2018 in Review—A Badass Year for Brand Photography

10 Ways to Build a Cohesive Brand + Make Your Life Easier

I bet it’s easy to think of the obvious ways to use your brand photos—social media came to mind right? And then your website? And then… hmm, then what?


I see my clients using their brand photos is such creative ways. But most importantly, I see how brand photos make your life easier. How? Here are the top 10:

CourtneyPaigeRay_ShaynaMarks_CitrineMarketing-22 copy.jpg

1. Social media

2. Websites

3. Lead magnets

4. Media features

5. Speaking engagements

6. Newsletters + email list building

7. Profile pictures

8. Advertising + event promotions

9. Online courses

10. Sales pages

With this in mind, let's stop for a minute to ask, "What if..."

  • What if you didn’t have to struggle with what to post on social media?

  • What if you didn’t get that stress headache when a media outlet asks for a headshot to go with the article you’re featured in?

  • What if your clients knew EXACTLY why they should hire you in those precious 3 seconds after they land on your home page?


Beautifully branded photos help you achieve brand COHESIVENESS across all platforms.

Where you’ve struggled in the past to achieve this—suddenly, the stress headache turns into relief. Of course you know what photo to send when the media comes calling! Promoting your business and reaching your clients just got a whole lot easier.

And cohesive branding? Well, when your audience sees you show up consistently, in the same style, on the same platforms, they start to trust you. And when they’re ready to trade views for dollars, you’re top of mind.

That’s the mark of a killer brand that dominates an industry.

Want to know more ways to use your brand photos? Get in touch; Email hello@courtneypaigeray.com to find out more.

"Why are you so expensive"

It's a question that creatives get ALL THE TIME: “Why are you so expensive?”



It's not a question we love.



It's a question that feels, well, a little insulting.



So... what's the best answer?


CourtneyPaigeRay_EmmaFeil-8.jpg

The myth of "expensive"


Here's the thing about being expensive: It's a myth.



Our prices aren't just based on cost of materials, overhead, tools, etc. It's what we create from those tools that makes us unique. Our work has a special signature that only we can add.



The creative magic that we bring to the table? It can't be replicated. THAT is where our prices are determined.



If your clients understand that value, then nothing becomes too expensive if it addresses exactly what they need.



But how do you communicate that to your clients? They've seen your stunning work, your website, your Insta, your lead magnet, your live videos—what else could there be?



The answer is simple. Really, really simple.

How to respond, every time

Here’s my answer when someone tells me I’m expensive. I want you to practice this phrase over and over until it rolls off your tongue easily. It’s the only answer you need to give when someone questions your pricing:

Good work costs good money.

And I’m very good at what I do.


Need some help with this? Get in touch; I offer 1:1 mentoring sessions for photographers to help you grow your business and refine your process. Email hello@courtneypaigeray.com to find out more.

Three Tips for a Successful Shoot

I would never ask you to do something I haven't done before—and that goes double when it comes to a photo shoot. I understand the value of putting my money where my mouth is, so instead of talking to you AGAIN about why you should be in front of the camera, I decided to do it myself. 

Last week, I went all out for my photo shoot. Once I stepped in front of the camera, I knew that my photographer would guide me in creating beautiful photos. BUT! I wanted to do everything I could before the photo shoot to make sure it was a success.

What does that mean? Here are the top three ingredients for a successful photo shoot:

1. Your Glam Team

Professional hair and makeup is an absolute MUST when it comes to your photos. Your HMU artist knows exactly how to create your glam in a way that still looks like you, but also translates to being camera ready. Your everyday makeup routine is beautiful, yes, but it's not quite enough for being on camera. You need a professional touch to ensure you're not washed out by lights, your hair stays full + voluminous, and your eyeliner stays put.

2. Wardrobe

Consider this your permission slip to go shopping! Yes, I highly recommend picking out a new outfit for your photo shoot. Bonus: Hire a wardrobe stylist to create a gorgeous look for you and make life a little easier. Need a recommendation? I got your back, just click here.

