Balance


You learn a lot via life experiences as an entrepreneur. One of the lessons I learnt in 2018 was work life balance.

The first couple years after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography I was a very low volume but high price business. I didn’t have a lot of clients but when I did I could live off of the income from the shoot for some time. In 2017 I changed up my pricing and structure. I shifted to more of a mid volume and mid price range model.

In 2018 work picked up significantly. Partly due to the changes made to my business and partly due to the increase in networking I was doing. In early 2018 I was eating right, exercising regularly, and still had time for the other things I enjoyed in life, like hanging out with old friends and reading. As my busy season approached eating right and exercising started to fall by the wayside. As fall came around I was both shooting and networking more than ever. At least once a week I was staying up for over a day straight. I was tired, stressed, and didn’t have time for the things which really mattered in life.

In November I decided to make a change. I left some of the networking groups I was in. I even contemplated changing careers but ultimately decided against it. Instead of taking every opportunity that comes my way without thought, I think over whether it is worth it or not. In 2018 I learned that there is more to life than work.

In 2019 I’ve made a point of having a much better work life balance. At times I’ve went to the opposite end of the spectrum and gotten lazy. After reading Peter Drucker’s classic The Effective Executive I’ve seen how much of my time I was wasting. I was being busy instead of productive. By being more efficient I’ve been able to make more time for things I enjoy outside of work and personal development, like hanging out with friends, reading, and binge watching dumb sitcoms on hulu. I’ve gotten on the Slow Carb diet that I heard about on the Tim Ferriss Show and have lost 13 pounds between January and March. I’ve also read over 30 books by the end of April. I’ve booked over ten weddings so far in 2019, reaching my personal goal for the year.

New Work with Chase Engel and the Night Shift

I had a great time working with Chase from Chase Engel and the Night Shift again! This time the photos will be used when they release their first single.

5 Restaurants to Check Out in Clare, Michigan


Despite its small size my hometown of Clare, Michigan has several great restaurants worth trying out the next time you find yourself in the gateway to the north.

Cops and Doughnuts has become the namesake of Clare. It started when the local police officers bought the downtown bakery. It has now expanded to multiple locations around the state and even one outside Michigan. This is a place I regularly meet with clients for consultations. A box of Cops and Doughnuts doughnuts is also my go to when I need to bring a dish to pass to get togethers, socials, and networking events.

The Mulberry Cafe is an amazing place to stop for breakfast or lunch if you are in Clare. Located right next to the library it has some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Connected to the cafe is the Herrick House which has a variety of trinkets and books for sale by local authors.

The Four Leaf Brewery is probably my favorite bar/restaurant in Clare. With an ever-changing variety of newly brewed craft beer styles, unique food, coffee shop like atmosphere, fun events, and friendly staff it has become a place a frequent. Several of my photographs also decorate the walls as well as a few images shot by my second shooter Nikki Robinson.

White House has a variety of affordable and unique food. It a great lunch option especially if you are on a budget. One of my photos used to grace the cover of their menu.

The newly opened Timeout Tavern has amazing food, a full bar, and a plethora of craft beers. It is a great dinner location.

5 Recommendations For Those Who Want to Get Started in Photography

I regularly get asked what resources I recommend for those who want to learn about photography. Here are five of my favorites.  

KelbyOne is the Netflix of photography tutorials. Classes range from beginner to professional level. Classes are taught by the best in the industry. Topics range from a variety of genres of photography, retouching, and business. Prices are around $10-$20 a month depending on subscription level. I became a member in early 2019. I have been going to live seminars of theirs since 2011.

The Professional Photographers Of America is a great trade organization. Membership includes a plethora of benefits. These include industry discounts, a subscription to Professional Photographer magazine, tons of how to videos, contracts, access to various insurances, and that is just scratching the surface. Becoming a member costs a little over $33 a month. I have been a member since 2013.

In 2017 I created the Michigan Photography Network Facebook group. This group was created for networking with fellow photographers in Michigan. The group has now grown to over 900 members. We have had several in person meet ups which have now been replaced by a monthly meet up at The Studio Shop in Williamston. Amateur photographers regularly ask photography related questions in the group and are met with responses from professionals around the state. I post at least twice a day in the group to helpful articles, videos, and other industry related news. Industry websites I regularly follow and link to include: fstoppers, petapixel, and strobist. CreativeLive also occasionally offers free classes on photography. For fellow podcast fans the PetaPixel Photography Podcast with Sharky James is great for short concise industry news.

Going to meetups, group shoots, assisting, and second shooting for photographers are ways most people get started in the industry. Since the closing of the Hallmark Institute of Photography and the Brooks Institute both in 2016, few traditional schools exist offering high end photography education. Finding ways to meet and work with working professionals is a great way to learn the craft. Reaching out to local professionals and finding ways to network with them is a great way to get your foot in the door.

