Last week you read about my first two days in Paris for The Signature Atelier and without further ado, today I’m chatting about Days 3 and 4.
DAY 3 – SUNRISE AT THE EIFFEL TOWER, WATERCOLOR, AND PURPOSE
We started our day early. Like, really early. If you want to photograph at the Eiffel Tower unencumbered, you have to get there early, otherwise you’ll be fighting with a line of photographers and tourists. We arose before the sun and we arrived before the sun, at 5:15am to be exact. It was still pitch black outside when we pulled up to Trocadéro. We were the first to arrive so we staked our claim front and center and we were forceful about maintaining it. The early bird gets the worm. I really can’t emphasize enough how important it is that we showed up before there was even the palest light in the sky. Paris is one of the most visited cities in all the world. Any person who has even grazed over a photo of the Eiffel Tower will want a photo in front of it when they visit Paris. You’ve got to fight to get the goods if you’ve got paying clients.
That being said our early morning shoot was ah-maze-ing. The dress that Katherine made for our model Arienne was a romantic dream. We each got 5 minutes to direct our couple through any posing that fit our style and brand with some side instruction from Abby. This was actually super helpful to me because I sometimes have a tendency to overthink posing. Abby talks nonstop when she is with a couple. Like NONSTOP!!! I even asked her, “Abby, do you always talk that much when you are with a couple?” She said, and I quote, “I don’t go more than five seconds without talking.” She really doesn’t. It was crazy to me, and yet watching her do it, it started to all make perfect sense. I used this technique the next day at our styled shoot and it was surprisingly easier than I thought. I’ve since done it at a proposal shoot and a wedding and it’s already changing my game.
After our shoot wrapped everyone’s mind was on coffee and croissants so we headed to Le Wilson for some breakfast. This was my first attempt at more than two words of french. Up until this point I hadn’t really had to talk to anyone. The waiter was awesome and helped correct the pronunciation of words I was struggling with as I made an honest attempt to order my whole freakin meal in french. I actually did pretty good and it gave me the confidence to keep at it.
After our meal we had a free afternoon to roam. I buddied up with Alicia, Marie and Lina and we headed back across the street to Trocadéro to get a few more photos of the Eiffel Tower. Once we were satisfied with our captures, we grabbed an Uber to Montmartre to get a hilltop view of the city and pass by Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The view from the Parvis is incredible, with sightlines to Notre Dame, the Panthéon and Bastille Opera. We meandered our way down the hill stopping periodically for a photo. We really just wandered the streets with no purpose other than to be there and discover what Paris wanted to show us…and eventually eat an eclair chocolat.
Soon we were due back at the house for watercolor and rosé. You guys…I can’t paint. I can paint a wall, but that is the extant of my painting talents, so I won’t even embarrass myself and share what I produced. LMAO! What I will say, is that I loved the experience and I’m working on watercolor as a creative experiment in my nervous energy kind of free time. On a side note, I’m a fabulous rosé drinker, so that’s something.
Our first business class of the day was Communication for Pros: Email Etiquette and the Gentle No. Abby is kind of a communication enthusiast. She really emphasized using email solely and thoroughly, which is what I’ve always wanted because, let’s be real, it’s hard to keep up with emails, texts, DM’s, Facebook messages and the litany of other access points where messages can be left. This class was like getting permission to say no to everything but email. I even got schooled on having my phone number on my business card, which is now no longer on my business card and it’s already made a difference.
And speaking of the N-word…she also got real with us about saying “No.” Creatives, women in particular, tend to not like to say no. But the reality is that if we say yes too often and/or to the wrong things, we get overwhelmed, exhausted, and completely uncreative. We’re essentially saying no to our dreams when we say yes to everything else. So this was a little bit of a reality check, as I mentally listed everything I had said yes to in the previous months and years and how I felt about myself in the moments after. Get a spine girl! You got into business so you could stop doing what doesn’t work and start doing what fires you up! So say No when you need to! Michael Hyatt actually gave me the tools I needed to be able to do this in a way that works for me, and as I practice it, I have found it to be easier than I had previously thought it could be. If you want to get to a few links, just type Michael Hyatt on saying no into google and start reading. My favorite is this one which discusses the affirm, no, affirm approach which is what I use.
Next we moved into Cultivating Inspiration: “Purposeful” Instead of “Popular.” You guys, this was it. This was the class that first caught my eye when I was deciding about the workshop. I have, in many conversations with my husband, family, and other creatives, used these words…I want purposeful over popular, I want to know the reason why, the meaning behind, the deeper story. So Abby, if you are reading this, this was the thing that spoke to me! This was the hook. The promise of tons of bread and desserts and the Eiffel Tower reeled me in.
This class took what I had put together in our Designing a Vision Based Business class from Day 2 and just cemented it in. I could immediately see that my vision and purpose were married to each other. One couldn’t exist without the other. The aspects of my business that get me fired up and feeling super creative, joyful and fulfilled are the same things that make up that deep-seated conviction hardwired into who I am as a creative entrepreneur. It’s the story.
