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If you’ve EVER shot an outdoor wedding ceremony before, you know that sometimes the light isn’t ideal! In fact, a lot of times, it can be REALLY harsh! Especially when the bride is first coming down the aisle!
We have three quick tips for shooting outdoor ceremonies in harsh light that should hopefully make things a little easier for you!
1. Have Dad Walk the Bride Down the Aisle on the Side that Blocks the Sun
Now in an ideal world, we’d have soft, even light from head to toe during every outdoor ceremony, but that’s just rarely the case! And the sun is always the harshest at the beginning of the ceremony, when the sun is still higher in the sky. Even though there is typically a “side” protocol for the bride and the groom during the ceremony, in all our wedding experience, we’ve seen Dad walk on either side of the bride as he escorts her down the aisle. We’ve found that when we put Dad on the same side as the sun, since he’s usually taller, he blocks the light that would be hitting his daughter, putting her in perfect, even, shaded light — which we love! As you can see in the picture below. Now, again, in our perfect world, Dad isn’t getting hit by the sun either, but if we had to choose, we’re always Team Bride first! You’ll also want to note the angle (which we’ll get to in point two!).
2. Be Strategic About Side Angles
Even when the ceremony is earlier in the day, there’s typically one side that is softer than the other. It will always be the side that’s opposite where the sun is directly hitting.The shadow side. In this example below, you can see how powerful the sun is based on the way everyone’s hair is lit up. As you can imagine, if we had shot the ring bearer on the other side of his face, the whole thing would have looked harsh and un-ideal! And if we had shot him from the front, his face would’ve been spilt-lit (half over-exposed and the other half under-exposed) But shooting him from this one angle makes the light appear almost angelic! That’s why we find the best angle for the processional and stay there!
The same goes for the image above! Imagine if we had shot Kathleen and her dad coming down the aisle by standing on the side closer to the dad! Dad’s face would’ve been completely gone or Kathleen’s would’ve been way too dark! Shooting from Kathleen’s side was imperative to the shot. During portrait time, we always have full control of where everyone stands, but during ceremonies, we have little to no say at all, so angles are everything when it comes to ceremonies! Choose strategically!
3. Try Shooting From Behind the Altar
During church weddings, we’re typically restricted by the church’s rules on where we can stand, but during outdoor ceremonies, we have a lot more latitude. We always make sure that we’re respectful and discreet, but we also do everything we can to get the best images for our couples. If part or all of the front of the bride’s or groom’s face is in full blazing sun, it’s likely that from somewhere it’s not! We STRIVE for consistency in our images as much as possible even when we have no control over the location, meaning if we’re shooting the bride in shadows, we want to shoot the groom in shadows, too. It makes the images look SO much better for their blog and their album. So, a lot of times at ceremonies, we’ll walk around until we find the shadow side of both of their faces, and shoot those instead of the highlights side. We’ve found that a lot of times, back behind the altar gives us the most even light when the front angle just isn’t cutting it. Just look the difference! The first photo is what you’re used to seeing from us.
On the left, you’ll see NOT our favorite angle (this was what it looked like from the front!). Notice the harsher, more direct light on her right shoulder and Nick’s left cheek. On the right, you’ll see our favorite angle, taken just seconds later, but from the back of the altar. This is an angle we’d shoot all day long because her face is in the shadows. What a difference, eh?
In our dream world, we’d get even light from head to toe from beginning to end, but that’s just rarely the case! As the ceremony moves along, the light typically gets softer, which is why we LOVE recessionals! But when you’re in a pickle, pick your angles strategically and remember that ultimately your number one job is to capture precious memories for your couple, regardless of the light!
Okay, friends! We hope this post helps you at your next wedding ceremony! Go get ’em! In the meantime, we have another awesome resource for you! Click here to watch our 5 Secret Photography Life Hacks to learn five quick practical and applicable takeaways to bring your photography game to the next level in less than ten minutes! The best part? It’s totally free!
We’re cheering for you!
“Soft light is a thing of beauty in photography – finding it is the real trick.”
There is some information in the photography world that says diffusion can make your flash images look better by “softening” the light. Today we are going to explore this and see if it is true or false.
When we first started shooting, the first thing we bought was a Canon 580ex speedlight so we could light our subjects at dark receptions. The issue with that light was if we pointed it directly at our subject, or even moved it off-camera and pointed it at our subject, we would get lots of contrast and “hard” lighting on our subjects. Hard lighting is caused by having a small light source and the result is having “specular highlights” or bright spots right next to dark spots that create lots of contrast.
