30/335: My signature

When I realized that Tuesday, December 1st would mark 30 days left of 2015, I *immediately* waited for the feelings of dread and "what have you done this year anyway" to set in. But you know what? God swiftly spoke to my heart saying: "think about the other 335 days of 2015. Haven't I provided? Haven't you experience joy? Haven't you found freedom? Haven't I been present?"  Yes, in the biggest of ways yes. 

So, for the next 30 days I'll be popping in and out Footes in the Heights & the CIHI Photo Blog, reflecting on the laughable, the beautiful, the painful, the everyday and the incredible.  I'm calling this the 30/335 series and this is lesson 3! You can read the others here: 

Lesson 1: Smile
Lesson 2: To the many hat wearers
Lesson 3:  Crockpots are life savers
Lesson 4: Bitsized rest
____________________________________________________________

One of my posts this month will certainly be about how I've shifted in learning to build creative community this year, and The Rising Tide Society has definitely been a part of my journey. Tonight I'm curled up on the couch, ready to tune in for night two of their first ever Rising Tide Summit and part of today is a challenge to post on Instagram an example of your "signature work". Something that best represents your business, craft and heart in it all. 

That's a hard task, my friends! 

As I've been following the #risingtidesummit hashtag throughout today, I've seen some absolutely incredible things. Because people are flippin' talented! And people who've committed to the thing they're best at, without worrying about all the other stuff, are the ones who are  absolutely killin' it with their clients and in their lives. How amazing, right? To do what you're made to do, to do it well, and to do it without imagining any other way. 

But it's hard to get there. 
You don't want to say no. 
Constant questions arise about whether or not half your ideas are crazy. 
You have one success followed by a letdown. 

I've lived and breathed this in so many ways since God put this business in my lap over 6 years ago and it hasn't been until the last year and a half that I have been able to get comfortable with my signature, let alone claim it. 

6 years ago, my signature looked like this: 

That middle image? Totally edited in Picnik (anyone remember that little Facebook app)?! Oooooh yeah. Also, during the span of these images I was running a "props that pop" special where I would invest $10 into a prop of my clients choice to add a little something to the "storyline" of their session (see classy balloon bundle with multicolored string and DIY sunflower bouquet). 

My signature now? A little more like this (ie. a little better posed and slightly less prop-y and constrast-y--ha!!!): 

Though I have a tendency to laugh at the first set of images while subsequently LOVING looking back to see progress, I'm not actually sharing these as an example of what my signature isn't. You know why? 

Because I'm still in touch with those first three couples today, years later. All of them now hold 2 and 3 babies in their arms at night, when in these images there was one on the way collectively between all of them. For some of these couples, I even had the opportunity to take more pictures as their lives unfolded. They've watched me move, stumble, grow. They still show up and cheer for me.... what?!

Sure, I could sit here and go crazy over the posing, automatic settings I used to make these, lack of editing skills and totally wacky white balance and point out all the things I'm not anymore compared to what I am now. But the reality, for me at least, is that my signature has about 10% to do with the images I create and the other 90% is the stories I'm telling, the people I'm working with, and the season of life they are walking through. 

That's my signature. 

That's why I picked up a camera to begin with. 
Why I've worked every lunch hour, night, and weekend for the last 6 years to squeeze this business in to the margins of life. 
Why I say yes, even when I feel like I can't take another step forward sometimes, because the story God is writing for the person contacting me is too incredible to not document. 

It's fuel that a pretty image won't ever be and smoke that I hope will linger long after the flicker of my career goes out. 

A pretty image can't do that. It just can't. I don't even think 1,000 or 100,000 could!