For me, life always comes back to paying it forward. I’ve blogged about this before. Earlier this year I ran my first marathon and donated to cancer research. Very often I have some kind of contest to give back to my supporters and spread a little love. There are always ways to make a difference and we each have the power to do this every day.

So, I was thinking about what type of contest I wanted to have this month. It’s been a tough decision because I really wanted to focus on something that made an BIG impact in someone’s life. Especially with all of the doom and gloom that permeates our news of late. I know there a lot of people suffering through a financial crisis that is unlike anything they’ve faced before. But surely, there is hope in the horizon for all of us because if there is one thing I’ve learned in my couple-plus decades here on earth is that there’s a positive outcome to be found in just about everything.

After scratching my head continuously these past two weeks, here’s what I’ve come up with:

I want to donate a wedding photography booking to one couple in need in 2009. “In need” means that they would not be able to afford me otherwise and that they’re not just looking to save some bucks for that well-coveted beef upgrade. Sure, saving money is great, but this is meant to go to someone who’s current options probably include buying disposable cameras for the guests or having Great Aunt Sue take the photos. No offense Aunt Sue, but you’d have more fun enjoying the wedding day anyway.

With that said, here are the contest rules:

  1. To enter, send me an email with your story (the why’s are important) and the date, time, and location of the wedding.
  2. Location must be within 30 miles of the downtown Houston area. Obviously, if you can afford a fancy venue you don’t need to be entering this contest.
  3. The wedding must be taking place in 2009.
  4. You can request this for yourself or for someone that you know, as long as either one of you qualifies for the “in need” part.
  5. Last day to send your emails is December 31, 2008 at 11:59 pm.
The chosen couple will receive a fully complimentary wedding photography package (a $1500 value) which includes the following:
  • Up to 6 hours of wedding day coverage
  • An on-line photo gallery to share with family & friends
  • An on-line slide show set to music (also compatible with Facebook)
  • A $150 print credit for any size prints (excluding canvas)
  • A DVD of all retouched, high res images with a print release
Here’s to hoping for a BIG impact! Best wishes and blessings for you all! – Patricia
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There’s a slew of great information out on the web. But I came across this really cool site called Elegala that I thought was exceptionally awesome at providing information to brides. It has time lines, checklists, advice for everything from budgets to etiquette, unique gift registries, a vendor directory, giveaways, and a whole lotta details that can really come in handy.

Their motto is Elegant Galas – Made Simple. And they live up to it with a very user friendly, easy to navigate, nonsense-free website. This is what originally caught my eye. As I looked around, I also found some great articles that explain very clearly the many questions that arise when planning a wedding. It’s just a fabulous tool for any bride wanting to get some solid answers and creative ideas, regardless of budget or location, or anything else.

And I simply loved their advice/ideas section on Wedding Photography. As a wedding photographer, I’m certainly of the idea that your photographs are incredibly important. I also recognize that everyone has different needs and Elegala is great in that sense as well. So I was honored when they granted me a spot on their vendor listings.

So there, that proves how amazing they are! ;) But don’t just take my word for it. Check them out for yourself!

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It is a mind-blowing 32 degrees in Bayou City! 32 Degrees!!

It’s got to be the coldest day of the year in our fair city of Houston. On the upside…it’s snowing! And I haven’t seen snow since I bent in ways I thought were impossible to the human body. It was about six years ago and my first time skiing. Let’s just say I fell I whole lot more than I bargained for. Ahhh, memories!

I heard about the snow flurry this afternoon through the interoffice chatter. But I didn’t really see any until I got home. As usual, Matisse was going nuts, ready to pounce on me as soon as I opened the door. His daily ritual consists of pretty much assaulting me and then doing the “Lassie” back and forth through the living room until I get to the French doors to let him out. In this scenario, I of course, would be little Timmy.

One thing that was different today is that he skipped the b-line for his favorite tree and instead doubled back faster than a fur-covered bullet. As he ran over the icy deck I noticed that our lawn chairs were wearing a little cover of white sprinkles. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought that Santa was wrapping presents out on our deck today and accidentally forgot to clean up a few bits of Styrofoam before sneaking off. Geez, that Santa!

