…and the point is??

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What in the world am I doing here and why am I doing this?” “There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital.” -Greg Mckeown, Essentialism What am I focused on? As I (Zach) was on a four hour flight from Nashville to Las Vagas for WPPI two weeks ago, I was reading Essentialism by Greg Mckeown. In his book he asks, “What is your highest point of contribution?” … In essence he’s asking, “What is the one thing that actually matters more in your life and business?” When I took a moment to answer this question something very interesting happened to me… I had no answer. I sat for about 30 minutes pondering what my highest point of contribution was in our business. Still, I didn’t know what it was. Jody and I were headed out to the biggest wedding and portrait convention in the USA to teach, speak, lead workshops and connect with the people and companies that we work with, and this question kept nagging me… WHY are we here and WHAT are we doing this for?  Do you ever find yourself asking that question? Spread too thin Oftentimes our lives are so busy just trying to stay afloat with our shoots, clients, spouse, kids, grocery runs, managing the books, cleaning, and just LIFE that it’s hard to have time to focus on what’s really important. Sometimes we... Read More

Top Survival Tips for Mom-tographers | Part II of the Mom Series

In my previous post, I (Jody) shared the adjustment we went through adding our son Jaxon to our family and about my struggle with how business fit in with my new responsibilities as a mom. For today’s blog I want to share with you practical tips that not only myself, but other moms in the industry have put in place to avoid meltdowns and going crazy. :) I know and respect these women and hope you enjoy learning from the diverse group we have below. Without any further ado, I first introduce to you… Leeann Marie of Leeann Marie Collective What you need to know about Leeann: We first met Leeann when we were a part of a tour back in 2012 and she was a fellow speaker.  She was sharing on studio workflow management and how to get organized and become efficient so you can spend more time doing what you love. Her efficiency blew me away, and when I found out she was having a kid I was SUPER curious to know how she was going to make the adjustments to having a child in her life. Leeann is sweet and totally fun and generous and has recently started Baby Plus Business – a resource and community to help other moms who walk the fine line of being a mom and business owner. Make sure to follow her and you’ll soon get more information! (Heads up, if you’re going to WPPI, make sure to read below where you can see and learn from her!). (image by AnnLouisePhotography.com) How long have you been in business: 6 years How long... Read More

How I Survived the Transition from Business Owner to Biz Owner + MOM | Part I of the Mom Series

It has been a year and two months since we have added a third person to our lives and business – Jaxon Pierce Gray joined our team November 7th, 2013. (image by DavidMolnar.com) It seriously has been such a blast having a kid, but as with any new addition to a family, there’s always adjustment that takes place.  Many of you have wondered how we are making it work and so I (Jody) thought that we would dedicate a blog post to share not only our journey of adjusting with Jaxon now being a part of our lives, but I also wanted to let other full time moms who are also business owners share how they are balancing the act of being mom and business professional. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a… business! I always thought that I would be one of those women who needed a career once I had kids… just for sanity’s sake. You know, trading the shirt covered in spit up for a cute top and have some good ‘ol adult, human interaction. Then I had our first kid and that all changed :) (image by DavidMolnar.com) A little over a year and a half ago, we found ourselves pregnant, and because we had no idea what to expect, we planned and prepared to take a few months off once Jaxon came into this world. Our little Jax was born, and it was a fun time of stepping away from our business and just being able to focus on this new little person in our lives. Soon, it was time for both... Read More

6 keys to Accomplishing More in Less Time

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.” Elbert Hubbard After 8 years of working in the same room with my incredibly talented wife, something interesting happened. She moved. Now, she didn’t move out of the house or anything, just to her own office down the hall. It didn’t happen because she was annoyed with me (well…. maybe a little), and not beacause we don’t communicate well. We just needed a little extra space, and because we have the room in our new house, we did it. What it reminded me of was something more important about work space that we wanted to share with you all. Having a focused space for work is critical to getting tasks accomplished and having your time spent working be effective. Here are the 6 keys to accomplishing more in less time. 1. Get a door. If you have to hang a sheet up in your living room to clearly define your working space, clean out a bedroom that is not being used, or rent some cheap office space, you NEED a private place to do work. When you go in, you work, and when you leave, you are done working. Create that separation and you will get more things done in a shorter amount of time. 2. Eat & Read each morning.  My goal is to spend 10-15 minutes reading something that nourishes my mind and soul, and to eat well each morning. Every other day my goal is to spend 10 minutes working out using Burst Training... Read More

