February 18, 2021 2:45 PM Blog

Putting your face on your brand is hard to do. I get it. SO. Here I am practicing what I preach. This is the first video of myself I put on IGTV. Now it's on Facebook, Linked-In AND YouTube! DOH!

February 15, 2021 11:47 AM Blog

Kids and pets are in charge of photo shoots. Period.

I once attended a class by Doug Weittenhiller of Twig and Olive Photography. Doug explained that we would be doing a live photography demo and then come inside, and he would edit. He had a family with 3 small children who had volunteered to model. What we didn’t realize was we were about to see a magic show.

I and about 100 other curious photographers cautiously trailed outside behind the hotel into a drab, frozen, trampled winter grass, trash in the weeds vacant lot. NOT picturesque. What happened next was pure chaos. The children proceeded to start running in every direction possible. Doug chased around after them WHILE shouting his lesson to us. Those sweet babies were all over their parents, up in their arms one minute, then wiggling to get down the next. When he DID get them all into one area, that looked like a mess too. They were showing off for and making faces at their audience, running, wiggling and doing anything other than what looked like a photo opportunity.

Doug kept shooting, talking and laughing with the kids, instructing the parents and teaching us. It was a crazy juggling act for sure and it did not look successful at all. At about the 10–15-minute mark, Doug announced he was done. Several of my classmates and I looked at each other with bug-eyed, pursed lips skepticism. “No WAY he got ANYTHING out of that,” I said. We all trailed back in shaking our heads.

Next Doug loaded the images, and they began to appear on the conference room big screen. The images were absolutely amazing. Little moments of pure joy and love between a family. Effortless and natural, the whole session captured their true essence in ways posing never could have done. Can you just imagine what would have happened if the children had been forced into a posed portrait? Tears, pouting and even less cooperation.

That class has proven to be invaluable. Doug explained that children are in charge of photo shoots and that parents should play along. Let it unfold. Magic happens.

Since that time, I have used this technique for all my children’s sessions. I have also learned that the same is true for pets. We follow them around or even take breaks if the pet (usually cats) says, “this ain’t happenin’!”

One session I remember a family with 4 children, ages 2-13. Two children and dad were doing a great job of posing. The baby was crying, and the teenager was mad about being at the shoot and was rolling her eyes the entire time while mom was trying to wrangle the two-year-old. Finally, the baby farted, and everyone burst out in laughter. I fired away with a rapid volley of photos and we created wonderful images.

Recently I was doing a branding session and my client, Justine, who wanted to photograph hiking with her cat in the new cat carrying backpack they’d gotten for Christmas. Justine was excited for it as they had already spent many hours together on the trail. Do you think her fur baby would stay in that pack for the photo session? NOPE!

We actually DID get a couple photos with him in the pack, but all of the ones of him wiggling out and running off were so much more hysterical and CUTER. As far as social media posts go, those are also the ones that will engage her audience and stop the scroll.

My own cat, Tommy refuses to be in set up photos UNLESS I am setting up for a product shoot in which cat hair is unwelcome.

So. If you are planning a session with your children, pets or BOTH and worried about them behaving, don’t.. I’ve had plenty of sessions in which everyone does behave. If they don’t, remember that even if things go off script, we are likely to get BETTER photos than if it did go to plan. It’s important to let things happen and not try to force. We can guide or corral, but otherwise we will let the magic and story unfold!

February 6, 2021 8:19 AM Blog

“Julia! What exactly is it that you do as a Personal Brand Photographer?”

I create the photography for business’ online marketing needs: websites, emails, sales funnels, daily social media posts, memes, blogs, online ads, and even traditional marketing like banners, billboards and brochures.

I do so in a way that helps businesses look professional, polished, and cohesive but genuine, friendly, fun and approachable. I help you connect on a personal level with your clients.  I help you stand out and break through all the noise online.

It’s as much about expressing WHO you are as much as it is about WHAT you are and what products and services you provide. I tell your story. Its all about the KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST factor!

Imagine you are an accountant, and a potential client is shopping online. They do a Google search, and you pop right up in the top because you have been consistently posting on social media and your blog, etc. Next, they look to find someone with all the services they need and read your reviews.

The list is now narrowed down. How do they choose who they want to meet for a live consultation?  

