often last year.  This helped me so much.  It helped me stay focused instead of distracted (most of the time).
5.  It's okay to tweak your goals!  Maybe something is really working and maybe your experiencing more road blocks with another goal.  What is setting you back?  Lack of time?  Finding the right contact?  Fear?  Procrastination?  Overwhelmed?  Maybe this goal needs to be broken down into baby goals spread out through the year.  A few of my goals that didn't get much attention I am revising and breaking down for this year.  I am also eliminating some because it's not a priority for me.

So how do you get started if you're a procrastinator like me?

Jack Canfield, author of "The Success Principles" says on page 79 that that goal setting has to be SMART, otherwise it's just a want, a wish, a good idea.  A goal has to be:

Specific
Measureable
Achievable
Realistic
Timebound

Wait, what? Do you feel like I'm kinda backing you into a corner? I know the feeling!  But by making your goal all these things, you spend time to REALLY think about it and you become invested in it, and you KNOW you can achieve it. Try it out!

If you want to do some extra credit, think about where you want to be in your business in 3-5 years.  Dream big!  What would you be on cloud 9 about?  Think it, see it, smell it, and feel it then write down all the specifics.  Then put it up on your mirror or somewhere you'll see it every day.  I'm in the process of doing a more intense version of this for 2020 with my mastermind group and it's been a really fun excercise!

And now onto my progress this week:

Scoreboard Week 2:

  1. How was I brave this week:  I submitted a proposal to teach some photography classes at a conference - eek!
  2. How was I kind this week:  I teamed up with a room parent in Isaac's class to pull together their class art piece for the school's auction when another mom was unable to help.  We both feel pulled in about 50 directions but teaming up together and getting it done feels great.
  3. How did I fail this week: I did not work out ONCE.  Not once.  I tweaked my back last Friday and it was sore all weekend so I didn't go skiing, but the rest of the week was a crapshoot.  Now I feel like a big lazy slob.  I rely on running for mental health as much as physical health!

If this post has helped you come up with some SMART goals I'd love to hear them!  Tag your images and stories #acreativesjourney so I can share your story.

XX

Kim

A Creative's Journey : Week 1

Currently I've been thinking a lot about where I am in my business and in life.  I've had many successes and some disappointments, who hasn't?  I feel I fit into the mold of "a struggling artist" who is torn between spending most of my time on family and life, or diving head-first into building a business that is highly successful (and I admit "well-known" would stroke the ego).

But the thing is, through last Fall (and continually) I keep playing the comparison game.  Comparing my work and my business with those I look up to and am surrounded by.  And while sometimes it's motivating, many times it leaves me feeling like crap.  And I play the guessing game - "Is my work not good enough?", "Don't people like me?", "What am I doing wrong?", "Am I too expensive?", "Maybe this isn't my thing."  I'm thinking the very things Brené Brown tells us to dismiss.  Who has been here?  It's TERRIBLE.  My friend Sandra Coan once told me, "If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will."  Good point. 

So then I read Simon Sinek's quotes or pick up Brené's books again (and get off IG and FB) to reset my psyche and get going.  And I've recently realized that all this reading and massaging my ego doesn't do shit for my business.  So am I gonna get off my duff with the mindset that I am as worthy of success as anyone else out there and take action?  Yes, I am.

"You are 100% responsible for yourself." - The Success Pinciples by Harvey Karp

This Fall I attended the Click Away conference here in Seattle.  Did you go?  If you haven't bought tickets for this conference, I highly suggest you do.  (The next Click Away will be in Amelia Island, FL in 2018!)  It's chalk full of great speakers, workshops, on-hands training, and my favorite thing, networking.  At the conference I listened to Yan Palmer and many other amazing photographers (including Sandra) speak.  Yan talked about some of the same things above and also things that hold you back, like guilt.  She set a goal for us about living our lives and running our businesses with intention and courage, and doing it guilt-free.  Don't apologize.  You are worthy.  It kinda blew my mind because I always feel some kind of guilt.  Guilt for being away from family if I'm trying to run the business, or guilt walking that I put off that blog post AGAIN and walked an extra 2 miles playing Pokémon Go with Isaac.  Seriously, feeling guilty has me ALWAYS questioning myself.  And it's paralyzing.  So I'm going to try and take Yan's advice this year.