You can see when you use a small light source like the one used above, that you get a very defined line from highlight to shadow, and the skin can look worse than it really is. There are some hot spots on the right side of the frame and you can see that “specularity” we mention earlier. This lighting is not right or wrong, but it definitely is not forgiving when not used just right.
Does Diffusion Really Solve this Problem and make light softer?
Early on, we got sold on this idea that if you added “diffusion” (or something that evened out the light coming from our flash), we could then get soft light. The myth here is that there is only a partial truth in that. The diffusion itself does not actually create soft light. Diffusion only evens out the light. It’s the size of the light-source (it getting bigger and bigger) that actually does the softening.
Some diffusers do make your light slightly bigger (takes the light source from 1.5″x3″ and making it 4″ inches in diameter, for example), however, this will not make much difference at all in the softness of light.
Defining Soft Light:
(Light from flash image above was softened with a 24×32 soft box at 3 feet away)
Soft light (light that appears to “wrap” around your subject) has a painted-on effect and diffused shadows. Soft light is created when you have a large light source in comparison to your subject. Light is NOT softened when you shoot a small light through diffusion, but rather when the you use a large even light source. Soft light looks great on anyone and we love shooting our clients in this type of light (whether it’s created by a strobe or natural light outside).
The problem with the way lighting modifiers like the Speedlight ones above are sold, is that they tell you that they “diffuse” light, and because you added this diffusion, the light is now “soft.” But the truth is, they only even out the TINY light source you are using, and while that does make the light softer by making it slightly larger (and more even), it does not make the light soft enough for a light-wrapping portrait (or much else). If you shoot mouse photography, then that might be a great way to get soft light on your subject, but for people, you need a light source with a little more size to get truly soft light.
If you want light that wraps around your subject, then you need a light the same size as whatever you are shooting. Once you have that larger light source, if you move that light back from your subject a few feet, the light gets harsher (because it gets smaller in comparison to your subject), and then needs to get even larger!
The Real Solution for Creating Soft Light Portraits:
The real way to solve the problem of using difficult to work with harsh light that comes out of a bare-bulb speedlight or strobe, is to simply increase the size of that light as much as we practically can. If you take a speedlight (that is about 2×3 inches in terms of the size of the light), and make it 2.5 x 3.5 inches by adding a “diffuser” like the ones shown above, then you will barely even notice the difference in the quality of light coming out. But if you can increase the size (and evenness) of that light by 10, 15 or 20 times, then you can start taking ultra-soft lit portraits that require less guess-work and look stunningly beautiful!
For a real world example, watch the video below from our IN-CAMERA: Natural Light Photography System video workshop to see exactly what we mean.
2 great light modifiers that change harsh light into soft light that we recommend are:
For Strobes – Westcott 24×32 Soft Box (this is one we have used for years and is the one used in the video above, and in MOST of our flash images you have seen over the years. As mentioned, the rule of thumb when lighting a subject with soft light is the light source should technically be the size of the subject being lit. However, as a portrait or even wedding photographer, it can be difficult and very cumbersome to lug around a huge softbox. This softbox here gives us a great balance between beautiful, soft light and ease of use).
Hope that helps! Now go off and take some beautiful soft lit shots of your clients!
Something More than Great Imagery…
Could it be that we have spent all this time honing our craft to become better and better photographers, and the harsh reality is that having great photos alone isn’t enough?
The Truth About Quality Photographs
The truth is clients just expect their photos to be good. No one goes around saying “I take OK photos, want to hire me?” So why in the WORLD would we try and base the price of our images off of the quality of our images?
The answer is because we are artists and this is our art. We want people to value it, but the hard truth is that once photography became widely available and much easier to do, the overall quality of images went up and clients started to simply expect them all to be good.
What Else You Got?
Subconsciously, this is the question on all of our clients minds. If they are asked to pay anything over average for our products and services, then they expect something more.
So what MORE do you have to offer?
That is simple. We have to offer emotional connections to the products and services we offer.
This is done by first, telling gripping stories when we are initially meeting with clients and then second, following up with a great experience throughout the whole process from booking through the wedding day and beyond. If we can do that effectively, then clients will pay a premium for us. We saw this time and again in our wedding business where clients were willing to pay average prices up front, but once we created an emotional connection and a great experience, they paid 2x, 3x and even 4x what they initially thought they would spend!
For us that meant a $3,000 bride up front would turn into a $12,000 bride by the time we were done. And this wasn’t just some fluke with our brand. Luke and Cat saw this to the tune of over $400,000 in sales last year using this same idea, and we could go on and on of countless photographers we have personally coached that have had amazing results.
“People make purchasing decisions based on their emotional connection to a product or service.”