So far you have made a lot of progress in gaining “Trust” and maybe they “Know” a little bit about your products and services. What about “LIKE?”

Back in the good ‘ole days we did this in person. We decorated our offices with travel destinations, signed baseballs, family photos and appreciation plaques from our favorite charity organization. They were conversation pieces and when the potential client walked into the room, they began to decide if they LIKED us. We greeted them with a firm handshake and genuine smile. (BTW-I never did understand the stiff, fake smile professional headshot where everyone was wearing the same dark suit. People looked like robots.)  We got out our favorite g-rated jokes and made them laugh. They started asking about the volunteer work at the pet shelter and sharing about the dog they just adopted. They relaxed, warmed up and begin to TRUST us even more. WE opened up, relaxed, listened and our natural instincts began to connect. The client walked to their car thinking, “I really LIKED them! I think they are the one!” I know when I was a client, if I felt a great genuine connection to someone, I would cancel the rest of my meetings.

So, what’s different? Now you can communicate all this online. Everything from a headshot that has genuine smiles to photos of you and your team practicing yoga together to your favorite morning beverage, to hilarious before and after photos during tax season. Having your own stock photos created can REALLY jazz up your “expert” posts by creating interest so your clients stop and read about “Tax Changes You Should Be Aware Of.”

Your clients are scrolling through their feed at midnight on the couch while they are making their decision. They decide if they like you before they contact you. They click and schedule an appointment and go to bed because they have confidence in their decision. So you see, If this is done effectively, you may be the ONLY accountant your client sets an appointment with.
February 1, 2021 4:05 PM Blog

No CLUE! None. No idea I would become a photographer, at least not professionally.

            I remember being in high school, not at all sure what I wanted to do with my life. I went to Iowa State University because I’d won scholarships through Future Farmers of America that required me to study agriculture. I finally settled on Agriculture Education because it would give me a broad set of skills, I could use however I wanted to. (Off topic: Anyone remember learning LOTUS 123?)

            During my Junior year, I met the coolest young woman, who went by her last name, carried a GIANT fish purse and was my birthday buddy (ok, 1 day off, but close). AND she was the photo editor at the Iowa State Daily student newspaper! We got to talking and I said that I’d taken a couple fun photography courses in high school. Guess what? I got my first paying gig as a photographer. The Daily would PAY me $10 whole dollars if they used one of my photos and $12 if I made the front page! That was a TON of MULAH to a college student back in the early ‘90’s! LOL! I later became the assistant photo editor and quit my serving job.

            I was hooked. After graduation I decided not to get my teaching certificate. To my surprise I managed to land an internship at the Mason City Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa. My first assignment was a basketball game, and I didn’t get one single photo in focus. DOH! (No autofocus back then. It used to be easy to tell the difference between a pro and an amateur just because a pro’s images were tack SHARP!) I thought my career was over, but it wasn’t. I got great encouragement and pointers for improving!

            That led me to my new position at the Ames Daily Tribune. I was THRILLED as there had been a long history of excellent photographers. I arrived for my first day and the gentleman who hired me had quit the week before. The other photographer on staff quit a week after I left. The editor called me into his office and offered me the Chief Photographer position. SHOCKER. I spent the next two years learning a LOT the HARD way! LOL.

            Next stop was a staff photographer position at the Amarillo Globe News in Texas. I moved myself down there with no family or friends, ready to take the world by storm. Here’s where I learned that adulting was going to be hard. Long story short. It was a fantastic experience and I met MANY amazing people. I LOVED photographing all the feature stories and “fluff.” I did not like hard news. I did not like photographing people on the worst day of their life. Sometimes it was the last day of their life. This was not exciting to me. It eventually wore me thin and I decided to hang up my press credentials. I knew I would miss the ladies’ teas, food page, business features, fashion section and generally getting to meet all sorts of people, though.

            Now what? I decided to head off to the Art Institute of Colorado to formally study photography and finally learn how to light and pose. We learned how to do everything, including how to use Photoshop! I got introduced to digital photography there, too (those pro cameras had much lower resolution than our cell phones do today). I started waiting tables again at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in downtown Denver. It was two amazing years of slinging beer and school!

