Sometimes You Get out of Your Comfort Zone…and Like It.

This is a sponsored post. All of the opinions contained within it are my own.

So per all of the big feelings and overflowing emotions of last week, I needed to get out and have some fun. And this was really my first big blogger perk!

I got invited to an exclusive opening VIP party on the brand new patio of Ruth’s Chris in Rogers! (HA! I know right?) There were drinks to be had, food to be scarfed, and new friends to be made.

Introverted Me was all “Don’t do it! You’ll have to mingle and stuff!” and Extroverted Me was like “Free drinks and new connections, woo hoo!”

Extroverted Me won, and I am so glad it did!

We got to dress up all fancy, and in NWA excuses for that are few and far between, so I jumped on it! I wore a black and white striped, sleeveless cocktail dress and long black elbow-length cardigan with a red bubble necklace, red clutch, and black Vera Wang heels. (SUPER comfy! If you’re a heels hater but finding yourself needing some, go grab a pair of hers.)

The Ruth’s Chris patio was awesome! There was a musician, multiple bars to choose from, and multiple layers to lounge and chat. They had awesome strung lights throughout the area to set the mood. Quite possibly my favorite part though, was the service staff! They found a great crew who have fun with customers and enjoy the evening right along with you. They had the most awesome uniforms too! They all wore black on black with suspenders and bow ties, and some of them wore big hipster glasses too. It was super cool!

I highly recommend hitting up the new patio area this summer! They have a brand new menu that is well-priced for everyone just for patio season and it’s a great time for happy hour or a night out with friends! It definitely helped to cure my blues last week! Check out some photos and enjoy!

 

My friend Jacqueline and I snagging a non-creepy photo of the awesome musician!

My friend Jacqueline and I snagging a non-creepy photo of the awesome musician!

 

See? Super cool lighting all throughout!

See? Super cool lighting all throughout!

 

They even got me crawfish! That made this Louisiana girl very happy.

They even got me crawfish! That made this Louisiana girl very happy.

 

Nice thing about free drinks? You can taste them all and decide which is your favorite! The Hurrican Martini is for sure mine.

Nice thing about free drinks? You can taste them all and decide which is your favorite! The Hurrican Martini is for sure mine.

 

See my clutch?? So cute!

See my clutch?? So cute!

This Isn’t Really My Jam, But…

In addition to my ramblings on this site, my personal blog, I also write articles for business blogs. One of which is my very talented husband’s photography company, 6th & Burnside.

This is the most recent blog posting I wrote for it, and I am sharing it here because I think it applies to so many other areas than photography. Really any passion we have and want to take further needs to be put through the ringer that is these 10 steps. I’m hardly my usual hilarious self in it, as you’ll notice exactly zero self-deprecation and ridiculous language such as “like” and “for reals.” I hope you can muscle through any writing without clever rhetoric beginning with “So…”

So… here it is guys!

Being a Photographer 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Fitting in

We’ve all been there. We have a great idea, passion, talent/hopeful talent and want to start making money on it. This is specifically for those of us who enjoy being behind a camera, but I think it applies well to people in lots of business ventures. One of the hardest parts is breaking into the market and being respected in your field by your peers and those who’ve come before you. After being in the photography world for almost 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of beginners come and go, and have learned a few things about what it takes to fit into your field.

 

photography2

Photo of: Bryan Fittin & Josh Noren (www.joshnoren.com) Photo Credits: Andrew Lisle

 

1.      Stay humble! No one likes a guy who bought a semi-nice camera and a cheap version of Photoshop and calls himself a photographer. Or even those who have some money to blow and buy a really nice camera and all the latest software and then call themselves photographers. It’s fun to play around and we certainly think photography is the bomb, but it takes a lot of time, sweat, training, and practice to get to a point of quality work. People will have much more respect for you and will be more willing to give you paying gigs if you’re humble about your skills. You’ve got to walk before you can run, so get out there and learn the ropes before you go around acting like a big shot.

