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Archive for the ‘Wedding Couture’ Category

I have often been told: It’s not what you have, it’s what you give.  In the last almost 3 years a lot of people have given a lot to help me get to where I am.  Particularly My husband and my kids.  I have worked 12-18 hour days, given a kiss in passing walking in or out the door so that instead of babysitting fees I could reinvest into new things for the studio.  People have been asking me a lot lately how I did what I did in such a short time.  For some of my new followers and friends here’s the breakdown:  I was a stay at home mom to a career soldier, I still have never had an education in photography or formal training, I have picked photographers I admire at the time for specific talents or specialties and learned what I admired in them and how to adapt that to a little JLark flare.  In 2 years I built a photography business, shooting on a home made backdrop in my basement.  We bought a new house with a separate building and garage that made my first studio space, and Michael built it from the studs up.  The next year I moved to a beautiful 1750sqft 85 year old house with all natural wood moulding and floors, beautiful architecture and lots of gorgeous natural light.  It has been an incredible journey in my own small world, and a unique and fun experience as people begin to recognize me and those I admire surprise me by referencing an image I created, or by quoting or retweeting something I wrote.

Quite simply, how I got this far is I worked really really hard.  And.  I have an incredible support system.  It exists on the foundation of support my family and friends give, and is most greatly nurtured by the professional contacts I have made, that provide inspiration, education and completely selfless support.  People like Scott Bourne and Skip Cohen who are two of the most generous and intelligent teachers I know in the business of photography.  A lot of the practices that allowed me to advance so quickly came from them.

So I’d like to pay it forward a bit, and share what little expertise I have.  I have much to learn with photography and lighting, and much I have learned that may be useful for new talent dipping their toes into the photography pool for the first time.  I do think my expertise lies in creating something out of very little.  Having small resources and little funding is my favorite challenge in creating something colossal.

The biggest question I’ve gotten is how I manage to cultivate all my business from facebook and not pay for any kind of advertisement.  It actually isnt quite that simple.  Your work has to speak.  If your images don’t intrigue people you wont get them in to look, if they dont look, they dont buy.  Most people understand that their website is essentially a store front in the digital world, and following that mindset, you should think of your facebook page as a second chain or a home office.

So lets start with your images.  {for the record all this is what works for me…pick and choose what works for you and fits into your personal and artistic style.}  First my pet peeves:  Only your best images.  one or two from each session.  I can’t stand when someone posts every shutter click from a session, less is more.  If you have one good shot it’s better to show just that one, showing it in the middle of mediocrity just dilutes the awe factor for the great image.  Second; and this is a huge one.  DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT!  Do not post the same photos in color, black and white, and sepia tone, or with different retouching and filters applied.  First off the majority of fb users understand, and most of them know how to change an image from color to black and white.  Secondly unless you are a retoucher and marketing yourself as such there is no need for you to show multiple versions of the same image, pick the best and show that one.  Thirdly the unretouched and retouched images showcase how much work your client needed, and I’m telling you as a girl who is incredibly self critical of herself in photos, one way to cause the exact opposite of your intended reaction in your clients is to showcase their flaws, instead of feeling good and beautiful you’ll make them self conscious and unhappy with themselves.  Mostly though it’s the look here’s an image, and heres the same image in black and white, and here it is again in sepia…it’s redundant, don’t do it!

On the to-do-list for your images, do try to connect with your clients,  as soon as I get a phone call from a potential client I go fb stalk them and send a friend request.  After their event or session pick your favorite image and post it, drop them a note on their page telling them how much you enjoyed photographing them and tag them in the image.  {If you’re like me and shoot more intimate images that may dictate what’s fb friendly, and you should always ask if you can post them first.}  Once you post it, anyone that comments on the image that’s a friend of theirs, touch base with them, send a friend request, thank them for commenting on the images you took and invite them in for their own session.  Do keep your albums current with new work, {I’m actually better about keeping my work up to date on fb more than on my personal website}  Do make sure that if you are showing some work that pushes the envelope of the fb restrictions even a little that you set the albums to private, viewable only by friends.  Out of respect for my clients, and because I’m a mom, I keep my profile private and limited mostly just to my online friends so young eyes, and people that dont appreciate the artistry dont come across it.

Splitting your albums into categories is a good idea too.  Unless you’re working with celebrities or people of note, I dont recommend setting albums as the clients:  Abby, Beth, Sara, etc.  You want your clients to find exactly what they’re looking for, and it’s much easier to do if a mommy to be finds an album labelled “maternity”  or someone interested in a boudoir session finds an album labelled that way.

Aside from your portfolio your best practice to bring in clients is {drumroll………………………… are you ready?}

Be nice.

When new fans send you a friend request after you accept take 2 seconds drop by their page and thank them for the request.  When someone comments on your page or image take the time to respond and acknowledge.  Here’s a big one, if another photographer, even one from your area asks you a question… answer it.  It’s a novel concept, but they can be your colleagues instead of your competition.  Think about it this way, if no one had shared any of their secrets with you you wouldnt know anything about this either, and chances are if they’re asking, they’re not as good as you which means your clientele is different anyway.

