Friday, May 17, 2013

Graduations & Promotions....

It is interesting how different the students at each school are when it comes to graduations.

HTRS - High School Graduation - lots of picture taking with each other before graduation while they're getting ready.  I took about 150 pictures before the ceremony.  Leaving the ceremony, there are usually at least a few who are acting up doing something funny or giving each other piggy back rides.  After the ceremony, they go in front of the school and have an organized receiving line everyone goes through with a few more picture ops, I got about another 125, and everyone is done at the same time, once everyone is through the receiving line.

HTRS - 8th Grade Promotion - before the ceremony is completely different.  Almost every year that I have done this, the last few usually show up as it is starting, so the class picture is usually missing a few students.  They don't mingle together taking pictures hardly at all.  This year, I took 4 pictures, other than the class picture, before the ceremony.  This is also the only ceremony of the 6 that they don't have the students walk in at the beginning and walk out at the end - they just take their seats in the front anytime before it starts.  After the ceremony they form a receiving line in front of the stage that everyone goes through and there are some photo ops.  A few of the classmates pose with each other for photos, but not a whole lot.  Some years, they serve cake and drink - some years they don't.  I took 125 pictures afterward, including an individual of each of the 37.  For the most part, everyone's done when the line is through, but there are a few that stick around to get photos taken with each other or families after the receiving line is done.

Falls City - High School Graduation - everyone gathers before graduation, but very little picture taking.  I took about 60 pictures, 20 of them being setup groups.  Afterweard, it's pandemonium in front of the auditorium as graduates, friends, families and everyone else mingle taking pictures here and there. Lots of photo ops, but they're all over the place and in every direction.  I got about 125 photos here too.  Some leave almost immediately, some stay around for an hour and anywhere in between.

Falls City - 8th Grade Promotion - very similar to high school graduation, though usually there seems to be a few more photo ops before the ceremony.  This year I took the same, about 60 photos, before the ceremony - but this was without any setup groups.  I didn't take pictures as long as usual before the ceremony this year, so I would have normally had a few more.  After the ceremony is just like high school graduation, pandemonium in front of the auditorium.  This particular year, I only got about 75 pictures afterward because it seemed like everyone was taking pictures with their backs towards the building, where I stand.

Sacred Heart - High School Graduation - quite often falls on the same night as Falls City's 8th grade promotion.  I used to say high school graduation trumps 8th grade promotion so I would always go to the graduation, but I wasn't selling much and always had parents of the Falls City 8th graders asking if I was going to be there.  This year, I had at least 6 different Falls City parents ask if I was going to be at the promotion and no Sacred Heart parents ask if I was going to be at graduation, so I did the Falls City 8th grade promotion.  From years past though, Sacred Heart Graduation and their 8th Grade Promotion are pretty much the same in how they go.

Sacred Heart - 8th Grade Promotion - always a lot of fun taking pictures with each other, friends and family and as a class before the ceremony.  It's done outside in front of the school.  For my 'before the ceremony' photos, I always get the most pictures at Sacred Heart.  I got about 215 this year.  After the ceremony, we go across the street to the Parrish Hall where they form a receiving line.  Everyone goes through the line with a bunch more photo ops.  Once everyone is through the line, the students sit down to open cards or have cake and punch that's provided for everyone.  After that, they're back up posing with each other, friends and family again anywhere throughout the building.  I got almost another 200 photos after the ceremony as well.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

2014 Senior Special Day

Attention all new seniors!
And all soon-to-be new seniors....

Congratulations, you're Senior year is starting.  You're almost done with high school and you will want to remember this time of your life.

** We're having a sale you don't want to miss **

For one day only, we're having a senior portrait sale.  The lowest price we'll offer all year - FREE sessions.  There is a little (very little) work you have to do to qualify.  Want more details?

What is on sale
You can get a free Salutatorian Senior Session (a $75 value) or Senior Portrait Party (3- 5 seniors, a $200 value).  Want something bigger like our Extreme, Double Take or Seasons Session?  We'll give you $75 off any of those sessions.

For more information about our options and prices, visit our Senior Portraits Website.

When is the sale
It's one day only, this Saturday, May 18th.  Call or stop in on from 10:00am - 5:00pm, or you can contact us by facebook or email from 8:00am - 9:00pm.

How do you qualify
It's really simple.
  1. Like our Natural-Beauty Portraits Facebook Page
  2. Share our sale information posted on our page
That's it.... that's all you have to do to qualify for a free senior portrait session!

Whether you're a senior or just know a senior, spread the word.  It won't cost you anything and your chances of getting a free session won't change because it's for anyone who shares the information.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Featured Session: Bauman Christmas

This year, I didn’t get a chance to create a Christmas set like the fireplace setting we had last year.  My plans are to create a different themed set each year as well as having some smaller, basic Christmas backgrounds.  Since I didn’t have a Christmas set this year, the Bauman family decided to have their Christmas portraits taken at their home.  This is always an option because it’s fun to incorporate your own home in to your pictures – it really makes them unique.

When I got to the Bauman’s house, they showed me their beautiful Christmas tree they just finished decorating the night before.  It was in a wide open room and the golden color on the tree with the dark red and green walls was going to make a beautiful background for Christmas portraits.