            After graduating art school, I moved back home to Iowa, transferred to the Des Moines Rock Bottom and started freelancing for local magazine companies. I was having a lot of fun, but by now I was 30ish and tired of being poor all the time. I learned first-hand that I would need to upgrade all my cameras to digital and invest in proper computer and lighting equipment. I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent, much less start a business. I met my husband around this time and when I got offered a management position with Rock Bottom, I took it. I’d always thought it would be fun to start a restaurant, too, so this seemed a great opportunity to get paid to learn how to run a business.

            My intention was to manage for 5 years, have 2-4 babies and start my own business. Well life did not go that way. YEARS of fertility treatments, heart ache over the loss of our son, Henry (lived 11 hours) and all the problems that come with all that. Suddenly 14 years went by and I’d barely picked up my camera. I’d forgotten all about my dream of owning my own business.

            One night in early 2016, I was suffering from the long shift I had worked and wondered out loud to Craig, “I don’t think I can keep up with this new restaurant I am working at.”

            Craig replied, “You know, I thought I married a photographer. Why don’t you shoot anymore?”   

            I’m not really sure if I even answered him before I went down to the basement to dig out my camera. I spent that winter practicing reaching out to old photojournalism contacts and sketching up my plan. I went to a couple conventions and was hit with the realization that THINGS HAD CHANGED over the last 14 years! It took me over two years to get caught up and prepare for this new adventure. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. What a blast!

February 1, 2021 9:35 AM Blog

I’ve been waking up and visualizing my perfect day for about 8 months now and believe me, it’s a process. I can’t tell you how often I’ve enthusiastically envisioned it only to tweak my back getting out of bed or stepping in cat puke on my way to put on coffee.

            I’ve also created magic. On my first day of the exercise, I pictured giving Craig a good morning and good night kiss. He was surprisingly touched by this vision and immediately gave me my first of many sweet good morning kisses. It was an important moment and we have grown even closer, loved each other more deeply since that day.

            Creating your perfect day involves several important elements; intuition, divine guidance, intention AND practical things like knowing you schedule, time blocking and time management. We spend a lot of time daydreaming, but how often do we actually ACT on our dreams? We use all sorts of envisioning techniques but never talk about how to move forward with implementation.

            Here’s the routine I’ve found to be the most successful:

1.Before Bed-Review your schedule and future goals. Is there something in your schedule tomorrow that moves you closer to your goals? Look over the events you have scheduled for the day, so you don’t forget to put them into the vision.

2.Set alarms- Set one alarm 30 minutes before you need to get up to ensure there is plenty of time to imagine your day.

3.Vision while waking up. I found it’s most important to do this while waking up because I’m best at being intuitive before my waking brain takes over. Being intuitive is important because we need to be open to and aware of what we are attracting into our lives. It connects us to our TRUE purpose without fear or self-doubt getting in the way.

4.Visualize and feel the details, beginning to end. Visualize every detail of your day from start to finish. Your breakfast, what are you having and how much are you enjoying it? Imagine your meeting and everything going smoothly.  I even picture stressful, negative situations and visualize a new way to react to them. It’s very important to imagine how you FEEL. Wind on your face, wine sliding across your tongue, the tingling you feel when you laugh. It’s important to note that you may not always be able to see every detail. You might get distracted, someone may need you before you are done, you might fall back to sleep. It’s ok.

5.Time Block and Schedule the details. Now is the time to get practical. Write down everything you imagined and how much time you need for each task. You might find that your marvelous vision for the day missed a meeting or school event. Maybe the “to do” list is fairly ambitious. Does anything need moved around? Is there anything on the list that suddenly doesn’t seem so important that can come off the schedule? I’ve discovered that if I FORCED any part of my vision and I can’t make my schedule work for the day, the forced visions can come off. Eventually you will find that you have much more clarity and focus with each day.

            With practice, patience and being gentle with yourself, you will start to feel the vision of your life falling into place. Becoming reality. I’ve been startled at how powerful this can be. I make different choices. I create different results. You can too!

January 22, 2021 11:51 AM Blog

One day a friend of mine proudly posted her new ring light she purchased for all things social media. She loved it but was pretty disappointed she wouldn’t be able to use it for her selfies because of the pesky reflections in her glasses.

            A simple solution of course is to quit wearing glasses when you take your photos. Wear contacts? Sure, but I personally can’t stand to wear them anymore. It’s part of my brand! What if you want to use the light while in a video call? What if you are recording any video longer than 1 minute? What if your so blind you wouldn’t be able to see and take your photos without them? Nah. It’s not the best solution.

