To Hire or Not To Hire…….


Happy April to everyone.

It has been an unacceptable amount of time since my last blog post.  I have had several life events that left me stranded in my work flow so without apology I am just going to pick up with this post.

Today’s topic is To Hire or Not To Hire… that is the question.   On both sides of the table when addressing photography the view point is not always the same between the client and the photographer.  No matter how clearly you write your contract and review the details of the deal.

There are several points I am going to touch on and I will leave an open invitation to have private feedback from my readers with questions or thoughts so don’t be shy.

I’ve met and mentored a number of photographers who are gifted in their craft and really want to break out into the “Professional Photographer” world.  With all this excitement of sharing their talent comes the big word “Value”.  Value is a mystery because the image maker values their creations beyond comprehension, especially if they touch on that one “WOW” image.  With that emotional attachment to that “wow” image, comes the desire to have the client love it as much as they do.  They would love the client to purchase it, have it printed in beautiful canvas wraps to hang in their homes and ultimately have the phone ring with friends and family who want to experience the moments and have these art pieces of their own.   With this Value, comes the cost to produce, the obvious costs of purchasing the tools to create your craft, Camera’s, Lenses, Flashes, Software etc., as a business owner there are licensing and insurance and let’s not forget the cost to travel, including cars and expenses.  There is the additional costs if you bring on a second or third shooter to help capture, because these photographers are not free and that doesn’t even start the clock ticking with the amount of time dedicated to the job, from capture to canvas I like to say.  It is not unusual to have post production time triple the amount of time for capture so to better illustrate, a portrait session takes 1.5 hours to travel and capture, it is not unreasonable to expect 4.5 hours to edit and prepare for the reveal, so the hours invested by the photographer is already at 6 hours, this does not count any pre-contract consultations or post publishing appointments for orders, it’s just the time it takes to “Make the shot”.  Now we can talk about the investment.  If a photographer offers to take this gig of a simple portrait session, the client see’s about an hour of the photographer during capture; the photographer is vested at 6 hours of time.    If the photographer only charges $100 for this session, just the cost of the time alone, not including anything else, that photographer looking like they are making $16/hour, but wait, they are NOT making $16/hour.  They have other costs of doing business, and if they have on-line hosting subscriptions those services are not free so the price of that gets added to the cost of doing business.  If the photographer just chooses to shoot and burn the images to a cd and give them away to the client to go print or save, the dream of ‘breaking into the business’ is “BROKE”   Here lies the question To Hire or Not To Hire…  If the client wants pictures on a disc and have no plan or desire to order any prints from the maker, perhaps hiring the friend with a camera is the answer.  The friend will be flattered that they got to take the pictures and seriously they don’t have the additional professional costs associated with taking the pictures, so it all is a matter of snapshots sharing.

If you want to hire a professional photographer; as the client, you really must understand this is a business deal; this is not Frieda the friend with a camera.  This is the photographer’s business, a means to pay their bills, feed their families and perfect their craft.  Contracts between the client and photographer should be clear and if they are not clear, a clear understanding between both parties is critical to make it work.  As a professional photographer, I have a few hard fast rules.  If I am hired as the photographer or my teams of photographers are hired, we are the ONLY photographers at the event.  This means, Frieda the friend with the camera can come to the event, but she CANNOT pull her camera out of her bag and start taking photographs.  I know, I’ve heard it all many times; but she doesn’t mean harm, she has a nice camera, she is just trying to get some good shots.  But what ends up happening is a disease.  During the excitement of the event and wanting to snap a few pictures she puts the event at risk for unnecessary artifact.   These artifacts are seen in post production by the professional photographers and often seen by the attendees of the events.  You’ve all seen the photograph of the wedding where the bride and groom have just sealed their vows with the kiss and are coming down the aisle and out pops a hand and an iPhone into the aisle taking pictures in the aisle; now being part of the professional photographer’s image.  It is funny for about 10 seconds, and then it clearly becomes rude and inappropriate.  The bride and groom have made a contract with the professional photographer and are paying for professional photographs of their special day, and here this camera phone has just botched one of the most important moments of the day, no turning back, one shot opportunity.

My suggestion to avoid this problem is an understanding between the photographer and the client (the bride and groom) that the wedding is a device free zone; all attendees are told they are not allowed to take photographs or recordings during the event.  It can be shared by the ushers as the guests are seated as a final reminder or clearly printed in the programs for all the guests to see and sometimes a sign near the guest book is a good place to post that reminder.

My goal is not to buzz kill the guests good time and their creative desires, but it is my business to be the story teller and capture the memories for my client(s).   If the client would prefer, they can have other people, friends and guests capture their wedding and share the pictures after the event, it a choice and has been trending over the past few years.   The other problem with having people taking photographs when a hired photography team is in place then takes the ugly turn of post production sales.  It has been proven over and over again that people like a good deal and free is the best deal in town.  So if someone wants a few wedding pictures and they can get them free from the friends or family member who goes to the wedding instead of investing in the professional images, the damage to the photographer is real.

There are a few choices to spearhead this, but always include a clear understanding of the contracts and what is being provided in that contract including restrictions and expectations.  It’s easy to say after the fact, oh that was way too expensive, or I didn’t know the prints and albums were not included. This is where people need to “ask questions” before they sign the contract.

The photographer can make the investment so incredibly expensive to include all the bells and whistles of the event but sometimes that results in just not be hired, or it is just too expensive.