After a long day we settled in for a dinner of pasta with cheese tossed in olive oil and baguette. Katherine and Jen whipped us up a dessert of bread pudding made from pain au chocolat and croissant. I had never had bread pudding, but if it always tastes like that, I’m sold!
DAY 4 – DESTINATIONS, FILM AND SIGNATURE STYLES
After breakfast we began our day with class topic; Attracting Destination Clients the Smart Way. I’m going to be honest here, for the other photographers out there who need to hear they’re not alone and the struggle really is real. Two years ago I almost booked a wedding in Florida for $1500. The $1500 was for everything, including travel from Houston. You’ll notice I said ALMOST. I wanted the wedding so bad and they wanted me (they had been Instagram stalking me for two years), but they had no photography budget. I would have essentially been paying to shoot their wedding. Even if it was a situation where I would have broken even on the dollar amount, I’d have still been spending a ton of time that I wasn’t getting paid for. That was when I realized I couldn’t photograph for “free” or next to nothing anymore. I had to make money or I wouldn’t be a business, and if I wasn’t a business then I’d need to go get a job, because bills. So this class reaffirmed my current thought process on what needs to happen in order for me to travel for an event or shoot. It was also really great to hear Abby’s approach and compare it to my own. Sometimes it’s just really helpful to see how someone else does something, so you can reverse engineer a strategy that works for you.
Our next class was Film 101. I wrote about our film class a few weeks ago and shared some of my film scans. I was really excited about this class, but super nervous to shoot film. I’m so glad I did though, because it was such a rush. Definitely take a few minutes to read my blog post about it for more insight.
After our film class we prepped for the day’s styled shoot. The shoot was done in the garden at the house we were staying at for the workshop. It’s basically a dream location and everything turned out so magical. I’ll be sharing all the details in a future post.
After our shoot, we had another round of head shots in the garden. I normally get pretty wigged out about getting “professional” photos of myself, so I made it a point to not over prepare or treat it as anything more than some fun vacation photos. Abby made me feel pretty awesome and I love all the photos she captured…and they’re on film, so bonus! After she shot my roll, I had a two hour lunch break, so I grabbed my camera and wondered around the little town of Le Chesnay. There were so many little treasures at every turn. The sweetest windows, vibrant flowers, secret gardens, quirky details and the scent of lavender everywhere. I lost track of time and ended up at a gas station buying a prepackage crepe for lunch. Yes, that’s right. I ate french gas station food for lunch. My husband almost fell over laughing when I told him, because how American am I?!?!?! But two minutes in the microwave back at the house and it was really good!
While I was quite literally devouring my gas station food, everyone poured into the living room for our next class, Designing a Signature Style: Crafting a Style that Speaks for Itself. This is the one that gets away from me a little bit. Others have told me that when they see photos I’ve taken they immediately know they are mine. But despite hearing that, I’m still working on certain aspects of my style and some of them I’m still in the struggling phase. I’ll use greens as an example. Earlier this year I realized greens as they come out of camera are not my favorite. I felt they were holding me back. So I’ve been experimenting all year with green adjustments. It may seem like a little thing, but when you start getting into the nitty gritty of how you want your photos to look over the long term growth of your portfolio, every little piece matters. Because I tend toward a more vibrant and colorful output, I’ve also been experimenting with vibrancy and saturation adjustments. Once you start messing with one adjustment, you usually have to compensate somewhere else. Changing one aspect may require changing others to get the desired affect. It’s a process, but it’s necessary.
Editing style is just one facet of signature style though. How you can serve your client’s unique needs also plays into your signature. For instance, any photographer from Houston could photograph an engagement session at Disney World. But I’m the only one who worked there for two years, and has all the inside scoop on the best times to go and locations to shoot, therefore making me a unique resource clients would miss out on if they booked someone else. The question Abby posed to us was, “Are you creating work that inspires potential clients to talk about you in the way that you want?” This comes back to the “show what you want to shoot” mantra. It also challenges that you “shoot what you want to be known for.”
Pricing for Profit…the topic of dread and stress and glazed over eyes! Abby was an open book. She showed us down to the penny what it costs her to shoot a wedding. It was so great to see real life numbers from someone else’s business. In this one case, comparison is the not the theif of joy. It gave me a basic framework to check my own numbers against. That coupled with the actual strategy behind her services and pricing structure are helping me reformulate my offerings for 2018.
We concluded with dinner outside. I don’t remember if I mentioned that it is light out until about 10pm in the summer in Paris. So while we didn’t eat until around 8pm, there was still plenty of gorgeous summer light for us to enjoy our wine and food.
Special thank you to Abby for my head shots and that snaps of me at the Eiffel Tower and shooting film!
Eiffel Tower Vendors
Garden Styled Shoot Vendors
Also check out:
Days 1 and 2 of The Signature Atelier