 

2.      Reach out to respected professionals. There is so much good that can come out of learning from those you look up to. Most photographers love to talk about photography! That should go without saying, and if you come across someone who is unwilling to help you, then run away quickly and find someone else. Everyone we know and associate with in the business would love to let you tag along on shoots, do an internship, an apprenticeship, whatever you want to call it. We have an intern program in our company, and are getting to work with an amazing college student with a passion for photography right now. She is getting to learn a lot, build up her portfolio and resume’, and earn a little money to boot! No one is stopping you from doing the same. And hey, it never hurts to get one someone’s contact list for second-shooters while you’re still learning. I know she’s at the top of ours!

 

3.      Make sure you have some second-shooting under your belt to build up a portfolio. Before doing wedding photography, you absolutely need to have some experience! Of course I’m using weddings as an example, but they are stressful! We’ve seen many a photographer get way overwhelmed and in over their heads because they had no idea how fast-paced and demanding it is. Like I said before, work with some other professionals, have some shooting and experience on your portfolio, and have someone else look at your work often to make sure you’re ready to break into the world of professional photography.

 

4.      Be teachable. Don’t let your fear of a bad critique get in the way of humbling yourself to ask others’ opinions. Asking a professional to do a portfolio examination often will set you apart from the rest and instantly gain you respect among your peers. Editing can be tricky stuff and technique is what separates people with cameras from those who deserve to be making money doing photography. Reach out and ask for help as often as it takes to be ready to market yourself as a professional photographer.

 

5.      Stay away from cliché work. Nothing screams “I’m new and don’t know what I’m doing!” more than posting tired, cliché stuff on social media. We’re talking your train track poses, making a heart with your hands, and you know, all that is the sunset photo. Don’t do it. There are plenty of lighting and editing clichés too, but we’ll let your selected professional mentor handle that one.

 

6.      Learn how to market yourself in the type of photography you want to do. Starting out, you’re going to be doing a lot of stuff for your friends, and that’s great! But keep in mind what kind of photography you ultimately want to do, and target what your clients see most based on that. For instance, we ultimately want to market ourselves more to bands and musicians, but we do A TON of family, landscape, wedding, etc photography as well. What we choose to post and feature of those shoots is work that will still market to that music crowd. When choosing your featured work from your collection, focus on photos with the color scheme, posing, and general mood that will best fit your target audience.

 

7.      Volunteer! This is one of the fastest ways to get in with professionals and to be able to serve at the same time. There are a number of charities geared at photography, but the one we serve in most prominently is Help Portrait. There is a branch in most major cities and it is a charity that does photos for families in need around the holidays and for high school seniors in the spring. They will have everyone come and set up “studios” usually in church classrooms and will schedule “clients” in 30 minute sessions for you throughout the day. A good way to get involved up front is to volunteer as an ambassador or an assistant in your first year with the organization. Other ways to volunteer are to donate sessions to your pastor, someone you know who volunteers a lot of their time to worthy causes, or have people sign up for a drawing to donate a session to someone they know who deserves it. 

Alex and I at a Help Portrait Event//Photo Credits: Phillip Thomas (novo-studio.com) // http://www.helpportraitnwa.org

 

 

8.      Invest in a professional website. This one is important. Running your business off of Facebook may be fine for a very short while, but if you are serious about getting into this line of work, invest some funds into a working, clean-looking, professional photography site. If you are starting out and don’t have the cash-flow just yet, pay a graphic design student a small amount to get you up and running. This will invest in their future and give them some good practice as well. Make sure they give you the rights to edit it, so if needed, you can later have a more skilled professional designer touch it up.

 

9.      Let your pricing and marketing reflect your skill level. This key item goes all the way to the beginning of the list in staying humble. If you’re just starting out (this includes your first 2-3 years), there is zero chance you are skilled enough to be charging professional pricing. Don’t be vague about your skill-set. Be up front with your clients in that you are just starting out and don’t market yourself as a master photographer and charge them like one. This will likely lead to frustrations on both ends with the work they get back and will definitely lose you a referral. It’s better to leave your client pleasantly surprised by your great work than very unpleasantly surprised by your lack thereof.