The photographer can make the investment 100% a-la carte with hourly rate for capture usually in the neighborhood of $500/hr; Additional photographers to cover other angles of the event, usually at $1000/photographer.  Agreed amount of finished images on a disc/flash drive for a set price with limited permission for printing usually image size is no greater than 4X6. A complete wedding collection of high resolution files can start at around $8000 just for the files. Additional stops along the day, either for intimate portraits, or getting ready or the reception coverage, again these are valid expenses that some Wedding Collections may include,  but what honestly it becomes the problem when the client doesn’t see the “VALUE” of the collection and some clients start to ask for reduction of cost if they cut out parts of the collection, so, an a la carte program would probably be the best business model to work from.

Finally the world has become a “good enough” environment and the consumer is satisfied with their iPhone photos that they post on social media or thumb thru on their phones and tablets.  I fear that professional photography is becoming a lost art and with that lost art comes the lost appreciation of the art.  I know for me personally it has become a sad transition and ultimately I am losing my passion.  I am not just sharing a windy thought, I have lived this with the past several events I have been hired to capture, so it is not just a single experience but a continuing trend.  I encourage everyone to take a stand and save photography, save image making from being a vapor in the wind, get out and do something to spark your passion and strengthen your craft even if it is just for you.  I fear that my grandchildren will not know what professional photography is beyond the pictures on a hand held device.  I agree it is easier to pull out the phone and snap a picture and what results is the good enough memory, but is it?  The question I propose is this; Is that good enough memory really good enough? Please share with me your thoughts I would love to hear from you, until next time.

Keep seeing the light,


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I’m back – May 2015

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while since I posted and many of you may not know I had an accident last year that resulted in fracturing several vertebrae in my spine.  Ultimately with my broken back I was directed to a neurosurgeon and on Groundhog Day 2015 I underwent surgery.  I am healing and actually seeing some slow and steady progress and have even taken on a few clients.  I am making a few changes to my business model which will including partnering with some very talented photographers to help meet the needs and requests of my clients and also expand the services that Katherine Payne Photography can offer, so this is really exciting news, so stay tuned.  I am thrilled to have Tim Norman on board, he was the Professional Photographer  for the Dog Show and Event division returning to the Mountain States Dog Training Club Trials in May 2nd and 3rd. He captured some awesome shots of many dogs in action as well as their Official Awards Photographs.  I am overwhelmed and emotionally thrilled to hear from some of my clients who are anxious to have me capture their special moments and portraits after my “medical sabbatical”.  I think I will call it a medical sabbatical since all the other titles would sound more like I died or retired, which neither is correct.   So first, thank you all for your continued support, I love sharing my vision and capturing your memories.

This post is answering a difficult question –

This question comes from a person inquiring about my opinion about people who attend events and sell their services or products but don’t work with the event coordinators and pay to have their own official booth or endorsement by the event?  I am going to narrow this question to photography services however it does hold true for many other services including training, grooming, wedding planning and catering but I’m just going to talk photography.

Well this is a little difficult because in some cases where events are held and people a.k.a. photographers pay a fee to rent their space to promote and sell their images and services so it is part of their marketing plan and there are other events where there is no set “official” or “Preferred” photographer(s) and is open to anyone capturing candid photographs.   I have had my booth at events and unfortunately find individuals who don’t go through the process of securing a booth and who walk around and peddle their craft or wares. I’ve see this happen at Bridal and Wedding Shows and even mega pet events and dog shows.  It may not be illegal, but it is unethical.  Now when we talk ethics, some people are concerned about their character and wouldn’t even think to do this, hence they plan and rent the space to market their business.  In the case of photography, I feel if someone is not the “Official Photographer” or hasn’t purchased an advertisement to support their services, then I have very mixed emotions about people being solicited to purchase any pictures from them.  I am passionate about my craft and I love to have people have my images, but I know if I take photographs at an event that I wasn’t hired to be at as the photographer or invested with a booth or endorsement from the event and someone asks me for pictures, I don’t think twice, I get their contact information and give them printable sized copies of the images.  If they wish to have larger, wall prints of my photographs, I am OK with selling the professional finished wall prints, but the initial images and capture is a gift, period.

I’m going to share a few really interesting stories that have happened to me.  Once I was contracted and hired to be the Wedding Photographer for a couple at a beautiful venue.  Shortly before the wedding day while speaking with my clients as I always do to review details, I was told that “Aunt Betty” (not really the name but it will work for this blog post, I’m sorry all the Betty’s out there) was coming to the wedding and she is a professional photographer too, but I was the Official Wedding Photographer and my staff and I were hired to capture their wedding photographs and memories.  Now understand I have absolutely no problem with Aunt Betty or anyone else who aspires and loves photography to bring their cameras to take photographs, I sometimes do too, BUT I am emphatic that the “Guests” of the event who are bringing their devices and gear know who the paid professional photographer is and hopefully respect the decision of the bride and groom in their selection of photographer(s) and refrain from becoming an obstacle that I ultimately have to stumble around or over.  At one wedding I had to re-stage the cutting of the cake because of all the people with their flashes, over-flashing. This is not good ladies and gentlemen and it should never happen.  The paid professional photographer is paid to capture these moments and I don’t know any photographer who shoots weddings that doesn’t make available for the guests the ability to purchase copies of their favorite prints of these special moments.  I have also had weddings where guests step into the aisle of the church or open field when the couple is exchanging their vows or as they are leaving after they have been pronounced “wed” and these guests become a large “door” in my field of vision, wrecking my ability to capture some of the most important moments and pieces of this photographic story which I’ve been personally selected and contracted to capture.  I’ve even had the startling experience from one of my weddings where I was the photographer, that Aunt Betty took her photographs, posted them on an on-line gallery and sold the images to people.  What the heck is that about…..? Really!  Not a hill worth dying on for me but how insulting to the bride and groom.  Yes, Aunt Betty captured some nice images and the bride and groom should enjoy having that collection of images for their forever memories but where do you draw the line?  My wedding contracts specifically state that I am the ONLY photographer.  This is so my assistant(s) and I can do the job we are hired to do.  I ask my brides and grooms to get the word out that I am not the “pit bull” not wanting them to bring their cameras but to respect me and my staff as we are doing the job we have been hired to do.  I welcome people capturing their own personal photographs but know the difference.

