Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Living the Dream - Part Two of Two

Yesterday I told the first part of this story.  You can read it here.

I wrote in my journal, "I'm praying about launching Jodi Stilp Photography.  It feels good - and scary - to dream.  To say it out loud:  I want to be a photographer.  

What does that look like?   How do I shoot portraits?  Is it feasible?  Do I have the skill set?  Where do I start?  Will it work with our schedule?  Is this from God?  Am I good enough?  

I want to use the talents God has given me to encourage and bless others.  But I want to do it right. For His glory and praise.  

To celebrate the Creator of the Universe.  Of families.  Of beauty in all its forms.  

So I study.  And pray.  Dream.  Plan.  Prepare. 

God if this is from you, please make it known.  Make it clear.  Guide my thoughts.  The process. The edits.  The gear.  The clients, etc.  

I come before you with open hands and a willing heart.  Make me humble.  Holy.  Dependent on you.  Creative.  I love you."

Over the past year I've had consistent positive feedback from friends, family and acquaintances who have seen my work.  Photo cards I made as Christmas gifts were so well received that I had to make extras to sell to friends who placed orders to purchase more.

A neighbor asked to buy an image I posted online to make into a canvas for her wall.

Other friends requested copies of nature images to blow up and display in their homes.

I did mini portrait sessions for a couple of families.

For the first time I skipped paying a professional photographer to take my kids pictures and I photographed them myself.  When I went to pick the images up the store clerk asked me for a copyright release.  I stood a little taller and said, "Actually, I took those myself.  Where do I sign?"

But it wasn't until I read Ally's book that I began to imagine actually DOING something with my pictures.  If Ally could quit her job and live off rice and beans to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, then I could too.

It was time to stop dreaming and starting living it out.
photo courtesy of j. carmon photography
I took the plunge and bought real photo editing software.  Upgraded some of my camera gear.  Made an appointment with my talented friend who designs websites, branding, and logos.  Put a book on hold at the library that covers every facet of digital photography.

Once I set the wheels in motion  I  arranged to trade services with my friend who is in beauty school.  She did our family's hair.  I took her family's portraits.   We're both students of our trade so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.  We were nervous but had so much fun together sharing the talents, passions, and dreams God has given us with each other.
... and that's a wrap.  First session finished AND I've fixed my hair for at least seven days in a row cause I like it so much.  (That might be a record).
I summoned the courage to tell a few of my friends about my desire to pursue photography as a career.  They immediately went to work to help my dream become a reality. (P.S.  I have AMAZING friends.)

Four friends placed orders for photo cards to help contribute toward start up costs.

Two of my professional photographer friends took me under their wing.  They shared their wisdom and then their gear when my camera took an unexpected nose dive off the top of a mountain just days before my first portrait session.  One sent me an encouraging, "You can do it.  Can't wait to see your work" text message right before the session. They gave me a crash course in how to use photo editing software and answered my plethora of "what do you do when..." questions.  One of them even added me to a closed, social media group for professional photographers to share ideas.  These girls believed in my work even though they are years ahead of me in experience and skill.  What a gift!

Another one of my friends is also an incredibly talented photographer.  She dropped everything to come with me to scope out photo shoot locations, lending me valuable insight from her photography perspective.  We used my daughter as our model and without really trying got some beautiful portraits of my girl.  She also snapped this beautiful portrait of Alli and I on our outing.  An unexpected gem from a crazy day.

Portraits are new to me.  I've mostly photographed landscape.  One of my friends listened to my insecurity about if I had the skill to take portraits.  When I was done spouting my nerves she smiled and on the spot hired me to take her children's portraits.  I almost cried.

In the midst of this I got an email from an acquaintance who had no idea I was mustering the courage to launch a business.  Her message?  "Would you be interested in doing family portraits?  I would love to get some of our family with some outdoor fall colors.."  God was baby-stepping me into making this dream a reality.

This weekend I did a soft open of Jodi Stilp Photography.  I still need to design a website and a logo.  Buy insurance and develop a business plan. Read the photography book and finish watching all the photo editing tutorials.  My poor kids are going to be so sick of being used as portrait guinea pigs.  But the plan is set in motion and gaining momentum.