Facebook fan pages.  I have one.  actually I have 3.  one for me as an artist at http://www.facebook.com/JessicaLark one for my studio at http://www.facebook.com/CoutureManor that my studio manager updates more often than I do, and one for my charity at http://www.facebook.com/ChangeBeginsWithUs.  I hopped on the train of trying to get all my friends to become fans… to be honest I think upon further reflection that a lot of that is just self serving your own ego.  For most of us there is no reason why we need a fan page.  Here are the benefits though.  You can email all your fans at once without having to select them individually.  Other companies and professionals that have fan pages can list yours under their affiliated pages to help network and cross promote.  This can be especially beneficial for wedding photographers, you can hook up with caterers, florists, etc.  For example a good friend of mine Nicholas Clare is a talented baker.  The two of us trade clients all the time, and it works out for us both.  Of course financially because we’re both booking work, but I get delicious cake at the receptions and he gets great photos of his images.  We even save the clients time by doing both consultations at the same time, and he helps me seduce them with delicious Chocolate chip cookies that my kids beg him for everytime he comes to visit.

The other major difference between fan pages and personal pages is that facebook tops out at 5,000 friends so for people like Jasmine Star and the like having a fan page enables her to keep connected with her fans beyond that.  Others like Jerry Ghionis simply make a second personal account.  The downside to the fanpages is you cant tag them in photos.  A lot of my clients tag me in the images I create for them on my personal page and their friends find me that way.  You may be losing referrals if you are operating solely off a fan page.  I also like the nifty little app that links my facebook to twitter.  that way everytime I do update my fanpage it also updates my twitter.  I pride myself on being friends with my clients and most of my fans, so I usually invite them to send me a friend request as well.  I met the sweetest girl this week at the going pro seminar who told me she was a fan but we werent friends on my personal account.  If that’s you as well, remedy it immediately, I want to know who you are! 🙂

So those are some of my thoughts on facebook, please feel free to add tips and tricks that work for you. A lot of this can be adopted and adapted for any business really.  I’d love to help you in your endeavors, running your own business is hard work but so worth the effort and really contrary to popular belief, people with strong work ethic and passion will thrive more often than those with training and education.  Please dont hesitate to contact me with any questions or topics you’d like me to talk about, If I dont know I can probably quote someone who does 🙂  If you’d like to ask me a question anonymously you can do so at Formspring

Thanks for taking the time to read ❤

One of the wedding cakes by my good friend at N Clare

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So a few weeks ago, one of my very dearest friends finally tied the knot.  I myself got married very young right after my 22nd birthday, and had 2 kids by 24… it’s taken a while for my friends to catch up.  When I got married I had never taken a class on or shown interest in photography aside from that of a person trying to savor significant moments.  Sometimes it amazes me it took me so long to find photography.  My wedding was a disaster except for the part where I married the love of my life, sometime I’ll rehash that whole scenario, but for this particular blog the thing worth noting is that I did not have a photographer and 5 years later it pains me to know I do not have one really good photograph from my wedding.  That has in turn very much put things in perspective for me as a wedding photographer in two regards.  1st that everyone should have fantastic wedding photography, as one of my dear mentors: Scott Bourne says “I have a very lovely photo of thousands of dollars of floral arrangements in an alley way dumpster, all the food will end up in the toilet, I provide the only thing they keep.”  It also keeps alive all the other things that otherwise would be lost.  The flowers never wilt in the images, the food always looks delicious and mouthwatering, and the moments and emotions exist forever.  The images I have are all poor quality, pixelated, and drastically under exposed… but seeing them brings me right back to that moment all the same; it’s not what they see when they look at your photos, it’s what they feel when they look at your photos.  You are creating the artistry of love.

Sara and I have been best friends since we were 11.  All of our most embarrassing and most fun moments have been together, I have laughed my hardest with her, and when I have cried my hardest she has been there every time to see me through.  So it was not an unexpected honor when she asked me to be her matron of honor, and doubly so when she asked my son and daughter to be her flower girl and ring bearer… the problem came in when we both also wanted me to do her photography.  Initially for me my first instinct was to be photographer first.  As we went dress shopping, had her bridal shower and bachelorette party, and prepared for the wedding I realized that a lot of me was feeling a great sense of loss in not being a part of her day, helping her dress, wearing a gown and walking down the aisle, holding her flowers as she held hands with her new husband and spoke her vows.  All the things I have captured for so many brides and their most important girls.  Even this sense of loss circled back to the photography for me though.  I realized what really was bothering me about her wedding was the same thing that bothers me about mine, the photos.  In this case that when her grandchildren look at her wedding album her best friend would not be in them.  Photos for me are in a way our own immortality I have listened to my own grandmother talk about her best friend and seen them age through 60 years and their friendship still exist throughout more than half a century.  For half a moment I heavily considered setting down the camera and replacing it with a persimmon gown.