I’ve also attended events where the paparazzi are all positioned with their expensive long lens gear capturing lots of images some even wearing their “Official” Business attire with their studio name.  Awesome, I think it’s great to see so many people loving photography and capturing great images.  The issue I have comes when I find out that so many of these people are not just taking photographs because they love capturing pictures, but they are conducting their business and then selling their pictures and images. There is nothing wrong with marketing your business, heck they are much better than I am at this.  It is a little unsettling for me as a Professional Photographer, having a legit business registered with the IRS, reporting and paying taxes to see this explosion of soup to nuts with photographers and individuals.

I guess this all comes down to some Core Values – Integrity, Honesty and Character.  I’ve unfortunately seen where these values get blown out the window when someone sidelines or steps around the plans, or protocols in place.   If I had an opinion, OK, I have an opinion, to anyone who does this or considers doing this I would say simply….”Be Passionate, capture and share your craft but gift it, not charge for it and always be respectful.  Remember, one day, you might be on the other side of this coin.”

When I say don’t charge for it, I am not saying don’t charge for a print of your image, prints cost money and it is reasonable to pass the COST of the print to these interested people but be mindful, they might just become your longtime clients someday.

Keep seeing the light.


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Back to Business….or is Business Back (just a title)

This holiday season hit me with a few strong emotions, some recurring emotions and the absolute sadness that I have watched from many areas in our business and personal worlds. Not just Photography, but throughout every industry. Perhaps this post is sparked by the unknown number of reruns of “You’ve Got Mail” this week sharing the sadness and disappointment of ending dreams. Perhaps it’s the e-mail I received from a small business that is closing their doors because of the economy, regardless of what is being advertised by the powers that be that we are recovering. It has me a bit sad, so I need to really look at a few of these words, starting with Recovery. Recovery is a state of mind, it doesn’t equate to success, and it actually reflects an understanding and acceptance of a new road or direction. These are not easy paths. I’ve watched people who suffer from a multitude of conditions and situations to go thru the recovery process from addiction to grief. We live in a world of “ER”. So what is this world of “ER”? The world of “ER” and frankly New Years is the best time to talk about the ER especially given that next R word, Resolution. I recently listened to a podcast of Andy Stanley, who I listen to frequently and he discussed the world of ER. (See link in the notes below.) It made total sense. The majority of people I know or have met live in the world of ER. They live their lives and drive for the ER: Happier, Thinner, Richer, Younger, Simpler, Better, etc. I too have fell to this world of ER but what I have found more profound is that the world of ER is not something we should aspire to drive toward. How about a reality check of NOW. We will not even address what people are willing to sacrifice for that ER, sometimes it is stability or relationships, and for some it takes their last means to put food on their table for their children. Why wait for the ER? What is going to make you happy NOW? What drives your passion NOW? Tomorrow has no guarantee and last I checked ER doesn’t happen in our TODAY, it is in that “tomorrow” world. On New Years’ Day I launched my 365_2014 Photography Project. This project is designed to inspire ME, and if along the road, it touches a few people, great. I have the personality that I want things perfect and that is such an unreasonable expectation, it seldom hits the target and that ugly ER world comes back to haunt me because I let the ER drive my passion so time slips away and I end up empty. Time has always been an ugly battle, I am not sure if this is because I have fallen short on time management or the unwillingness to make changes to better utilize my time and work flow. Hard to say, time will tell. I am confident that at this point for a few, I have totally lost you, and for one or two of you, you know exactly what I am talking about. In 2014, my plan for the time I have is to feed my passion and spend time strengthening my life. That is a totally loaded response and I am going to just leave it right there with a short and simple suggestion. Live Life, spend time with those who love you and love what you do, and love YOURSELF NOW. Avoid the ER trap, those who love you love you as you are. If you need some recovery, take the steps to move towards it, fill your life with strong positive people who will stand by you during this time, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Here is to a new year free of the ER and full of the Now. Nehemiah 6:3 …..”I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down”……
Keep Seeing The Light.
Love ~ Katherine
Andy Stanley Website:

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Thanksgiving ~ Sharing a note from my journey with Help-Portrait to COSmiles

Hello Everyone,
I have decided to write this blog about one of my journeys. Many have wondered what I have been doing, what is this Help-Portrait thing, or COSmiles? What, are you in dentistry now? Well here is my story to give you a little glimpse into this segment of my life.

