Monday, October 27, 2014

The email all photographers secretly hope to get

One of my all-time favorite candids of my own daughter from 2007. This was real. life. And I want to remember it. 

Man, it's fall again and it's been another year since I've posted.  Must be something about the days getting darker that sparks my introspection...anyway. I'd like to share an email that I recently received that makes my heart spill all over the place. It's the email all photographers secretly hope to get:

"Well, you've done it again, Mrs. Watts!!!!!  Holy Cow!!  Unbelievable!!  I can't stop looking at these!  How can you contain yourself during a shoot?!  Are you just constantly thinking as you fire away, "Wait'll they see this one!!", and "HA! THIS one will REALLY knock their socks off!", giggling away on the inside.  There were so many strong images where you captured so much emotion and an entire story within a single frame. 

Our fiery 3 year old daughter who is so animated and expressive, and does so much in every day life that we want so badly to capture, yet runs and hides at the mere mention of a camera, completely opened up to you and you captured her and her personality perfectly.  You can definitely tell she's running the show in our home. The images you got of her in front of her wall were what I had envisioned in my mind as I carefully placed each flower petal on her wall, but I could never have captured it the way you did, even if she had actually stood there to let me!  How you incorporated the guitar was brilliant, too!  There were shots of our son where you really captured his distinguished side that we see on a daily basis, yet can't seem to record on film that were really great.  You managed to somehow conceal my own insecurity and uneasiness in front of the camera in most of the images as well as hiding the sleep deprivation my wife and I have both been experiencing.  The shots where our exhaustion is a little more apparent, you illustrated it beautifully in a way that I found truly charming.   We really liked the surprises that seem to be par for the course when looking at your photos after a Julie Watts shoot. Our family is very special to us and we are careful of who we let into our lives and home, but are really glad we had you do the shoot, and are really thankful you were willing to do it.  We really liked the tips on lighting you gave us while here. I think the thing I'm most appreciative of you having taught me is the way you just let the shoot happen and catch it as it happens.  I think I see our children do something, and then try to recreate it, "Here, stand like this, now put your hands like this, now look over here, now hold still" and I can never capture what happened before or what I am trying to get.  Maybe that's why our daughter tends to run and hide.  You seemed to just capture it as it happens, and so much tends to happen.  Also, our daughter and son didn't necessarily have to be looking into the lens for a great photograph to happen.  I think knowing that will be so helpful to us.  There is a huge difference in the snapshots that I take and what you do.  You are truly an artist. 

Our family is the most important thing to me and I try so hard to get great photographs.  I take hundreds and may get a few out of a hundred that are pretty nice.  I miss a lot.  You take a hundred, all of which are really good, and many of which are breathtaking.  I'll never forget how at Justin's wedding in the middle of a crowded & busy room of people, you held your camera up high at arms length, and aimed down at a subject a distance away from you with people between you, not being able to see through your viewfinder, and then seeing the same image only half way through the reception already displayed on a screen with many others just taken and thinking , "HOW" and "WOW!"  I couldn't have taken that photograph on a tripod let alone without the luxury of the viewfinder or the people standing between you and your subject. I know you are busy with your new job, but if you ever have a photography class or seminar, be it on composition, lighting, post processing, or whatever, could you please put my name at the top of the waiting list?  Or at least beneath all the people who have probably already asked you to do one and are already on the list.

  Or even if you ever just have a couple extra hours on hand to waste and need a little extra Christmas or spending money to do a class or some coaching/ brutally honest critiquing on my images and things that I could try to improve them, I would greatly appreciate any chance to learn from you.  You wouldn't have to make the drive down to our county.  I could make the trip up there to wherever.  I took a 5-Saturday course at a community college several years ago and have an understanding of shutter speed, aperture, how they correlate & effect a photograph and have a couple decent cameras/ lenses, so you wouldn't be starting all over from scratch.  I feel like I've hit a wall with my photography and I'm losing opportunities at capturing memories, and not doing them justice,  if not missing them all together.  Your recent session has helped me find new lighting & taught me not to force a photograph & instead to just let one happen.  You can't open my eyes up to the way you see things, and how quickly you respond with your camera, but I wonder if I'm just making some really obvious mistakes that are just not obvious to me.  You have a gift of seeing the world the way you do, and you give people a gift every time you give them images like these. My mom doesn't have a lot of baby photos of me or my sisters or growing up and I wonder on that from time to time.  I want to give my children, my wife ( and I ) images that can forever show them the love I feel for them the way you pass on to so many people with your obvious love for photography.

