2011 and the lightbulb moment…

A letter to my clients,

This letter serves as a purpose to review 2011 and tell you about the upcoming changes in 2012, thank you for taking the time to read this as what I’m about to say is so very dear to my heart…

A few weeks ago I decided to put together a slide show of some of the highlights of 2011. With the Holidays upon us and everything else going on in life in general, I put the project on hold. When I finally sat down and started to gather images, I was overcome with unexpected emotions. I began to weep as I reviewed so many folders of the year behind us. The tears flowed for so many more reasons than I can even begin to explain but I’m going to do my very best.

As few of you know, in January of 2011, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She didn’t start at stage one and progress, it was stage 4 from the get go. My heart broke as I watched her undergo treatments, surgeries, and physical and emotional torment. I stood by and felt helpless and I’m ashamed to admit it, especially as a Christian, but even hopeless at rare times as well. The thought of loosing someone you care about is torture and coupled with my own father’s rare disease, sometimes I just didn’t know how I would make it through the day without loosing it completely.

Going through the folders on my hard drive was like a light-bulb moment as they say, something so very profound occurred to me;

It was the moments with the amazing families and couples that let me into their lives that more than likely helped to keep the balance, sanity, and hope in my everyday routine. It was the kindness and gratitude that meet me at each session, wedding, and event. It was the joy that I experienced seeing beautiful young women take a hopeful walk down the aisle. It was dancing at your receptions, having dinner alongside your families, being welcomed into your homes, that pulled me through. It was being force-fed sandwiches  and snacks by Grandma’s on wedding days, it was the great joy of watching two families unite as one. It was running through the Botanical Gardens, chasing your children and blowing bubbles, it was watching Amy act like a monkey to get your children to give us that million dollar smile, the real one, not the fake one. It was the hug you gave me when you received your prints to show your gratitude, it was the friendly smile and warm hello at our first meeting, my friends, it was so many things that helped keep me together, and for this I am eternally grateful.

2011 was a year of ups and downs, but somehow, I made it though. It really made me realize that I only have ONE chance to get this life right and I really started to think about what exactly I want to do with this business and where I want it to go. I am inspired to make changes that will bring joy to my soul as opposed to money to my household. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a business after all, but going into business seven years ago was a way for me to do what I wanted to do and not be ruled by anyone or anything, especially not a dollar. We will cover these changes in a minute, but first a few more things… Last year was by far, the busiest year I’ve had yet in this business and for that I am so very, very, very indebted to each one of you who made the choice to spend the money you work so very hard for with me. I understand that these days photographers are a dime a dozen, and almost always, you can find someone “cheaper,” but I thank you, thank you, thank you for finding a value and quality in the work that I produce and continuing to come back time after time. I value the work I do and pledge to always put the same amount of integrity into every event and relationship that I always have. Again, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your unwavering and continued support.

I am beginning this year on a positive note. Kay, (my m-i-l) is working hard to kick the cancer’s ass, pardon my French, but I am in awe of her spirit and fight. I believe that she WILL overcome this and one day we will joyfully close this chapter of hardship that has been placed upon her. With all this being said, I have decided to make important changes in my business, changes that will no doubt make for a more refreshed, more energized me. As we went through the last year, I, subconsciously, completely lost myself in my work. I found myself working may weeks, May-November, at a rate of 90-96 hours, and that simply must change. When you too much to one area, you must take away from another, and shamefully,  I believe that the time taken away has been from my husband and children. It wasn’t the amount of sessions or events that were booked that was the issue, it was the urgency that I felt to get everything retouched and turned back around to my clients. This year, I am sticking to all deadlines, meaning that if your session images are due back to you in two weeks, but you’ve cut it really close to a deadline and need them back in two days, there will absolutely be a retouch rush fee applied in order to get your images back in the two-day frame in which you need them. I understand how exciting it is to get your images back, or to see a preview on Facebook, but it will be done according to the standard time line that I’ll be enforcing with every session and event. This applies to new clients, current clients, and friends and family. Sticking to my policy will ensure more time reading stories to my children and couch cuddling with my husband, thank you for understanding that at the end of the day, I am a wife and mother before all else.