-Jack Trout, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
How do I do that?
First, begin to connect to your clients emotionally and start by telling your best stories. What you need more than anything is to learn how to tell your own photographic stories in a highly engaging way. Once you learn how to craft the message of a powerful story (one you photographed), then you are at the beginning of the journey with your clients to give them much more than they thought they would get.
Value is creating through connection (Tweet this out!) and once your client connects emotionally to what you do, it’s the beginning of a great experience where trust is built which leads them to becoming willing to gladly invest back in to your business by paying you more.
One of the most common questions we get asked from photographers is, “When is it a smart decision to quit my day job?” If you’re in that position, we want to help guide you through that tough decision to make!
It was 8 years ago that we decided to pursue photography as a career. At that point in our lives, Zach worked for a company that photographed and produced images for grade-school yearbooks, and Jody worked in international sales and marketing for a record label. We learned a lot over the years about how to keep our business functioning day in and day out and one of the hardest decisions we had to make early on in our business was quitting our day jobs.
The struggle came when we were gaining huge momentum and found ourselves in the middle of shooting 30+ weddings our 2nd year into business and we both were working crazy hard. Zach had quit his job 10 months prior but Jody was working 80-90 hour weeks between her day job and photography. We had a come-to-Jesus-meeting about how much time we were spending business building vs. marriage building (business building was WAY significantly more) and sat down and decided that WE were going to take control of our future.
We sought the advice of a few different counselors including the brilliant financial mind of Dave Ramsey. We wrote out our plan, did what was right based on our marriage relationship, and what we needed instead of what we feared (losing our “security” of the day jobs) and moved forward. We ended the year with a bang and our business continued to thrive and grow each year after.
So how did we practically make the leap? What were the steps we took?
We have a treat for you guys today!
The brilliant and talented Katelyn James is sharing how you can charge more than what you’re images are worth. Intrigued?
Before we hand it over to Katelyn, for those of you who may not be familiar with her, let us brag on her for a second! We could tell you how she brilliantly started her business out of her dorm room and is now charging a premium for her services, or we could share all the publications she’s been published in or how she’s the leader in building community with her brides, or we could share about her crazy talent for brand and design (don’t even get us started on her interior design!), but we won’t :)
Instead, let us brag on how she is truly such a genuine, caring person, with such a sweet spirit with a heart of gold :) We hope you get the chance to meet her and her husband Michael one day and you’ll see that we’re exactly right.
In the meantime, enjoy her post on how to charge more!
I’m Katelyn and it’s an honor to connect with all of you! I’m excited to share some of the foundational steps that we have taken to catapult our wedding photography business!! We have brought in a 6 figure income for the past 4 years and that’s not easy to do when you’re in a heavily saturated and ever-growing industry!!
I’ve said it before and I stand by this bold statement… I honestly think that my work is worth about $3200. Based on my image quality and my experience, I think $3200 would be a fair price. I’ve been in business going on eight years now and I’m amazed at the fact that almost all of the young, female photographers shoot with the exact same equipment! This means that our work looks very similar! So how in the world am I charging well over $7000 for my wedding photography services when my images quality is worth around $3200 and the industry is over saturated? Community & Value. That’s the answer!
For years we have been studying our own business and what we have found that WORKS is a very simple concept. Serve people, build community, and VALUE will follow. I have created a marketing strategy around the fact that brides long to have community and they desire an EXPERIENCE… not just pretty wedding pictures. I have adopted Seth Godin’s “Tribes” approach to my business and I have united my “KJ Brides” to form a community that allows our value to sky rocket!! The more that our community grows and strengthens, the more we are in demand. The more we are in demand, the more we raise our prices!
So how do you increase the value of your services? Think about it, if you only market with your images, you only have one area of your business that is defining your value. One dimensional value isn’t reliable or scalable. If you begin leading and growing a community around your brand, you instantly have value in who you are personally and what your client’s experience offers to your community. Instead of just basing our value on our image quality, we have created value through our reputation, our personalities, our KJ community, and the scarcity of our services. If you want to be a KJ Bride, there are only 30 spots a year! We’ve realized that our value isn’t upheld simply by how beautiful our work is, it’s determined by the way we serve our couples.
Ultimately, the mission of our business is to serve couples and enhance their marriages by being an example. Sure, we want to make a great profit, but we want our business to be “life-changing” and not just “money making” at the end of the day. The crazy thing is, the more we focus on service, the more valuable we become. It’s a wonderful cycle!
So what are some practical ways to start building your community and increasing your value? Here are five steps that you can begin implementing today!
