Art Through Persistant Knowledge

by Becky on December 15, 2013

Photography.  What does that word bring to mind?  If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have told you key light, fill light, kicker light, background light.  Metering, composition, posing, color, zones –the technical.  Then, I attended ImagingUSA for the first time.  I did so to complete a goal, my goal of certification.  I wanted to go in, show my technical expertise, and go home.  I knew my stuff, I was confident I would pass the exam, and I was ready to just get it over with.  But, to hedge my bet, I enrolled in the Certification Preparation Class.  I sat in the classroom surrounded by award winning images by Gary and Kathy Meek.  Stunning images, images that pulled me in and made me wonder– How did they get a light there?  Which area did they expose for?  Is that even possible?   How much editing time was involved?  Technical stuff.

Part of the class involved study groups, and I groaned when Gary said this was one of the most important aspects of his class.  I HATE study groups – just a bunch of random people thrown together; none of whom would care as much as I.  It is embarrassing to type that now because the study group I lucked into (simply because of the hotel I’d booked at) turned out to be the greatest treasure from Imaging 2013.  I quickly realized that I was surrounded by true greatness; greatness of heart, greatness of mind, greatness of creativity.  Each one of my study mates taught me something during our three nights of cramming.  Amid arguments over circles of confusion, explanations of light ratios, and discussions of white balance; Jules taught me that anything is possible if you just do it, Cindy taught me that I need to chill out, Travis taught me to see beauty, Vickie taught me to be myself, Sheila taught me perseverance, Marco taught me to love where I’m at, and Marian taught me how much I needed friends.  Even after the class, we encouraged each other with image submissions, celebrated business victories, and consoled each other when goals were missed.  I consider these photographers among the best of my acquaintance and having them in my life has made me a better person.  ImagingUSA hadn’t even officially begun, and yet, I had learned lifelong lessons. 

Exam day came. Two hours later it was over, and it was time to head to “the show”.  We arrived just after the floor had opened and we descended the escalators with hundreds of others – a giant tsunami of photographers.  After visiting a few vendor booths, we decided to peruse the print competition display.  Large zig-zagging temporary “walls” were covered with hundreds of nearly perfect competition prints.  Again, I was blown away by the sheer technical genius!  But, as I rounded the corner of the loan collection I saw this:

Time Traveler by Richard Sturdevant

I grew up on a farm, and one of our most favorite pastimes was climbing trees.  One particular tree sat directly in front of our home and was designated as “The Climbing Tree”.  My siblings and I would see who could climb the highest, fastest, best.  I remember falling out of that tree one day; One second I was going up and the next instant I hit the ground, landing flat on my back. The air was knocked out of my lungs, and I was unable to breathe.  Seeing this image had the same effect as hitting the ground (without the falling part).  I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening.  My brain wanted to analyze, but my heart took over – I was mesmerized.  This piece grabbed me.  And it didn’t let go:

Fire in the Sky by Richard Sturdevant

Defenders of the Realm by Richard Sturdevant

Sin City by Richard Sturdevant

My definition of “genius” was, in that moment, redefined.  The possibilities of photography as an art form expanded to infinite.   This artist had truly created a one of a kind piece.  Times eight.   In an industry flooded with photographers, he had separated himself not only through his camera, but by using all available tools.  My mind was blown.  Incredibly, I was able to meet the artist, Richard Sturdevant, just a few minutes later!  Richard had so many awards around his neck he was going to need a brace, yet he spoke to me with such a humble heart.  He congratulated my classmates and me on our completion of the CPP exam, and talked to us about our next step – print competition.  His heart for teaching shone bright and I am filled with anticipation of someday taking one of his classes.  Day one of ImagingUSA, and my heart was changed. 

The remaining days were filled with seminars and workshops with some of my idols.  Some of my idols were knocked down a peg after seeing the work of the Print Exhibit.  And I found new photographers to follow, photographers who cared about the industry and not just about making money.  Where I wanted my business to go changed over those three short days.  There is no way I could have anticipated that 2013 (with the assistance of the United States Air Force) would move my family to Turkey, that the best choice for my business  would be to put it on hold, and that I’d have to sit quietly by while other photographers paraded around me.  If I had not attended ImagingUSA 2013, if I had not met the group of people I had the privilege of befriending, if I had not taken the CPP exam, I probably would have folded everything – just shut it down.  But my study group friends give me inspiration every day, my new goal of my Master of Photography keeps me motivated, and my certification gives me confidence in my work.

Last year, if you’d asked me what photography means, the answer would have been technical.  Now, the word “Photography”, to me, means “Art through persistent knowledge”.  I am giddy with anticipation of ImagingUSA next month;  my study group will reunite as eight Certified Professional Photographers and we will lay plans to conquer 2014!  I hope to see YOU there!

The images in this post are used with permission of the creator, Richard Sturdevant, who is AWESOME! 
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Certified Professional Photographer

by Becky on August 15, 2013

I am so excited to be one of the 8% of photographers to be a Certified Professional Photographer!  Recently, I decided to take a break from client work to travel and work on competition prints.  However it’s not easy.  I feel like I’m missing a part of me- an important part!  I started to struggle with myself to try to find a balance – how can I still make photography a part of my life and also concentrate on the more immediate needs of my family and situation?  The answer, of course, is education!  I love to teach photography to others.  I love to see the light in a mother’s eyes when she “gets it”.  I love to see the pure relief of a struggling professional when she realizes a new technique will save her hours of time in the editing room.  Two years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to teach others.   Thanks to the Certified Professional Photographer program and my relentless pursuit of the designation, not only has my knowledge been built up, but my confidence with myself.  I hope that over the next couple of years, I can convince more professional photographers to follow the path of certification.  It’s good for the soul.