Behold! Our crazy Texas Snow:

Cards+Destroyed+013 Let it Snow...But Sans Frostbite
Moving on, I’ve finished setting up Josie’s Christmas cards. She picked a great photo from her session which I thought was fabulous with this festive design:

Christmas+Card Let it Snow...But Sans FrostbiteI’ve just finished Plum Tree’s holiday cards as well. Matisse was such a trooper posing as Rudolph for our portrait (pictured below). That was an adventure all it’s own. Truthfully, as usual he was so good! He’d hold the pose while I focused the camera and then he’d scoot his butt over as I ran over trying to beat the timer. I swear, if it wasn’t for that pesky squirrel making faces at us from the tree, he’d be looking straight at the lens.

01a Let it Snow...But Sans Frostbite
I know a certain chattering someone who’ll be getting a lump of coal in their tree stocking. UH-HUH-MM! That’s what you get for making fun of Rudolph! On the other hand, he does pee on your house every day. So I’ll just call you guys even.

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I met Josie and Justin last year when I did their wedding photography. Simply put, one of the sweetest couples I have ever met. Full of life and enthusiasm, they share a love for each other that’s practically tactile. When I heard this year that they were expecting their first baby, Emily, I was just over the moon.

Josie and Emily entered last month’s contest and won a portrait session with me. So we went down to my favorite park Discovery Green last week and had a good ol’ time. There was so much going on around us that little Emily found it hard not to be distracted. From the skaters on the ice rink, to the gigantic Christmas ornaments overhead, to the myriad of colors and sounds, it was sensory overload. But in good way. As I watched baby Emily experience everything with such wonder and fascination, I realized that in her four little months on this earth she probably hadn’t had that much excitement all at once. And through her eyes many things looked new to me as well. That’s just the magic of children.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled to finally meet Emily and catch up with Josie on the novelties of the past year. So much has happened in all of our lives. Once again I found myself in awe of the swiftness of time. The only thing missing was dad Justin, who’s in Iraq. Thankfully, he’ll be home this Christmas. And I look forward to seeing him too in the near future. :)

Justin, I hope you like this show. Your girls are so beautiful and such a joy. I’m so happy that technology can make it possible to cross the globe to share this day with you. Josie, thank you once again for being a delight to work with. And Emily, you are a wonderful sport. It’s like they say, the apple doesn’t fall far, right!

Enjoy your SLIDESHOW!

Blog+5 Josie & Emily: Family Portrait Photography

Blog+4 Josie & Emily: Family Portrait Photography

Blog+3 Josie & Emily: Family Portrait Photography
Blog+2 Josie & Emily: Family Portrait Photography
Blog+1 Josie & Emily: Family Portrait Photography
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The night before last, I very weirdly had a dream about Norman Reedus. This was particularly weird because I have not thought of or even seen a movie with Norman in it. In…well, I don’t even know how long. Another weird thing, I could not remember his name. So I Googled the one movie that I clearly remembered him in, which coincidentally happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies: Boondock Saints.

Even more weird: this movie came out ages ago. But wait! There’s more! In spite of how long it’s been, just two mere months ago they started filming the sequel. Mind you, I hadn’t even heard about this, even though BDS really is one of my very favorite movies.

Weird.

So now I have his name. For some weird reason I decide that I should Google images of Norman. You know, just to be thorough in the weirdness. Mostly, I find the same 8 images over and over again. He’s really not an in the limelight-kind of guy. Out of curiosity, due to the weird circumstances of it all, I click to see what sites these images are coming from. And POW! Behold one of my new favorite blogs: www.retardedfantasy.blogspot.com

The best part of it all? I happen to stumble upon this blog on THE ONE DAY that the blogger decides to post a beaut of a set list. And just like that, I find one of my favorite new bands: Band of Horses. I’ve been on a BOH trip for the past 2 days! Could this get any better? Or weirder?