 I have taken quick pictures of this family before at our Helping Hearts fundraiser in February, so I knew that the youngest one was going to be a bit tricky, and she didn’t disappoint.   As we started taking family pictures, she clung to mommy, we worked with it and got some cute pictures including some of her peeking out between mommy and daddy.  As she was getting a little more comfortable, we got her sitting in front of mommy and daddy for their favorite family Christmas portrait.

After getting the family portraits, we moved on to getting individual portraits of the boys in front of the tree.  At their ages, this went quickly and easily with great results…. even when we brought the dog in for a few images.

 We then moved around the room to a another location where they had their name hanging on the wall and got a few more family portraits that weren’t so Christmas themed.  This gives them another option to show off their portraits throughout the year without it looking like Christmas.

By the time we got done with the last set of family portraits, the little girl was really starting to warm up to me and play with me.  This was our chance to get some individual portraits of her in front of the tree as well.  I think we got some of the best portraits of her that we have ever gotten.  The combination of taking the time for her to get used to me, playing with her throughout the time and being in her own home environment all helped to get a several great images.

I want to thank the Bauman’s for letting me invade their home and get these great family portraits in their own home environment.  I would also encourage anyone who's interested in portraits to consider using their home to take portraits.  I can come and make some great portraits in places you wouldn't realize.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Memories... of Easier Times

This past week, I took a working vacation to Moloka'i Hawai'i.  What an awesome place to get away to!  I figured I would learn a little, but I knew it was more general and landscape photography rather than portrait photography.  I figured it would be a nice get-away more than anything.

A couple of my favorite photos that I got probably mean little or nothing to most of you reading this.  They were of the morning porch talks (which I now have that photo as my timeline cover) and the photo of everyone around the table learning.  The part of the workshop that I wasn't expecting, was the new family that all of the classmates became in just a matter of days.  Unfortunately, I'm sure that family will be the same as my old school family of 13 classmates I grew up with that I never talk to anymore.... but for those few days, it was special.

This workshop really did remind me a lot of of my high school days.  One big difference, I was hearing "Ryan", "Ryan" instead of "Schutte", "Schutte".  In school, there was another Ryan in my class, so I became Schutte instead of Ryan by early grade school.  By high school, I always had several classmates whispering "Schutte, what do you have for #5" or "Schutte, where did you find the answer for that", especially in math and computer classes.  At this workshop, there were several people sitting around the table, "Ryan, how do you do this".  I loved it.... it's so awesome getting to help out with something that I know... something I can help someone understand.

Although it has nothing to do with the workshop, another memory that came to mind and made me smile.... was the "Schutte" that was very seldom actually said, but implied.  Since I always had my watch synchronized with the bell, I started putting my papers and books away about 15 seconds before the bell.  As soon as I started, everyone else followed.  A couple teachers weren't quite so happy with that habit. :)  What fun memories.

One final memory, although it's an unfortunate one, that came to mind this week is of the person I considered to be my best friend throughout high school.  Yes, I heard "What did you get for #...." many, many, many times from him.  So many times, it was a running joke with Mrs. Stallbaumer, our math and computer teacher.  I may not have thought specifically about him this week, except for the fact that while I was at the workshop, a young man in our small town who graduated just last May, ended his own life.  Eddie also ended his own life just a couple years after high school.  R.I.P. J D Lunsford & Eddie Fritz, I'll always remember both of you, but especially Eddie who has visited me in my dreams many times.

Memories... of easier times.  When most kids are in high school, they can't wait to get out.  They hate going to school.  I was always different, I enjoyed school.  I also worked throughout high school, starting with a paper route at 13 that I kept for 4 or 5 years and also cleaning and cooking at the local cafe starting when I was 14.  Anytime I think back, I still remember how much easier and carefree those times were.  I knew it then, and still believe it to be true now.  I just never expected a photography seminar to throw me back 20 years.  How Fascinating....

Thank You to everyone from the Creative Photography for the Soul Workshop, classmates, teachers & the Hui Ho'olana staff!  What Great Memories!

For a lot more pictures and information about my trip to Moloka'i, visit the Natural-Beauty Escapes Blog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Charity Portrait Party

We're trying to start a new Halloween tradition at Natural-Beauty Photography.  We are hosting our First Annual Halloween Charity Portrait Party (at least, we hope it goes over well enough to become an annual event).

This year, being our first year, isn't going to be huge, but it will still be neat!  Each year, we will continue to add more.  So far this year, we're spending around $600 - $700 on the party.  What does that buy?  Not much when it comes to Halloween....  We've created a haunted hall that leads to our new graveyard in our basement.  We also have a few new Halloween backdrops upstairs for those who don't want to go to our dark graveyard.  Like any of our parties, we're going to have refreshments as well,

We said charity, right?  So, where does that come in?  Our session fee for our portrait parties is usually $10.  For this party, we're making it even better for you.  We're accepting $5 (or more) in value of non-perishable food items or personal care items which will be given to the SENCA Food Pantry.  We will post our favorite image to our facebook page.  If you want to purchase any actual prints, we are also giving 20% of any additional portrait sales, of our specially priced packages, to the SENCA Food Pantry and will post those on facebook as well.