3. Relax!

Delegate as much as possible to other people, clear your schedule, have a glass of champagne and relax! Your shoot day is supposed to be fun, and I know mine was. I didn't have to worry about perfecting a cat eye or curling my hair just right, or wonder if my outfit would look good on camera. And heck yes, I enjoyed some champagne! 

Go behind-the-scenes of my shoot, and see the no-makeup-or-hair before vs. after, check out the video below.

If you're ready to get visible, talk directly to your audience about what makes your business different and create a bond that turns an audience into clients and clients into brand cheerleaders, drop me a line here.

My Biggest Risk (And Reward)

CourtneyPaigeRay_EmmaFeil-3.jpg

Three years ago, I froze. I was finalizing my divorce, healing from health issues caused by a bad reaction to an IUD that followed a miscarriage, and struggling to turn my fledgling business into a suddenly-profitable, money-making machine. Did I mention I had about two months of fiscal runway to get there before the joint checking was closed? It was one of the most stressful times in my life. I had a panic attack about, oh, every other day. My hair was falling out and I gained weight. I barely slept. There was no room for failure.

On the outside though, I was totally fine.

“Hey!” I spun my story, “The divorce is friendly, I get to focus on my work and I’m learning how to heal my body! All good!”

That was true—the divorce WAS friendly. So friendly that many of our mutual friends thought I was totally OK. And I was too embarrassed about having so many feelings to reach out; I DID get to focus on my work... all day. And all night. And on the weekends. And it crept into my dreams, when I was able to sleep long enough to have them. I couldn’t turn it off because the next rent check was always due soon; I WAS learning how to heal my body, and I still am. I felt like a tourist in my own body, it just didn’t feel right. Now I know how out of balance I was. There were a lot of tears and confusion on how to get better. And it was never as fast as I wanted it to be. SO, with all this on my plate, I froze.

I stopped taking creative risks because I couldn’t afford them. I only made safe business decisions that would guarantee food on my table. If I had only known then how wrong I was... that I should’ve taken a very calculated BIG risk, the same one I finally took six months ago. What was it?

For the first four years of my photography business, I did nearly everything: weddings, events, family, bloggers and, of course, branding. I wanted to be the expert at everything—the kind of photographer that everyone wanted to use.

That was a huge mistake. I was good at everything, but an expert at nothing. I wasn't top-of-mind when it came to choosing a photographer—I was somewhere in the middle. "Oh yeah, Courtney, I think she can do that." was the general thought. And though I was always a good photographer—professional yet fun, made beautiful photos and delivered them early for my clients—I was just one of many who did exactly that. 

At the beginning of this year, I'd had enough of hovering around the middle. I wanted to be the first thought that people had when it came to choosing a photographer. So I dropped every single type of photography from my menu of services except for ONE: Branding.

I went all-in on being a branding photographer for female creative entrepreneurs. I niched down to a small group, and I focused all my marketing efforts on them. I blogged and IG posted and FB posted and emailed and live video-ed, and everytime I used my platform, I was talking about how to create a strong brand for creative entrepreneurs through visual storytelling. 

That's a pretty specific audience, huh? It seems like I'd quickly run out of material, but an interesting thing happened. The more I niched down, the more I found to talk about. Interest and engagement from my audience grew rapidly. My calendar started to fill up with photo shoots. I'm starting to hear from clients, "I've been following your work, and you're the first person who came to mind for my branding photos."

Here's the mistake I was making: I was too broad in the services I offered. If you're at the same place in your business, I recommend taking a moment to examine the type of work that really fills your cup. I noticed that at the end of branding shoots, I felt energized and excited. I was inspired by collaborating with my branding clients. We made some killer art together! Over time, it became clear what type of work made me the happiest.

Recently, I sat down for coffee with a friend and business connection that I'd met at a networking event. Thought there were multiple photographers at the event, she said she was drawn to my work because I was so clear and focused when it came to talking about what type of photography I do: Branding. All day, every day.