I. Think. Not.

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So, you’ve heard about the contest change, eh? Here’s the scoop:

I’m going to be hosting all of my contests here on my blog from now on, instead of by newsletter. Every month there will be at least one contest. Some months there will be more…depending on my fancy. ;)

RULES? Just Four:

  1. Leave a comment on the blog. It can be on a past post or a current one. Each comment equals one entry. Oh yeah, and they’re cumulative. I’m going to randomly pick a comment-writer every time. The more you comment, the more chances you get.
  2. I’d like to see some sort of effort. In other words, you can’t just comment “hi” and have it count. “Nice photo,” “This post blows,” “Who’s Patricia?” — all valid comments.
  3. Anonymous comments don’t count. Please, please, please: help me identify you so if you win, you get the goods.
  4. Some contests may have a specific rule for entry (such as locals only), depending on the prize. These rules will always be clearly posted.

With that said, here’s the WINNER for the October Newsletter Contest:

GI+Jane+1 CONTEST RULES & October Winner Mom and Baby GI Jane won most original costume! What did they win, you ask?

They’re getting a free holiday portrait session with yours truly, complete with a CD of the images and 25 photo cards. Just in time for Christmas! Josie, I’ll be contacting you to set up your session. :)

Nobody entered the Ike story contest. So I’ll be using that free microdermabrasion session on myself! Yey! And :( That’s me frowning. But you knew that!

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Lela was thinking to herself that it had been ten years since she had portraits taken.

Ten. Whole. Years.

A lot can happen in that kind of time. And it had. So Lela set on a quest to find a photographer to capture not just her portrait, but the new Lela that had blossomed throughout all of that time.

We met at my house on a lovely Saturday morning, just a few weeks ago. And we hit it off immediately. Her warm personality, the excitement that I saw brewing in her amazing blue eyes as we talked about the kind of photos she would like, her story, everything about her just left me feeling like we had a great connection. We exchanged a little background, and learned some fun stuff along the way. Like the fact that she’s the only woman in her workplace — and for that matter, the only one I know that works in the field for an oil and gas company. She’s even got the pink hard-hat to prove it! Though she forgot to bring it on the day of the shoot! —it was the missing accessory to the pink dress! ;)

Lela’s story is a little like that of a diamond. The last ten years for her, were about overcoming a rough stage of life. And she has emerged, just shining through with admirable glimmer and increased self-worth. I was so honored that she chose me to capture her beautiful spirit.

Here’s a sneak peak of our session. I had so much fun that one hour turned into three! To date, it has been one of my most favorite shoots…from the adventure in parallel parking her Tuareg, to the crazy questions from the nearby Gun Show visitors, to the fantastic time we spent chatting it up and exchanging childhood memories, I just had a blast!

And I have to say, that for somebody who hasn’t been in front of a camera for such a long time, you did great! Anytime you want to catch a concert, or share pointers on that awesome money tree, you just let me know!

8 Lela: Portrait Photography

7 Lela: Portrait Photography

6 Lela: Portrait Photography
5 Lela: Portrait Photography
4 Lela: Portrait Photography
3 Lela: Portrait Photography
2 Lela: Portrait Photography

Shine away Lela: SLIDESHOW

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Making Your Own Luck

November 11, 2008
Okay, I’ll admit it. I admire David Jay like a pre-teen from the 80s who gushes over rag-mag heart throbs. But in a professional way. Seriously. ;)

I think this man is single-handedly creating a better world for all of us by filling it with people who truly get what it means to spread joy and kindness. Meet Wayne Toshikazu: former lawyer turned amazing photographer. Wayne is like most of us. Yearning for freedom in his life, self-fulfillment, and that feeling of great happiness that comes from knowing you are exactly where you are meant to be. This year, Wayne took his leap and has been met on the other side with– what I can only imagine to be– astounding rewards with more yet to come.
Taking this kind of leap takes more than just courage. It takes faith. Seeing him inspires me and, I think, inspires others to do the same. I hope that, whoever you are reading this blog, can feel inspired too. That you can get this small glimpse into someone else’s journey to freedom and find the faith to take one of your own…whatever that may be. Because if we are all so lucky, we’ll be that much better for it, and our world will be too.
Okay, so David is not single-handedly doing this. It is ALL of us, together. On the whole, we are a land of great people searching for ways to do great things and for great reasons. In searching, we (in photography) find David, leading the way by example and providing incredible tools to make it that much easier. We should all be so lucky in our journeys.
Godspeed my friends.
UPDATE: Wayne is an almost lawyer turned rad photographer. ;)
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Twice Blessed

November 11, 2008

This is the second time this year that I get sick.