Back in 2009 a friend of mine approached me about an idea he had to give back, one day, find someone, take their picture, print it and give it to them. No questions asked, no selling your resume or sharing your experience just simply giving back, giving back to people in need who would not otherwise have the opportunity to have their portrait taken. I created the Denver Help-Portrait Group in 2009. In 2009 the idea of Help-Portrait went viral. We had photographers, professional, aspiring, hobbyist, weekend warriors, gear heads, editors, hair and makeup specialists all coming together to give back. I liked to tell the story that we checked our egos at the door and gave all our guests a “good day”. That year we served at a homeless shelter in Denver that allows these individuals a place to receive their mail, get a shower and every night they close the doors and the community returns to the streets to sleep. We touched a lot of people, we were highlighted on CNN Headline News, and we made the newspaper and nearly every local television station. Help-Portrait was born, we gathered, we found those in need and we took their portrait, we printed their pictures and we gave them to them. That year, we also gave back with hair and makeup. Giving hair cuts to many of the guests who stood in line for hours to get a clean shave and trim. The story that caught our heart was a woman who entered the shelter with her two grown children, having no idea what we were doing, why we were at the shelter. I approached this woman and asked if she was going to have her portrait taken today. This started a conversation that hit hard. This woman had just left Denver Health Medical Center and Hospital where she said goodbye to her husband who just passed away. She was heartbroken and you could see it on her face. We couldn’t change what she just experienced, we didn’t ask the details of her loss, we just knew she needed a pick me up and a “special treat” so I took her to the hair and makeup team and they gave her a makeover. After that time with our dedicated team she and her two grown children came to our photography portrait stations where she was able to have some beautiful images captured of her and her family. Some of the guests reported they were sending the pictures home to family that had not seen them in years. This was a special time, a very special time. I truly felt that no matter how or who we touched that day, the volunteers walked away with so much more, and I was right. I have returned to this shelter a few times and I am remembered as the “picture lady” and for many their stories haven’t changed in now five years. Many are still living on the streets, but they know what Help-Portrait is. Sharing stories, feeling human and having someone care about them even if only for a short time for one day.

After that year, as a group we started planning the next December Help-Portrait day, year two 2010. The overwhelming opinion of the volunteers was to extend our gift to include families with children, because we knew there are too many children and families who are homeless and would be perfect to receive our gift. We searched for locations and communities to serve; we had the blessing of having a downtown church offer to us their facility. What changed from 2009 to 2010 was amazing; we included kids craft stations, a visit with Santa and a hot meal. Our now even stronger volunteer team of professionals, expanded this event to being broadcasted via Voices of Reality Internet TV who joined us with gifts and toys for the children and the magical face painting for our kids by the best tattoo artists in the state of Colorado in my opinion. We reached the battered women, the orphans, the homeless as well as other care organizations that had been created to help people of Denver and Colorado in need. We met a woman who was getting her fresh start after a very difficult life, she was thrilled and was gracious enough to speak to our videographer and is included in our 2010 video. She and her children joined us for one very special day. We had been successfully selected to have our printing done by a local lab at our event that brought their machines and technicians to us. What a great opportunity having the printing at the time of the event, everyone left with not only their Santa pictures but their family portraits. Near the end of the day, we had a gentleman who walked from the homeless shelter that we served the first year, approximately 50 blocks in the cold December weather to come have his portrait taken again. One of my first volunteers and co-organizer took the time to tie his tie and polish him up before his portrait which is second to only one other conversation I had with our then Santa who had a conversation with one of our orphans of Denver, asking this young boy to “come tell Santa what you want for Christmas”, this little man told our Santa, all he wanted was a family. These are just some of the memories that will forever stands out in my heart and memory of that day, we have had an amazing number of volunteers who have come to be part of this one day of giving back in Denver with Denver Help-Portrait.

The third year, we returned to the same church, unfortunately the lab was no longer in business so they couldn’t do our on-slight printing so we created processes to upload images and send volunteers to go pick up the printed prints. We again reached out to the Coloradans in need with families, children, the homeless and the abused. This third year was monumental as we included the hair and makeup professionals of Paul Mitchell Schools, bringing their talent to give a professional touch to our Hair and Makeup Team. This third year was one that gave our core group of volunteers the reason to believe we needed to do more. More than one day a year, there are so many people in need who we can reach and touch with our gifts and talents.

After this third year with the help of a very talented group of gentlemen we created COSmiles, named specifically as CO for Colorado and Smiles because ultimately that is what our goal is to provide. By creating COSmiles, Inc, it allowed us to not only reach out beyond a one day a year event, it allowed us to work in a direction to obtain our 501(c)3 status, which we are actively working on and allowed us to shop for insurance coverage that was reasonably priced since we have no income. Our mission is 100% volunteer supported. We started the search for a new venue for our fourth year of Help-Portrait. This year it would be Help-Portrait Denver Presented by COSmiles, Inc. With the assistance of my church, Flatirons Community Church, I met Gary who represented Open Door Ministries at an “Outside These Walls” information event at Flatirons. From that meeting we created a partnership with ODM to host our fourth year of Help-Portrait Denver, reaching out to all the multiple ministries Open Door supports as well as those groups we have previously invited. Honestly, how can you not extend to individuals in need who have participated previously and experienced and appreciated the gift? Again the single goal of giving back a good day, giving them time for even a short while to not think about all the things in the world and not think about what’s going on outside these walls, our guests have always been so amazing. We also partnered with a Colorado Professional Photography Lab, ProDPI. Words cannot describe the gift this lab has given to COSmiles and the Denver Help-Portrait Event, providing all our professional portraiture for our event. We still printed the Santa photos on site so the guests would leave with a nice memento of the day. We again had the incredible hair and makeup masters of Paul Mitchell come and give back to our guests pampering them with their talents. We had a light snack and food for our guests provided by Skadoodles of Castle Rock who for three years gave their heart and soul to provide the gift of food to our guests as a gift. Now, because we used a professional lab that could not possibly pack up their machines to be on site for printing we returned the following Wednesday to give out those priceless finished prints. The team that joined me was met by people waiting for our arrival, anticipating their pictures. Some groups would not be able to come and pick up their finished prints so we delivered them personally. Now for the fourth year moment that touched me. We had a family that had come the year before, but we didn’t know their story. This year, I found out that this family walked for miles from the facility that had been giving shelter to their family of five to come to us, to get this one day gift of free professional family portraiture. We delivered these prints to the housing site and I was taken back to realize how much this portrait meant to this family to walk literally miles from the interstate to intercity Denver so they could participate.