            Ring lights were originally used by fashion photographers. The light is intended to be placed in front of the model and the photographer positions the camera to shoot through the ring. It creates a beautiful, even light and an exquisite ring of catch light around the pupil of the model’s eyes (a catch light is the light that is reflected in a subject’s eyes and is a MUST in a proper portrait). The images are dramatic and beautiful. Not the lighting choice, though for glasses.

            I use a ring light for every-day use, zoom calls and the occasional cell phone video or selfie. I wear my glasses every day and it IS part of my brand. I can’t imagine teaching a class without them! How would I see my notes? Here’s how I do it:

1.Move your light slightly to the side, about 45 degrees from the front of your face. If you are only using it as a light and not also as your cell phone or camera tripod, this is easy. Simply move the whole stand. If your light is on a stand with a cell phone holder, and it’s adjustable like mine, tilt the light to the side, then move the cell phone holder slightly to the opposite direction. If it clips onto a shelf or your monitor, move it to the edge of your screen.

2.Raise the light to 1-2 feet above your face. Don’t go too high or the shadows cast under your brow line, nose and chin will start to look totally unflattering. PLUS, you will turn your forehead into a blindingly bright attention grabber. If your light is clipped to your monitor, figure out how to either sit lower (lower your chair) and/or raise your monitor. I sometimes place a box under my laptop to raise it up a few inches. This has the side benefit of making you look slimer!

3.Now look at the results and adjust. You still won’t be able to move your head all over the place, but it should be much better! You CAN also tilt your glasses down slightly. I might do that for a still photo, but not for a video. Just because it feels annoying!

            That’s it! Visit me on Instagram or Facebook if you have any questions!  

Here's the ring light I use! 10.2" Selfie Ring Light with... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H16NV3X?ref=ppx_pop_m...

January 15, 2021 10:51 AM Blog

            Imposter syndrome if ROUGH! For me its an odd mix of fearing success and feeling like I am not enough. I imagine myself successful, but then I start picturing all the things that could go wrong. AND I imagine someone saying, “You are really terrible at this!”

            Good news is that while you are working through all your issues, focusing on and fearing success can actually be a manifesting hack! If you let it. It’s why we can be successful despite feeling really icky about it! Yep. If you can figure out how to keep showing up and visualizing a good outcome as much as possible (totally still works even if you aren’t ALWAYS positive), eventually your life gets turned around and success flows.

            I suspect that imposter syndrome will keep coming back for me as I level up, but I am beginning to use it as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. That something big is about to happen. Mentors who are practiced at this say they even begin to feel EXCITEMENT and ANTICIPATION! Here are the steps to turning Imposter Syndrome into a productive growth tool. 

1.Be Aware. When imposter syndrome takes control, it can feel all consuming. For me there’s a gentle voice I can hear that says, “you know this isn’t true, let’s work this out.” I can then start the process of working through it.

2.Acknowledge your feelings. Once you realize what is going on it’s important to feel your feelings. Cry. Be angry. Go for a walk or snuggle under the covers but confront it. Sometimes this pops up at some very inconvenient times! I jump to a two second meditation to clear my mind to get through the situation. I usually can, but I have cried in the middle of Target before. No joke.

3.Call friends. Your REAL friends. These are friends who believe in and support you, but call you out on your BS. Even if you are fortunate enough to already HAVE a great network, it doesn’t hurt to continually add more.  I found lovely friends in group coaching and networking, but mostly my fellow Unlimited Breath & Body Classmates.

4.Meditate. Yeh right. I can hardly breathe when I feel like this. Meditation and Breath Snacks usually only make me feel even more frustrated. Just try it, though. It still helps even if you only do it for a couple minutes. It’s working even if you don’t think it is. I believe no matter what, you are sending the prayer or message that this is not where you want to be.

5.Turn your thoughts around. Now it’s usually 3:30 am and I’m wide awake. I have learned this is a clue to get to work. I begin isolating the thoughts I’m having and turning them around. I may think something like, “I’m nothing special, so why would anyone pay to work with me?” I change the question to “how am I special?” I don’t edit. Sometimes I start by writing terrible things like, “I especially SUCK!” Then I make improvements and say small things like, “I’m nice or I like matching colors.” Eventually I’m saying really super awesome stuff, “I help people find perfection in their imperfections and learn to love themselves in life AND in their photos!