…pausing here to contemplate my first sentence for a second…

Okay, so this is only the second time this year that I get sick. That sounded…and felt…better.

My ability to focus on the positive is only heightened by the sudden realization that my left nostril has just become unplugged for the first time today. Another positive.

Oh wait, my right one has suddenly caught the earlier plight of the left. Figures!

Gotta love the flu.

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Everyone is different…some people know exactly what they are looking for from the get-go. Others begin their search with recommendations from friends and figure things out as they go along. I meet with a lot of couples who need a little help in figuring out how to narrow down their search for a wedding photographer. To that end, I have a list of questions that I think are important in finding just the right person. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer for everyone. Here are the basics that will help you on your way as you compare service providers for your wedding photography and get to know Plum Tree Studios:
  1. Do you use a photo assistant? Whose work am I viewing? Yes, if requested. I will always present my personal work separately from that of any other photographers that work with me. All images on the website are my personal work only.
    Can you provide us with current references? Absolutely.
  2. How long have you been photographing weddings? How many wedding clients do you have per year? I started shooting 17 years ago. I began shooting weddings in particular 4 years ago. Plum Tree Studios is currently in its third year of business. Due to my schedule, I try to do no more than 24 weddings per year.
  3. Do you ever anticipate and prepare for the possibility that something will go wrong? How would you handle it? I always try to expect the unexpected and handle these situations by preparing ahead as much as possible. I come with a sewing kit, band-aids, a lint brush, and Kleenex, aside from extra gear!
  4. How many pictures would you recommend? Why? Enough to get the job done. Because anything less would be too little. ;) I don’t restrict how much I shoot or believe there to be a standard. On average, from me you will get between 80 to 100 photos per hour (depending on the level of activity at the event).
  5. What is the latest time frame for making changes? The day of, depending on the changes.
  6. What style of pictures do you produce? Do you specialize in any in particular? Do you take black and white as well as color pictures? I am a photojournalist and this is my specialty. I do recognize the importance of traditional portraiture and am well versed in this too. For the most part, aside from your formals, your photos will consist of candid shots. I will adjust photo colors for every wedding (you can always request a standard color photo if you are given a colorized one).
  7. What kind of equipment do you use? Do you bring back-up cameras and flashes? I’m a Canon girl, and I shoot digital. I bring back-ups of all gear to every wedding, no exceptions.
  8. Do you offer touch ups, hand coloring/digital coloring, or any other services included, or are there additional fees for these services? Yes, I do offer this with every wedding. It is my standard practice to touch up all photos for you at no extra charge. If you require additional touch-up work there may be a fee, depending on what you are looking for. I don’t do photo plastic surgery, though. ;)
  9. How soon before the wedding will you go over your procedures with us? How many consultations do you provide in your package prices? I offer two in-person consultations. The first is like an interview for both of us. When booked, you will get a second consultation at least 30 days before your wedding to iron out the details. I am available by phone or email as much as you need me aside from this.
  10. How long before the wedding reception will you set up? It depends on the specifics of your wedding. I usually do a pre-event visit to locations I’ve not photographed before to plan ahead as much as possible.
  11. How do you interact with the wedding party and guests? How would you handle it if guests do not cooperate? Always in a professional and cheerful manner. I’m pretty easy going, though comfortable providing more firm direction when needed. Folks who do not wish to be photographed will be given a healthy dose of a guilt-trip. Just kidding, I‘ll gladly respect their wishes.
  12. What attire will you wear at our wedding? I dress professionally, typically in black. In my style of photography it’s always better to blend in as much as possible.
  13. Will you require a meal? I do not require a meal, though if you are not providing one please tell me so that I can prepare accordingly. If you are, rest assured that I will not be sitting down to have a “dining experience“. My priority is to get every single shot, so I eat on the run. And I will NEVER consume alcohol before or while I am working. Neither will any photographer that is working with me.
  14. What are your fees? Are taxes included in the price? What additional expenses may be charged? (other than overtime)? Wedding packages start at $1000 and are completely customizable. Taxes are NOT included (the rate is 8.25% if booking in Texas). The only possible additional expense is travel, though this will be discussed up-front.