Do you feel the same way?  If so, I encourage you to fumble along #acreativesjourney with me as we navigate this thing called running a business SUCCESSFULLY (#thestruggleisreal ).  I am going to write weekly blog posts here on Little Bellows holding myself accountable, in hopes that it'll help you too.

After all, Simon Sinek says, "Success always takes help.  Failure is done alone."

I was so inspired by an article I read on the Huffington Post a while back.  It's geared towards parenting but I think it carries over to our creative/business journey just as much.  If you haven't read Megan Conley's post, "We Ask Our Kids The Same 3 Questions Every Night," I highly recommend you do.  I'm going to ask myself (and you) these same three questions every week:

  1. How were you brave this week? Courage (in life and business) is often made up of many small acts.
  2. How were you kind this week? Kindness is leading with understanding and becoming stronger for others.  Are you building other photographers up that could use a lift, or offering up some advice they are fumbling through but that you are an expert at?  Or do you have a personal act of kindness that you'd like to share?
  3. How did you fail this week? This is straight from the Huff article - "Life is full of defeat — self-inflicted and otherwise — but that doesn’t mean we are defeated! It just means that we are trying and there is something beautiful in that, isn’t there?"  This personally is a big one for me.  I'm afraid to fail.  But this year, I'm breaking the cycle.

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

So here goes.  Here are my answers for the week.

Scoreboard Week 1:

  1. How was I brave this week: I put this post out into the world!  I kid you not, this is scary for me, talking about my struggles with you. 
  2. How was I kind this week: My niece, who is pregnant, found out that her unborn baby has a heart condition.  They had to fly to Boston for an experimental surgery to try and help the baby.  We are watching her dog and I started a Go Fund Me page to help them.
  3. How did I fail this week: I keep putting other things off such as looking at my 2016 numbers and setting new sales goals and I count that as a fail.  I also did not get accepted to Stocksy and although that's a fail, I'll try applying again!

So here's to all of us fantastic, amazing, talented, fearful, guilty creatives that are going to make a difference in our lives and/or businesses this year!  I hope you are with me!  Be sure to tag your images and stories relating to your journey by using the hashtag #acreativesjourney or commenting below so I can find you.  I'll be featuring your stories/struggles/and wins along with mine.

 

Three Things I Wish I'd Know When I Started My Bussines

I’ve been in business since 2000.  That means I’ve been doing this photography thing for 16 (almost 17) years!  

And the truth is, most of that time I had no idea what I was doing.  I was just making it up as I went along.  

Because I was just making it up as I went along, it comes as no surprise that I made many mistakes.  

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself these three things.

Do not compare yourself to others. 

This is with out a doubt the most important thing I’ve learned over the past 16 years. Comparing yourself to others is bad for your soul and is absolutely toxic for your business. 

To be successful at what you do, to love your job and to be able to make money doing it, you need to be true to yourself and your creative vision.  You need to trust what it is that you do and you need to focus on that.  Doing so will keep you inspired, but it will also help you fine tuned your unique brand. And creating a unique brand will enable you to stand out in any market, no matter how saturated.

So don’t compare yourself to others.  Instead, figure out what it is that you do, and focus on that.  You’ll be happier and your business will be stronger!


Grow your list.

When I first started my business, we didn’t have social media (yes, I’m that old).  And so when Facebook came along I, like many other photographers, became obsessed with it. I could post one image on my Facebook page and get hundreds of likes and in doing so, reach thousands of potential clients. So I worked really hard on growing my following.

Then Facebook changed it’s algorithms, and suddenly it didn’t matter how many followers I had, none of them were seeing my posts anyway.

What I know now is that while social media marketing is important, the number of Facebook likes or Instagram followers I have is not where I should focus my attention.  Now I know that the best thing I can do for my business is to grow my email list.  The size of my list, not the number of followers I have, is what is important to me.

Here’s why.

I don’t own Instagram.  I don’t own Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or Pinterest.  But I do own my email list.  So I know if I really want to reach my people, I can send them an email and get the important messages out.  And my clients will decide whether or not they want to see my content, not the Social Media overlords!

Grow your list!  It’s the best thing you can do for your business!

Take care of the talent.

A couple of years ago I had a light-bulb moment while talking on the phone with Brian Greenberg, the owner of Richard Photo Lab.

