Life is Chaos

Life is chaos.

Life is a mess. Life is hard. Life is undone laundry and unmade beds.

Life is cat pee on the carpet, and dog hair in the bed. It’s dirty diapers and Barbie missing a shoe. Life is bribes, it’s lollies for breakfast (But never green. Never. The. Green.).

Life is hair pulling and baby boops. Life is dogs at the door and lost keys and one-skillet dinners. Life is 2-minute showers and crawling into bed 30 minutes after you’re supposed to get up. Life is a bathtub full of toys.

Life is late for work.

Life is days that last forever and years that fly by.

Life is I love yous and can I sleep with yous and life makes you laugh till you cry and cry till you can do nothing else but laugh.

Life is hard. Life is a mess. Life is chaos.

The Chaos Theory asks: Will a butterfly flapping its wings in China make your dog throw up in your bed?
(Hint: The answer is always “yes”.)

Me and My Family of Dogs

When it comes to my dogs, it’s safe to say that I go the extreme in making them part of the family. My family of dogs usually comes first when it comes to what they need, want, etc. I talk to them constantly (which has given them an extensive vocabulary; both good news and bad). I’m always fussing with their blankies, covering them up, uncovering them, making sure they’re warm but not too warm. Mr. Susan says my dogs are my dollies. He’s right.

We’re in the middle of major packing, and it’s creating havoc. We’ve had workers in the house, getting it ready to sell. There are boxes, bubble wrap, and paper everywhere. My dogs are, of course, freaking out.

And then there are my grand-dogs. Well, Tofu is  my grand-dog (believe me when I say that five years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead using that phrase, but…everything changes). Chuck Mantooth is my honorary step-dog, and I’m going to miss them a ton. (I mean, I’ll miss my kid, of course, and I’ll miss Travis and I’ll really really really miss seeing them in their new love, growing together and becoming a couple. I’m really sad about missing that, but that’s another post.)

Anyway, we had no power yesterday. Yeah. And there was lots of hammering and drilling and, rightfully so, Mouse and T were in the heights of Stranger Danger, where everything except me was the Stranger. So I got them in the bye-bye car and went over to my kid’s house, to visit with Tofu and Chuck. OF COURSE I brought my good camera; phone pics wouldn’t do for what may be the last time I and my family of dogs would hang alone, with no people around.

Most of the shots are fuzzy because, dogs. But I used the self-timer to get this one, and I love it. That’s Chuck Mantooth (we just call him Chuck) on the left, then Tofu, then me in the middle, and finally Mouse and T. They’d don’t always get along when we all hang together (especially the three male dogs; they don’t fight exactly, but they do this “chuff” sound to assert something over the others, and it becomes an endless cacophony of “chuff, chuff, chuff”, while silent Mouse realizes that as female, she need make no sound to assert that she is boss).

(Note for my kid and Travis: they have a great house, they have great taste. The pictures on the wall aren’t that crooked, I was using my super wide lens so everything is distorted. And the shoes on the floor? Well, fuck, it’s their house; mine is worse.)

Photographer for Hire in Kalamazoo

So once you haven’t blogged for a week, it becomes then several weeks. Then it becomes a month, and then several months. I haven’t blogged in forever, but I have some good reasons. One was summer. A bigger one was Jack. And now there’s the move.

We’re in the middle of packing for our new adventure–moving from Los Angeles to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where, as Mr. Susan says, in the winter I’ll have “white grass.”

I was meaning to put together a sort of “end of the year” post with my favorite photos from 2015. Then I started to think it should be a “leaving LA” post with my favorite photos, well, of all time. Yeah. That’s way too daunting. I don’t think I’d ever be able to narrow them down into one post.

So rather than try to play catch up, I’m just going to leave a few recent photos here. In the few weeks I have left in Long Beach, I’m going to walk my dogs a lot (because, sun), have a couple of more sessions before I begin the studio tear-down (*weep*), and try to post from the road as we drive from Long Beach to our new digs.

It’s probably too late to get any photos taken before I go, sorry. But good news for those who are enjoying the White Grass. I’m starting to book sessions to start in March.

In the meantime, I’m going to just leave this here…yeah…and go pack a few boxes…and feel a little bit sad and a little bit excited all at once. And 60 days from now, I’ll be a photographer for hire in Kalamazoo.

8 month bellythe "new dad" faceMom's safe

Why you should ask your photographer to watermark your images.

Most people I’ve encountered in my nearly 6 years as a full-time photographer don’t want my watermark on their lo-res photos. Lo-res images are the ones that are too small to print; they’re used for emailing, phone wallpaper, and for sharing on places like Flickr, Facebook and Pinterest.

I’ve had people remove my watermark without my permission (now it’s written into my agreement that cannot be removed or cropped out). I can see, from a client’s viewpoint, why you wouldn’t want a watermark “messing up” your photo. But that watermark is a good thing. You may think that I, or your own photographer, are trying to grab some “free’ publicity, but that’s just BS. That watermark is there not just to help me, it’s helping you! It’s helping reduce the chances that that photo of your darling baby’s bare butt won’t be stolen and used by someone you don’t know for a purpose you didn’t approve!