6.Use the turnaround-TAP IN. Whaaaatttt! I just created new inspiration and direction. I am deeply connected to myself as a source being and reminded that I am divine love. All the noise has fallen away and I am listening to my true voice. A creative vortex of love, joy, inspiration and passion pours out of me. I cry again out of joy and relief. I run with it. I create. I share. I feel like a true artist.

January 8, 2021 12:22 PM Blog

Strike while the iron is hot!

            Have you ever felt super inspired to do something or have this great idea that is burning through your brain, heart and soul? I am feeling that way right now. I am compelled to start writing and I am flooded with topics along with a passion and the ENERGY to do it. It’s exciting and I feel like I am about to change the world!

            What have I normally done in this situation? First of all, during the years I suffered infertility, then mourning the loss of my son, I wasn’t ever inspired like this. Secondly, whenever I HAVE felt a creative vortex as an adult, I often decided that I needed to get my chores done first before I could do something I really wanted to do. I’d make out my list of “should do’s” and get started. By the time I got to the end of the list, the inspiration and passion would fade. The desire to create would be gone. Destroyed. The possibility of creating something epic traded for doing laundry and picking up the house. Booorrrriiinnnggg.

            Jon Royal, my mentor and Unlimited Breath Practitioner, has told me many times that this is a gift. We are connected to the divine at these moments. It is a sacred, special experience that needs to be embraced and nurtured. The best part of this experience today is that I don’t know exactly where this is leading. I’m just purging ideas. Starting blog posts for a blog I haven’t yet started at the time of writing this. I’m sort of starting a stream of consciousness. No rules. I can go back and edit. I can start several posts and finish them later.

            DISTRACTION: “Maybe you should figure out how to post blogs on your website, you saw that the other day?” Nope. That’s not what we are doing right now. It’s time to create and let this process unfold. I absolutely know what would happen if I did that; I’d lose this creative stream. I’d switch into my mental body and try to figure that out. I don’t even think I’d be successful in that task because I would be working against my inspiration. 

            I accidentally left my phone at my in-law’s last night. Now I know why; it’s so I can write without distractions. Let’s see what I create today!

January 1, 2021 6:22 AM Blog

I THINK I can think myself thin. Sort of.

It might be more like NOT thinking about being thin or fat either way. It's a more organic way of being healthy by starting from the inside and then just enjoying life! Here’s the simple and not so simple steps I am taking:

1.Listen to my body

            Our bodies are beautiful, self-healing, magical organisms that are in a constant state of life and healing. They are in control of themselves and want to support us. Learning to listen to what it wants, and needs is the key to where to begin. Its not like I’m going to avoid eating right or exercising, it’s more that I am going to listen to cues from my body for what it needs when it needs it and how much it needs. Learning how to do this will be quite a journey in itself!

            I have been able to reduce the amount and severity of migraines by listening to my body. I learned to feel the cues when I am creating a headache. Sometimes if lights seem too bright, or I feel a certain pressure in my head, I stop and listen. I close my eyes and gently probe around the area of discomfort with my mind. I relax muscles. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes I take my pill. Sometimes I still get the headache. When the lightning storm starts behind my eyes, I lie down and watch it with fascination. It actually looks really cool! The headache does start once that happens, but I might only suffer for an hour. MUCH better than an all-day shut down. So, if I can learn to work WITH my body rather than fighting and being mad at it for a massive migraine headache, couldn’t I also do the same with my weight and fitness level?

2.Listen to inspiration

            How many times have you been inspired by a great idea, but not acted on it? I have! What would happen if I followed it? Recently I had an all-day class beginning at 8am. At 7:30, I had just finished breakfast and poured myself my third GIANT cup of coffee filled with delicious creamer. I was suddenly struck with the inspiration for a blog post. While it whirred in my head, I did what I would usually do which is spend the next 30 minutes relaxing and enjoying my coffee. The idea grew and took off and I KNEW I just HAD to get the idea written. I forgot all about that coffee and ran into my office. My water bottle was full, and I began sipping on that.