  15. What is the farthest distance you will travel? Are travel fees included in the package or are they additional? Can you travel to more than one location, do you charge to do so? I will travel ANY distance. In fact, I love to travel. If you are booking me for a location that is further than 25 miles from Downtown Houston, you will be asked to cover a travel fee depending on the location. I do not charge extra for traveling between church and reception site within a reasonable distance. Additional locations may require a fee depending on location. I’m flexible, just chat with me.
  16. Can we view the photographs online via the Internet? For how long after the wedding? Do we need a password or login to view them? Absolutely. T
    his is one of 2 complimentary things I include with every booking. Your photo gallery will be available for a minimum of 3 months and can be password protected if you request it. The other thing you get with your booking is an online slideshow set to music and it’s compatible with Facebook. This will also be available for a minimum of 3 months (or until I run out of space on my server, whichever comes first).
  17. What is the time limit for ordering the photographs? How long after placing the order will we receive the photographs? You can order photos forever. Just keep in mind that if your photo gallery has expired there won’t be a self-service option. You’ll need to email me. Your gallery will be up within 2 weeks of your wedding (a little longer for multiple photographers), and you will receive most items ordered within two weeks, if not sooner. Albums and other keepsakes may take longer depending on the number of revisions needed.
  18. Will I get the negatives, or if digital, a CD of the pictures? I do provide a high res CD of retouched photos with every booking. I also include a print release so that you can print your own photos for personal use. This is different from transferring the copyrights. For more info on that, please see below.
  19. How long do you keep negatives or digital files? How are negatives or files stored? Are there backups of all negatives or files? Forever. I keep hard copies, back-ups on two computers and remote storage as well. I treat my work as art and preserve it as such.
    Will you be able to purchase additional pictures in the future? For how long? Yep, see question 19.
  20. Do you require a deposit? How much and by when will we need to put down the deposit? Do you accept checks and credit cards? Yes, it’s 50% due at time of signing to block off your date. It is non-refundable and I accept all forms of payment.
  21. Will you provide us with a written contract? What are your cancellation terms? Every. Single. Time. I require a deposit and signed contract to block off your date and consider you booked. All payments are non-refundable, with the exception of special circumstances such as acts of God. Under such situations you will be asked to provide proper documentation for a refund (minus applicable expenses). Again, I’m flexible.
  22. Do you permit family members and guests to take photographs at the wedding? No way. Just kidding! Of course…it’s the digital age and just about everyone has a camera. As long as they do not interfere with the job you are paying me to do, all is good. No other pro-photographers, please.
  23. Do you carry liability insurance? Yes, and should your venue request it, I can have them named on the policy.
  24. Are you a member of any professional organizations? Do you attend workshops, seminars or classes to learn new trends and techniques? I hold a Bachelor of Art in Art History and Studio Art/Photography from the University of Houston. I am currently in the process of joining the WPPI & PPA and I attend at least 3 workshops a year to keep my skills sharp and improving. My last workshop was with world-renowned photographer, David Jay. He’s my hero!
  25. Do we own the copyrights to the photos? I’m sorry, but no. You do get a print release but I will always retain artist rights.

The copyright issue is VERY important! It is illegal to publicly post or make copies of a photograph, taken by a photographer you‘ve contracted, without their expressed, written permission. A good lab will not let you print photographs from a copyrighted CD without a print release. Fines are steep at a maximum of $250,000 and 5 years imprisonment. In my case in particular, I do encourage my clients to share their photos with friends and loved ones in a free manner as long as it is not for commercial use. And I also greatly appreciate being credited for the work, especially if these are posted online. In other words, feel free to brag about me! ;)

Lastly, before you sign any contract, be absolutely sure of the following:

  • You like the photographer’s personality and professionalism and will be comfortable working together.
  • You like his or her style.
  • You are happy with the price.
  • You agree with the conditions posed by the photographer and that the photographer agrees with yours.

Thank you for the opportunity to be of service! Happy shopping!

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