Tag Archive: Inspiration

Happy New Year! 20 Ways to Reignite your Passion for Photography

I love a Brand-Spanking New Year! Every year, I get grateful for what was and get excited for what is to come!  I do a Tony Robbins exercise called The Power of Momentum, and I can’t recommend his books, seminars, and coaching highly enough – to rediscover your core self, to push past your comfort zone and to live life to it’s fullest!  I’ve taken my favorite bits from the Tony Robbins technology, mixed in some ideas from the fun photography resource Photojojo, and added my heart and soul to come up with this list:

20 Ways to Reignite your Passion for Photography

Get Excited
1. What did you love about photography in 2009?
What were the magical and extraordinary moments?  What did you accomplish?  What are some of the things you would want to duplicate in 2010?
2.  What was challenging about photography in 2009?
What did you learn by going through these experiences, and why were they incredibly valuable?  What would you need to do/be/have/change in order to overcome these challenges?
3. Separate the wheat from the chaff
. Let’s get all your best A+ photos together all in one place.  Only select the best of the best – the ones that make you feel good, the ones that remind you of a wonderful time, the ones that you’re technically proud of.  Put these all in one folder called “2009 5-Star Photos” so you know where to go when you need them 🙂

Show Off
You’ve got a ton of amazing photos now in that 5-Star folder. Get them off your computer and show them off properly!
4. Put more photos up
. Surround yourself with inspiration!  Frame and hang your favorite images, photos from your favorite photographers, pics of your family and friends. Build yourself an inspiration board or a gallery wall.
5. Make a book
. I love books! and making books online is now crazy easy because of DIY publishers like Blurb, Lulu, and MyPublisher. Make a book of your favorite subject, for yourself and to share as gifts.
6. Enter some contests
. It’s great to know your mom loves your pics, and now let’s step it up and share it with your fellow pro’s!  Check Photocompete to see what contests are running at any given time.

Shake it Up
7. Use a new technique
. Experiment with something you’ve never done and always wanted to try, whether it’s pinhole photography or shooting lomography. Or try some new effects like cross-processing or tilt-shift.
8. Shake up your process
. Shoot in new locations, shoot different subject matter, shoot from a different angle, shoot faster (or slower), shoot with the heart more (or from the head), or from the hip (without peeking at the viewfinder).
9. Get new GEAR
! Yay! Nothing like a new toy! Rent that fancy new lens you’ve had your eye on, or borrow a friend’s camera and try it out. If you’ve been shooting only in digital, play with film for a while (and vice versa).

Spread The Love
Use your talent to do some good 🙂
10. Volunteer your talents
. I think a great photo of a child being joyous is the best gift to build their self-esteem.  Photograph kids and families that are less fortunate.  Volunteer to document an event for a local charity.  Donate to Operation Smile.  Go on a mission – photos significantly help fundraising efforts for charities such as Hearts with Hope.
11. Teach somebody what you know
. Pass on your knowledge, experience and skill. Go speak at a local school, teach a friend’s kid how to use a camera, or help out a total newbie.
12. Donate your old gear
. If you’re not using it anymore, give your old camera to somebody who needs it, like kids, conservationists or your favorite charity.

Challenge Yourself
If you want to get better at photography, you have to keep practicing and pushing yourself. Just like everything else in life.
13. Go on assignment
. Assign yourself photography tasks to complete and make them fun! Such as: take an afternoon and shoot the meaningful details in your home, hire a model and do some fine art nudes, shoot a series of self-portraits, start with a title like “Dirty” and do a photo-essay, take your favorite piece of music and create 10 shots that tell the story of that song, go on a photo-safari and see where it takes you!  
14. Do something difficult
. Practice photographing subjects that don’t come easily to you, like still life’s, street scenes, or people you don’t know.  It gets easier 🙂
15. Read your manual
.  If you’re an emotional shooter like me (and not technically oriented) – review and perfect a small section of your camera manual every week until you know your gear inside and out.

Begin! a Project
The shiny new year just begs for beginnings. Start something up, be it year-long, month-long, or just for a day.
16. Start a blog or Flickr page
.  There’s so much joy in sharing with others.  It’s wonderful to create or join a community to share your love of photography and how you see the world… Your photography is a gift – don’t keep it to yourself 🙂 Check out WordPress and Flickr.
17. Begin your business!
You know you want to.  And you can do it.  Believe in yourself and just begin.  It’s time to start charging for your work – do some research, talk to as many pro’s as you can, set up a price list and have fun with it!  Don’t wait for the planets to be aligned – start now – you will always continue to change and evolve so don’t wait to be “ready.”
18. Set up an Etsy Shop.
It’s so fulfilling to set up shop and sell your work, and it’s simple and easy with Etsy.  Sell simple prints or something unique, like Polaroid-transfers, encaustic paintings, or storyboards.
19. Create a new tradition
. Do something new this year, like taking the same portrait once a year, or shooting a photo-a-day, or having your picture taken for once 🙂
20. Bring your camera everywhere you go. Even if it’s just a toy camera, make sure you’ve got it at all times. You never know when the perfect shot will present itself.

Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you a life lived with Passion!



Photographer FAQ’s, No. 1

Inspiration and enthusiasm for photography is abound!… and it seems that my email has recently exploded with questions and requests for mentoring. What I do and how I do it isn’t necessarily for everyone (and shouldn’t be!), but I am more than happy to do what I can to inspire you, tell you all I’ve learned, and help you live your dream… whether that’s becoming a “professional” photographer (and all that entails!) or simply nurturing your love of photography.  For all of my readers who asked, Yes!.. I am planning a workshop in early January for 2-3 days – details coming soon – and yes, I do also offer mentoring one-on-one over the phone or in person.  You can contact me personally for details – I can’t wait to meet you!