            Do you see what happened? I followed inspiration and that led to skipping the extra mug of coffee. I didn’t need it to make me feel good. I felt much more fantastic following that moment of inspiration. I successfully cut several calories and caffeine I didn’t need. I made the right choice. Dozens and dozens of right choices like that and my life will be full of inspiration. The side effect is that I will begin to lose weight. Without THINKING about it!

3.Watch for teachers

            The universe will bring us many teachers. Some are actual health professionals, and some are examples, good or bad, to draw inspiration from. I have recently joined Angela Swanson’s meditation subscription. Angela teaches mindful eating techniques within the meditation. This seems to jive well with a more holistic approach to eating. Mary Scarcello at Spark Barre Pilates and Yoga has been a MARVELOUS movement teacher! I spend two very concentrated hours a week learning how to work with my body. It’s gentle and supportive and building a foundation of healthy movement. I’m not “whipping” myself into shape, I’m partnering with my body so that I can permanently change my lifestyle.

Jon Royal Teaches Unlimited Breath and Unlimited Body. Wow. I’ve worked with him as my coach. The life changing experiences I had with him lead to me becoming an Unlimited Practitioner myself. Most exercise programs and diets NEVER address the “WHY” we live an unhealthy lifestyle in the first place. This is a hugely complicated and difficult question, but completely necessary to permanent change.

4.Move to living life with passion, not numbness

            Passion and Excitement burn more calories than numbness!

Through my work with Jon Royal, I discovered I had chosen to live a life of numbness. After suffering the loss of my infant son, Henry, I had to shut down my emotions in order to survive that deep grief. For years I took one moment at a time, one step in front of the other. I ate, I watched TV, I played games on my phone, I slept, I worked at a fast-paced job. Anything to get me to the next moment. There wasn’t anything wrong with this. It served me well at the time. As time moved on, though, I stayed in that existence and didn’t even know it. It was safe but making me sick. I felt much older than I was. As I finally healed enough to live again, I was confronted with the sudden realization that I was middle aged and my life SUCKED.

            Living life with passion feels scary, but exciting and every day I am feeling more and more excited, passionate.  NOTE: Feeling feelings again means I have to feel bad feelings, too. It’s important to tell you that so you realize this isn’t all a sunshine and rainbows experience!

5.Visualize my future life

            I visualize my life in the future. I imagine how I feel. I imagine what I am doing. Maybe I am dancing in the street of a foreign city. Maybe I am at the top of Mt Kilimanjaro. Maybe I have hiked through the jungle to a Mayan ruin. Maybe the landscaping is done at my house and I am enjoying working in my garden. How does the sun feel on my face? I feel the tingling of my body as I dance. Fresh mountain top air fills my lungs.

            Notice there’s NOT ONE mention of eating right, being thin, dieting, working out, being fat, being out of shape. GAG. I hate all that stuff. BUT living that life will require changes.  

Sooooo. Can I THINK myself thin? We will see! Join me on my journey.

December 18, 2020 10:30 AM Blog

What if that ridiculous dream and goal actually came true?

            During a recent Center Sphere Networking meeting, Green State Credit Union Mortgage Loan Officer Amy Smith, talked about her epic year during 2020. Mortgage interest rates were the leading headline in January and February of 2020. They had dropped to an all-time low and Amy was urging everyone to consider refinancing or purchasing a new home. Every week we met, and the rates seemed to be LOWER each time! As the historic year moved forward during the COVID-19 pandemic, rates continued to drop. Mortgage lenders worked to keep up with the demand and somehow balance their lives.

            Amy said that at one point a ridiculous goal came to mind. Well, that goal was shattered. In hindsight she wished that she had taken that thought seriously and took the time to prepare for living it. No one had any idea of course that the pandemic would last so long. No one knew that the mortgage interest rates would, either! “Hindsight is 2020,” she said.

            Sage advice!

            In July, my own business took off and I also hadn’t been prepared for being that busy. I hadn’t put the vision of my life together. Who could I hire for help? How many clients CAN I actually take on and still serve them well? What do I want my daily life to look like? How will I balance work and home? Am I REALLY charging enough for the time invested? I learned so much and gained two or three years of experience and confidence in a few months!