I announced my business with a Facebook page and plan to build my portfolio by offering student pricing on portrait sessions.  Within minutes of opening my business I had two sessions scheduled and a few more inquiries.  Another example of my friends putting their confidence in me when mine is still so small.

My replacement camera arrived today - just in time to shoot a few sessions in the beautiful weather predicted for this weekend.  Thank you Jesus!

Somebody pinch me.  I'm living the dream.

P.S.  What do you dream about doing?  What is stopping you from pursuing your dream?  Go chase it down!

P.P.S.  There is power in the spoken word.  My friends' well timed words of encouragement fanned the flame of my dream becoming reality.  It's so easy to say, "I believe in you.  You can do it."  Who can you encourage today?  You just never know how God will use it to change their life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Living the Dream - Part One of Two

My friend Allison Vesterfelt wrote a book that was recently published. Titled Packing Light - thoughts on living life with less baggage, the book tells Ally's story of quitting her job, selling everything she owned, and going on a fifty state road trip with a friend because she wanted to learn to live life with less baggage.

Ally is a great writer.  I knew the story would be entertaining and of course I wanted to read it cause HELLO!  My friend wrote a book.  How often can you say that?  I would proudly endorse it even it was terrible because I'm biased.  However...

Ally's book was the kind you can't put down.  I was pulled into her story from the first page and felt like I traveled with her across the country AND on her life journey that was unfolding simultaneously.  This book is legit.  You're missing out by not reading it.

What I didn't expect from Packing Light was to be digging out a highlighter and marking pages with quotes from the book that lingered in my mind long after I turned the last page.

Before she sold everything she owned to travel Ally taught English to middle and high school students.  But her dream was to be a writer.  As Ally's road trip was wrapping up, her friend Becks asked two poignant questions.  "What do you tell people when they ask you what you do?"  Ally didn't have an answer so Becks followed up with an even bigger question. "What do you WANT to do?"

Ally's response was one I related to.  Honest and straight forward, she verbalized how I have so often felt.  "I want to be a writer, but that doesn't mean I am one.  You don't get to just decide what you're going to be - do you?"

Becks dared Ally to tell the next person who inquired about her profession that she was a writer.  To say it out loud.  No caveats or cutting herself down.  Straight up, out loud.  "I am a writer.  I write for a living."  

The first time Ally had the courage to say "I am a writer" out loud it resulted in a job interview for a writing position.  Just like that, Ally was writing for a living.  I know this story because I read it in the book that Ally wrote.  Her dream became a reality.

I have loved photos, stories, writing, and beauty as long as I can remember.  As a kid I spent hours hiking with my family and playing outside, reading books, and pouring over family photo albums.  I  was THAT kid in high school who was always taking pictures and spending money to develop roll after roll of film.  Collages of friends, adventures, and sports covered my bedroom walls.

Not much has changed in twenty years.  I still love being outside, soaking in the beauty of God's creation.  The Pacific Northwest is a playground for nature lovers and I lug my camera with me on almost every outdoor adventure.

I photograph my kids.

The city that I live in and love.

I spent years scrapbooking and now my kids repeatedly page through the albums I created, oohing and aahing and reading the stories I'm so glad I took the time to journal about.

Before I read Ally's book I had been praying about getting a part-time job.  We just bought Curt a car and it would give me great joy to be the one who buys it for him.  Unfortunately my kids don't pay me a salary.  If I want to buy Curt's car, I have to look outside my home for work.

I read, and re-read the passage in Ally's book.  Each time Becks' question and challenge, "What do you WANT to do?" jumped off the page, followed immediately by my insecurity.  "Do I get to pick what I want to do?"

I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up.  Did I dare dream that it could be a reality?  A little spark of hope began to grow.  The more I mulled it over and prayed about it, the bigger and clearer the dream became. Finally I said it out loud.  I told my husband, "I want to be a photographer."

(to be continued tomorrow...)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Learning to Listen to My Body

I just posted a blog for Sole Sisters called Learning to Listen to my Body.  I wanted to link to it on this website too since it gives some quick summaries of the past two weeks and snippets of stuff the kids have done that I think are cute.

Click here to read it.

I hope you are all doing well.