COSmiles has grown, we have reached out to the communities in Colorado touched by the Wildfires and the Floods, we have given days at Ronald McDonald House giving portraiture to families living in temporary housing as they have very sick children being treated at Children’s Hospital. We have given back with Photography Enrichment Classes for the youth of Open Door Ministries and we are not stopping there.

As President of COSmiles along with our board Secretary, I personally reached out to the organizations to extend invitations to participate and be our guests for our fifth year of Denver Help-Portrait and the second year presented by COSmiles. We have physically extended to thousands of individuals and families. We have delivered flyers and sent flyers and with the assistance of my administrative assistant we have continued to keep the connection and communication alive after having a face to face introduction of our one day in December. December 7th, next Saturday. I have been driving all over delivering more and more flyers as we have had the requests come in and here is where the “pre-event” moment has touched me. Shortly after my fellow board member and I spent the day delivering flyers and making introductions I had more flyers to deliver and I met a woman living on the streets of Denver with her young daughter. I met this woman near where we hold our Help-Portrait event. After leaving the office of one of the communities, I greeted this woman and her daughter. Obviously everything they owned was with them in their knapsack. This little girl is probably around 4 years old, she was playing, I said hello and asked what she was doing. She told me she was playing. She had a stick about 14 inches long, she was managing it in a way that made me ask what are you playing with, she responded to me that it was her doll. Now, this was a stick, this little girl didn’t have a doll. It didn’t bother her, she was OK with this stick being her “baby” she cradled it, she talked to it and she touched me. I left this meeting where I went and found the doll you see in this banner. I purchased this doll at a second hand store, I knew it may be impossible for me to find this mother and daughter again, but I had to try. So I went back near where we had met and I found this woman and her daughter. I am sure I made them very nervous since here is this stranger, a woman coming back to them. I asked the woman if I could give her daughter a gift, as I would have never even considered giving something to a child without first having permission from the Mom, times were tough, they were living on the streets of Denver and I cannot fix their situation. I explained that I had found this Doll and wanted to give it to her daughter, she started to well up with tears and I told her “no, please don’t, this is just a gift, a gift for your little girl, be happy”. She told me it was OK. So here is the moment. I remember this story and I have repeated it before. When I was a little girl, my father, who has been passed away for more than 10 years now, used to tell me a story when I was a little girl. The story went like this… You know I was walking down the street and I came across this doll store, where I met this doll who asked if I knew or had a little girl that I could give her a home. My dad would tell me he told this doll, well Yes, I do and here began the relationship of being introduced to this new doll, my new doll. This is the story I have said many times in my life, a story that my father has left as a legacy to me. This is the story I shared with this little girl. I asked her if she could give this doll a home and she quickly answered YES. I walked to my car and brought out this blonde hair doll with a beautiful green dress. This little girl took this doll, immediately started to cuddle this doll and words cannot describe the emotion that I experienced. I didn’t know if the mother was going to be offended or even consider the gift an option but she did. The story doesn’t end there. This past week has been extremely stressful for me, with the big event quickly closing in on me and having a request for even more flyers be delivered. I set out to deliver the requested flyers to two more of the locations. When I came out of one of the organizations after dropping off the flyers I am walking back to my car and on the steps of this church sat this woman, with a young daughter and yes the blonde haired doll. The little girl immediately recognized me as the “woman who gave her, her baby”, the doll is a little dirty, heck she’s been living on the street but she is loved, so very much loved by this little girl. What started as a day that was really very stressful and almost to the point of breaking brought me to tears to realize, “THIS is what this is about, and this is COSmiles, giving smiles to Coloradans in need”. I don’t know if I will see this woman and her daughter again, but I have a feeling we may well see her next Saturday as we give back our day of portraiture. This little girl and this blonde doll in the green dress, the doll looking for a home in a season of giving living on the streets of Denver with one little girl who loves her deeply.

The organization of pulling off such an event in a city the size of Denver, Colorado is difficult without adding the extensive invitations throughout the city. We had a request for 850 flyers for just one of the organizations, we could easily see 3000 individuals come and be part of our event. We are set to Give Colorado Back, to give Smiles; COSmiles with a generous location, 75 committed volunteers and the priceless partnerships and dedication of a few great men. COSmiles, Inc. born from Help-Portrait with one day of giving back transformed into COSmiles, Every Day to Give Back.

So there you have it. Sharing a journey and Yes I am thankful and Blessed.


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End of May and things have sure changed……Cat’s Pajamas


End of May and things have sure changed……

I find myself with split emotions from soup to nuts and too many topics to start rambling on. Perhaps that is the sign that I should refrain from writing today, huh, not today, today I write.

We have had so much dramatic weather throughout our country, deadly tornados to snow in upstate New York and Interstate 70 gets closed yesterday in Colorado due to bad accidents in a SNOW Storm. Really, we are on the eve of June. I don’t know if I should be packing my winter snow clothes or my flip flops and shorts. A warm “ahhh summer is here” day to a breezy, “is this fall” day. The flowers are all confused, where I would have been enjoying all my spring flowers I am just now starting to see a few bleeding hearts and lily of the valley.