            This year’s business plan looks drastically different. I begin with meditating and taking thoughtful, heart centered time to imagine what my life looks like. I picture working joyfully with clients. I am enjoying time with my husband, even sneaking off for an afternoon walk once in a while. I’m serving my Des Moines and Iowa community with international quality Branding photography right in their backyard (or literally mine). I earn enough income that I can give back financially, pay off debts, invest and grow. What will I do with all the money that’s left over? How will I give back?

            I daydream of traveling all over the world on Branding sessions and Photographing retreats. I picture Craig coming with me and after the session or retreat we just stick around for a while. By day, Craig works remotely, and I edit and deliver my photos. Afternoons, evenings and weekends are spent sightseeing and enjoying ourselves. A year ago, I would have said “sounds nice,” laughed, and never thought much more about it. Now I realize these dreams are very possible. I need to plan as if it is! What will we do with our house? Who will watch Tommy (our cat)? Do I have all the equipment available to remote work and travel with it? I need to review that travel lesson in my Personal Brand Photography Story Session System Course by Jamie Swanson. I know there’s a travel clause in my contract. What does that say again? Does Craig know what I’m thinking? What will he do and say when I actually start booking these sessions? You get the idea!

            My notebook is filling up with the ideas. Now it’s time to put the plan together. Thank you, Amy. Your words carried an amazing message! Congratulations on hitting those fantastically, formerly unimaginable goals!

December 11, 2020 7:21 AM Blog

Simply put, looking your best on zoom is as simple as having good lighting on your face that is brighter than your computer screen and background. A simple, clutter-free background helps, too. Here's all the details you need if you really want to get into a GREAT ZOOM or video conference call on any platform. 

 Camera Angle:

  • Position the camera at or slightly above eye level.
  • Looking up the nose is never attractive.
  • Upward angle also accentuates double chins and makes you look larger than you are.
  • Slide a box under your computer for the better angle.
  • Watch your background. What is showing behind you when you have the angle set up for your face?


  • §#1 biggest miss.
  • §A basic lighting rule in photography is that the face of the subject should be the brightest part of the image.
  • §Sit facing a window. Windows should be no more than a 45-degree angle from the front of you. Any more than that and you will be back lit. 
  • §Avoid windows behind you or you will get a dark subject and/or glare.
  • Use as much natural light as you can. Open up all the shades and let it fill up the room! I even do this when I am lighting my face with a ring light or soft box. 
  • No natural light? Find a small ring light and sit it on your desk behind your computer or camera. Other lights are even made to clip to a shelf or your screen and light your face.
  • Glasses Glare! If you are wearing glasses, make sure you are watching for reflection in your glasses. Light should be slightly above and to the side at about 2:00 and 10:00. 45-degree angle also works. If you don’t light your face, you will also get glare from your screen.


  • Simple Background- Get rid of clutter. Plain backgrounds are the EASIEST way to put people’s eyes on you.
  • Tell a story- Adding a few elements into the background can add interest; pictures on the wall, flowers, window furnishings, furniture, etc. Keep them clean, simple and non-distracting.
  • If you really want to dazzle your fellow zoom attendees, choose a background that looks good with your skin and hair tones and/or one that matches your outfit!

Zoom Backgrounds-

Here’s how to change your background: click on zoom. Then preferences> virtual background. Zoom has a few images in there to get you started, but you can load your own photos and video clips as well. REMEMBER! Don’t be too distracting.

Advantages: hides your background

Quick way to add style and personality to an every-day meeting. I have several different colors and patterns so I can match whatever I’m wearing. I look put together even if I forgot a meeting and join last minute. Suddenly an ordinary t-shirt looks great with the right background.


Sometimes it does weird things. It doesn’t like it when I wear a ponytail. It wants to cut off the ponytail AND my snazzy earrings, even my ears! People with shorter curly hair get a bubble around their head. Once a friend of mine turned on the background and I could see the background through her eyes! I made her look like a demon!

It doesn’t allow you to show something very well. If you have a demonstration, plan on a live background.


Choose clothes, hair and makeup that you love, matches your brand, your background AND that you look good in!

Clothes: Choose clothes that express your style and fit the occasion. Are you the presenter? Will you be speaking? Are you just an attendee?

Grooming: No one has to know that you haven't showered in 3 days. Still. Drag a brush through your hair and throw on some lipstick. Choose colors and style that match your brand, even if it's an everyday meeting. Branded t-shirts are a great way to get around putting effort into this. If you brand is YOU this shouldn't be a problem. Most of my t-shirts and PJ's match my brand!