One of the best ways to learn about photography is getting out and shooting. Trial and error. Reading photography books, magazines, tutorials, and videos are great but nothing beats actual experience. Get out and shoot.

How did I learn about photography? I started by entering contests on the website worth1000.com. I read every photography magazine and book I could find. I was also constantly out shooting. I got published in several magazines prior to my formal education at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. Things have changed a lot since 2009 though. Worth1000 is defunct. Shutterbug, the first magazine I got published on the cover of, went out of print in 2018. My alma mater the Hallmark Institute of Photography closed in 2016 due to a former president embezzling a large sum of money from the school. Even though the places I learned the craft from may no longer exist, amazing new resources, like KelbyOne, have arisen to offer amazing educational resources for aspiring photographers.

Loving Our Little Platoons


I get asked a lot why I decided to stay in mid-Michigan and more specifically Clare. As I’ve grown older I’ve grown to love where I live. This hasn’t always been the case though. When I was in high school I’d fall in love with any place I’d travel to. My parents and I went on a trip to the Canadian Rockies and I loved it there. I went to visit the town I would later live in in Massachusetts and I loved that area as well. After moving to Greenfield, Massachusetts I became home sick and decided to move back to my hometown of Clare after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography. Going from the fast pace of college in New England to the sleepy midwestern town was a rough transition for me. After a few months I was ready to leave. I went on small trips to visit different cities. I even applied for jobs in various places but nothing came thru. I’d take any excuse to travel and get away. In 2016 I decided to stay in Clare, Michigan. As I became more ingrained in local communities the more I grew to love the area. I joined an amazing church. I got reconnected to my old friends from high school. I joined a local collaborative workspace. I became part of other organizations and networking groups. I found contentment where I was. Instead of searching for joy elsewhere I grew to love what I had.

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to mankind.” Edmund Burke – Reflections On The Revolution In France

New Personal Work with Model Felisha in Mt Pleasant, Michigan


In 2019 I’ve been making a point of working with new models in new locations. For my latest personal work shoot I had the privilege of working with Felisha from Mt Pleasant. We started the shoot on the trails next to Nelson Park and then headed to downtown. Most images where shot with natural light but a few were taken with my Alienbee strobe with a bare bulb as well. Huge thanks to Felisha for modeling. I can’t wait to work with her again!



New Personal Work with Model Kristina at The Tridge in Midland, Michigan


I had a great time photographing model Kristina at The Tridge in Midland, Michigan last week. Kristina is a fellow photographer and distant cousin of mine. Her boyfriend Jeremy also tagged along and was super helpful with making sure my flash won’t fall over despite the high winds.

The first image was shot using my Alienbee with a white shoot thru umbrella. The high winds made this shot difficult to get but with Jeremy’s help we were able to stabilize the light and get the image.

The next images were shot on the Tridge itself once there were less people walking. For some of these images I had Jeremy hold a Yongnuo flash as a subtle fill light and for others I used natural light.

Next we did a shot in the same location as the first image but this time with hard light from the bare bulb Yongnuo instead of the soft umbrellaed Alienbee.

Lastly we headed to downtown Midland and did some images in front of the court house. These images were shot with natural light.

Huge thanks to Kristina for modeling and Jeremy for assisting.



Kristen Garder Senior Portrait in Midland and Clare Michigan


I had a great time photographing Kristen’s senior portraits last week! We started the shoot at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. Dow Gardens is one of my most frequented locations offering a wide variety of scenery to shoot with. Kristen did multiple cloth changes and bought some props like her flag from color guard to make the shoot more personal to her. She had her sister, and my longtime friend, Ashley join her in a few photos as well. After shooting at Dow Gardens we went back to Clare for a few images with her dog.

Productivity Hacks: Single Tasking


Over the years of owning my own business I’ve came to learn a lot of valuable things. These have been learn via trial and error, books, podcasts, magazines, and discussions with fellow entrepreneurs. One of the best productivity hacks I’ve learnt is single tasking.

When I first started running my business full time I would try to multitask. I’ve be trying to retouch, answer emails, do website updates, post to social media, and do a variety of busy work all at once. I regularly get confused as to what I was working on and rarely got much done. I’d have some many tabs and software open I regularly have my computer freeze up. Over time I learned that doing one task at a time was far more productive.

Now I try to single task. Single tasking is a very simple process. I simply take one thing I’m working on at a time instead of trying to do multiple things at once. For example today I’m working on blog posts. I’ll write a blog post, proofread it, then schedule it on my blog, and lastly schedule it via Buffer to be sent out to social media. I’m not retouching, accounting, nor writing social media copy. I’m just working on writing blog posts. By taking one task at a time I have become far more efficient and get much more done.