I read blogs from friends who are suffering, some facing their end of life story because of cancer and no more options for treatment and others locked inside of depression and not knowing how to take a first step to recover. Having friends and family who have been struggling with family and finance. The realization that although the word on the street is we are recovering from this unemployment all time high and that businesses are booming but I drive by shop after shop that have closed their doors because there is no business.

I remind myself of the golden rule and the plan to live life and yet I find myself troubled by the insincere crushing of selfish individuals and I do not know how to respond. I understand the sadness of loss, no matter if that loss was last night, last year or 50 years ago, loss is sad, and our hearts hurt.

I despise the nasty mean person behavior. To anyone who thinks it’s OK to be mean, could you tell me what you gain by that, do you really feel better knowing your actions or words hurt someone innocently? I hear stories of kids being beat up at school and no-one has the spine to stop this madness. The families have choices to put up with it or take their children out of school. Now this is ludicrous, when I was in school, if you did this, the mean person got removed from school. People of power have frankly taken an ugly turn to coward.

Reminders that there are people out there judging other people because of their choices in life. What is going on? Since when do people have to defend their life to other people? I am not talking about the person who has made the choice to break the laws, commit crimes and murder, rape or abuse, our country as well as other countries have put in place systems to address these people, yet we always appear to find a way to “cut them a break” and try to fix these people. I am talking about the innocent, everyday person who is living their lives trying to make a difference in their lives and yet they face judgment that often doesn’t even compare to those who have committed the crimes and broken the laws. Things are sure changing, being nice, which when I last checked, that doesn’t cost anyone anything and yet we still have people who choose to be mean. Following the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated, loving because we were told to LOVE. There are some days I honestly don’t know which road to take, the road of screaming at the top of the hill knowing there is no-one listening or even worse some listen but don’t give a damn because that’s how it is these days; or the road of silence because nothing I can say or do will help. Really, do you really think your facebook status or number of friends or followers on your facebook pages matter, because it doesn’t, life matters. We have become way to dependant on social media as our identity and it’s time to walk away and live life. If you want to be free of the sigma of your past, you must first free yourself of your past and start doing things differently, period. If you don’t like something, stop doing it. I had a dear friend who passed away many years ago and he had undergone bone marrow transplant surgery to try and extend his life. Sadly, it didn’t work for him, he was one of the hardest working, most dedicated men I knew and after all that he did for others and his career, what was left was a 5X7 plaque on an insignificant wall that didn’t even come close to reflecting the Man he was. Sorry folks that is not what I want for my legacy. I want to be remembered as being the person who said it, did it and can be remembered for it, all good and inspiring. I want to be known as the friend. I refuse to take down another person for the sake of making myself look better or “great” because what makes a person great is surrounding themselves with great and so reaching out, helping others be better is one way. People need help, they need to feel secure in asking for it and feel comfortable in accepting it. It is OK to say NO, I understand that sometimes it is uncomfortable to hear or even say but let your NO be NO and your Yes be Yes. Silence shouldn’t be an option, but if it is, dive on that sword but only after you’ve thought about it.

We cannot change the weather; it is going to do what it is going to do. We cannot change the sad reality that people die and sometimes they die way too young and sometimes they die before they even lived. This is stuff that is out of our control, things are changing and some things will continue to just change, but for the things we do have some control of, take a look in the mirror? One final comment, stop thinking you are the “cat’s pajamas” because you’re not. Be You, Embrace You and Respect You and anyone who doesn’t align with that plan, well I’d suggest you throw a party, and bid them farewell remember a stagnant pool harbors deadly bacteria and unhealthy is unhappy.

Finally Friday and the last day of May, what color are you going to make it, I think I’ll choose grey.

Keep Seeing The Light ~

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Mother’s Day 2013 ~ Another Year, Another Tear.. Thoughts from the other side of the ice

Thoughts from the Other Side of the Ice Mother's Day 2013
Mother’s Day 2013……another year, another tear.
What would she think of me now? I’ve disappointed plenty of people throughout my life. With the hope to put it behind me and move forward keeping my eyes on Jesus is a great plan, but it is not a painless plan. We have been studying a lot lately about Grace and Truth and the best “short “answer to what these two words represent are this. Grace is “you are forgiven”, by the sacrifice of Jesus, you are forgiven, even when you don’t deserve it. Truth is “you are accountable”, there are rules and consequences. This is the ultimate double edge sword.

This is another Mother’s Day without my Mom, my Mom died on June 4, 2010. I spoke at her funeral and I thought I would share what I said on that day and also a few thoughts since that day.

My Mom worked for most of my life up until my daughter was in preschool when she retired from Hewlett Packard. When you have children, you become very “mother duck like” and you aren’t willing to just leave your children with strangers when the world requires you work outside the home. I was very blessed and fortunate to have my parents be close enough to watch or supervise my daughter during those years while I worked.