 

10.  Have fun with photography and remember why you love it. Every photographer struggles with keeping it fun and not just a job. We encourage everyone to grab their friends from time to time to practice new techniques, new poses, new lighting, and just to have fun with shooting and editing! When you’re starting out, this is absolutely essential for practicing and building your portfolio as well. It is great to have those beginning photos to go back to and remember why you even wanted to do this in the first place. (And to keep you humble on your beginnings!)

 Starting out in any field is rough, but following these key elements is a great start to being respected by those who have committed to hard work to get to where they are. We’ve all put in our time and hard knocks along the way. No one was born perfect at this amazing line of work that we are privileged to be a part of. If anyone acts like they know everything there is to know, then stay away from them.

We say all of this with love as people who have been beginners. We’ve learned so much along the way and want to be able to help others succeed. People with cameras (Are you catching on that this is a common term among people in the business?) just cheapen the market and slay the reputation of good photographers. You definitely don’t want to be passed off as a cocky amateur early on in your career, so stay humble, reach out to those you respect, and put in the work and you’ll be just fine. Welcome to photography!

I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just a Little Unwell

**Sidenote (…or topnote): I wrote this on Friday, but am just now getting around to posting it, hence the past-tense verbage.**

 

Y’all, this is my third post this week, crazy right? I am on fire. Or at least I feel like I am and we can all pretend a little can’t we?

Anyways…. soooo um, I have always wanted to foster a sense of openness on here. To be painfully real. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty “real” in real life too, but somewhere between my first vent-session with more people than I would like and a full on melt-down in front of waaaaay more people than I would like, I start to feel a sense of embarrassment. Like “Ok Alex, you’ve let them know you’re hurting and could use some prayer, but let’s quit while you’re ahead and before you let them in on the fact that you’re a crazy psycho sometimes.”

I get ashamed that sometimes the advice doesn’t help, it only reminds me that, try as I might, I can’t just get over it, or pray it away, or let it go. It’s in this place that I usually decide that people will tire of hearing the same hurts over and over again and consider me helpless because I seem to just be wallowing in my feelings.

I’m here to say that I’m losing it, you guys. Seriously. Losing my crap.

I have been a mess lately, and I don’t exactly know why. I tried on Monday to convince myself that the day of the week was somehow to blame, but it hasn’t stopped. All of the spaziness and clumsy moves have continued, and they’ve invited their friends Random Crying and Self-Loathing.

I have been just a loss-of-concentration away from tears at all times. I have been snappy and sad and unpleasant to say the least. I have not been doing my quiet time. It has been very difficult to find God in all of this.

There have certainly been actual contributions to my hurt, it’s not all crazy, I promise! But it sure feels like it sometimes. I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not pregnant, which although we aren’t “trying yet” was one of the “actual contributions” mentioned above.

Although I know deep down that I am learning something crucial, I still have prayed that God would rescue me. I have told Him I can’t find Him, that I feel like He’s not listening. I know in my heart that He’s really with me and on my side, and that knowledge alone has kept me from relinquishing hope, but it has begged me to wonder why I feel so abandoned. I’ve allowed myself to crawl into a dark space and let Satan whisper to me that I am alone. That no one cares and I’m just being a drama queen.

It was today, on my 87th (est.) trip to the bathroom at work to prevent tears and tell myself to get it freaking together that God reminded me of something. I have fewer times in my life where I felt a true “God-moment” than I would like, but in that place I found myself looking at my hands. I heard God tell me that He made them, and I can curse them just like the rest of myself, but He created something and called it good, whether I want to believe it or not.

As I kept staring down through the floodgates that finally burst, He used those same hands to remind me that His own human hands were pierced for me. That may seem like Christianity 101, but in that moment I neeeeeeded that. I needed to be reminded that regardless of my hurts, pains, and failure to trust, He would allow His own perfect hands to be crushed again and again for me.

I’m still hurting. I’m still fighting back tears. I’m still resistant to change and advice that I’ve heard too many times before.