1. Decide to prioritize forming community over just finding customers
It’s a mindset change. We’re not about the transaction, we’re about the relationship!
2. Accept your leadership position in the community that you’re starting to form and SHOW UP!
Be consistent in how you connect to your community whether that’s through Instagram, Facebook, your blog, etc.
3. Analyze your online and social media presence
Are you just pushing your images out to potential clients or are you showing who you are and why your community loves and supports you and your business?
4. Exceed EVERY expectation
When you combine your relationship with your client with the power of exceeding expectations, that’s a recipe for the best reputation in town!
5. Educate your current and future community
Consistently show how you love and serve your clients so that future clients desire that before they even book with you.
Here’s to growing communities, building value and making a difference with our businesses!!!
We hope you enjoyed this as much as we did! No go ahead and start implementing the items Katelyn shared!
PS. If you enjoyed this and you’d like to receive more educational resources, you can download Katelyn’s latest E-book (“Our Top 5 Most Profitable Business Decisions” for FREE by clicking HERE!
Social Media is not what we think it is
It is easy to think that having 35,000 Facebook fans, thousands of Twitter followers and loads of Instagram likes means that we will have a thriving business, but that could not be further from the truth.
Unfortunately, many of us put a high value on Social Media power and give it too much of our attention and time.
Don’t build on THEIR platform
The easiest way to focus on social marketing is to build great relationships with your base clients (past brides, photographers and vendors), and then give them a reason to talk about you and a tool to make talking easy.
FB, Twitter and Instagram are all secondary tools to supplement your marketing, and should never be the main focus of how you connect.
Because Facebook controls Facebook (you don’t) and if all your eggs are in their proverbial marketing basket and they change their system (which they do all the time) then you are in big trouble.
Focus on people, not the numbers
You need to focus your marketing first on your personal network (clients looking at your blog, those on your email list, and people who you actually spend time with) because YOU control that outlet and not someone else. Then use FB and the like to supplement that.
When you do use Social Media to get your message out and connect, here are 3 key strategic tips to do that effectively:
1. Keep it interesting
People engage when content is interesting. Think before you post, and post things that OTHER people will find interesting, and specifically, your target audience will think is interesting.
2. Be helpful
If you help people, they will feel reciprocity and want to help YOU in return. If someone needs something, send them a link. If someone needs a resource, be that resource or find it for them.
3. Be funny
People LOVE to laugh and engage big time when things are funny. Be creative with your funny posts and make sure that your humor lines up with your audience. (Just because you think a car crash is funny, doesn’t mean someone else does :)
If it isn’t interesting, helpful or funny, chances are you should’t post it (unless your goal is to alienate large amounts of people).
Focus on them and not you.
When posting messages, you should also NOT try and have the entire focus be on marketing your brand and talking about YOU and all the cool things YOU do. No one cares about you (sorry but that is the truth people!), but rather they care about themselves. So, if you are creating something for social media and want it to reach people, it needs to be things that THEY care about and that help THEM.
If you are the person that creates helpful content that enhances their lives, they feel reciprocity and will want to give back to you when you (on rare occasion), talk about yourself.
If you shoot maternity photos, then your social media “marketing” could be on “the top 10 Lifesavers for new Moms” or the “Best Baby Books for raising a Smart Kid” type of stuff. Then insert Funny and Interesting side anecdotes.
Become a resource that enhances your clients lives, and they will be your clients for life. (Click HERE to Tweet that quote out!)
Resources for further study
Read a few blog posts on your own about “Clever ways to use More Visual on Social Media“
…I am sooo glad that we have never had to say this! :)
Now that we have your attention though, read on so that YOU never say this to a client.
Step #1 – Download the Safest Way Possible
I first download all the images using the SD cards ONLY from my Canon 5d3. I use the SD cards because they only have a contact plate instead of 16 pins (like in your CF card) and there is less chance of breaking something when it is removed from the camera.
I only download them in the office on a quality, Lexar USB 3 card reader that never leaves my office. It never leaves the office because the reader or the cables it uses can be damaged during travel, which gives you a higher chance of card failure. Most failures happen not from your cards, but from something your card interacts with (camera, bad card reader, the environment, water, heat or impact).
If you download more than 2 cards per-shoot, then you can check out the Lexar Hub that allows you to add any type of reader to that hub (up to 4). You can add an SD reader, or a CF card reader. You will need 1 of these for each card (and type) you download and this allows you to download them all at once instead of one at a time (which wastes time).
