Chicago is a city after my own heart, it is a city that is full of beautiful art and architecture, and a place where I am able to dream. I recently drove the 4.5 hours from Michigan to Chicago to attend a professional photography workshop with the fabulous Jasmine Star.
Jasmine invited myself and 20 other photographers from all over the country to this workshop with the goal of helping educate us on different posing strategies, using a natural light technique, and to strengthen our individual brands. The night before the official workshop began, I navigated my way around Chicago to the Robyn Rachel Photography studio where I was greeted with a big hug and smile from Jasmine and her husband JD. Ok - so let's backstory for a minute - I lovelovelove learning all I can about photography, business, decorating, and well everything, so I read blogs constantly because there are so many amazing resources online that can educate you on pretty much any interest you have. With that being said, Jasmine Star's blog is one that I read often and so for her to just walk right up to me and hug me was surreal, a bit like meeting a celebrity in the most nerdy, fangirl kind of way -but for photographers.
So after I recomposed my "I'm totally cool with Jasmine Star hugging me, she's just a human" face, I breathed a deep sigh of anticipation as to what was going to happen next. I got to talk with so many really cool chicks who work in the photography industry and who just like me were a little nervous and excited.
After some girl talk and light-hearted business questions, I headed back to my hotel room where I got to swim in the biggest jacuzzi tub I've ever seen (I love vacations, even work vacations) and mentally prepared for the full day of information ahead. Robyn graciously welcomed all of us back to her studio the next morning where we really got into the how's and why's of Jasmine's business and the way she approaches photography. I took serious notes and loved hearing all the amazing questions from the other photographers there. Sometimes being in an environment with a high level of information coming at you, it's hard to remember all the things you are supposed to ask so it was great to be surrounded by like-minded photographers who asked questions.
The day started out overcast but quickly got bright, hot, and sunny as we progressed into the photo shoot segment of the photography workshop. With the help of some amazing vendors and a real couple, Jimmy and Jen, the whole day is something I will never forget.
I learned so much from Jasmine, but I believe that there were 4 key lessons I learned at this Chicago photography workshop.
The 4 Keys:
1. Don't be afraid to talk to the couple when posing them.
A lot of the time I like to look for moments that happen naturally throughout the wedding day without any interference from me, but during the bride and groom portraits I have to give direction and set them up. So I have to keep a human connection to my bride and groom and not get lost adjusting camera settings while the crickets chirp. I've discovered that when it is too quiet, and I'm not talking them through the pose, then the bride and groom start to feel lost or unsure of what they are supposed to be doing. Working alongside Jasmine showed me how she is always trying to connect with her couples and making them feel relaxed.
2. Understand your brand
In today's world we are all surrounded by brands, but when someone asks "What is your brand?", it can be a tough question to answer if you haven't taken the time to develop what the brand for your business is. A brand is a series of expectations and experiences that make you choose a particular business, seems simple enough right? I took this gem of knowledge from Jasmine on branding to heart and always want to empower my couples to identify with my style. I learned that with my brand I need to be consistent and to only focus on things that I want to do more of in the future and not be a jack of all trades when it comes to photography.
3. Have a system for your business
96% of all small businesses fail within the first 10 years because they don't have a consistent client management system set-up. Hearing Jasmine speak about all the different parts of her process when working with a wedding client made me realize that in order to reinforce my brand, I need to have a system to ensure each client experiences my brand in the same way. I learned that I need to have a system of organization for all legal and business related things, a system for connecting and communicating with my clients that is effective, a good technique that I employ while behind the camera, and a consistent post-production process that my images go through that in the end will look like me and my brand.
Jimmy looked very dapper in his tuxedo and bow tie.
4. The value of critique
I've attended a few workshops and they all have been different and wonderful experiences individually, but at this photography workshop something happened that I hadn't experienced before. Jasmine took the time to personally visit all 20 blogs and websites of the photographers present, including me, and then offered some helpful, and honest critiques of our work.
It was a sweaty palm, heart thumping experience as Jasmine pointed out the flaws in the images we all were showing and my first reaction wasn't to feel deflated but that wow she cares. She cares enough to tell us all what isn't working and by doing that she is encouraging us to grow and learn from our own art. I have enormous respect for Jasmine and the work that she does and really value all her amazing thoughts.
As a photographer, and as an artist, critique is vital to survival. You sometimes need an outside, unbiased but constructive opinion from someone to help you keep pushing beyond your current boundaries and to reevaluate your artistic vision.
(This shot of all us photographers, Natalie of Photography Lane, Jackee of Jackee Austerman Photography, Nikki of Nikki Marie Photography, Michelle of Mentz Photography, Caitlin of Caitlin Alexander Photography, Brittany of Brittany Bekas Photography, Robyn of Robyn Photography, Annie of Annie Steele Photography, Kali of Kali Norton Photography , Whitnei of Whitnei Photographei, Dory of Dory L Tuohey Photography, Brandi of Balee Images, Amy of Amy Long Photography, Melissa of Melissa Friloux Photography, Jennifer of Jennifer Soots Photography, Jennifer and Laura of Sweet Sisters Photography, Kaitlin of Kaitlin Sheran Photography, and Jasmine was captured by the amazing JD!)
Jen looked so gorgeous in her Valentino gown and jewelry that was reminiscent of the 1930's
You could definitely feel the love these two had for each other even years after their wedding day.
I drove away from this Chicago photography workshop with newly acquired knowledge to navigate the invisible road ahead and with support and encouragement from Jasmine and all the other photographers to ensure my creative tank never reads empty.
Want to say again, thank you to all the vendors that participated in this wonderful workshop!
Hair: Nicci Loiacono
Makeup: Megan Hauser
Accessories: Left Bank Jewelery
Dress: Valentino from Belle Vie Bridal
Tuxedo: Formally Modern Tuxedo
Flowers: A Stem Above
Host: Robyn Rachel Photography
Location: Salvage One
and most importantly . . .
Educator: Jasmine Star