I’m still His. And although I deny that I’m worthy of His help even as I cry out for it, I know that there is light at the end of this crap, and beauty within it.

Maybe I should take my own advice, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck right now.

Solidarity anyone? Does your life suck right now and you may or may not know why exactly?

Clothes.

clothes

I know, I know. This has taken me entirely too long. I’ve had all of my 7 stuff saved as drafts forever, but I keep having new thoughts and ideas and aaaaah! I have a lot to say, ok?

Anyway.

Recap: The girls in my Community Group took Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and did our own experiment. No, not the one she orchestrated with another book on making your own experiment, because apparently none of us though to check that. So we did the extra work and made our own. Do we get bonus points for that? No? Ok. Sorry for all the links.

Clothes was the second chapter that we tackled in our 7 experiment. I didn’t necessarily think it would be hard, I just thought it would be annoying and a giant hassle. Let’s look at her rules:

  • 7 articles of clothing total, for 1 month
  • Undergarments do not count.
  • 2 pairs of shoes count as 1 item of clothing (leaving you with 6 more to choose)

Our rules:

  • The exact same, but for 2 weeks instead of 4.

Thaaaaaat’s right people! We got brave on this one and played by the rules. I should clarify. When I say “We,” I mean the majority of us. There were exceptions to the rules in some cases. For instance, Jen Hatmaker is a writer and speaker, but otherwise, a mom who works from home. She had the freedom to wear the same thing over and over without worrying about having to look (too) professional. Heather is a counselor and Raven is a graphic designer, so they still limited themselves, but had to expand their wardrobe a bit for work-times.

This happened to be the same week when my kidneys decided that growing E Coli might be fun times, so they gave it a whirl. I was home sick with pyelonephritis for half of the first week and in the hospital for the other half. I tried very hard to wear the 7-sanctioned casual clothes while I was at the hospital, but clothes get dirty (weird huh?) and the idea of trying to explain in my drugged up mind what I could and couldn’t wear to someone else seemed cruel for both of us, so I gave in. I rocked it the second week though!

So remember when I said I thought it would be annoying and burdensome? It wasn’t (aside from the *minor* hiccup there at the beginning) AT ALL! It was actually pretty awesome.

No having to decide what to wear.

No pressure of accessories.

No feeling like my clothes didn’t look good on me.

Best of all: No one asking me “Didn’t you just wear that yesterday?”

Wait, Whaaaat? I’m serious! I thought that people would notice and tease me about wearing the same clothes over and over, but my ego was forced to take it down a notch because NO ONE CARED. Even at work. No one even seemed to notice.

I think that was the biggest lesson for me. I get so concerned with what other people think of me, and that binds me to a lot of my materialistic tendencies. I want people to think I’m cool. I want people to think I’ve got great style. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I want people to be jealous of me and what I have sometimes, as if that will make my insecurities magically go away.

I realized that if I were to sell all of my clothes and keep only my favorite ones, no one would give a tiny rat’s you-know-what. That is so freeing. It’s also so humbling. This realization kind of forces you to get off your high horse and pay attention more to things that matter and less to things that–try as we might–will not last.

Next up: Stress.

Have any of you done the 7 experiment? Or just sold a bunch of clothes and had a panic attack about it? Tell me Tell me!

My Brain is on Mondays.

Ever have a day where you are a complete and total spaz at all times? Like try as you might, you just cannot seem to do anything right, and while you’re at it, you decide that today is as good as any to be a mega-clutz?

This is me today.

I have committed 1,000 little, insignificant, accidental crimes at work that have added up to me making a huge idiot of myself in front of my boss, I have tripped, I have spilled things, I have made stupid comments instead of witty ones. Even things out of my control like the fact that someone stole the paper towels out of the girls’ bathroom at work and I keep forgetting and washing my hands and then having wet hands and then getting angry and then forgetting all over again.

I hate the phrase “Case of the Mondays,” but today definitely calls for it.

Anyone have a good cure?