Brian and I were talking about my business… my workflows, marketing plans, that sort of thing, and then out of nowhere he asked “What are you doing to take care of the talent?”  At first I didn’t know what he meant and I had no idea how to answer.  He went on to say that when you are running a photography business, all of the nuts and bolts business stuff is important, but if you ignore the artist in you, neglect the talent, the business doesn’t matter, because you will not be able to sustain it.  When you are your business, you have to take care of yourself.  You have to nourish your creativity so that you have something to give.  

This is the best business advice I’ve ever received.

Take care of the talent.  Allow yourself downtime.  Create just for you. Or create nothing at all!  What ever you need to refuel.  Take care of yourself so that when you are at work you have something to give.

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Remember, as business owners we get to make the rules.  We write our own job descriptions every day.  So write good ones!  Be smart about your business so that you can create a career and a life that you love!

Five Steps To a Great Business Year!

In the business world, January is often looked upon with dread.  It’s after the busy fall season, after the Holiday rush and many find the slowness to be stressful. 

I say January is a great time to sit down and make plans for the upcoming year! Take advantage of the slowness to get yourself organized and ready.

 Here are five things I do every January to set the tone for the entire year!

  1. Set a goal.  I’m a HUGE believer in the power of setting goals.  The bigger, the better.  Decide what you want.  Make it big.  And then work toward that goal all year long.  Setting a big goal for yourself can help move your business in amazing directions!
  2. Reflect.  Look back over last year.  Make yourself a list.  What went well?  What are you proud of? What would you like to continue with in the new year?  What would you like to tweak? Take the time to take pride in your accomplishments and add your list of “tweaks” to your goals for the year!  Continue doing what works, and change what needs improvement. It’s a good practice in business and in life!
  3. Look at your numbers!  This one can feel scary but it’s SO important!  Go through your old contracts.  What are your clients buying?  What products are the most profitable.  Is there anything that is not selling?  Is there anything your clients LOVE that you could sell more of?  Now is the time to identify those things in your business.  Let go of the things that are not profitable and boost your offerings of the things your clients love.  know your C.O.Gs (cost of goods) and start your year off with your most profitable foot forward. 
  4. Purge.  This is a big one for me.  By the end of the busy season, my office looks like it’s been hit by a hurricane.  Take advantage of the slowness of January to clean and purge.  It feels so good to start the year off organized!  
  5. Educate.  Look back at your goal for the New Year?  What is it?  Do you want more clients?  Do you want to earn six figures?  Do you want to master social media?  Whatever it is, find a workshop or a class or a book that is going to help you get there.  Education should always be a part of your business plan! 

If strengthening you business is part of your New’s Years goal, be sure to check out  Lady Boss Workshops!  This awesome online workshop will be launching in the Spring but we’ll be sending out solid, actionable business advice all year long to our newsletter list.  So sign up today!

Happy New Year!  Lets make 2017 great!

Sandra Coan, Five Steps to a Great Business Year

Collodion Wet Plate Photography by Andrew Welsh

Wet plate photography has long fascinated me, so when I saw Andrew talking about his foray into the field of wet plate photography on Facebook, I wanted him to share it with you.  Thanks, Andrew, for sharing your journey and your gorgeous photos!

In 2011, the renewed excitement of developing my first roll of film since the 90’s, along with being accustomed to instant results, led me to try instant peel apart film (FP100c and FP3000b). Amazed by the quality, yet unsatisfied with the cropping that most medium-format film cameras foist upon those glorious prints, I soon moved to large format photography (4x5), partly because 4x5 shooting was different, exciting and new to me, and partly because I could fill the frame on those instant prints. The fact that practically no wedding and high school senior portrait photographers were shooting 4x5 was also appealing.

Simultaneously, I began to see modern tintype wet plate portraiture in various large format photography forums, and was very intrigued. It was the intersection of “instant” photography (since wet plates must be poured, shot, and developed within 15 minutes), large format photography, and photographic history that captured my imagination. I had vowed to learn wet plate photography “when I grow up.” 

To date, all of my photography except for the basics in high school photo class, was self-taught. And while I was absolutely confident I could learn collodion wet plate photography on my own, I knew I’d also end up wasting a lot of time and money working through all the mistakes. It is a process loaded with opportunity for things to go wrong, and without guidance, I’d fumble through most of it. I soon concluded that taking a workshop instead would be most efficient. The opportunity for me came this year (2016) when I had a peculiar wedding schedule with only one wedding in June. 

