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Houston Lifestyle Photographer: Storytelling, My Two Cents–A Workshop Review

I won’t go into how I am a workshop junkie. Or how I feel that education is the single most important thing a photographer can invest in. Other than lenses. Because you truly need *the* lens for the situation. (Did I just get sidetracked? We’re talking about workshops, right?) Or how I probably take too many workshops. But how 2014 is the year of “no workshops”. Except that I just did go into all of that, right?

Well, I knew I wanted to make some big changes in 2014, and I knew that I was only going to allow myself one workshop. So it better be good, right? It was a gamble, but I came out a big winner. Let me start by taking you way, way, back.. . all the way back to the ’09. . . .


Yep. It is pretty humbling to post that here. I am not sure what is better, the “papyrus” font or the selective color. Let me tell you, I thought I was hot stuff. Oh. my. lawd. I had so much to learn. BUT.

you see that? You see my brilliant tagline: “Telling Your Family’s Stories in Pictures”? That was what it was all about. What this has ALWAYS been all about: tell the story. Telling YOUR story. My story. The boys’ stories. Because before we know it the moment has passed and all we have is our failing memories and maybe a few. .. .wait for it. .. pictures.  Ahem. I will stop waxing poetic and get to the nitty gritty now.

So: storytelling in photography. That’s what my original purpose was, way back in the day. And it still is. This year I have committed to a 365 project, where I take an image a day. Part of it was to rediscover a love of photographing my own family. Part of it was just to improve skills. Part of it was just to have the camera out every single day and not to miss any moments.

You may or may not know that I LOVE lifestyle photography. What is that? It is a popular word these days. To me, “lifestyle” is focusing on authentic connections. It is less about “sit and look at the camera” and all about interacting. So I’ve taken some lifestyle workshops. Along the way, I met the lovely and talented (not to mention, precious) Carlee of CK Designs Photography.  One day she blogged this “day in the life” concept. And started doing lots of “storytelling” images and posts. I was intrigued. And inspired. So when she shared that her new work was coming out of a workshop she was taking, I was (surprise, surprise!) wanting to sign up for it.

Thus, I learned about the Telling Stories with Lifestyle Photography Workshop led by the incredible Colie James Photography. And you bet your bottom I signed up.

Here is the scoop:

Colie rocks. Just sign up. That is all.

Just kidding! There is more!

So first thing she does in this five-week workshop is to get you pinning on some Pinterest board. She has you complete some exercises that help you define (for you) “lifestyle” and “storytelling” photography. It was a great exercise.

Then she has you get to know the light in your house. I mean REALLY get to know your house and  pick some images to review. And you meet all these great (amazingly talented) photographers from all across the globe, where I am going to visit. Hi, Julia, going to crash at your place in Istanbul, for sure!!!!!!!

Then. .. drum roll please. .. there is the first Skype call. Can I tell you how awesome this is? Colie actually spoke with me *in person* and we talked about my work. Meaning she actually *looked at my website*.  I’ve never had this happen before in any other workshop I have taken. It was great to actually talk about my work. And other photographers whose style mine was similar to (yes ending that sentence with a preposition). Marketing. Strengths. Weaknesses. Texas. Life. Kids. And all kinds of goals for the workshop. Let me tell you: the Skype call is pretty much a must for any online workshops I plan to do in the future. That one-on-one is priceless!

So then we started shooting. Here is one of the images I started with for the first week in the room I only *thought* was my favorite to shoot in in my house. It was the ONLY room I thought was worthy of taking a picture prior to this workshop. Oh lordy was I wrong!

I mean the Meatball is cute and all but there is so much more! Houston_Lifestyle_photographer002

Here is another challenge from the workshop. I am so happy with the image. These boys are eating us out of house and home and the fridge with its sticky handprints is always open. “What’s there to eat, Mom!” Houston_Lifestyle_photographer003

This image comes at the end of my “Day in the Life” activity. What is “DITL”? Well, you bring your camera with you and shoot the whole day. It was a great and exhausting exercise that I look forward to doing again. And guess what? I am no longer afraid to bring that camera all over the place any more! Houston_Lifestyle_photographer004

This image was one I had in mind for a long, long time. I feel like a mom taxi most days and knew I wanted to document it this way.

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Here is another “story” I was happy to tell: the Meatball started pulling up in his crib and we had to drop the mattress. Look at how happy he is!!!!! Houston_Lifestyle_photographer005

He’s pulling up on everything! And you know what? I would have dismissed trying to get this shot prior to the workshop. But now it is one of my favorite images of Bo.


Getting out and about was another one of our assignments. It felt pretty ambitious to get out with all three boys and a camera just to run a mundane errand at Pets Mart, but I am so thrilled with the images we captured from that story in our lives. My boys love the fish tank (we all do) so it is a great story from this time in their lives.


And again, another image I might not have even attempted. Houston_Lifestyle_photographer008

Here is possibly my favorite image of my Middle Mister. The lighting is hard. It is in their room, where I never ever ever ever shoot. And I love it. He’s wearing one of his superhero costumes, which we are wearing all. the. time.  I love telling his story. Houston_Lifestyle_photographer009

Part of what I gained from the workshop was not just shooting my kids, but getting Dad (and myself) in the picture. Our neighbors think we are certifiably crazy and here is some proof. This image is shot in our garage, if you couldn’t tell.


And I even discovered a new favorite shooting spot in my house. Fortunately, it is a favorite spot for the Meatball as well, since he comes here all the time to look outside. Houston_Lifestyle_photographer011


Here is the Middle Mister playing with his Legos, which consume most of our lives these days.


And one more in a room I would never never never ever shoot in: our bedroom in the early morning.


Every week we had two proper assignments. Then some activities. And some bonus stuff. We got PRICELESS feedback from Colie in pretty much the most user-friendly format EVAH. Each week she had a .PDF guide to the techniques and activities. Really, she puts her heart and soul into this workshop and she could charge way, way more than she does (so sign up before she raises her prices, okay!).

At the end of the workshop we had to select a portfolio of ten images for review via *ta-daa* another Skype call. Colie also give lots of great advice about SEO and blogging and website info. In the Skype call she gave me some really important goals for improving my website (that I still need to complete, ahem). And even after the workshop is over we have a lot of contact with her and I am even a part of the “continuation of the workshop” with the collaborative blog The Stories We Tell. Seriously, there are some TALENTED photogs in there, y’all. You have to go check them out. I am there for comic relief, for sure!

The great thing about the workshop is that not only am I using the techniques in my own daily images and storytelling, I am also using them in my sessions. Here are a few of my recent favorite images since the workshop. OH! And yes, you do have to go out and find a family and shoot a “storytelling” session as part of the workshop! It was one of my favorite things to do!

Images from the workshop family storytelling assignment:

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Then I took what I got feedback on from Colie about the session and applied it to my new sessions:

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And here is some sweetness from just last week that I cannot wait to finish.

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So. .. .have I convinced you about storytelling yet? Have you signed up or gotten on some sort of waiting list? Because this workshop is the bomb.com and I have to share that with you!

Questions? Shoot me a message, and I will be thrilled to answer it! Now it is time to get my kids out and you bet I am bringing my camera! I’ve got stories to tell! Happy shooting, y’all!!!!

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