My advice: Get specific, and don't be afraid to niche down. Your audience wants to know what you're an expert at and how it can benefit them. You need focus in order to grow. 

Bossladies Magazine Work Sesh

I talk about this a lot, but with good reason: Los Angeles is a hot spot of creativity right now, and women are starting businesses like whoa. We're all inspired, driven, ambitious, and ready to support each other. The woman at Bossladies Magazine work sesh inspire me to grow and go go go with my work. 

One day, after work sash, I sat back and thought about what life would look like 10, 20, 30 years from now. I realized that I'd want to look back at where it all started, who I was growing with, the community that started it all. And I knew I needed to document these meetings of the minds. The is a set from the March 2018 work sesh of Bossladies, and I always encourage women new to business to attend. We need each other to lean on, to inspire, to collaborate, to laugh and to hug.

Social Slay Day Recap

SocialSlayDay_BrandPortraits.jpg

If I learned anything at Social Slay Day, I know this for sure: You guys REALLY want some support when it comes to social media! ALLLLL the attendees showed up early and ready to learn about creating better photos for branded content, and they stood in line to grab their brand portrait! What an awesome day. It was so busy that I didn't even get behind the scenes for photos, but it was worth the craze—look at these amazing brand portraits we got! Special thanks to my event partners for offering their expertise and time at this incredible day: Citrine Marketing, Hilary Hartling, The Giving Crate and Feastly LA (Venice).

The HUGE Mistake that Repels Your Ideal Clients

I LITERALLY woke up like this...

CourtneyPaigeRay_BrandingPhotographer

I just can't help myself. When it comes to supporting you guys—you crazy, dream-filled artists and entrepreneurs—I'd do anything to encourage you to chase your dreams in the most ambitious way possible.

I'd even roll out of bed and take a photo in the bathroom mirror, no makeup, dirty hair and not even a drop of coffee to give me a decent "awake" look.

And then I would share it with hundreds of people.

Why would I ever do that?

I'm doing this because you're making a huge mistake.

Would you roll out of bed, LIKE THIS, and meet up with your ideal client? Would you put on a face mask, throw up a topknot bun, and promote your business at a networking event?

Would you let this silliness be the literal face of your business?

HECK. TO. THE. NO. 

Then why would you let the face of your business online—your brand photos—function the same way? 

You should be putting your best face forward when it comes to photos that represent your brand.

But I see the same mistake, over and over, and it leads to hearing this from creative entrepreneurs:

—"People tell me I'm too expensive."
—"My clients are asking for something completely different than my style."
—"I haven't had an inquiry in weeks."

Here's the harsh truth: You're attracting the wrong clients—or no clients—because you're not putting your best "brand face" forward. The photos you post don't tell your brand story in a clear, consistent way.   

"But my friend has a fancy camera and likes to take photos, so she did it for fun. The photos are really nice!"

Yes, they're nice photos. But crafting a visual message (i.e. the story you tell with photography) that consistently attracts your ideal client takes something more than niceIf you're relying on amateur photography to connect with your ideal clients, then you're making a huge mistake.

Amateur photography only attracts "amateur" clients: The ones who don't want to pay full price, constantly ask for a discount, don't put their full trust in your expertise and micromanage your end product.

Sound familiar? 

There is a solution (but it's a little scary)...

People, these days, are quite photo savvy. They know when you've invested in professional photos and when you've handed the job to an amateur. And when they see your "nice" photos, they think, "If she won't put her money behind her own work, then why should I?" 

Bottom line: If you won't put your OWN money into your business, neither will your clients.

What you need is skilled brand photography, which turns your brand story into a visual message that is unique, purposefuleffective and empowered.
You invest a lot of money, time + energy in your business—your photos should be no exception. Your brand photography is just as important in creating a successful business as all the other investments you make.