 I couldn't imagine how that must feel to know that you've taken so many photographs for so many people where they may likely be their favorite photograph ever taken of themselves or their family.  One where you catch an emotion or look, one that will forever hang on their favorite wall of their home and gets sent to friends and relatives all over the world to be displayed and showed off to other friends and relatives you've never met in countries you've never been, where every time they walk by your work they evoke a smile.  How, many times, that photograph may be the first or only photograph a relative who lives or is stationed far away ever sees of that person.  And it's what you saw through your viewfinder at that moment and captured and created.  The closest I ever get to that is on our vacations, in front of famous monuments and landmarks when in between our own family photos I offer to help the couple capturing a selfie of themselves, or the family who has several shots of themselves in front of the picturesque sight, but one in their group is always the holding the camera.  Or explaining the importance of holding the shutter release button down halfway before pressing completely or the difference a minor aperture or exposure  change could make to the elderly person with their new digital camera.  That's the closest I come to feeling the satisfaction you must feel, but even that is nice.  I don't have the time or the talent to do for people what you do for them and on the scale that you do it.  My work will never be all over the world or held with the regard that yours is, but if I could give my family that sort of feeling through the photographs I take of them, it would mean the world to me.  If you ever have a class or seminar of any kind, I would greatly appreciate the chance to attend.  Please let me know if anything like this ever comes up.  Thank you, and thanks again for all the great photographs."

I mean seriously....while I've gotten my share of "thank you" emails over the years, this is one that just made me literally speechless.

 I've actually kept it a secret for a few months. I haven't told anybody about it. I've just...marinated on how observant and passionate about his family that this parent is...and yes, I am strongly considering offering some gift certificates for private lessons this holiday season...I gotta figure out the details and restrictions, and how many I have time to offer, but I have loved every opportunity I've taken to critique student work for MeRa Koh's online classes and assist at her workshops. A handful of you know I held a workshop of my own in 2010. One-on-one is my favorite though. Message me if you, too, are possibly interested in a private lesson. Thanks so much for allowing me to gush a little. I guess I needed it. :-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Letting Myself Breathe

  Photo Cred: Jessie Raetz, intern

I feel as though I am continually re-evaluating my world. Sometimes, I finish a "scene" in the movie that is my life. I am starting to see that my life is actually a series of projects...I guess as a kid I thought that there was the "kid" level......and one one special day, I'd LEAP up to the "adult" level, and things would be perfectly even and consistent all the way into old age.

I am blown away at how often I am shown that life isn't anything like how I thought it would be.

There are WAY more choices.

About EVERYTHING... I make choices about having a clean sink or what papers to have on my tiny desk. How to spend my time, and what to type next.

A camera up to my face allows me to SAY with my EYES what I can't say with words.


I've officially quit promoting weddings as my "bread and butter" focus. That "scene" is over.  The lifestyle of a wedding photographer is intense. I felt so pulled to champion for that they could see images from their wedding and SEE what I saw. Because I realized at some point in my early 20s...not everybody sees what I see, how I see it. And I thought they should be given a chance to. I see beauty EVERYWHERE.

After more than a decade, something inside me started changing. I wasn't as inspired by the emotions and gorgeousness of a big wedding eye started to get distracted with other things that I hadn't even noticed before. A large portion of guests also document the wedding....the wedding parties seem to have, too. So many beautiful faces aimed down at glowing screens. Ipads held up high in the air throughout rows of seating. My eye did not feel as special anymore...everyone was doing it for themselves. I felt pangs in my stomach as it dawned on me that I don't want to capture that, and I don't want to adapt my style to dodging it either...

There are more emotionally engaged, artistic wedding photographers in our industry, available to hire at all price points, than ever before! Certainly more than when I was a bride. Now, more than ever, wedding photographers are shooting with their hearts. I can move onto another subsection of photography that DOES need me...and THAT is a very exciting search to begin. I have spent the summer taking any gig that EXCITES and INSPIRES me...I'm in a free and spontaneous segment of the movie of my life now.

From photographing the MOST artistic and vibrant seniors, to creating the most beautiful portraits of sandwiches that a "mom and pop" sandwich shop ever saw, the only requirement right now is that I'm stimulated and challenged by the project...

To boudoir images in drag car race shops, to nervous yet heroic medical imaging techs posed like rockstars in front of their equipment (can't show you those yet)....

Oliver's Sandwiches, Edgewood/Milton, WA

                                                                 Northwest Embroidery, Fife, WA

                                                     Dr. Chrissy Blair
I am enjoying the lack of restrictions, and after  years of having most photoshoots scheduled on weekends, when my kids now ask me what's going on "this weekend", it never gets old to reply, "Hmm let me think? Nothing....."


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life's Priorities....Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?

Lots of changes in the last year. Some of you know that in 2010 I did a bold and audacious thing by deciding NOT to just stand there and complain about the fact that there's no suitable pants out there for women photographers....I found a seamstress, had a prototype made, found a pattern grader (someone who makes the "official" patterns for several sizes) AND secured financing to have small runs of Photopantz made at a local cut and sew factory. OH and I learned how to internationally import fabric. :)

AND I spent the last couple of years working on promotion and branding with Wendy Roe. I created a tradeshow booth and showed at WPPI's Launch Pad, ImagingUSA, got to attend Photoshop World, and more. I made SO many vendor friends... Zenfolio and Borrow Lenses and Photoflex and SanDisk...I love you guys! The Pinnacle was scoring a two-page product review spread in Professional Photographer Magazine in June 2012 !!

Actually, that wasn't the pinnacle. The pinnacle was having women photographers email me or walk up to my booth JUST to tell me that they not only bought, but they LOVE their Photopantz. The fact that I was making a difference for women all over the world. Really! As far as I know, there is one pair in Germany, a few pairs in Australia, two in Korea, and I'm really hoping the gal who inquired from South Africa about shipping costs buys a pair too!

It's pretty amazing to know I accomplished all of this with determination and the help of my family and friends. But here's where it gets real. I'm not turning a profit. Turns out passion and determination are great, but unless I figure out how to have them made more inexpensively OR sell way more, I'm at a standstill.

Can you believe after all of that, I felt like a failure?

I did. Big-time. How could I spend almost three years of my life on a project...having people say awesome things like how I'm going to be a millionaire someday because of it....and. feel. so. stuck.

You have to be careful about feeling stuck, because it usually means you're thinking too much and doing too little. Is that how it is with you too?

So at this point, I'm trying to figure out what to do next. How in the world do I find someone who will buy my company? Someone that can promote Photopantz nationally AND has the resources to have large runs made so as to decrease the production costs? Will I be able to stay a part of Photopantz if I sell it?

With the HUGE shift in photography becoming primarily a female-dominated career choice, I know it's inevitable that a company will soon debut as the first BIG successful clothing company for women photographers. But who? And when?

All of a sudden, I don't feel like the determined founder of ANYTHING. I feel like enthusiastic eccentric Julie who placed all of her bets on being able to figure her way through this, running on passion and determination as she went along.....

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spending Life Glazed Over on Facebook

If you are a creative thinker...if you are curious... somewhat distractible, Facebook might be a cruel joke.  I have a serious LOVE-DISLIKE relationship with it. And my panties are all in a bunch about it.

I know social media is the "new thing" for some businesses, but for portrait photographers, Facebook has been THEE TOOL for several years now. And I have decided, I'd better change my relationship with it. Pronto.

Now, it's not like it FORCES me to log in...or stay too long...but SOMETHING had seduced me...