(Side note: I shoot all images on Sandisk 64 gig Extreme Pro SD and CF cards MIRRORED on the 5d3. Every time I shoot an image it’s recorded to BOTH cards at the same time. I NEVER open the CF card door during a shoot since that gives the highest potential for an error. I only open the CF card door once I am home, in my office in a safe environment. If I have any camera issues during the shoot, which has happened once before, I grab my back-up camera and leave the main camera alone until I can look at it in a safe place).
Step #2 – Back-Up 1
I first copy my images directly to my main editing drive (and not to my computer) as I don’t want thousands of photos bogging down my laptop. I do NOT use any other program (like Lightroom) to move my photos for me as that just adds one more point in the system which could cause an error. I simply copy the images directly from the SD card, and paste them into my main editing drive.
My main editing drive ($449) is the G-Tech 4TB zero raid USB 3 drive. This drive writes all data to two hard drives that spin simultaneously in order to deliver data to your computer (using USB 3 connections) at around 250 Mbps. This is fast enough that you don’t notice any slow down versus having the data directly on your computer.
(It is NOT a mirror style back up even though it has two drives, so if you lose data on this, it is gone).
You also do NOT need the Thunderbolt version of this which costs an extra $150. The reason is that USB 3 can move data at 600 mbps and this drive can only spit out data from the spinning hard drives (that work in unison) at 250 mbps. You can only move data as fast as the slowest part of your system, and Thunderbolt only makes sense when sending multiple signals through one line.
Step #3 – Back-Up 2 & 3
Next I make two more copies (directly copied from my SD cards and NOT from the main editing drive copy) to my Black-X system.
This is essentially a port that accepts internal hard drives that you can buy for a reasonable price since they do not have cases, fans, and all the other stuff that external hard drives use. The Black-X is cheap and works really well for making extra back-ups without breaking the bank.
I use two 3TB Western Digital drives that then plug into the black-X and make my 2nd and 3rd back up copies on these.
Once the back-ups are complete, I take one of these Western Digital drives out of the Black-X, pack it up in the case it came in, and send it to a friends house for safe keeping (just in case the house burns down, gets broken into, or has something like water damage from a leak).
All of these back-ups happen simultaneously and it takes just a few minutes to copy my RAW files from the SD cards and start backing up to all 3 drives that I use.
(You will notice at the end of this post that I have TWO Black-X Drives. I bought mine before they had one Black-X drive that accepted TWO hard drives. You only need the one drive linked above and two internal drives to go into it).
Step #4 – Online Back-Up
Once I have all 3 back-ups complete, I edit the entire shoot (when we shot weddings, I did this the Tuesday after the wedding which was our first day back in the office), and then export the high-res JPG files to PASS.
PASS backs up the images on Amazon S3 servers for 10 years.
I now have 6 total back-ups of the images.
- 1 copy on my CF card/s (I never delete cards until JPG files are on PASS),
- 1 copy on my SD card/s
- 1 copy on my editing drive
- 1 copy on my Black-X drive 1
- 1 copy on my Black-X drive 2
- 1 copy of the JPG files on PASS
6 Total Copies
At this point (once all the files are edited and on PASS), I am free to move my Lightroom catalog off of my main editing drive and place it on my Black-X drive 1, and then delete the images from my main editing drive and from my CF and SD cards.
When all the dust settles, I will still have 2 copies in my office of the RAW files on my Black-X drives and 1 copy on PASS of the JPG files.
What I LOVE about this dock is that I can use my laptop (my only computer these days since it is so fast and powerful it is insane) and only have one cable connecting all my editing tools, then unplug that one cable, and go mobile easy and fast.
All my other devices like my external keyboard, mouse and Apple TrackPad are all connected with bluetooth.
As you can see, there are almost no cables plugged into my computer and everything is neat and tidy. I keep all my SD and CF cards in a card case to keep them organized and if a card is facing out (where you can see the red color from Sandisk) that means do NOT use it. Red=Dead.
You may also notice my Veri-Desk that holds my computer and my monitors. I will do a post on this coming soon, but this addition to my desk allows me to go from sitting to standing in seconds so that I don’t die early from sitting all day working. :)
Homework – Create YOUR System
The most important thing you can do after reading this post is create a system. A system means it is written down somewhere (either on paper or digitally) and each and every step of how you download and back up your files is checked off for each client as you go.
Having a system written down somewhere will help you to not make a mistake and get out on a shoot and wonder if you backed up your files you are about to shoot over. The last thing you want is to lose files due to a simple lack of a good system.
“People make purchasing decisions based on their emotional
connection to a product or service.”
-Jack Trout, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
Something More than Great Imagery…
Could it be that we have spent all this time honing our craft to become better and better photographers, and the harsh reality is that having great photos alone isn’t enough to build a successful photography business?