How we became better photographers

  “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, INVOLVE me and I will learn,” -Benjamin Franklin There is great value in being able to hop online, head to a blog, listen to a podcast, watch a video on Youtube and get some really great information on how to do things better. We have valued that for our own education and know that many thousands of you that read this blog each week have valued that from us. But is that enough? Back in 2006 when I (Zach) first picked up a camera and starting learning to shoot, I went to the library, went online and devoured any piece of information I could get about shooting great, natural light images. Then I would go out and practice. It seemed that it was hard to take what I had read or seen online and quickly translate that into real-world experience. It was hard. Do you know that feeling? The feeling of wanting to produce something wonderful, and falling short? I know I do. An image-changing Friendship That same year, a photographer named Evan Baines emailed me and said he wanted to connect and support me in my journey to becoming a better photographer. We went on shoots together, critiqued each-others work, and he really was the biggest mentor in my shooting that I have had to date. Our very first photography workshop we ever did was a joint workshop with his studio! The lessons that I learned by working and shooting side-by-side with a talented photographer that I respect has paid dividends for years.   So here is our... Read More

Top Reads | Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

  Welcome to our Top Reads series where we feature a book that has shaped the way we think and act about business and includes a small snippet as to why you should add this to your arsenal! Today we are featuring Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.   Want an amazing system to actually get things done? This book shows you how to create a system to help manage your thoughts and your to-do’s that can overtake your life. A must read! Make sure to check out our other top reads we love and... Read More

Type Less, Save Time & Make More

  The average worker in America spends 28% of their workweek on email alone. Tim Ferris says that “email is the KILLER of the modern day business” and that “90% of your emails are a complete waste of time.”   A few weeks back we talked about a TOOL that can help you get your inbox down to zero, but the reality is, that you STILL have to type lots of email and lots of text for all kinds of different reasons. So, what solution is there to help speed that up?     For you MAC users out there, this is THE best solution to this problem. TextExpander   This software allows you to create templates for things that you write ALL the time. Like when a bride asks you the same question that 10 others asked, then you can just type a few characters, and then it populates the entire message! You can then tweak it slightly if need be and send it off!   If you want to get time back with your family, or build your business instead of managing it, then getting simple tools like this and learning to use them is critical!   If you enjoyed this post, then share it with a friend!... Read More

One Essential Tool to help get your inbox to ZERO

Hands down there is NOTHING more irritating or overwhelming than spending half of your day combing through your emails and trying to decide what is important, and what is not! Today is the first step in solving that problem! Tim Ferris wrote in his incredible book The 4 Hour Work Week, that “email is the KILLER of the modern day business!” You don’t want your business to die, do you? ONE of the issues with email is sorting it. Getting through the “junk” or non-important emails so you can focus on the ones that matter first. It is OK if you have time in your day to check non-urgent or non-important emails, but ONLY when you have replied to clients and vendors and then done the important things in your business. Everything else can wait (or better yet, be deleted)! So, the trick is, how do you quickly, easily, and efficiently sort out the stuff that isn’t important?   SANEBOX   What SaneBox does is scan your email and sort it based on people that you ACTUALLY talk to. Anyone that you don’t ever reply to gets sorted out. Friends who ALWAYS put you on the mass emails chain, offers from businesses you signed up for, or people who you trust that SOLD your info to someone else, and now they are emailing you (and the EMAIL list goes on:).   SaneBox takes all of those emails and puts them into a separate folder called SANELATER. IF someone you need to talk to gets into that folder,  you can simply train SaneBox to send it to your inbox.  ... Read More

