Meet my sweet friend Rosie with Reflections by Rosie...she was kind enough to share her story of struggle, strength and perseverance. It's funny how much life has changed in a matter of two years. Seriously.
I remember tripping across Spanki's Facebook page for the first time. At that time, I was a brand-new photographer. I had been running my business for a little over a year, and had recently had my fourth child. Things were going…well…okay with my business. I had made a profit, but BARELY. Definitely not enough of one to justify calling Reflections by Rosie a full-on, full-time, BUSINESS.
At that time, too, I had just wrapped on my second year of shooting high school senior portraits. I was busy, but yearning for more advice on posing. On locations. On...well...everything! I was fumbling through the dark.
I basically needed someone who was successful in senior portrait photography, and whose work I loved and connected with, to talk to.
In a bad way. :)
Then I found Spanki Mill's Photography page.
Spanki and I had a few things in common: we are both photographers who are moms of four kids. We are both strong in our faith convictions. We are also busybodies, but in a GOOD way: we both like to keep our creative minds active.
We also had a few things that were different: she was rocketing to success in high school senior portrait photography. She was also earning much higher numbers in sales than I was, and we were both in similar markets.
I needed her to teach me HOW THE HECK SHE DOES IT! How did (and does) she market to this elusive group of high school seniors? How does she talk to them in posing them that results in such natural-looking images? How does she keep her business relevant and active in her community?
So, I e-mailed Spanki and signed up for my first "A Day With Spanki" workshop (one-on-one).
I remember my mind being blown, on multiple occasions, during my first workshop with Spanki. She had such simple, but effective, ways to suggest marketing to me in ways that I had not even considered. Being so new into the business, I was only thinking about the "traditional" ways to market. I was forced to think about billboards (which I couldn't afford!) as opposed to looking at the businesses that are UNDER the billboards. She also helped me to understand that I needed to focus my efforts on marketing to a specific KIND of high school senior, as opposed to EVERY kind of high school senior.
The posing part of the first workshop was wonderful; but honestly, I walked away with much more of a savvy business sense than I had anticipated prior to our first workshop.
After that workshop, I really dug in and focused on what Spanki had taught me. I wanted to find local businesses that was consistent with what I wanted as a brand. For my business, I wanted more a "fashion" feel to my images.
For a few months (no one said that it was going to be quick!), I contemplated, studied and applied what I had learned with Spanki for the first workshop. I worked on making my images better and more consistent with what my "target" senior would want in their images. I had also signed up for a Critique session with Angela Richardson from AMR Photography with the Chic Critique Forum so that I would have another photographer whose work I admired's opinions on my images.
Then, Ella Zane Boutique opened. I was totally, and completely hooked! The boutique was perfect- very modern looking clothes with a classic feel. The inside of the store felt very much like something you would see in Los Angeles (where I lived prior to moving to the Houston area). Clean lines, amazing clothes, sweet staff….I was in LOVE!
I remember the day that I met the store's owner, Jessica. I also remember how flabbergasted I was when she asked me to photograph her whole line!
The rest of the year was a total whirlwind. Seniors started booking me at a much higher rate than before. I had increased my rates; and I was making money; but I was starting to teeter on the edge of burnout. I remember feeling both happy that I was seeing success, and sad that I wasn't spending the time with my family that I had wanted to anymore.
In other words, I was starting to become a victim of my own success.
Fast-forward to this past November: Spanki wanted to hold a workshop in Galveston. When she asked me to be her hostess, I was flattered and excited, as a refresher course was something that I needed (full disclosure: I had also taken a course from Alicia Caine of Profit First Photography that was helping to re-establish equilibrium in my business and personal life). Helping Spanki plan the workshop was a lot of fun, and the fact that Spanki was local to me probably made it easier, too.
I was excited to meet the 9 other photographers who had signed up for Spanki's A Day With Spanki. Most of us were local to the Houston area; however, there were a few women who had commuted in from Austin.
The house- oh my gosh- was incredible. The waves crashed right up alongside the house. The interior decor was simple and modern…it had a California meets the Mediterranean feel to it with a little bit of a Swiss flair. The living room where Spanki ran her class was perfect for the workshop- it was open, inviting (just like Spanki!).
The other photographers, though, were what really made this workshop special. Being a one-on-one alum, I had missed out on the sisterhood that is A Day With Spanki workshop. Each of these women brought something unique and special to the table. Each had a story to share, and each had a unique perspective on photography, posing, and life in general. Over the course of the weekend, we discussed SO MANY things that I will take back and use going into the future. I was able to hear about Spanki's, and the other photographers, successes (and sometimes failures!). The whole experience was both insightful, business-wise, and cathartic, personally-speaking.
Long story short, I came out of my second A Day With Spanki Workshop with both professional insight that I may not have grasped the first 'go round, but also with personal insight and friendships that will carry me through for many more years. I also had a chance to really get to know Spanki again, and we learned that our lives continue to intersect in some amazing ways. It was refreshing to level with Spanki on the business in a way that I was not ready, or capable, of relating to her on for my first one-on-one, and I walked away with a whole new set of ideas that I will take forward with me. I was grateful that I had this experience- again- and I was appreciative of all that Spanki continues to teach me about photography, business, and as a friend in real-life.
In this crazy, chaotic and sometimes isolating business we call photography, it is wonderful to have friends who can truly relate with you on both a personal and business level. I've learned that success isn't measured in just dollars and cents, but also how rich your heart feels at the end of the day.