Do you want photos that truly represent your brand, tell your story and attract your ideal client? Just shoot me an email here.  I'll make it easy for you, promise. :)

xx

Courtney Paige

3 Simple Steps to Compelling Storytelling

CourtneyPaigeRay_BrandingPhotographer

The point of being on social media is to be social—to connect with people and find common interests. We connect through sharing our stories. This is one of the most powerful tools that you have in creating a business that stands out. But where do you start?
 

1. Risk It
The entire point of telling your story online, every day, is to connect with your audience; bring them into your process so they continue to follow the next chapter; and turn them into dedicated viewers who become clients.

The keyword here is CONNECT—and there is no connection without vulnerability. This means you're going to have to take a few risks in the story you tell. Make it personal in a way that your audience thinks, "Hey, I've been through that. This is my story too." Share the scars and the lessons you've learned. It's scary, but it's vital in telling a compelling story. Otherwise... you've got a bored audience that remains unconnected and ready to click away.

2. Cut it Down, Keep it Clear
In my days as a magazine editor, my writers would often call with a dilemma: "I know my story is due today! I've written it, but it's SOOO LOOONG. Can I have more time to cut it down?" Nope. I never cared that a story that was too long—I could always distill it down to the most important elements while still retaining the writer's distinct voice.

That's what I want you to do: Don't worry about choosing the absolute perfect words, or writing too many of them. Write all that you can, and maybe even a little bit more. Step away for a bit, let your copy marinate on the page.

Then come back to it with a fresh mind and a red pen. And start killing your masterpiece. Cut cut cut words until you've got only the most important, compelling parts left. That's what your audience is interested in: an engagingstory that doesn't take too long to read (you ARE still on social media, where attention spans don't last long).

3. Rinse + Repeat
The thing about sharing your story online is that you have to do it more than once. Actually, you have to do it over and over and over again. You'll never be done telling it. There will always be followers who missed it the first (second and third) time, and then there will be new followers ready to learn more about you.

Keep telling your story every day. Share the bigger picture every once in awhile (a perfect time is #fridayintroductions) and then share details of how your story is evolving on a daily basis.

For example, I share my overall story (the one I edited down in step two) about once per week, and then every day, give my followers a peek into my process: How I composed and edited a photo, my thought process behind an image, why I chose certain colors, etc.

I want to read your stories! Be sure to tag @courtneypaigeray when you share so I can keep up with you.

4 Ways to Find Your Inner Artist

 Photo Credit: Belle & Epic

Photo Credit: Belle & Epic

Ah, yes, imposter syndrome.

It runs rampant among creative entrepreneurs.

"How can I call myself an artist or a creative when I'm an accountant?"

Well, are you creating something everyday? Whether it's a spreadsheet, a business model, a painting or a paragraph of writing—Congrats! You're a creative.

I now release you from imposter syndrome. Really, let it go. Without the weight of, "Do I belong here?" sitting on your shoulders, you're free to explore your creator self.

Let's dive in:

1. Sit in Silence; Listen to What Comes Up
When was the last time you even let your inner artist roam free? When you're constantly battling your own thoughts, you squash any opportunity for a creative though to bubble up. You have to sit down, shut up and let your mind wander in silence. Give it 5 minutes and see where your thoughts land. Also, you might have to do this a few times before you can actually get your mind to quiet down. Worth it!

2. Do Something Different
I know I say this a lot, but you MUST get out of your comfort zone in order to grow as an artist. What are you creating regularly? Photos, maybe? Events? Spreadsheets? Put it down. Pick something you've never done or a place you've never been, and GO. DO. TRY. FAIL. Y'all, I'm really bad at drawing. Like, really, really bad. Like, I'd share a photo of my terrible drawings if I still had them from my charcoal class, but, yeah, they're in a trash heap somewhere.

3. Word Games
Let's not underestimate the power of words and the meanings we associate with them. Start with a few of the words that come to mind once you've meditated and tried something new. Did any patterns pop up? Did anything inspire you? Pick the most powerful word, write it in the center of a piece of paper and draw a circle around it. Then let your mind spin off. