Oh Shoot.

April 11, 2016  •  198 Comments
Alright. I'm just going to put this out here. It won't offend most of my photographer contemporaries... and guess what? If it does offend you, you're probably the type of business owner I'm speaking of.
Let's just say, for kicks and giggles, that I was running my business the easy way. You know, not paying taxes, not carrying {expensive} insurance, not keeping a massive arsenal of back ups to the back ups to the back up equipment. Guess what? I'd make almost double my current "salary" every year!
Oh, and let's chat about education for a moment. If I didn't have to pay for continuing education, webinars, conventions... things that keep me current in my industry, keep my skills sharp... Well, oh boy I could take a vacation tomorrow!
So here's my soapbox {and it's tax season so my soapbox is old and falling apart, but I can't afford to replace it right now}.
We all start somewhere. We need time to flourish and grow. We need to experiment with our style and practice our craft. No one picks up a camera, takes it out of the box, and becomes fantastic overnight. It takes time, patience, and initiative. We've ALL been a newbie, a rookie, a novice.
But some of us have been in this industry for years, have paid our dues, have gotten our ducks in a row, crossed our 't's and dotted our 'i's. And it can be absolutely devastating when someone who hasn't paid due diligence swoops in with an amazing offer to our clientele that can only be made possible by the lack of legalities {such as pesky taxes and insurance}.
I genuinely want to see other photographers succeed. There are plenty of clients to go around! We don't need to feel like competition, we can be contemporaries. That having been said, please do things the right way, the smart way, the fair way. If you don't carry insurance or don't pay taxes... you're not just hurting other photographers! You're hurting your clients, your contemporaries, your local economy, your entire industry! Why would you want to be THAT person?!?
Owning a camera doesn't make you a professional photographer. Here's a checklist in case you are struggling to figure out what does make you a professional photographer. If you can't check off each and EVERY one of these things, you are not a professional photographer.
1. You pay taxes. Income tax and sales tax. No exceptions. {And just to warn you, it is a LOT of $ - a HUGE percentage of what you make}
2. You have insurance. And not just on your equipment... that's just selfish. You need to have {at least} liability on top of your equipment insurance. In my opinion, a pro should also have errors and omissions insurance.
3. You are in a {constant} state of education. And as we all know, education in America is NOT free. It's a huge investment, but it's absolutely essential if you want to stay up to date.
4. You have a reasonable arsenal of equipment. I'm not saying you have to have the top of the line latest and greatest gadgets, but you need to be prepared! You can't responsibly photograph a wedding or any other life event without multiple camera bodies, multiple lenses, multiple flashes, memory cards, batteries, {etc etc etc}
5. You have your own creative ideas. If your only source of inspiration is Pinterest, you are not a sustainable professional photographer.
This post is not intended to discourage anyone from becoming a professional photographer, quite the opposite. I'm hoping it inspires young photographers to become invested in their future. I'm hoping it encourages pros to do things the RIGHT way, not the EASY way.
So, I wonder how many 'friends' I'll lose with this dose of reality? Share if you feel so inclined.

Back Burner Photography

January 19, 2016  •  78 Comments

When you ask someone what the most important day of their life was... what do you think the top two answers are?

1. Marriage

2. Child's birth

So, why then are we willing to spend $4000 on wedding photography and just let our friends use their phones to take snap shots when our child is born??  Now don't get me wrong... I'm not blaming you!  How would you know how important it is when we live in a society that treats childbirth like a taboo subject?  Even though it's 2016, most women stay mostly quiet about their birth stories.

"How did the labor go?"

"It was fine.  Long, but okay!"

Really?!?  You just grew a human inside your body and then introduced it to the world!  You experienced the worst pain and the biggest joy both at the same time!  You were able to give your partner the best gift they will ever receive, one that can never be reciprocated.  So why not give yourself the gift of memories?

I've been there... 4 times.  When you're in the throws of it - the pain, the nerves, the anticipation and wonder - you often are not able to feel the moment, remember the moment.  Do you remember the look on your spouse's face the moment the baby crowned?  Do you remember the shape their lips curled into around that first cry?  Do you remember how the sun shone in the window as you labored?  Or how gingerly the midwife cradled the babe while instinctively counting fingers and toes?

I can guarantee you that the feeling of those moments can not be recreated.  But they can be cherished, and a wonderfully composed photo is the best way to preserve these memories.  Imagine giving your child a book showcasing the awe and wonder you felt at their birth, as they anticipate the arrival of their own bundle of joy.

There is no question in my mind that those photos will be as important to you and your family, if not more than, your wedding photos.  It's an investment - as anything worthwhile is - but I encourage you to take the time to explore it and contemplate the importance.  Think about it, pray about it, ask questions about it.  I'd be happy to share my experiences!

NOTE: These photos were taken for www.rlhellerphotography.com  For more information how you can book birth photography now, please visit www.imprintbirthphotographers.com... I assure you, you will be pleased with your decision!

New Year. New me? Probably not... but at least I'm honest, right?

January 05, 2016  •  274 Comments

I suck at blogging.  Like legitimately suck.

I'm lucky if I have time to take a shower, let alone put a blog post together!

I'm a realist.  I know there will be no weight loss in 2016.  I don't plan on running at all... in fact if you do see me running I suggest you do the same thing because there's probably a huge spider somewhere behind me!  I have no intentions of becoming debt free either.  I like shopping, so...

Basically, there are no personal resolutions in this New Year of 2016.  Sad but true.

However, there may be a few business ones... and I need your help!  Keep me accountable for these things!  That's what I ask of you.  In return, I'll provide hours of free entertainment watching me struggle through these 'best laid plans'...

So here goes:

1.  Blog once a week!  Bets on how long I'll keep up with it?!?!  I'll need topic suggestions!!

2.  Build the Leaf Collective into the coolest place to work in Lancaster.  Can we build it? Yes we can! (if you have kids you're now chanting the Bob the Builder theme song...sorrynotsorry).

3.  Have one fabulous Nifty Fifty deal every month.  What would you all like to see available at a great price??

4.  Stay as cool as I am now.  Okay, so that one's kinda personal, but pretty attainable as well, right?

I should post a photo here, since it's a photographer's blog.  But I'm too lazy for that right now (did I mention I don't have any resolutions to be less lazy either?).  Next time I'll post a photo or two, I promise!

DIY on steroids!

September 11, 2012  •  22 Comments

As a working wedding photographer, I have seen my fair share of "do it yourself" weddings.  Most have been wonderful.  However, the wedding I captured on September 8, 2012 took every DIY detail and elevated it to a whole new level!  The centerpieces, the veil, the shoe adornments, the bouquets, the chandeliers, the backdrop, the favors, and much more were all handmade by the bride and groom.  Even the cake stand!  I knew it was going to be spectacular as I watched the couple gather driftwood during our "off the beaten path" Engagement Session... but nothing could have prepared me for the immense beauty when it all came together!  Just see for yourself...


Burnt organza "petals" with antique brooch center.  Mounted on actual stick they found in the woods.

Burnt organza "petals" with antique brooch centers.  The stick it's mounted on is one they found together in the woods.


Handmade centerpieces... each one unique and made of various vessels found at different markets and thrift shops throughout the county.


The bride created the backdrop they stand in front of using branches, handmade flower adornments, and strands of crystals hanging at varying lengths.  In the foreground, endcaps made of falling green balls hung from dark beautiful wood.


No shoes are complete without vintage custom jewelry attached to the toe!  The greens tied the whole theme together.


In addition to her bouquet, the bride made her own veil and hair piece!  It looks so professionally done, one would NEVER guess!


Custom signs directed guests to wherever they needed to be, whether it was the bar or the loo...


No DIY wedding would be complete without PERSONALITY!  The bride had her brother and sister standing up for her and the groom had his brother, complete with fedora!  In this shot you also get a glimpse of the maid of honor's bouquet down front... same as the bride's but with a touch of green!


To mesh with their theme (which was laden with candles), the bride and groom wanted a shot that incorporated that theme.


The whole venue was filled with wood, glass, nature, and light.


You guessed it - handmade "Just Married" sign ready to drag those perfectly cleaned aluminum cans!


Another view of the bride's fabulously hand-made birdcage veil and feather head piece...

Of course the new Mr. and Mrs. shared their first dance underneath the couple's handmade chandeliers!


It was a DIY fairytale wedding!


One of the only non-homemade items of the day... a stunning cascading dress from Cocoa Couture.


Let's be real.  These next few photos will have nothing to do with DIY, they were just too precious not to share!  When his bride got to the front of the aisle, his emotions got the best of him.  There was not a dry eye in the house, not even me!


It was raining hard this day, but under the thick willow tree we were safe and dry.  The bride and groom shared some special first moments as husband and wife here.


Isn't she lovely?


Simply stunning.


The bride and groom wanted their pictures, much like their DIY theme, to be full of whimsy...



The night concluded by everyone making a wish on their sky lantern and releasing them into the night sky.  It was perfect.




Despite severe thunderstorms and silly wedding day mishaps, the day was PHENOMENAL.

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