Lies creatives believe...

Lies we WANT to believe.

"I have XXX followers on Instagram! I can get you so much exposure!" Translation: "I like your work but I don't want to pay for it."

We don't care if someone has 100K followers on Instagram. I don't know about yours, but my landlord doesn't accept followers as payment. Only cold, hard cash. (Or a debit from my bank account... LOL.) Most of the time, no one even looks at who took the photos on Instagram... unless it's another photographer. And we only do it because we like to check out each other's work! I can count on one hand the number of times I've been hired because of a job I did for free that was "promoted" on Instagram. Did I get exposure? A little. But did it bring me money? Not much.

"I'm building a team of people." Translation: "I'm gonna replace you so fast the minute you ask for compensation."

Look, we all have people we believe in... people who are doing things we want to support. But make sure you know beyond a shadow of a doubt those people are actually going to take you with them on the way up. Or only do it if you're perfectly okay with never being compensated for your work. Sometimes, we just want to give our talents to someone as a gift. And that's cool. But don't go into it expecting a fat check. I've seen it plenty of times. People who think they're "famous" (insert eye roll here) use up one photographer until he or she is burnt out and then move on to the next. We might as well be standing on the corner pimping ourselves out.

"Let's barter!" Translation: "I have nothing to offer you, but I want your services for free."

Unless someone has a legit product or service they can exchange with you, it's not a barter. I trade out services with my hair girl. It works well for both of us! I don't have to pay to cover my grays and she gets photos to use for her marketing. I've traded out my services for gym memberships. Again... it works great. But "exposure" is not bartering currency. Sorry. It's just not.

"This would be a good look for you." Translation: "This would be a good look for me if I get you on board for free."

We all know the hype man/PR guy/marketing guru trying to impress the artist they work with. Of course it's a good look if they bring on a phenomenal photographer who is willing to work for free. That makes them look good. It makes me look desperate. In most cases, they're being used, too. And eventually they're gonna burn out just like us.

CREATIVES: It starts with us.

First, we've got to know our own worth. If we don't value our own work, how can we expect others to value it? Stop working for free!! Even if you only charge $50... just charge something. I remember reading this advice so many times and thinking it was my right to not charge someone if I chose to do that. And you know what? It is! But why on earth would I choose to work for free?? I don't know anyone else who works for free. If your boss in oil and gas said he wasn't paying you tomorrow, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't go to work. Why do we do it to ourselves?

Second, we've got to support other creatives! If you need new headshots, go pay a photographer to do them for you! Let's not be like everyone else. Support your friends in creative fields. Buy your friend's new single on iTunes. Hire your friend to do a promo video for you. Get rid of the ugly canvas you bought at Walmart and get a custom painting from your friend. The sad thing is, most of the times I've gotten burned has been by other creatives. I'm learning that's true for others as well.

Third, we have to come together to end this and it starts by having confidence in our skills! If you're not sure of yourself or your talent, please email me! I will teach you what I know. I'm an open book. If you're interested in a mentor session, I offer those. If you want someone to critique your work, send me some photos... I'll give you some constructive criticism for free! I honestly just want all of us to raise the bar... let's stop settling for less than we deserve. If every creative in Houston quit working for free then they'd have to choice but to pay us because there would be no FREE options.

My wheels are spinning and I've got some ideas. I want us all to work together to make this city a great place for creatives to thrive. If you're interested in hearing more, fill out the form below and I'll be sure to keep you informed. I'm excited about the future for creatives in Houston!

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How to succeed as a freelance creative...

I've been working as a full-time creative for six years and I still screw up regularly. It's a game of strategy and I'm constantly learning new moves. I've been doing this for 16 years total and I still have a long way to go to get where I want to be, but I'm so much closer than I was even last year. These are a few things that I've learned along the way that have helped me get to where I am...

Underpromise and over deliver.

If you think it will take you two weeks to finish a project, tell your client it will take three. There have been very few times I've been late on a project, but it is officially the worst feeling in the world for me. My wedding contract says photos will be delivered in an online gallery within 4-6 weeks. I can only remember one time that I didn't deliver before the 4 week mark and it was due to overwhelming personal circumstances for me and my wedding business partner. I ended up editing 3 weddings in one day to catch up because I can't handle being late on a deadline. If you promise you'll be done on a certain date, finish before that date!

Be on time. 

Houston traffic has given me a run for my money on this one. I always check the map about an hour before I have to leave to see exactly how long it's going to take me to get somewhere. But in a city like Houston your ETA can be altered by 30+ minutes in no time at all. I was 30 minutes late to a session a couple weeks ago because my map went from a 25 minute drive time to 45 minutes. Thankfully, it was a session with a friend and he was cool about it, but that taught me a lesson. I'll never trust my map and I'll always plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. Seriously, though... I waited for a videographer once who was TWO HOURS LATE. If you want people to take you seriously, respect their time! This goes both ways. If you want me to take you seriously as a client, don't make me wait for hours... my to-do list never ends and sitting in my truck waiting for a client doesn't help me get anything done.


I'm honestly a horrible communicator. Ask my friends. My family. My kids. I've had to teach myself to be better at this for business reasons, though. If I don't respond to an email immediately, I'm probably going to forget. For this reason, I answer emails as quickly as possible. I've also learned to communicate what I expect from clients. For instance, as photographers we don't like it when people put instagram filters on our photos. That's a pretty awkward conversation but if you don't tell your clients what you expect, then you're setting yourself up for even more awkward convos later.