Pay attention to your camera quality. Older PC’s and Laptops may not have good quality cameras. Cameras can be purchased fairly inexpensively, about $50 and will clip to the top of your computer screen.

Sound. You need to sound good too! Simple earbuds with microphone make a huge difference. Other equipment can also be purchased fairly inexpensively as well.

Ethernet Cable- If you are doing important meetings and presentations online, it is highly encouraged that you get an ethernet cable and plug directly into your modem! This will help keep you from having connectivity issues; looking pixelated, sounding garbled, freezing or even losing connection.

Be comfortable! Don’t forget this! If you are spending hours on zoom meetings, make sure you are comfortable and in a proper chair and posture that is kind to your body. I a couple weeks into the Corona Virus Shelter in Place, several people said their backs needed breaks from being in zoom meetings all day!

December 3, 2020 10:51 AM Blog

I space off into the distance as blog post ideas run rampant in my brain. I’ve been doing this for about 3 years so why isn’t my blog started, thriving and established? Well, there’s a huge plethora of reasons that may sound extremely familiar to you as well!

            “Clients come first!” I don’t know how many times I have used this brilliant excuse. I schedule myself time to write then conveniently decide to schedule a client consultation or even run behind on a deadline. I say, “Hey! I need to take care of the clients I already have first before I write to the ones I don’t have.” Valid. BUT couldn’t I have scheduled the client meeting another time? How much time did I spend doing less important tasks that caused me to run behind on the deadline? TIME BLOCK and make things happen!

            “I don’t feel inspired!” Yeh. Those great ideas freeze and hide as soon as the blank page opens up on the screen. I start fidgeting and thinking of other things to do. I tell myself I can’t write well if words are not just pouring out of me. I read a great post by Lindsey Nadler on Instagram (check it out here) where she says “Content is a muscle that you train and flex. With intention, confidence and the courage to put yourself out there even when it’s not perfect.”

            “I don’t have enough to say!” What? We are not writing a research paper or novel here. I’ve heard it said that people have an 8 second attention span nowadays, so get the idea on paper (checking facts where necessary of course) and PUT IT OUT THERE.

            “It’s not perfect.” I just checked my “needs editing” folder and there are several completed blogs sitting in there that I decided weren’t perfect enough to post. They were created other times I got the blog posting inspiration or when I took a class. And so, they have sat in there, some nearly 3 years old. "Done is better than perfect" is one of my favorite mottos, so why haven’t I posted them? I dunno. No good reason other than the fact that I never went back to them and forgot they were there!

            “I don’t have any ideas.” I know what you are saying right now; the first sentence in this post was “I space off into the distance as blog post ideas run rampant in my brain.” These moments are gold. Instead of just letting the ideas slide around in my brain, how ‘bout I write them down? Oh wait…. Yep, I’ve even done that before! Next to the folder that says, “needs editing” there’s of course an empty “completed” folder, but next to that there’s a document I made called “52 Blog Post Ideas.” One day last year I had been struck by the lightening bolt of ideas and I just started typing up titles. I then even made new Word documents and placed the title at the top so they would be ready for me to work on them. Uh huh, I forgot all about that, too. Had enough ideas to post once a week for the entire year.

            “I’m not an expert.” Breathe. Call your coaches, Jon Royal and Sarah Sparks.  What would they say? What would I say if I were my best friend? I’d say, “you are a 50-year-old woman with a lifetime of experience, education and intelligence. You have a special gift only you can give. Breathe. Listen to your divine guidance and let it speak.”

            There’s a TON more reasons, but this just about covers the main ones. The point is there’s no reason I can’t do this. I’m a good writer that will only get better with practice. I am connected with my divine self and have much to share with you all. I can’t keep it to myself. I hope this gets you inspired to get started writing AND SHARING too!

            PS. So I’m totally laughing! After writing this, I went to my website to figure out how to create my blog page and get this posted. I was surprised to see that I had already created it AND that there was a post sitting in it that I never hit “publish” on! I wrote a contributing post to FemCity, “How to Look Your Best on Zoom.” It’s been published elsewhere, but not on my own DANG PAGE! Sigh. It’s a process, ‘yall.

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