Maybe it's the escapism....
Maybe it's reuniting with old friends
Maybe it's the voyeurism....
Maybe it's staying connected with new friends and fellow business owners..
Maybe it's the opportunity to say "Hey! Check this out."
Maybe it's the opportunity to be helpful.
Maybe it's the camaraderie associated with participating regularly in groups of photographers that I respect, admire, and who make me laugh out loud.

"There are two types of people in this world. People that do things. And people who make things HAPPEN."-Jeff Jochum

 Oh crap. Jeff got me again.  What did I gain in exchange for those last 436594 minutes of my life spent on Facebook? I did something. I was on Facebook. But what did I MAKE HAPPEN by being there so long? (sound of crickets).

What decisions could I have made, in clarity, without the distraction of "what everyone else is doing" or "what so and so may think"?

What tasks could have been completed before I had the opportunity to lament about its "undoneness" on Facebook?

What ideas could I have came up with, in my own quiet and peace?

I find that when my own life's decisions become to overwhelming, here I am....glazing over as I scroll down an infinite list of what the REST OF THE WORLD thinks is relevant, or interesting, or ...
 ...wait....Glazed over?!!

Who am I to be lamenting that I have things that would feel SO AMAZING to have completed?

What is my problem and why does random perusing of Facebook fix it??

How can I delete "Facebook Daze" from my life?!


I set a timer now. I still post. But I stopped meandering. About two weeks ago. And you know what? It's been awesome. I'm embarrassed at how awesome it feels because that means I was spending more time on FB than I care to admit.

Remember....real life is the most vivid but it's up to you to color it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Be Part of a Documentary & Feel Great, Too!

Hi Everybody!!

Mother's Day is almost here, and if you or someone you love's Mother isn't here anymore, it can make it a bittersweet holiday.

This year, consider donating any amount to help put my friend Jen's new book in the hands of someone who is grieving the loss of a parent, child, spouse, or friend. "Mom's Six Days, Grieving with Love and a Purpose" given away to a person who is suffering the loss of a loved one.

Your donation will also fund Random Acts of Kindness that Jennifer Westby and her team will be performing all along the coast on THE 2012 GRATITUDE TOUR from Seattle to LA this June! We're talking....... sneaking up on people and buying their groceries, paying for their kids' shoes, paying for meals, handing out gift cards, flowers, and free copies of her book! Jen wants to uplift as many people as possible along the way, by spreading kindness randomly like her mother always did.

Want more? We got it! THE 2012 GRATITUDE TOUR is being filmed as a DOCUMENTARY!! That's right, you can not only donate to TGT but you'll be able to WATCH how your donation was used to surprise and inspire everyone we meet along the way!!

You can easily participate by spreading the word (thank you in advance for taking the time to sharing this) and donating via (SUPER thank you!!)
 Isn't that awesome? Wouldn't you like to be a part of it? You can! You can donate and pay for books that Jen will give away to folks who are hurting from the loss of a loved one! You can donate and sponsor a Random Act of Kindness in your name, or in the name of a loved one you've lost. What better way to remember the irreplaceable people in our lives?!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Julie's Stint as a Radio Show Cohost

Aww, hi everybody! Can't wait to update you with what I've been doing besides blogging. Everything is changing so fast. If you aren't following my antics on Facebook, do it!

So one of the most fun things I did this summer was cohost a radio show on AM with Jennifer Westby for six months, called "Motivational Happy Hour":

There are TOTALLY archived shows you can listen to RIGHT NOW on that link above...don't know how long they will be up there since our show ended in November, so download/listen while you can! lol

See, when Jen asked me if I wanted to be her cohost, I said "Yes!!" without hesitation. I'm trying to discover my method for supporting others in life, really. I love one-on-one talking...I mean that's probably my favorite, whether it's on Skype or in person. But I love to write, too. And now that I've started Photopantz and been working non-stop on that project for a full year now, I'm starting to feel more comfortable in the role as "Founder of Photopantz". Which, guess what, involves being more of a public representative, going to conventions, meeting tons of people, etc. It's VERY different than my role as a photographer. I don't know why. My goal is to become completely comfortable public speaking. But I'm a little freaked out at being on video. So when this radio gig came up, I was like "Sweet! As long as nobody's watching, I can totally pretend there's not thousands of people out there listening!" And no kidding, it worked. Jen and I were on the air 4 hours a month for six months, talking to guests who were fellow entrepreneurs, and just talking about life and generally trying to be entertaining. I learned I LOVE radio. I hope I get another chance to do it in the future.