Here’s my first installment of FAQ’s… I hope you find the information helpful and inspiring!

Mac asked:
“I’m curious, in your indoor shots what lights (if any) do you use?”

All interior shots for family is natural light only.  Rembrandt had it nailed – I love the single light source of an open window… so when I first arrive at the client’s home, I walk around the whole house hunting for the best light.  I also try to bump up the light as much as possible – here’s how:

  1. It’s no secret that I love shooting in bedrooms and doing my Bed Portraits, so bedrooms are my first choice and there is usually great light in there.
  2. I almost always shoot with my aperture wide-open.
  3. I keep my ISO as pure as possible – usually max at 400 or 640.
  4. I shoot RAW, so I have more leeway in post.
  5. I open every single window, door, etc. and raise every shade.
  6. White sheets on the bed and white clothing on the kids really helps 😉
  7. If I need to, I will enhance exposure in Lightroom, and sometimes will reduce noise in LR too, if that’s an issue.

For boudoir shoots in hotel rooms, I do all of the above, and I also have an assistant holding a small handheld video light.

Dana asked:
I am just starting out as a photographer.  What’s the next step?  I feel there are so many things I need to do and am working to build the capital I need for equipment, but I think I’m in a lull.  What inspired you when you first started? Any books, workshops, places to visit, etc. You’re truly an inspiration and I’d love to learn from you, even if it’s over the net!  BTW – I think it’s time for a Christa Meola workshop!

I can relate to how you’re feeling right now, and I think you’re making smart choices and contemplating all the right things.  I actually started shooting when I was a kid, so my inspiration was that wonderful childhood enthusiasm for discovering how I saw the world and what it meant to me.  When I first started as a professional, I geeked out a ton on every photographer’s book and website I could find.  As mentioned above, I actually am planning a workshop in early January for 2-3 days – details coming soon – and currently offer mentoring one-on-one over the phone and in person.  In the meantime, here are my best suggestions for you:

  1. First, don’t spend money on equipment – you’re great with what you’ve got, invest elsewhere first.  I may be the only photographer who’d recommend this… since most have the best equipment, several pricey lenses, and feel that’s the #1 priority.  I am the complete opposite.  The #1 priority is developing your eye and skill, and you can be a phenomenal shooter with a Rebel and one lens.  I did it for the first 4 years of my business – shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
  2. Stay inspired!  There is tons of free inspiration on the web – find your favorite shooters and follow them.  Go to the library and look at your favorite photog books… just a few of my favorites are Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve Meisel, Irving Penn… Strengthen your attraction to what works, looks good, and is technically sound.
  3. Create your own projects!  What is your dream shoot?  And then go set it up for yourself – hire models, get props, hit the streets, or photograph your neighbor… do whatever you can to make sure you’re shooting at least a few times a week and building a body of work that is what you want to be hired for.  For example, I started the Boot Black project on my own just for fun and to get some grit amongst all my happy loving family shoots.
  4. Take inventory of what your strengths are, and focus on those!   Build on your strengths and lean on them… whether it’s your charming personality, amazing composition skills, etc…
  5. If you haven’t done so already, start the business!  Set up a blogsite and begin!  It’s time 🙂

Ashleigh asked:
How many pictures do you usually take during a portrait session?  and then how many do you usually deliver to your client?

Everyone is different and has their own rhythm of shooting… It’s a good idea to play around to see what works for you.  I tend to shoot a lot less than most digital photographers.  Also, how much I shoot depends upon the number of people I’m shooting (if it’s just one person or a family of 5, etc.) and how many locations we’re shooting.  Having said that, I usually shoot about 200-240 images and show about 70-80 (so a shooting ratio of about 1 in 3)… That’s for about an hour and half of shooting.  A photo party client gets 45 min’s / one location, so it’s usually 150 images taken, and 50 shown.  If there is a 2nd location and a large family, it’s more like 450 images, and about 120 shown. I try to edit down as much as possible.  For boudoir portraits, I shoot a ton more – because girls need to warm up and all 😉   So it’s more like 550 images and 150 shown.

These are numbers for “shots taken” and “images shown to client.”  As far as order and delivery, 99% of clients buy the whole disc of all images, put 24 to 40 pics in albums, and order an average of 16 enlargements and prints 🙂  and I blog about 7 to 15.

Thanks again for all of your questions!  I truly enjoy sharing my love for photography and geeking out with other photographers – so give me a holler with whatever’s on your mind 🙂

Happy shooting!



Recipe for Happiness

Photo:  “Her Kiss” – by Unknow. Inspiration is everywhere!… While I was at Rose Pistola in San Francisco about a week or so ago, enjoying a delicious dinner, great company and amazing live jazz… I walked by a photo near the bar that stopped me in my tracks.  I stood there taking it in…  a grainy black and white print of the back of a couple walking down a cobbled street at night, and boy did it tell a story!  The man and woman were both dressed up, obviously on the way home after hours, and the way they embraced spoke volumes and represents everything I love about photography and life!

Our waitress wrote the name of the photographer, Jerry Stoll, on the back of a comment card, but I have yet to find that image anywhere… I’ll keep searching.  And speaking of the comment card, on the front was a handwritten poem by City Lights Booksellers co-founder Laurence Ferlinghetti.  Once again I was moved, and this time I can let it speak for itself…  The photo above is the closest thing I can find to the one I saw in SF that night – enjoy and be inspired 🙂


One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand café in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups

One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you

One fine day