Protecting your images at destination weddings

 (Washington, DC wedding) We are back with more Q and A and today, we are taking a question from Walter from Walter E Homan Photography!   He asked: “I know my back up process when shooting local weddings, but we have our first destination wedding coming up, so how do you protect the images when your away at destination gigs? Also, we get to spend 2 nights in a nice hotel and I’d like to take my wife out and enjoy the town a little the day after. What do you do with your gear? Just leave it in the room? What do you do with the cards?”   Back it up baby!               When shooting destination weddings, we always bring a back up USB 3 hard drive and do a back up of all the images the night of the wedding in the hotel room. We ONLY take out the SD card from our camera and leave the CF card in the camera. We also make sure that we use a high quality card reader and are careful to not damage the reader or the cables. A damaged card reader or cable is one of the top reasons for a “card failure.”    Back up while you shoot! We shoot with the Canon 5D3 which allows you to shoot with two cards at once and mirror the images. This means that each time you take a picture, the camera can record it in two places. We use the 64 gig Extreme Pro SD card, and the 64 gig Extreme Pro CF card... Read More

Tuesday Photo Tips & Tricks | 300 million minutes gone

Welcome to this week’s Tips & Tricks! When we were flying awhile back, we came across an article, and did you know that gamers play Angry Birds for 300,000,000 minutes each day?? And this app has over more than 500 million downloads!! (Spirit, p. 41.). 300,000,000 minutes is basically 24 years worth of play happening every single hour and almost 1 billion dollars spent! Michael Chorost, Ph.d and author of the World Wide Mind, says that the reason this game is so addicting is because it is a “terrific manipulator of the brains dopamine system, because of how simple, rewarding and funny it is.” You really want to know what is going to happen after you pull that little slingshot back, so you keep doing it over and over. You may be saying to us, “Don’t hate on Angry Birds!  I love that game!!” The answer is NO! There is nothing wrong with playing you some Angry Birds, as long as it doesn’t cost you your business, your family life or cause your priorities to get out of whack. Unfortunately, many of us are addicted to something that is not benefiting our business or lives, and you only have so many minutes in every day, actually there is precisely 1,440 of them. When you really get down to it, THE most scarce thing in your life is TIME, and what we choose to do with is going to determine the success or failure of the different areas of our lives. If you were to ask yourself right now, “what are the top 5 most important things I want MY... Read More

One Tool that can save you HOURS of editing!

  When you spend your day multi-tasking, like going from building an album, to checking an email, you lose a small amount of productivity as you move between tasks. According to Tim Ferris (4 Hour Workweek), you lose exactly 45 seconds each time you move from one task to another. So about 90 seconds is lost as you move to a task, work on it, then move back. Yikes!! In a typical work day, checking 30 tasks (like email and FB) will lose you about 45 minutes of total productivity. The same applies for EDITING. When you are culling images (like picking the keepers for your clients) or editing, you end up moving your mouse, then pressing buttons on your keyboard with only your left hand. This is unnatural and causes you to take your eyes off the screen, and look down at your keyboard, then look back at the screen which slows down productivity. So, what is the answer to this problem?   So, today we want to introduce you to a simple, yet powerful tool that can literally speed up your post processing times by hours. Introducing the Shuttle Pro V2 I first heard about this tool from Jared Platt, and what is powerful about the Shuttle Pro V2 is it is an ergonomically designed quick control key that you can program to take over simple or complex functions in any program you choose. So for example, instead of pressing “P” to pick an image as a keeper in Lightroom, you can simply press a button that is in an easily muscle memorized location on the Shuttle. This allows you to... Read More

Friday Finds | Packing Pro

Welcome to this week’s Friday Finds…REVISITED! Have you ever been on your way to a shoot, and en-route, you realize that you forgot something critical to the session like your CF cards, your reflectors, or some small adapter that makes your entire light rig work? We have!! There is no worse feeling on the planet then leaving something behind and trying to get the job done without an important piece of gear. Well the good news is, for only $2.99 you can solve that problem forever!! Introducing, Packing Pro!     All you have to do, is download the App from the App Store, open it, then create a new list and give it a name like “Wedding Gear.” I like to create one list for our camera gear, then one for our computer bag gear for doing our slideshows at the wedding since I pack all that gear separately.   Next, just press the + button to add something to the list! That’s it! Go through every single piece of gear you bring to weddings or your other shooting gigs (down to extra batteries and every small detail) and simply check it off as you pack. Then, just uncheck everything to use the list again. Also, once you create a list, you can copy it and add a few things for a specific trip you may be taking that has alternate or added gear for that one trip. You can date the list, edit it and make adjustments at will. It’s an extremely simple program, but one that helps you feel way more relaxed when you’re on your... Read More