The Truth About Quality Photographs
The truth is clients just expect their photos to be good. No one goes around saying “I take OK photos, want to hire me?” So why in the WORLD do we try and base the price of our images off of the quality of our images?
The answer is because we are artists and this is our craft. We want people to value it, but the hard truth is that once photography became widely available and much “easier” to do, the overall quality of images went up and clients started to simply expect them all to be good.
What Else You Got?
Subconsciously, this is the question on all of our clients minds. If they are asked to pay anything over average for our products and services, then they expect something more.
So what MORE do you need to offer?
That is simple. We have to offer emotional connections through the services we provide them, and through the products we sell. This is done by:
#1 – Telling gripping stories when we are initially meeting with leads that help communicateWHY these images matter in the first place. This helps connect them with the heart behind why you do what you do.
#2 – Do special things for your clients – send them gifts/thoughtful notes. Their excitementover the service you are providing for them builds trust and helps them spread the word about your studio!
#3. Taking care of the small, but important details will build their confidence in you! Following up with a great experience throughout the whole process from booking through the wedding/shoot day and beyond is key in showing that there is more to your studio than just taking great images.
If we can do these things effectively, then clients will pay a premium for us once word gets out, and they will see the value that we bring to the table… along with great images.
We saw this time and again in our wedding business where clients were willing to pay average prices up front, but once we created an emotional connection and a great experience, they paid 2x, 3x and even 4x what they initially thought they would spend!
For us that meant a $3,000 bride up front would turn into a $12,000 bride by the time we were done. And this wasn’t just some fluke with our brand. Luke and Cat see this regularly and have built one of the top profiting studios in the country using this technique, and we could go on and on of countless photographers we have personally coached that have had amazing results.
Remember: “People make purchasing decisions based on their emotional connection to a product or service.”
How do I do that?
First, begin to connect to your clients emotionally and start by telling your best stories. What you need more than anything is to learn how to tell your own photographic stories in a highly engaging way.
Once you learn how to craft the message of a powerful story (one you photographed), then you are at the beginning of the journey with your clients to give them much more than they thought they would get.
Value is created through connection, and once your client connects emotionally to what you do, it’s the beginning of a great experience where trust is built – and trust makes them which want to gladly invest back in to your business by paying you more.
“Thoughts create beliefs in the conscious mind; once sent to the subconscious, those beliefs become feelings and actions. If your subconscious computes that you will likely succeed at something, it brings all your powers to bear to make it come true. If it computes that you’ll fail, it will generate behavior to make that come true–that’s what it means to be self-destructive.”
-Tim Sanders, Today We Are Rich
It has taken me years to get the courage to write part 1 of this series (and even longer to access the tools to make it a reality in my life). I have mulled over writing part 3 of this series for weeks now, and the reason is that truthfully, I was afraid to write it.
Afraid that you all might think we should be talking about marketing strategy, or off-camera lighting instead of vulnerability, trauma, and how to change our core belief systems.
But today I am stepping into those fears and writing what we know we need to send you regardless of that fear, and if you don’t want to read it, that’s totally fine! We have a great shooting and marketing piece coming your way soon enough.
Fear causes people to freeze and to not act, and fear typically is a symptom of shame in my life. Shame that someone will not like what we say, or not like who we are, or not like the direction we are headed. But that is OK. Shame, fear and the controls we put into place to manage them are NOT something we want in our lives anymore!
Welcome to part 3 of the the Night My House Burned Down.
In part 2 we walked through the Poverty Mind-Set and demonstrated just how destructive it is. I told you about my personal mind-set from my early years and how I truly believed that success was something unavailable to me. That all changed ONCE I changed my information intake.
If we now understand that “thoughts create beliefs in the conscious mind” and that “those thoughts become actions and feelings” then we now know that in order to become the people that we have always wanted to become and to build the businesses that we have always dreamed of building, we have to create a new system for receiving information and be tuned in to what we allow to dominate our minds.
Essentially, if you want to change your circumstances, it starts with how you think, and the decisions and choices you then make based on your beliefs.
Here’s how to start:
(NOTE: There is something that is relatively new to me that I believe I should share (I have been hesitating, but know I should and I will at the end of this rather LONG post), but first, lets recap a post we wrote in January about how to change your Mind-Diet and therefore change your core belief systems. To do this is actually very simple, but it does take dedication and focus.)
Step 1: Take an Inventory of What you Allow into Your Mind Each Day
Tim Sanders (in his book Today We Are Rich) says to spend the next few weeks taking an inventory in a small journal of what goes into your mind. Everything that you read, listen to and watch should be quickly logged with the amount of time spent doing it, and then you should quickly categorize the Tone (was it positive, negative or neutral) of each of those events. (We wrote about this in our “A Great 2016 Starts Here” post).
You should also do this for people that you spend time with (friends, family and associates). A youth pastor of mine often said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Don’t underestimate the impact people have that you surround yourself with!
Then after you do this for a few weeks, quickly scan over the journal and circle the negative or useless information you have “consumed” and then highlight the positive information and relationships.
Once you become aware of what you are letting in, then you can start to do something about it.
Step 2: Filter Out The Negative
You must start taking control of your Mind-Intake if you want true change in your life.
If the first thing you do when you get up is read the news, check email, hop on social media (or like those of us with kids) get your kids ups and let the chaos begin, then we need to re-think our first mind meal.
How you start the day will determine the thoughts that dominate your afternoon and night.
This morning, I (Zach) woke up and listened to the Bible App audio of Romans chapters 4 and 5, and then got my son up and cooked him breakfast (and it is amazing how positive that experience was since I started my morning with a positive intake). On my way to work at a coffee shop I put on the Hold Me Tight audio book which is a marriage study that Jody and I are doing that teaches positive cycles in conversation and how to hear each others deepest emotional needs. This got me thinking positive thoughts about Jody and what I can do to enhance our marriage.
I then got in to work, and opened Trello and starting organizing my day and prioritizing tasks. I refused to open my email, Facebook or Instagram or listen to the news, as all of those things become either neutral or negative influences on the start of my day. When I do open email or check social media, it is with a business mind-set and purpose, and to get in and get out fast.
My day was full of positive thinking, belief in what we are doing, and completing key tasks and staying focused on helping others.
Step 3: Up Until Now
In my Transformational Coaching I did with the incredible Julia Woods of Beautiful Outcome, she changed ONE phrase in my daily language that had been holding me back for YEARS of my life.
“Up Until Now”
Whenever I catch myself saying something like “I was hurt as a kid, and I just keep people at a distance to protect myself.” I insert the phrase “up until now.” (I use this for anything that I say that seems concrete in my mind, but that I do want change to happen in).
What that does is it takes all that negative language and turns it futuristic. It says, “yeah, things have been hard, but I can change that! They WERE hard up until now.” Some might say that I’m just fooling myself because those thoughts or feelings I have do have truth to them. But Tim Sanders says:
“The reason it is so important to feed your mind good stuff is that the resulting thoughts determine your success or failure, your happiness or misery, and most important, the circumstances of your life.”
You have to say “enough is enough!” No longer will allow what has happened TO me determine WHO I will become and who I WILL be.
The Final Step To TRUE Transformation: Vulnerability
This is the part I didn’t want to share, but KNOW that I need to share.
For the last 10 years of marriage and my entire life before I met my wife, I always believed that who I was, who I TRULY was, was not something anyone wanted.
The kid who grew up poor. The kid who didn’t get an education. The kid who wet the bed until he was 12 years old and never stayed at friends houses because of it (admitting that one is still fresh to me and really hard to say). The kid (and adult) who thought he was dumb. The man who coped and medicated his pain in ways that hurt those around him. Who would want that person? Who would love that person?
But I have found something in the relationship with my son that I spoke about in Part 1 of this series. Because of my son’s complete honesty about who he is, and because he has no shame covering his heart (like I have had up until now) there was this safety for me to open up to my son and allow him access to my heart. When I was seen for who I truly am for what I believe was the very first time, it started a chain reaction in me that I am still coming to grips with.
It revealed my true self. One that I had not even known was there. He opened up my wounds, my shame, my fear, and exposed my heart. Because of that I decided to make a choice. Would I continue to medicate my pain and cope, or would I finally allow comfort and healing to enter my wounds? Would I risk MORE exposure to those around me like my wife and close friends? Or would I continue to hide, cover my shame, and control those around me so they would not see it?
I chose healing and comfort. For the last 6 weeks of my life, for the first time I can remember, I have not medicated my pain (praise be to God for that!). I have been transformed and who I truly am is coming to the surface for the first time in my life. I have been exposing that true self to my wife, which has been transformational for our marriage. I have been exposing that true self to my friends, my family, and my son and it is radically changing me. It also is SUPER hard!
What I am saying is that your testimony matters, your mind-set matters, and your mind-diet matters, but there is something more vital, more critical, and more important to do than ALL of that.
It is the simple act of vulnerability.
The act of telling my wife what is TRULY going on in my heart. No longer holding back that last 10%. Exposure and honesty has brought healing to my life like nothing else before it.