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It’s Here!!

by Becky on March 1, 2013

That is a golden tube, y’all!

Nicely wrapped goodies!

BAM!

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Rebecca Williams, CPP

by Becky on February 6, 2013

Requirement to be a photographer:

Own a camera.

Training?  No.  Education? No.  Knowledge?  No.  Scary?  Yes.

When I entered the world of professional photography it was because I was angry.  I’d had a horrible experience, realized that I knew more and had better equipment than the person with a camera I’d paid, and wanted to save others from the same bad feelings.  I thought I knew everything, but the longer I was in the profession the more I realized that I didn’t know, and I quickly began to see the professional photography industry as more than just me.   In awe of truly great photography, I was at a crossroads.  Either I had to set a higher bar for myself and my studio, or I had to quit.  I decided to give it all I had.

I restructured my business and the way I interacted with clients.  I threw myself into learning everything I could.  Workshops, books, blogs, conventions, classes; I did them all.  Finally, I was ready for the finale – certification.  Naturally, because my knowledge had so vastly increased, I thought certification would be a piece of cake.  I was so WRONG!  Certification proved to be a new learning experience for me.  I had to take everything I practice daily and learn the theory and the “why” and the science behind it.  When I first opened the book, I knew it was going to be a long haul.  I’m a great test taker, and I could have just crammed a bunch of facts into my head, but I truly wanted to learn.  It is fascinating to me that I can look at a real world scene and make it appear in a completely different light with a “light box”.  It took me over a year to think myself ready to sit for the 100 question exam.

During this time, I also had to submit 15 images representing my work, to be reviewed by a panel of judges.  Culling through all of my images from the past 24 months, I chose the ones which had made parents laugh or cry.  Images which had been ordered as large wall portraits for the home;  images capturing emotions or moments that showed personalities.  I submitted them.  I failed.    Devastated, tears streamed from my eyes.  My very encouraging husband comforted, “You don’t need someone else to tell you what is good and what is not.”  My 10-year old son incredulously exclaimed, “They just don’t know what good photography is!”  Again, I was at a crossroads.  My family was right – my clients loved my work and that’s what mattered.  Maybe I didn’t really need to be certified.  Potential clients could see that I knew what I was doing, so why did the opinion of some old dudes matter?  Did I really need a stamp to tell me I was a professional?

That’s when it hit me.  I didn’t need them to tell me I was a professional, but neither did the other 300 photographers operating in a 2 mile radius of my home and charging a fraction of my price list.  What reassurance did my clients have that I was worth the extra money?  I homeshool my kids and that’s no secret.  I know that when I tell people I’m a professional photographer and that I homeschool, they struggle to believe it’s possible to do it all.  Many (not you, of course) see me as just another mom with a fancy camera.  I needed certification to set myself apart, to tell potential clients that not only am I worth my prices, but that I am also dedicated to my industry, my craft, and my education.  So, I set back to work, culling through images.  This time however, after a feedback session from a CPP judge, I looked for images that displayed technical excellence; perfect lighting, correct posing, color harmony, artistic composition – rules older than the invention of photography.  I remember pulling the envelope with the Certification return address out of the mailbox.  My heart started thumping, and I had to regulate my breathing as I slowly removed the one page letter.  “The Profession Photographic Commission would like to extend our congratulations…”.  Again, tears fell from my eyes.  Only one more step.

I scheduled myself for the exam at ImagingUSA, the Professional Photographers of America’s annual conference.  As insurance, I also enrolled in the CPP Prep class before the convention.  Although I did learn a few new photographic terms in the class, it was very reassuring as I sat there to know that most of what the instructor was teaching was review for me.  Before the class, I was pretty sure I’d pass the exam.  After the class, and the OUTSTANDING study group I was blessed with, I was confident.

The big day arrived.  I sat down with sweaty palms and waited for the proctor to read her instructions and say, “Go!”.  The exam was more challenging than I’d expected, but after repackaging my test booklet and scan tron form and leaving the exam room, I felt that I’d passed.  I smiled for probably the first time in days.  Just about a week later, I received an email (I was in Disney World) that I’d passed the exam.  Two days after that, my profile on the PPA website was updated, and my name now had a CPP after it.  Years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance had paid off.  I allowed myself to rejoice out loud for a few moments, and yes, I cried again.  It’s what I do.

Certified Professional Photographer

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Growing Family

by Becky on December 22, 2012

I met Marcie when we were both pregnant with our daughters in Little Rock. Our husbands were class mates in AC school, and the four of us ended up hanging out frequently during the few months Ryan and I were here. Since that time, we’ve seen them from time to time as their little family has grown to a bigger family. Marcie used to tease that she was going to catch up with me, and with the addition of little Ruth, she finally has! I’m pretty sure she may pass me in a few years. :-) She came over on Monday and I had the lights on, trying to capture each of her little ones as they came into the studio area and then quickly ran back out to go play with my kids. I managed to capture just a few of all five together, but my favorite is the title slide, which, I think, portrays the personality of each of her babies: sweet, quiet Rebekah gazing down at precious newborn Ruth; studious, yet ornery Trey; curious Seth; and bubbly Anna – full of expression. I’m am so thankful to call Marcie a friend, and I can not wait to see the future God holds for her beautiful family.

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