If YOU ever get the chance to go to a radio station and be on the air would you please, for me, just DO IT?!! Yes, you might be a little freaked out your first time on air, but every single "newbie" who came on our show beamed afterwards about how it was MUCH more fun and less scary than they thought. And once they heard themselves back in archive, they noted how they sounded better than they thought they did while they were doing it. It's amazing how forgiving our ear is to listening to live radio. But when you are the one in front of the microphone for the first time, you notice every tiny hesitation or "imperfection" and imagine it magnifying and broadcasting across the land! To the listener, however, it sounds just like everyday talking would sound and they think nothing of it.

My whole adult career in photography has been about being behind the camera and setting a tone for my clients so that they can truly relax and get images of themselves they've never seen before. I've started to realize that not only is it OKAY for me to have a more prominent and public role, but that maybe I've secretly wanted that for a long time but felt it was more appropriate to help behind the scenes and support other people face their fears and realize they are capable of doing things they never thought possible. :) I had a major epiphany at legendary photographer Ken Whitmire's Wall Portrait Conference last year. I realized "Holy cow. I not only CAN do the things I assumed I cannot....but could it be possible I was MADE to do these things? And the strongest feeling I ever had in the world replied YES.

I wrote and wrote and wrote after class at the 6-day wall portrait conference, late into the night. And when I got home, I walked into the garage where my husband was and talked to him for SIX hours straight about the incredible perspective shift I had...I mean it was a TRIP. It felt like, holy, or something. You guys ever have an experience like that? Where the universe kind of hits you in the head with a brick?!

As 2011 comes to a close, I am still in a state of exploring what my voice is, and where it belongs. I've been Facebooking like crazy, on my personal page, Julie Watts Photo business page, my Photopantz business page, and not quite as much as I should on my Photopantz Blog. But I've always loved this, my Julie Watts Photo Bloggillicious. This feels like home to me. And even though I have no idea who is reading this, similar to being on the radio, it is easy for me to imagine there's nobody there so it's okay to talk about what I really think.

Thanks for reading my blog posts, whoever is out there. I hope they are inspiring. I hope you get as much out of reading them over the years as I enjoy writing them.

I probably wasn't clear, but our last show aired on Thanksgiving 2011. This was the kind of thing where you paid the network for airtime, not the other way around. So that's why we enjoyed our time while we were there but moved on to other things. :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Meaningful Locations....

Awwww! It's engagement session time with Erin & Chris!

When talking about the appropriate setting for a photoshoot, a meaningful, personal is always better. Just going to "a park" is oh so amateur....there....I said it! A professional knows how to ask the right questions and key in to the unique vibe each client has. A professional photographer can "see" what the client wants and can explain how easily it can be given to them. Choosing a meaningful location is HUGE! I lucked out with Erin & Chris. They described the place Chris grew up...where they met and fell in love. Not only was it incredibly meaningful to them, it sounded beautiful. A lot of times clients are apprehensive about using meaningful locations because they tend not to be nearby (like the park). It was a decent drive into "no cell phone service" country, off the beaten path, you might say....but I just remember this "snippet" of a reply during the conversation about potential engagement shoot spots... "Oh...Erin...we have to go there. Oh no....we HAVE to do it there. That's totally where we have to do it!"