Friday Finds | Diptic

  Welcome to this week’s Friday Finds..REVISITED! We get asked by tons of Instagram Users how we make small story layouts in our feed. We do this with Diptic!   When you are trying to tell a small story of one of your clients on your Instagram, it is super useful to be able to bunch 2 to 4 images into a small story that you can post and share. Diptic allows you to easily do that with a few clicks, pick the layout, images, border and even edit the shots if you want. Then, you can open the spread directly in Instagram and start posting!   If you have a favorite app that helps you in your business, share it in the comments below so we can all check it... Read More

Tuesday Photography Tips & Tricks | Our Wedding Day Prep Checklist

“We are taking time off spending time with baby Gray, but have put together our favorite Tips and Tricks from the last two years for us all to review!” Weddings are like any normal photo shoot, but 100 times crazier. Weddings are fast-paced and physically demand so much. We like to relax as much as possible before our weddings and what allows us to do this is prepping the day before so we can enjoy our friday evening and the morning of the wedding without adding any additional stress. Here are the things we do the day before to ensure that we are relaxed and ready to go for our weddings: 1. Start charging all of our camera batteries. 2. Charge up our two-way radios. 3. Print off wedding timelines (we print these at 2 to a page so they are smaller and easier to carry on our person. We print multiple copies for each of us, our assistant, and one extra for our camera bag). 4. Print off 3 copies of the family shot list (one for each of us, one for the camera bag). 5. Put a copy of the timeline and family shot list on Dropbox (which is FREE and the best way to share and access documents anywhere) in case we happen to lose all of our hard copies. 6. Make sure bride, groom, maid of honor and best man’s numbers are in both of our cell phones. 7. Sync camera time stamps (we want to make sure that when we combine our images later in post they are in the right order with each... Read More

Friday Finds | Evernote

  Friday Finds..REVISITED! Evernote is a way to capture anything in your life and save it. Evernote allows you to then easily search for anything in your life that you need to reference later!  For running your photography business, you can create projects and check them off as you go (and share them with anyone else on your team), digitally save all of your receipts by simply snapping a photo with your iPhone camera, you can capture ideas, web pages, and more and save them all as notes to look at later, and of course you can record all of your typical notes inside this system. You can ideas, facebook posts and even tweets. You can even scan in all of your documents (contracts, social security papers, birth certificates, tax returns – EVERYTHING) right into Evernote and have a completely paperless life! Now, everything you have is all in one place, digitally secured, and accessible at any time.   Check out the new Evernote Business  if you have a large team working with you so you can easily share docs and data with each other while you work, while also keeping your private notes... Read More

Reclaim Your Life FREE Webinar!

To kick off the final week of #RECLAIMYOURLIFE this month, we are holding a FREE Reclaim Your Life video webinar so you can learn how to spend less time on the things you don’t love and more time on the things that you do!   Join us Monday, September 30th at noon CT! Register for the webinar here to ensure your spot, because space is limited. If you have registered, you’re going to learn practical steps on how we have been able to streamline tasks that can steal our time away from things or people who really matter. You soon will be on your way to having a business that frees up your life and doesn’t steal from it. We can’t wait to see you all!         P.S. Already registered? Feel free to invite a friend. Click here to share the goodness on Twitter. Or just copy/paste the below into your favorite social network: “Just signed up for @ZachandJody’s FREE #RECLAIMYOURLIFE webinar! Join me http://bit.ly/RYLwebinar” See you... Read More

Reclaim Your Life Week #3 | What could you do with an extra 18 hours?