Alright Christians, Let’s All Take a Chill Pill – A “Noah” Review Guest Post!

I have never been a big fan of epics. I love movies and I will watch epics if I must, but they’re not my favorite. This is why I chose to opt out of seeing Noah with my wonderful husband Bryan this past weekend. He and our friend Chris saw it together, and I was impressed with his review of it. Having heard his take on the film and then reading the slander it has been getting from people who have not even seen it for themselves was a little disappointing. It is because of this that he has graciously agreed to do my very first guest post (!!) with his own views and thoughts from this very scandalous movie.

I hope you enjoy it and give him the same amount of love you wonderful people give me! Oh! and while you’re at it, check out his latest adventure, the Go Rogue Podcast! If you give ‘er a listen after they launch, you’ll catch a lot of recording copy written by yours truly! So excited to be able to be a part of his projects.

Since the debut of this *little* movie, Christians everywhere have been Freaking. Out. “Did you know the director’s an atheist?” “God gave him the instructions in dreams and visions, not by speaking to him, which is obviously how it really happened.” “There are ROCK PEOPLE, I mean come on.”

Well I, along with my youth pastor friend, recently ignored the danger of being led astray by a movie and went to see it. I have wanted to see this film since the trailer came out, and I wanted to see for myself what all the hype/fuss was about.

I gotta say guys, I really really liked it. Sorry I’m not sorry.

I’ll try to get through this review with very few spoilers, but if you’re seriously worried about it you should remember that THIS IS BASED OFF OF A BIBLE STORY and fretting over spoilers here is the exact same as being upset that someone told you that The Titanic sinks in the end. No, scratch that, it’s worse.

I truly think that stereotypical fundamentalists will never be happy with anything produced in Hollywood, save for your cheesy, feel good, corny videos that come out of Christian production from the 90s. And don’t get me wrong, I loved that crap as a child. But even The Passion of the Christ, which was almost spot-on to the biblical representation, had so many Christians out there hating on it that the movie got a bad rap over small details. There are currently three movies about God/the Bible in theaters: The Son of God, God’s Not Dead, and Noah. I’m sure this is due to the fact that it is so close to Easter, but still that’s awesome for the Christian faith to have so many spots in the limelight. However, it also opens the floodgates for criticism.

Growing up, the story of Noah was always told in a very fun-loving way in that all the animals on the ark were saved and how amazing and wonderful the whole experience was. The same is true for the story of Moses and the children of Israel getting out of Egypt. Really just the whole Old Testament is like that. We’re given the perfect storybook versions of The Old Testament, the OG Bible if you will, while in reality it is actually pretty gruesome and brutal for the most part. A lot of people died in masses for disobeying God before Jesus came and changed history forever. This film should not receive flack for portraying a violent version of a violent Bible Story.

First off, let me just say that I am a big Russell Crowe fan, and always have been. Unlike my lovely bride, I love dark, epic-type movies and I think we can all agree that Russell Crowe wins at them. Other than the awesomeness that is Mr. Crowe,the movie had many other pluses.

Although I already knew this, I walked away from the theater feeling that God was justified in wiping out mankind. The director, despite his apparent feelings about God in real life, does a great job of portraying God as just and holy in whole story. I’m specifically referring to the wickedness of man in the day. We have some knowledge about cultural practices in the day that led God to this very powerful action, and although I’m sure the horrific behavior was much worse in actual history, the movie does an excellent job of demonstrating that God allowed the flood for actual, real reasons.

God is referenced as the sole Creator. They understood God and had a holy fear of Him, and it was definitely a more reverent way of viewing God than we often see Him now. Even the “bad guy” in the movie quoted the scriptures, but twisted them for his own agenda. The creation story is very much highlighted in the film in wonderful ways. They really did a really good job visually making it come to life and showing how God loved what He created. I actually teared up during this part because of how much I take for granted God’s awesome power, just seeing how magnificent and wonderful He is and how he can do mighty things.