It doesn't matter how far, how difficult, how different. If it's meaningful and your face lights up as you describe it to me, I'll be hooked. My heart will be tied in a knot until I create a keepsake portrait of you in your special place. I don't care how expensive gas is or if I have to wear rubber boots. Sometimes, new clients are timid about bringing a "stranger" to meaningful locations...knowing that the stranger doesn't have the same history with the spot and may view it differently and without the love that they see it. That's probably my FAVORITE psychological situation to deal with...because when I see love, passion.... it's beautiful, no matter what. And the kind of bond and relaxation I get with my clients when they feel this from me, grants me access to capture what is priceless to them. Photography truly isn't about me. It's about you.


Photopantz are finally HERE!! Photographers! Get one of only 100 pairs of the first ever run of the ONLY slacks in the WORLD designed by a photographer, FOR photographers!!

Order Today!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What are Photopantz?

Hi Everybody!

Guesss what? That "mystery thing" I've been working on for the past several months is ready to be revealed on the blog. Or at least, I'm ready to reveal it. Have you ever heard of the phrase "building readiness"? Well that's what I've been doing. Building readiness in my own heart to be able to shout to the world "I invented and designed custom pants for women wedding photographers and I am launching a Pantz company!"

See those pantz? Those are Photopantz! The fabric is stretchy but looks formal. The pockets? NINE OF THEM (don't worry, some are hidden). My rear? Can't see it if I bend over! lol

I have spent ten LONG years worrying about what pants I wear while I am photographing weddings. You wouldn't think it's that complicated, but let me tell you. When I used to stand in front of my closet the morning of a wedding, these were my choices:

Pants 1: they fit and look fine but have NO pockets. I can't bend over without tugging at my shirt/shirts/tanktops, whatever I have to wear to be covered back there.

Pants 2: they are roomy and NOT cute, but they are comfortable and HAVE 2 hand pockets. My rear still shows if I bend so I have to wear certain shirts.

Pants 3: feel great, look great, BUT my rear shows if I bend and the slanted cut pockets means I can't put things in them because things slide RIGHT out if I squat or sit down.

Pants 4: you get the idea

So for the past several years, I have been designing, in my mind, the PERFECT pair of shooting trousers....after officiating Lindsey & Casey's wedding emergently (see past blog post), I had a lunch date with the legendary Me Ra Koh . I told her about the wedding, then I told her about my aspirations to speak and share what I've learned about the psychological side of pursuing a photography business. And finally, my idea for pantz for women photographers came up.

Let me tell you...when Me Ra Koh encourages you....

Fast forward about eight weeks, and I am at PartnerCon, Pictage's professional photographer convention in New Orleans, wearing the prototype pair of "Photopantz". Jeff Jochum, marketing and business guru (omg, just read his resume...that's all I'm sayin'), has my back and it's almost unbelieveable. Women want my pants.

So since then, I've spent hours and hours learning the ins and outs of textiles, pattern grading, cost ratios, international versus domestic labor costs, hard good marketing, and lots more.

And you know what? It's oddly exhilarating. It's totally risky. There are TONS of unknowns. But throughout it all....I have this gut feeling that I was made to do this. This opportunity is for me. Is it daunting? Um....YES. Terrifying? YES. Is everyone But at the same time, I have this weird calm. It's kinda like when you know you have a hospital procedure you have to go through. It's not life threatening, but you know you are going in for it and everything will be fine afterwards. That's what I feel like. I have to go like, get my tonsils out. Okay maybe bigger than that. But when I filter out all of the distractions in my life that do me no good (ooh gotta blog about that), and I focus on what my gut tells me, and on my life experience.....I mean.....starting a custom apparel company sounds perfectly sound.

Who do you listen to? Who brings you down with their perspective? Whose opinion should you listen to less? Whose opinion should you listen to more? Who means well, and has good information, but makes you feel less than capable of pursuing your dreams? You really do have the control to not allow hurtful and unproductive content into your world. It's not easy for me. It takes mental discipline that Allan Knight helped hone in me. I know there are certain people that just DIG right under your skin....but they don't have to. You can learn to view their "output" in a different light. Their lips keep on flappin but it doesn't have the emotional effect on you anymore lol!

"You are only free once you have lost the desire for anyone elses approval but your own."-unknown