Hey Friends! Welcome to week #3 of… We hope you all were able to set aside some time this past week and get some systems rolling in your business to save time.This week we want to focus on an area that is a HUGE time-waster for most photographers – Post Production. As we have toured the country and literally spoken to THOUSANDS of photographers, we have realized that the biggest time-sucker in most photography businesses is in image editing and work flow. The average wedding photographer in America is spending around 22 hours to JUST edit their images. This steals time away from running an effective business, not to mention time with family or community!   This is an area that we are passionate about helping photographers to overcome and teaching them how we created our 2.5 hour image work flow (based off of a 3,500 image wedding shoot) that includes culling, editing, retouching and hitting that button to upload! If you could cut your work flow time down by 80%, then what could you do with an extra 18 hours per week? Here are what some photographers who are Reclaiming Their Lives are ALREADY doing with the extra time they have saved by using our incredibility fast editing system! _____________________________ “Weddings used to take me 8-10 hours to edit fully. I can now blaze through weddings in less than half of that time…. With my extra time I’ve been doing a full home renovation on a 3 story Victorian that is 100 years old! Before I could never imagine editing weddings while taking on a house project, but now,... Read More

FREEBIE During Reclaim your Life Month (week 2)

Happy Tuesday, friend! Welcome to week #2 of …   It has been great seeing everyone take up the #RECLAIMYOURLIFE challenge and post your photos and share what you are going to reclaim! (If you missed the challenge, view last week’s newsletter here and take part!). This week we want to focus on a key part in reclaiming your life and we even have a FREEBEE for you!     The key to Reclaiming Your Life is SYSTEMS! W. Edwards Demming from his book Total Quality Management says, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”       When we create SIMPLE systems to follow in our business, it FREES us from it! Why? Because a SYSTEM is fixed and consistent. We know exactly what to do, how long it takes to do it and therefore we don’t waste time! It’s all about efficiency. Imagine if you could take your client inquiries (client emails you, you email back, you answer some questions, you try to set up a meeting, you hope to book them at that meeting and on it goes), and simplify that entire process into a set of systems that allow you to spend HALF the time doing it? One Solution to streamline this process: instead of writing the emails every time, have the emails pre-written so you can simply change a few personal details and then send the email on. Now, that you have made a system, you won’t be wasting as much time composing emails, and you now can take the time you saved and do something... Read More

#RECLAIMYOURLIFE Month!

Happy September!!! In case you haven’t heard, this month is…   In honor of this month’s theme, we will be sending out weekly tips  in our newsletter (sign up here!) on how to contain & control your business so you can be free to LIVE THE LIFE you want to have! How many times do you make any of these statements to yourself?      – I wish I had more hours in the day      – I wish I could spend more time with my kids      – I wish my spouse would never have to ask me if I’m done working for the day so they can spend more time with me I wish…               I wish…                             I wish… During our photography career we have been in 1 of 3 places:       #1. Wishing we had clients so we could get paid to do our art       #2. Having lots of clients and wishing we could have our lives back because our business stole it       #3. Having a great business AND being able to focus on other things in life that are important (this is the good one!) Which of those 3 places are you currently living in? More importantly then that question is, HOW do we get to the place where we are no longer WISHing and actually LIVing how we want? We are going to be spending the next 3 weeks sharing with YOU the things we do in our day-to-day business that speeds up slow processes so we all can have an INCREDIBLE work-flow that is fast and efficient which then FREES us to... Read More

Friday Finds | AirParrot

For all of you PC nuts out there like me (Zach) that have always wanted to airplay your laptop directly to your TV through Apple TV, here is your solution! Just download the APP for $9.99, press the little Airparrot button and you are now Airplay Enabled! Everything on your screen hits the big screen and life just got... Read More

Making File Sharing EASY!

We are all about sharing products and tools that work well for us and that we love!!! Here is our latest Tuesday Tips & Tricks that has made some areas in our business much more easier and efficient! One of the most biggest complaints we hear from vendors is that they never get images from photographers. As photographers it does take a little more effort and time to do this, but it is SO WORTH IT. After you have gone through all of the work to pull out the images for the vendors, the next biggest hurdle is to actually get the files to the vendor easily so they can use them on their blog or website. You can send them in the mail but then you have to burn a disc, get a nice case, package it nicely, put the address on and then finally make a trip to the post office. OR the other option is to email the images, but then not only do the files clog up your email but also their inbox as well. What a pain! You can use FTP programs or have them download them from your site, but sometimes that can be a little cumbersome. There IS a another option… We have a great, FREE solution we would like to share with you that we have been using for the last six months to send images to vendors, brides, companies, family, and even to each other. Friend and fellow photog Kristine Neeley introduced it to us and it has been awesome! Introducing…. Dropbox! Dropbox is a single, secure place on your... Read More