My Mom was a pistol, in the true sense of the word; she fought valiantly the cancer that ultimately paved the road to her death. With her first, diagnosis just shortly after she lost her own mother, we started the journey that has brought us here. She was the toughest woman I have ever known, I’m known for saying “don’t poke the bear”, and this is the mama bear. I remember so many events and stories throughout the years, one in particular, a little over 20 years ago, while she was going through her first cancer treatment, I was on the east coast and I called her from the shore to share with her the beautiful sunset I was witnessing and the response I got from her on that phone call was quick, direct and specific, she told me, “well that’s nice, I’ve now lost the last hair on my head…..” Hard to make a Hallmark Moment with that but this was my Mom and I wouldn’t want her any different. I guess what I’m trying to share is, my mom was honest and direct, she told you how she felt, what she wanted, what she liked and what she didn’t like or want. I could go on and on with story after story but that will be for another time. During the last few days of her life, as with most of her life, she maintained that tough as nails persona and didn’t tell us she was in as much pain as she was in, it was something we saw through her expression and actions. I will forever be touched knowing I spent the last couple days she was on this earth with her. We shared stories, we sang song together, which she honestly told us “that’s enough singing”, recited treasured bible passages, telling each other how much we loved each other and experienced her final journey with her. She did not die alone, she was surrounded by her family and I take comfort in knowing as she left her family here on earth, to meet her family waiting for her in heaven with open arms. My Mom did it her way, with dignity, at home, with her loved ones by her side. So I’ll close by saying Welcome Home Mom, Welcome Home, YOU MADE IT!
I look back on my time with Mom and, yes, I have a few regrets that haunt me to this day. I am not sure that I was ever good enough or if I ever made her proud. I will never know the answers. I never had that conversation with my Mom. I wish I had. I took for granted her love and generosity. My Mom was my Mom and you only have one Mom. I was the youngest of four children and there is a sizable age difference between myself and my brothers and sister, so I have been classified as not only a youngest, but sometimes an only child. My mother gave up for me, gave up on her dreams and there wasn’t a moment that went by that she didn’t have the safety for her children at the top of her list. You see, in 1976 my oldest brother and his family was killed in the Big Thompson Flood outside of Estes Park in Colorado, they lived there. This historic 100 year flood forever changed my mother and it forever changed how she lived. If a storm was coming in, there was no better weather person. She was on the phone to report the first rain drop. She needed to know where you were and if you were safe. Maybe in the early years I didn’t understand why she was being so darn persistent, but I get it now. She couldn’t change what happened when the flood hit the family home, and she couldn’t save her son and his wife or my two nephews and niece from their death. What started as a beautiful Company Picnic and 9th Birthday for my brother’s oldest son, Jamie, ended with a paved road of forever sadness.

I don’t know what the whole story with my Mom is and why she thought or felt the way she did because she remained very private even with her family. I like to think she was this way to protect her heart from being broken again or from letting anyone get too close to know her that intimately. I know I broke her heart many times.

There is a lot I could have learned from my Mom and there was a lot that I did learn from my Mom, and some things probably I should not have learned from her. I am stubborn, I am a perfectionist, I am brutally honest and I am an honest and goodness pain in the (you pick the body part, as I am sure it will fit).

One of my fears is repeating the things my mother did that I didn’t like or understand at the time and to be brutally honest, I don’t want my daughter or grand children to feel the way I have felt. I am the only one who can change the course of my life on this earth. I pray that I am not too pushy or too intrusive to my daughter and her family but I also pray that I am not left out because I selected perhaps the wrong words or wrong actions. The tears that I have are selfish and misunderstood as I am just that little girl trying to do better, hoping for a better result for my family.

This is a crazy long post and for that I sincerely apologize, but the takeaways from this in my opinion are this: Don’t shut out the people in your life that gave you life, don’t begrudge the good works and intentions because they don’t align perfectly with your plans. Take the time to cherish the family that God has given you, be it birth/adoption or whatever and Love like Jesus told us to Love. I see too often perfect strangers being more loving to one-another than to family members. Honor your Mother, if she is alive, call her, visit her, support her dreams, give her a kiss, forgive yourself for your actions as a child and make every moment count. If she is not alive, pay tribute to her, remember her and remember who she was and what her dreams were. Lastly if you never knew her, forgive her because I can assure you if she could have been there, she would have.

It is not our role on earth to be the judge of another. I am not speaking about the judicial system where we have a judge and jury to hear and render a decision on a legal case. We are not given the authority to decide who God or Jesus Loves or who loves God or Jesus. Jesus reminds us repeatedly to LOVE. He did not speak of different degrees of love or love this and not love that, he said LOVE as he Loved. I am not a biblical teacher so I am not going to try and explain what this means. There is an entire book that can help someone find their way through the “What kind of Love” Jesus is talking about and that is the Bible, I might suggest you read it, or join a small network of friends to unpack the word.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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TAX TIME ~ Its not always “BLACK AND WHITE”