The flood story was told in a very gruesome and as I imagine realistic way. The most visual scene for me was when Noah has a vision of being in water and corpses are floating all around and screaming. It was difficult to watch, yes, but if you want to tell me that Noah was all smiling and happy like in the storybook Bible, then I will call you crazy. The movie takes you through the real struggles that Noah and his family probably went through. They don’t make it look easy. They had to deal with the deaths of the entire population around them. I think one of the most realistic parts of the movie was right after the flood started, and a scene opens up to Noah sitting in the dark. You can hear through the rain the screams of the people on the outside. I think that probably describes how hard it had to be for those that were on the ark to listen to that horrific noise for countless hours. The director held no bars in depicting this image.

They portrayed very strongly how we were placed here to protect God’s creation as our intended job. It talked a lot about taking care of the earth and protecting the animals. With a lot of recent news about the mass production of animal food and other environmental issues, I have really struggled with this and have felt convicted to do a better job of lessening my carbon footprint on this earth. I will stand before God one day and answer to what I did to take care of the world He created. How well did I protect the innocent? How well did I take care of those who are in need and in pain? How well did my life glorify God and His creation?

In every “based on a true story” movie, there are always scenes and depictions that we all wish could have been done differently, and this one is no different.

The connection between the struggles of being human and following God’s will is a tough one. They touched on this difficulty with the weird and twisted notion that Noah felt he had to kill his family because he thought that God wanted everyone to die. It’s tough to be certain of God’s will all the time, and it’s interesting that they brought up this idea, but I just think they took it way too far.

One of the biggest talked-about parts in the film is the Rock Creatures. They are portrayed as fallen angels cursed by God but decide to help Noah with the ark building. I think we can all agree that this is extremely far-fetched. The ark took a crap-ton of time to build, so this notion was most-likely there for production and effects’ sake. I do think it’s interesting that they included fallen angels into the story though. Although it was not included in the Bible, the book of Enoch talks about angels who have come down as watchers to help mankind, so that may have been where this idea came from.

Of course with any movie, there are going to be things that you wish were done differently.

I wish we could’ve seen the righteous Noah that was described in the Bible who didn’t want to see this many people being wiped off the earth. Crowe’s version seems to really hate people.

I wish I could’ve seen more of how they built the ark instead of relying on rock creatures to help them. There is historical evidence that people in that day were bigger and may have been more capable to build things like that with limited tools and man power than we are today.

I wish I could’ve seen more of the struggles that they went through on the ark. That’s a freaking long time to be cooped up with the same people! They coined the term “Cabin Fever.”

Lastly, I really wish that they had’ve made a bigger deal of the descent from the ark and them seeing the new world after the flood.

Overall, I think it was a great movie and it has definitely made me have a more interesting view of what most likely actually happened. Although they may have taken some liberties, the powers that be tried to make one of the most epic stories in the Bible into an epic film. They even try to cram several Bible stories into one with the story of Methuselah (who historians believe may have finally died in the flood) and by making the parallel between Noah thinking he needed to kill his children like Abraham did and to Sodom and Gomorrah. They also gave a nod to Adam and Eve in the creation story and the fall of man.

What I hope we can all remember is this: I don’t think we have to defend God or the Bible, I think He can take care of Himself. This is a gruesome but true story. Our God is a loving God, but He’s also a just God who should be feared and looked at as holy. Beyond all of the hype, I think that this film truly portrays the magnificence of our awesome God. This movie begs us to ask questions about God and His character, and I believe both were represented strongly. I personally have seen several social media posts from people asking questions about God simply through watching this movie, and I honestly think that this is the central theme of what we should be about as Christians. It makes me want to go back and look through the Scriptures and really do some digging to know more about the story. I want to know more about the Old Testament and specifically about creation.

The makers of this film used the special effects that Hollywood offers to attempt to hold even a flicker of a candle to how amazing our God is, and I think that’s pretty cool.

 

**I apologize for some of you getting this in your inbox twice. I actually just reposted it entirely because of a formatting issue that I am too “non-computery” to know how to fix. Thanks for understanding and sorry to blow up your inbox!**