Stop in this Saturday, October 27th between 10:00 and 8:00.  Get your portrait while helping out a great, local cause.  It will also help us create a bigger and better Second Annual Halloween Charity Portrait Party next year!  Spread the word!!!

More details can also be found at Portraits For A Purpose and also be sure to RSVP on our facebook event page.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Family Portraits at Indian Cave

Last fall, we took family portraits at Indian Cave.  We've had requests to do it again this year - so we are!

This year, we'll be at Indian Cave State Park on Sunday, October 21st.  We can start as early as you like - sunrise portraits are beautiful, but typically cooler this time of year.  The colors are beautiful right now and there are so many different locations to choose from.

Not only will we take portraits of your entire family, we'll also take portraits of mom & dad, the kids together, the kids individually or any other combination you would like.  Depending on what all portriats you would like, your session will be between 1 - 2 hours.  We are also offering this at a special $30 session fee!

Time slots will fill fast.  Contact us today to reserve a time for your family!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Our Candid Side... is it fading away?

I started Natural-Beauty Photography in August 2004 by going to local community and school events.  I wasn't sure how well it would take off, but quickly figured out a lot of people really liked it.  It grew quickly, but it has fallen even quicker.  It's time that I take a fresh look at it and either do something to bring it back to life or lay it down to rest.  I've got a few ideas to try, but overall... it depends on you, my customers.

I really enjoy doing the candid photography that I do, getting to meet everyone and attend & promote events, but I am literally losing money doing it.  I realize that we're taking longer to get photos on our website - this is because we can't spend prime time working on our candid photography when we aren't getting orders.  We are also taking longer to get orders to our customers because we have a minimum order of 80 photos (we pay for the equivalent of 80 4x6s whether we order 80 or not) plus a minimum shipping charge.  We used to get 100 - 250 in a week, now we're barely getting 100 in a month.

What am I asking?  I'm wanting to know if people still like our candid photography well enough to support it.  We haven't raised our prices in over 4 years and we're cheaper than most others who do this type of photography as a business.  We aren't currently planning on raising our prices either.  Maybe you have some suggestions as to what we could do to help improve our sales - what you would like to see us do.  Are there any suggestions or comments out there or has our candid side of photography run it's course and is time to call it quits.

Here are my sales:
Aug 04 - July 05  $3450
Aug 05 - July 06  $6600
Aug 06 - July 07  $7850
Aug 07 - July 08  $8475
Aug 08 - July 09  $8950
Aug 09 - July 10  $6150
Aug 10 - July 11  $5250
Aug 11 - July 12  $2425

In the past year, August 2011 - July 2012, our sales have been lower than ever, even our first year.  What did I do to get those $2,425 in sales?  I looked through the events I attended in the past year and estimated that I spent a little over 200 hours at events (not including travel time, Humboldt, Auburn, Tecumseh....)  On average, it takes at least twice as long to go through the photos, resize, watermark, upload and add the photos to the website.  That's about another 400 - 500 hours of work.  When orders are placed, I then go through to find the photos, edit them, upload & order them, receive & check them and e-mail or call the customer.  All of this also adds more hours.

Figuring just 700 hours for the $2,425 gross sales we had last year, it figures out to less than $3.50 per hour.  That  does not allow anything for the direct costs of the photos & shipping, entry fees to a few of the events, gas to get to events, or credit card & web page fees.  Plus, I have an employee who looks through all the photos taking out the bad ones before we add them to the web site.  She also sorts the orders and gets them prepared when they come in.  She makes more than minimum wage - I probably actually paid her more for the work she did for Natural-Beauty Photography last year than the sales I made.  Then there is always all the other indirect costs - equipment, software, electricity, insurance, etc.  I'm not expecting to make a living off of our candid photography, but I can't actually be losing money to do it either.

What are we doing to try to fix it?
I'm not just giving up.  I have a few things in mind to try, but I am always open to your suggestions as well.  The first thing I'm changing is that we will start requiring payment when you order - no paying when you pick photos up.  We have between $3,000 - $4,000 worth of photos sitting at our store that have never been picked up or paid for.  We can't keep purchasing product for people when they aren't actually going to pay for them.  I hate to take away the convenience of being able to pay when you pick photos up, but it's something I have to do.

Another thing I've just started is trying to bring more attention to our business.  When you order photos now, we will use a less intrusive watermark and upload them to our facebook candids page.  We encourage you to tag yourself and family in these photos, share them with your friends and family, encourage everyone to purchase photos of themselves or their families. 

Any other suggestions you may have, we're interested in hearing about!  If you used to purchase from us and don't anymore, let me know why - other than graduation of course, I realize this takes families away each year, but I would expect others to take their places as other students come up through the years.  If we're doing something wrong, I can't try to fix it if I don't know about it.

Please, if you like our candid photos... consider ordering more pictures.  Be sure to tell all your friends about our photos and encourage them to order as well.

Thank you to all of our past customers... I truly do appreciate your support!