I've also learned to communicate what clients can expect from me! As a creative, sometimes I just have to be bossy. People hire me for my vision and in order to give them my best work, I have to be able to control the project a little bit. This doesn't mean I won't take suggestions for shooting locations or I that I want to choose your wardrobe... it just means that I have to say no if something isn't going to work well. Ultimately, my clients are trusting my professional opinion. Even if they suggest something, I have to be willing to say, "I'm sorry but the light just isn't good right there." It's up to me to deliver a finished product that my clients will love and that I can be proud of.

Respect Deadlines.

This is about more than delivering when you say you will. I had an inquiry for a small project recently. I sent a draft over and was given some more specific direction. I realized pretty quickly that the window I had to work on this wasn't going to allow enough time for what the client wanted. Rather than waste time trying to come up with something, I simply texted the client back and told him I wasn't going to be able to produce what he wanted fast enough. It was already a rushed project so I didn't want to waste any of the time that he would be able to find someone else to do it. Just put yourself in your clients' shoes and don't take advantage of anyone's time or deadlines.

Give a quality product.

If you're not giving a quality product then none of the other things in this list matter. Learn your craft. Get better at what you do every single day. Experiment and find your own lane. Get inspired by others but take your own work to another level. If you can't look back at your work from last year and realize what you're producing today is better, then you may not be moving forward. Always push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Take on projects that stretch you and then surprise yourself with the finished product!


Whatever you do, don't stop. You never know when the link will come that connects you to your dream gig. You never know who is watching your drive. You never know when the momentum will open the flood gates. Continue to create, continue to push, and continue to put yourself out there. If you push hard enough for long enough, eventually you'll find yourself at a place you only dreamed of before. In the words of Dori, "Just keep swimming!"

"You just have to find that thing that's special about you that distinguishes you from all the others, and through true talent, hard work, and passion, anything can happen." Dr. Dre




I've Seen You Move - 2017 Recap

As I reflect on 2017, I'm amazed at the opportunities God put in my path. The ways He moved in my life changed me... spiritually, personally, and professionally. Not only did I get to document an adoption in China (a calling He placed on my life years ago), but I also shot two international weddings, shot a music video in Scotland (which will release this year), spent more time in an airplane than in my car, and wrapped up my 6th year as a full-time creative. I also accomplished a personal goal of reading through the entire Bible for the first time!

God has been so good to me. Just a few years ago I was newly divorced, kinda broken, and not sure how I would provide for myself and my family. Now I get to do something I love that actually means something for others. The one thing I've prayed for over and over in the last 5 years is that God would allow me to travel the world and document moments that matter. He definitely came through on that!

This song from Elevation Worship is one of my favorites and it's carrying me through to 2018! Listen and enjoy while you scroll through some of my favorite images from 2017. Do It Again by Elevation Worship

Grand Canyon taken from a helicopter. Maia Pearl meeting her mom and dad for the first time in Zhengzhou, China.

My oldest looking out over Chicago... he dreams big!

Epic engagement session at Big Bend National Park. Senior session with Tiana in Nashville. Favorite family session in Houston! The Great Wall of China. May 2017. Somewhere near Gulu, Uganda.  Near Paraa Safari Lodge in Uganda.  One of my favorite people and favorite photos. (I also shot his wedding in 2017!) Brandon Williams Music Cody, Bree, Landry, and Lucy meeting Vincent Chen Ke for the first time. Zion National Park, April 2017. Marfa, TX (Coolest little town you'll ever visit!)Lucy meeting her mama. Zhengzhou, China. My friend, business partner, inspiration. Shot in Gulf Shores, AL. Golden Gate Bridge, February 2017. The Painted Ladies (Full House house... the kid in me loved this!) Overlooking San Fran.  My musician friend, Nadia... shot in Houston. You can listen to her music here. Lifehouse Films owners (and friends!) in Mobile, AL.  Mobile, AL Sunset Meeting their son, Jamison, for the first time. Adoption stories give me life! (Houston, TX) Jamison, day 2. Two of mine. Albion Basin, Utah. We accidentally ran into snow! Styled shoot at Zion National Park. Coordinated by Katie Bushnell of Havenwood Design. Zhengzhou, China My best childhood friend with his wife in Galveston, TX. Model Lauren shot in Houston. My BFFs in Edinburgh, Scotland. This lady was cooking in her hut outside of Gulu, Uagnda.  Random stroll in Glen Etive, Scotland. :) Ended my Scotland video shoot of TQ with a few portraits at Crichton Castle. My whole crew at Willis Tower in Chicago. 

I always have one unhappy kid. [Shrug] The Flatirons, Boulder, CO.

One of the families I took photos of for Show Hope. (Dream gig!) In the middle of shooting "The Kingdom" with TQ. (Photo by April Loyle) 

Louisville, KY with my girl!  NYC engagement shoot. They are so cute.  TQ in NYC to shoot "Little Ghetto Boy." Wedding in Gulu, Uganda. You can see the whole thing by clicking here. Favorite wedding EVER.

Shooting through a prism. Planning to get even more creative in 2018! African Safari at Paraa Safari Lodge. Standing on the Nile River with my friend, Cheree. (Lifehouse Films) Somewhere over the Grand Canyon.  Yvonne (Spoiled Latina) shot in Houston for Ciroc French Vanilla

I'm learning that I LOVE portraits... Houston, TX.

TQ in DC while shooting his music video for "Freedom." One of my favorites. Big Bend National Park... using my iPhone as a reflector to get this look. Taking photos for The Green Bone was so much fun. Shot this for their website I designed. 

Yes. Those are real lions. And yes, I was very close. 

Big Bend National Park.

Gulu, Uganda. I felt so safe walking the streets there! Zion National Park.  Nadia. Always nailing the posing.Alcatraz. One of the most interesting tours I've ever done!

Sunrise in Uganda. This will hang in my house as a reminder for 2018. He's always got my back. He's got yours, too, ya know.