Photo theft is a real problem for photographers–and our clients! I can’t even count how many horror stories I’ve heard about people finding out that their family photos have been using in marketing and advertising campaigns–usually overseas.

[Edited to add this part] And then there’s Pinterest. The fastest-growing social network there is. What’s Pinterest all about? Photos. Lots and lots of them. Pinterest is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and lots has been written about taking care when posting there, but people still share photos without a thought to credit them. I like when people share my photos; I do! It’s good publicity and honestly, it makes me feel good that someone likes my work enough to repost it. But when my work is reposted and text is added to it; that’s a whole other problem. I could spend 10 hours a day, every day, looking for all my images that have been changed by someone else, and I’d never find them all. It was always the assumption of those who don’t create the art that anything on the internet is free. Pinterest took that misguided notion and blew it up. So by adding a watermark, people know that it belongs to me. And even if they don’t credit me with then repin, my logo is there, representing me when I’m not around.

Yes, watermarks can be removed by someone who really really wants it gone. But look at it this way: let’s say you’re some skeezy marketing person (with questionable business practices) on the lookout for a free stock image for your new ad campaign, and you Google “baby’s bare butt”. You’re going to come back with page upon page of choices. You might see a really great one that you want, but it’s got a watermark on it. But hey! Right next to it is another that’s maybe not so great, but there’s no watermark. That means it’s free, right?

Um, no. Nothing you find on the internet is free unless that website or author explicitly states that it’s free. But in our example, you, the skeezy marketing person, you’re  probably going to pass over that really great one with a watermark and move onto the one that’s not so great but good enough, and that you can grab right off the search page, and BAM! Slap it into your campaign.

Take a look at the images below. I shot all of these, and my watermark is on all of them. Just think of how many ways they could be put to (illegal) use if they didn’t have a watermark on them. Note: When I post client images online, in my blog or on Facebook, etc., the watermarks are very much like they are below. When I watermark images for a CD, they’re smaller and always placed in the same spot, usually the lower corner. Will that make them completely safe from theft? No, but it will help.

When I take your portrait, I don’t have the right to sell or license that image to a company without your written permission. So if even I don’t have that right, why in the world would you let a total stranger on the other side of the world (or, let’s face it, just down the block) have it?

These are your photos, yeah? You paid for them. You have a say in how and where they are shared (I always talk to my clients about posting their photos to Facebook before I do it) and if you don’t want your photos shared online…well, you have a say in that as well!

A small watermark identifies the photographer, so a) if a legitimate company is interested in using your photo they know who to contact. (Seeing your dog’s or your kid’s image in an ad campaign is kind of cool, actually!) It also reduces (reduces, not eliminates) the chance that it will be used unscrupulously.

And you know what? It also gives your photographer the credit she/he deserves. It helps people like you find photographers you like, that you may want to hire!

Watermarks, in my opinion, are all good. If you’re purchasing hi-res files to make prints, the watermark will of course be removed. But for online sharing, for Google image search, for Pinterest, for all the ways that thieves are stealing your life images and making money off of them, believe me, it needs to be there.



3 reasons you’re not so special

Everyone thinks about getting a professional portrait session at one time or another; really, no matter how many pictures you’ve taken on your point & shoot, you know it would be awesome to have some really nicely done shots of you, your family and/or pets.

But even though so many people want to have their portrait taken, very few actually take the step and do it. Why? It’s always the same three objections, and for those, I have these three basic answers:

1. Nobody’s kids listen

2. Nobody’s pets behave

3. You look way better than you think you do.

A long time ago, after my first kids’ shoot, I called a good friend of mine who had been doing that for years, and I asked her, “how do you get the kids to do what you want?” and she laughed and replied, “you don’t!”

So now you know the truth. You’re really nothing all that special (in the behavioral department, that is). Ok, with that being said: most professional photographers have a bag of tricks they use to get kids and animals to listen, and pretty much all of them involve bribery. I keep a baby bottle, a sippy cup and kids and pet snacks in my studio. I also keep baby cold medicine and Benadryl (no, you’re not the first person to think of that and no, that doesn’t make you a bad parent).

Kids grow up so quickly–as the mother of a 29-year-old, I can tell you it really is the blink of an eye–and pets are with us for such a short time; I always encourage people to get professional portraits done at least every couple of years. It’s totally, 100% worth it.

So book your session and don’t be afraid. Ask your photographer how to prepare; he/she should give you a list of do’s and don’ts for the day. And don’t go into it thinking that everything is going to go smoothly and your 1-year-old is going to think, “yeah, um, I’m going to sit my diapered fanny down right here where they want me to and I’m going to let this person stick this thing in my face and let all these lights go off around me and dang it, I’m going to love it!”

So you take time to play; you take a time-out; you take a walk around the block; you and your photographer do whatever it takes to get everyone comfortable, including yourself, and get the shots. Remember, when you’re looking through a photographer’s website or portfolio, you’re seeing the best of his/her work. You’re not seeing the shots it took to get there.

So for your information and enjoyment, here are some of the shots that it took for us to get there this past weekend.