I love wedding photography, and I love the symbolism and what they mean.  I really do give my all to my clients on their special day, I have played seamstress, decorator, planner, transportation specialist, nurse, and psychiatrist along with photographer and videographer.  I am not conceited about many things, but I am a great wedding photographer, and that is not only because of my ability to take a good photograph but because I care, not only about their day, and about their album, but about 50 years from now and what all of this will mean then.  Me as her photographer will mean more than me as her bridesmaid.  She had many wonderful women to stand up for her, and honor for a dear friend of ours that passed away a month before my wedding that could not be there for either of ours…. She had a beautiful day full of fun, and love, and family, and celebration and capturing all that artistically and preserving it… forever, was far more important to me and a greater gift to give her for the rest of her life and following generations, rather than being there just for the day.

Besides that my children represented a large part of me.  Cadence was adorable and so serious about her very important flower tossing duties; and Steven misunderstood ring bearer and heard “Ring Bear”  and promptly started growling.  Everyone found it so cute that they actually let him dress up as a bear and growl down the aisle.

I have resigned myself to accepting the fact that I will be always a photographer and never a bridesmaid.  I’m ok with that because I feel it is a much greater gift to give.  This image solidifies that for me, and really even though I am not physically in the photograph, each photograph is a sort of self portrait, and I know that I will as much come to mind in taking the photo as I would have being in it.

Congratulations to my very dear friend Mrs. Sara Benson thank you for letting me create your new family’s first heirloom and for the last 15 years and the next 50.

I love you very much.

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I have ached for love from depths most would not dare explore within themselves…. and as many do could spin a web of sorrow and heartache through experiences of abuse and neglect from a lost version of childhood… we’re all tortured souls in one regard or another I suppose. I find often times in retrospect the moments I thought would break me have in turn shaped some of the favorite aspects of myself, like a rock the ocean is beating against relentlessly until someone sees the beauty of the polished after effects of the ocean’s turmoil against the stone… Only the stone carries the memory of the storms that crafted it. I am at the center of myself a very humble person, and it has taken me some 25 years to differentiate between confidence and conceitedness. I think for a long time my feelings of the inability to be one without the other had restrained me from taking flight, that it might be perceived audacious to spread my wings when others could not fly. I think recently I have learned more about the person I am and recognized that I am very close to being who I always wanted to be, and allowed myself to believe I wasn’t because of an unfounded acceptance of someone else’s perception of me. I have embraced my unique ability to be a myriad of things because I very easily adapt and learn the choreography of the different roles I have danced in. I am finally finding a central balance between mother, wife, photographer and self. I have released the shells that served as defenses against the world and am comfortable in my own skin. I think this has manifested completely in the last few days. I used to be so distraught and conflicted with what my life was and who I was in it that at times even death was a welcome thought. Then again I think each of us has been there for at least a moment when we have lost the thing that mattered most. It took me a long time to see the thing I had lost; or never really had was myself, in true unbridled form. Lately I have been very aware of my blessings instead of my burdens. I have been dare I say it: Happy. and at peace. I think a lot of this is also because I have embraced myself and my strength that for whatever reason I denied was evident before. I rest in the comfort of knowing whatever comes that I can approach it with grace and courage, and most importantly survive and even flourish in its absence. Let’s consider it a fundamental understanding of the much practiced buddhist belief in detachment. Easy in theory hard in practice… Perhaps that’s why death scares us so. Whether our own ending or the loss of a loved one there is such a permanence about it that we fear we can not stop aching for that loss because the loss is never ending.
Why the philosophical tonight? Several days ago I went for my annual girl checkup {always fun} and once again was met with the same results as several years ago, a hard mass on one of my ovaries. Last time it was a simple surgery and removal of the tumor that had my test not shown results of I would not have known about. This time I have been in pain and can actually feel the hard spot she is referring to… and I saw her face… excellent Doctor, she delivered both my children and found the first growth when I was 17…. terrible game face though, no future in poker. So now I’m facing internal ultrasounds, hormone levels and lots of blood work, while balancing a career, two kids, a marriage, and our moving fiasco that is weeks away but seems never ending. Part of me feels the faster I deal with it the sooner it’s over, part of me knows my intuition is rarely wrong and I feel like it is better to revel in the bliss that is ignorance. Somewhere in the midst of a contorted view towards the adage that what I don’t know cant hurt me. How many times do people go to the doctor for something routine, think they have a cold or pulled a muscle, and instead are told they have cancer, which their bodies promptly respond to by in turn getting sick, aided of course by chemo, surgery, radiation and medication that hurts all the healthy parts of your body while trying to heal the afflicted parts? Something simple? Possibly… but I’m not ready to face the alternative. There’s so much yet… Steven hasn’t said Mommy yet, first days of school, proms, graduation, 1st christmas home from college, 5 year wedding anniversary, next year’s wedding season, the addition on our house, buying a puppy for the kids, reuniting with old friends, making new ones, our 50 year wedding anniversary, grandkids… To many moments like this I have not yet captured

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