Friends and family, oh, how I thank you for your constant support and pats on the back. You’ve stood by me from the start and your support is a treasured gift. Some of you have said before that you don’t like coming to me because you’re afraid that I will not charge you the “right” amount. Be assured, that whether you’re my sister or my friend, or someone I’ve known since childhood, you will be treated with the same respect, admiration, and appreciation that is given to a new client whom I’ve never met. I will put the same amount of planning, time, and love into your session, and for that reason, I will continue to assess the same fees to you that I do my “clients.” The thing is this, after each session, I feel like I’ve made new friends, and if I’m continuing to charge my new friends the “regular” prices, then it is only fair to them, you, and myself, for me to charge you the same. While I think that most of you will be happy with this, I know that there will be several of you who choose to go elsewhere for your portrait needs, and while that makes me sad that I know some will choose price over value, it is truly ok and there are no hard feelings, really.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2012 is bringing me much happiness and hopefulness. The things you expect out of your sessions and events will remain mostly the same, but there will be some changes that Amy & I both believe will be beneficial to not only ourselves, but to you as well. One big announcement that I am so excited to make (and a little sad at the same time), is that Amy will be taking over ALL newborn portrait sessions. As I shot my first live birth this year, I realized that what I love so much about family photography and wedding photography is that moment in between the pose, the candid laugh, the stolen kiss, the moment that is unpredicted. It has been an ABSOLUTE blessing to be welcomed into your homes, year after year, to snuggle, feed, and photograph you new baby. The images I find myself most drawn to though, are the moments in between the poses and props, the moments of feeding, changing, and snuggling you little one are the exact moments my heart skips a beat. I’ve come to realize that newborn posing and standard portraiture are not where my heart is, it is in the moments of real, candid, openness that I best found in the delivery room. I will, from here forward, when it comes to new arrivals, only be shooting Birth Stories (at the hospital), as it is where I feel most inspired. Amy, on the other hand, will be shooting all newborn standard portrait sessions, in addition to Birth Stories as well. Amy’s experience with newborn photography started well before she began working with me, and the patience, love, and creativity she finds with each special baby is inspiring.

In 2012, I will be mainly focusing on Weddings, Seniors/Models, and Boudoir. I will be taking limited family sessions so if you would like to book your family session with me, please get it in my book as soon as possible. As many of you know, Amy and I tend to shoot families together, and while we love the results that team shooting tends to bring, we will no longer be able to promise that we will both be at each session. We have never charged an additional fee for this service but because we turned away almost as many families as we shot in 2011 due to a lack of available days because we team shot so often, we will now only be doing team shooting by request and there will be an additional fee applied to your session. 2012 will be Amy’s debut year, so to speak. Amy will be shooting solo family, children, and newborn sessions. When you book your session, you may request Amy or myself, or team shooting, but due to my limited availability with family sessions, I may not always be available. You will be notified when booking your session who your photographer will be and will also be given a list of alternate dates should you decided to specifically be shot by one of us.  In seven years of business ownership, I have had four assistants, none of which ever were given the opportunity to shoot solo under my name. Why Amy, why now? Amy has been shooting with me for just under two years. She has learned my “style” while developing her own as well. We tend to shoot very similarly while still maintaining a sense of uniqueness. Each image that is created under the LKMP umbrella will undergo the same processing, retoching, and look that you are accustomed to. I have full confidence in Amy that she will bring to the table the same quality and creativity that you have come to expect.

Ok, dear reader/client/friend/supporter, there will more to come, but for now this is all. Thank you again, so much for helping me, supporting me, and helping me navigate through 2011, I look forward to all of the memories that 2012 will bring….