Shame > Fear > Control > Cope: Repeat
I have come to realize that when something happens to me (or I do something to myself) that is hard to come to grips with (abuse, wrong behaviors, violence against me, abusive language towards me, being different in some way, and the list goes on), it can cause shame. Then the natural reaction to that shame is fear that someone will expose it. So we then use control, brought on buy fear, to hide our shame. Then many of us manage our pain caused by the shame of what has happened to us. We manage it with drugs, alcohol, pornography, acting out, anger, food, shopping, or whatever we can use to numb us to our pain.
Once I made a decision to STOP medicating and coping, it allowed that pain to come straight to the surface. Once it comes to the surface, I can deal with it, get comfort for it, and get healing for it. When my pain is dealt with properly, I no longer need to cope. I can be free and start walking in liberty.
I know this is deep, and that some of you may be going “hey, don’t you guys teach lighting and stuff? Is that what this email list is about?” The answer is yes and no. Most of the time we teach about lighting and business and systems, but we felt called to speak about something deeper and more important for a few weeks and we are grateful you have all given us your ears and listened to what we had to say.
If any of this message is speaking to you and you want freedom from the shame that has taken over your life and caused you to live in darkness, then I want to give you some powerful resources to help you on your journey of recovery (some of which, that have literally changed my life) . We believe that you are called to be free of shame, and free from the things that hold you back from being who you were truly created to be.
If you want to walk through your story with someone with insight on who you truly are, then coaching with Julia Woods will be one of THE most powerful experiences of your life. I walked through the 12 weeks with her and it was life changing.
If you have a sexual addiction and need freedom, then be bold, be strong, and contact the team at Bethesda. People come from all over to attend these powerful workshops, and they can show you how to get healing for your wounds and help you cope in the right way and get free of coping behavior.
As I mentioned in Part I, my world was rocked when I came to know the Lord at 17. Throughout my life He has been the ever-present one always loving me, accepting me and welcoming me with open arms, even when I messed up bad. His hand has been evident on my life. Without the Lord saving me, guiding me, and protecting me I wouldn’t be here today. If you’re not sure about the whole Jesus thing, but are interested, I encourage you to find a Bible-believing church and get plugged into a small group where you can surround yourself with caring people who can answer your questions.
Emotionally Focused Therapy
If you are married and feel emotionally distant from your spouse, we recommend finding a Bible Based EFT counselor that comes HIGHLY recommended and getting into counseling. Getting a coach to be a third party in your marriage does not mean that you are bad, broken or wrong, it instead means that you care so much about your spouse that you want to make things better. Jody and I have been in this type of counseling for the past 8 months and it has been transformational for us.
In conjunction with our counseling, we are reading Hold Me Tight, and it has been really hard, but powerful. We are experiencing closeness like we never knew we could have, and it has been the best investment in US we could have ever made. You BOTH have to want it, but when you both decide that you want it, it is powerful.
Is your marriage on the brink and you’re in desperate need of help? Check out Focus on the Family’s Marriage intensives, which are designed to help marriages in crisis.
Jody and I started in incredible marriage retreat called Connect which just happened last week. We had 64 couples at WinShape Retreat Center with us for 3.5 days, and it was truly transformational. It is an event for married couples that are in business together and focusses on that unique dynamic. We have just over 60 spots for next year, and have already sold 30 of those spots to this years attendees and it will sell out super fast!
To find out more about Connect Retreat, CLICK HERE and if you want to register, click below!
Need a Trusted Person to Talk to?
Faith based, Focus on the Family has licensed counselors available (for free) to listen and provide guidance, and to pray with you.
Before I end this 3-part series, I want to share with you a story…
There is an old story of a very wealthy man that had 2 sons. Both were born into wealth and both were given a great inheritance. One son stayed the path his father had set out for him, and the other took his inheritance and squandered it all and ended up left with nothing. He hit rock bottom of mind, body and spirit.
He decided he had had enough, so he got up and started the journey home to his father’s hoause. He thought to himself, “If I just go home, tell my father that I am no longer worthy to be called his son, maybe my father will let me work as a hired hand and at least I won’t starve.”
While he was still a long way off from his child-hood home, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Bring the best of our food and let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The entire family began to celebrate that the Prodigal was home.
This is what my heavenly Father thinks of me. For a long time I thought I wasn’t worthy of a love so unconditional and such acceptance, and I thought so lowly of myself. This isn’t truth! He is waiting with open arms to love me, accept me and help me start brand new. This is the restoration and lasting transformation that I have found in knowing God.
Thanks for joining me as I’ve shared, and I hope that this has been a far bigger blessing to you than any shooting or business content we’ve put out.