I learned that within the collodion wet plate community, two workshops worldwide were considered the absolute best- John Coffer and Scully & Osterman. And how fortuitous that both of these workshops were right here in Rochester NY. I chose John Coffer’s June 2016 “all-inclusive” workshop, as it represented the best value for what I wanted to learn (the complete process through to print, and shooting in the field versus a studio). I later learned that Scully and Osterman themselves learned the craft from John Coffer. After a weekend of intensive training, I was on the path to attaining my goal of creating collodion wet plate images almost anywhere, and incorporate it into my primary photography business.

Determined to meet this goal, I quickly gathered all the needed components and built a crude dark box. I practiced making plates on my dogs, my children, friends and family. I practiced carrying my portable darkroom around, setting it up, shooting, then tearing it down. I learned how long it would take (about 15 minutes setup and 10 to take down) and to simulate what it would be like in a compressed time frame like a wedding or portrait session. All this practice was leading up to bringing this “live” to client sessions.

By late September, I had the ideal senior portrait client—a family I’d worked with twice before for senior portraits, whose favorite family photo on their wall was of them dressed in old west clothing in a sepia-toned print. I arrived to the session early and set up my portable darkroom, minimizing the time impact on the client, and kicking off the portrait session with a tintype:

Later that week, I had an opportunity to try one at a wedding as 2nd shooter. The primary photographer approved of the plan and while she did the family portraits, I set up my darkroom and only imposed on the bride and groom for the 1-2 minutes to setup and take the photo, with the expectation that this was an experiment. While I did not have any major flaws in the wet plate process itself, I had done poorly at an important part—posing them in an interesting way. The novelty of the process did intrigue them, but they were not my clients. This was about the safest wedding for me to fall short.


Two weeks later, the stars aligned to try a wet plate with my own clients. I kept bringing my kit along “just in case” the opportunity arose. I had a wedding with 2 hours to shoot portraits, and a groom who had fallen out of a deer hunting tree stand a few weeks prior, and was wearing a back brace, and not overly mobile to do a lot of portraits. What better way to have a subject who wanted to and practically had to sit still! 

The very next week, my next bride & groom had 3 hours for portraits! I knew from our engagement session they had a willingness and patience to try new things, so while they relaxed on the party bus, I set up my kit once more, this time at a park, and pulled off my best wet plate to date:

The excitement from them as I fixed the plate made it worth all the effort. And these clients now have a unique piece of archival artwork that will outlast their lives, is rarely performed at a wedding, and a fun experience in creating it and witnessing it coming to fruition. This was only possible with the determination to attain this goal, and the willingness to repeatedly practice all the steps on the path to mastering the technique. If you gain anything from this article, may you go and try that new thing you’ve always wanted to, and know that sticking to it through the challenges, will you attain your goal.

See more of Andrew's work here:

website | facebook 

New Year, New Beginnings

There is something so magical about January 1st.  In theory, it’s just another date on the calendar.  But to me, it’s signifies a new beginning.  A fresh start.

I like to treat each calendar year as an opportunity to try something new. Challenging myself to try something new helps me push myself and my business.  

Sometime it’s small things… like raising my prices a little or deciding to take a workshop on something I’ve been trying to learn. And sometimes it’s big things… like deciding to teach my own workshop or pursuing publications and speaking engagements.  

Whatever it is, I set my intention and the start working toward my goal on January 1st.

Last year my goal was to speak at a professional conference.  

In October, I was given to opportunity to speak at Click Away, but that intention was set in January and I started working on what I wanted to say long before I was even asked to speak.

That is the power of setting your intention.  That is the magic of the New Year.

So my question to you is this...  What are your goals for the New Year?  

What new project will you begin?

Will you learn something new?

Raise your prices?

Or maybe start the business you’ve been dreaming about for years?


Whatever it is.  Set your intention.  Take the risk.  And let the New Year be your new beginning.

Sandra Coan, Studio Film Photography

P.S.  If starting or building your business is in your New Years plans, be sure to check out my exciting new project!  Visit www.ladybossworkshops.com for more information.