Tax Time
Tax Update – Yes we are still “chewing through” the annual tax season. My part is complete and I’ve passed the baton on to my CFO and husband. Thank you Lyle for always being my business rock; and keeping me from jumping in the canal behind our house. The thought comes to me every year that I should do things a little different, should hire administrative staff, etc. What I think will be the most rewarding is one of the actual plans I am putting into place. First of all, this new plan will not only re-energize me for the current and coming years, it might just drive me to get the darn documents filed earlier. This plan is a post tax season retreat. This short personal retreat will allow me to sit down, review prior policies and events of the year it will also implement plans for the current and upcoming years. I had no choice but to drive the bus down the road of identifying the problem, my problem with the subject of tax time. What and why does this season eat at me so badly. So what I did was create a list so I could visually see the points that drive me nuts and hopefully look at them with a new set of eyes. It certainly allows me to sit down with others and share specific topics. Just saying I’m grouchy about the season doesn’t share the catalyst behind the statement. The good, the bad and the always ugly, sounds bad huh.
Here is my list.
1) Let’s start with increased costs. We all face increased costs associated with being in business. I am not talking about the person, who says they are in business, but doesn’t bother to have a licenses or pay state or federal taxes, let alone file business tax returns and obviously doesn’t hold any insurance on their business, liability or otherwise. These costs continue to rise just like the groceries in the market or the gas at the pump, but for whatever reason when you review and try to adjust your products to work within the increased costs you hit some serious turbulence like on a full flight through a storm at 35000 feet. If you are going to provide a “Professional” product, you will have to pay the professional prices to deliver your product, be it through your on-line e-commerce site or personally handling post production client orders. I will discuss more in another blog post and explain why you cannot just charge pennies for your prints; I touch on this briefly in this post.
2) Profit and Loss. In business we all have P&L reports that guide us much like a report card of business that tells us where we stand. Typically you should be able to look at a monthly or quarterly P&L document and be able to adjust your game plan to keep you in business, if you plan to stay in business. I recently saw an awesome document that addressed this and I will gladly forward anyone a link to that article if you are interested, just e-mail me. You can make the decision how you wish to move forward in your business or hobby, it is not up to me to tell you what to do. I will say if you are representing yourself as a “Professional”, be one. There is nothing wrong with being an aspiring or hobbyist, there is something wrong with being a hobbyist or aspiring image maker and advertising yourself as a professional which ultimately weakens the industry. A topic I will gladly discuss personally with anyone who has questions about this. Because in the end, many aspiring or hobbyist wish to cross that bridge into professional business and their actions leave them crippled in the area of making a living doing what they love because of the past actions that were made in the area of cost and services. Some might call this undercutting; I just call it uninformed decision making that weakens the foundation of future success. P&L documents make me crazy because I get to see all the fine details of my business from the charity and volunteer work that I do to the high end destination wedding income. It is the in-between that makes me totally nuts. One specifically is the forced write off’s from bad debts. I use the term soup to nuts regularly and this is it in a nut shell. I have never denied a charity of my time or talent, especially if I am approached by a group or individual. My heart has always been receptive to helping others. If you know me, you know this first hand. It is when I am beat up with non-payment(s), bad check(s), and theft. These people actually don’t think twice about not paying or stealing, they feel entitled. Now I would just like to know how well this would work out if the tables were turned and their employer didn’t bother to pay them for the work they did at their job. Or how well is the grocery store going to let someone just take the cart to their car and unload without checking out and paying first. Maybe a better example would be thinking you have insurance benefits and you go into surgery only to find out that you don’t have insurance and the hospital and doctors are now going to sue you for payment because you received services. Another example would be rental property, you have a house for rent, you get someone in your house who wants to live there and they decide they don’t want to pay you. The pain to get them to pay or get them removed is back on you. The list grows longer and longer. Definitely something that warrants making you nuts. This too is another subject I will gladly discuss personally should someone want to talk.
3) Recording the costs associated with doing business. This is a big one, because every entry I either feel like I need to justify the means or feel guilty about it.
4) Depreciation. An entirely different animal, all that we work for and all that we do require tools period. Speakers may speak but they still need to comprise their thoughts and draft their presentations on something, even if it is a notebook and a pencil. Photographers need equipment and maintaining that equipment is important. All businesses need some form of transportation, public or private and that comes at a cost too: a bus pass or a car loan. etc. etc. etc. Every year these tools depreciate and I am not even going to try and tackle this one, I will defer any and all questions on this to my CFO. We will be designing a program to help other small business professional in this area as well as record keeping in the coming months, so stay tuned or send me a note so I can make sure you don’t miss it.

The unfortunate truth is the list looks really small but when expanded in a spreadsheet, it is a dragon, a fire breathing dragon. Some people facing these bumps would just as well pick up their toys and go home, and close shop. I know many photographers who have done just that because they are not making any money. They are talented artists but they need help and support. This is one of the reasons I do what I do. I love to see people succeed. I do however have one solid point and requirement in that success theory and that is succeed honestly. Don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t destroy the industry that you claim to love. It takes hard work and there are no short cuts. I have heard all the excuses from I cannot afford to pay taxes otherwise I wouldn’t make any money… OK STUPID, if you want to make money, charge enough to cover your costs which includes your taxes. I hate calling someone stupid, but there is no other way to say it, that is just being stupid. I have also heard I cannot charge that much because people wouldn’t pay me. NO KIDDING, if people can get it for FREE, they are not going to pay someone for it. This is the vicious circle that if you don’t nip it in the bud now, you will never make it in the industry. I cannot tell you how many times, I remind people, I do not sell PAPER. My clients are investing in their heirloom memories. Paper is cheap, but heirloom memories are priceless. The drugstore printer does not produce my work to my professional expected standards. I want my work to hang on the walls of my clients for many years and their grand children to see the vivid memories, not a faded piece of photo paper. Bottom line, you may find many old professional prints from years gone by that are in need of restoration, let me share a secret, if these images had not been captured on the paper that they used with the process they used at the time, there would be nothing to restore. Try looking at your gas receipt in a couple years; tell me if you can read it. What happened to it? This is exactly what will happen to your prints if not professionally printed to archival standards.

In today’s world we are seeing a big change in Photography and the Professional Industry. We have created a world of “good enough” and that along with some reasonably good equipment is putting the professional photographer either out of business or crippling them into poverty. Trust me, the mortgage company doesn’t say… oh, you give memories; we will give you your house, don’t worry about paying us. I hope and pray that people do not lose their passion to protect the integrity of the industry and their memories.

Now I am not going to discount the world that is living by the iPhone photos… I’ll call it phonography, even though the word Phonography, meaning “sound writing” in Greek. This will be a brief blog post. We will also have a hands on workshop for those people wanting to capture better on their mobile devices, from capture to transfer.

Until next time, please keep seeing the light

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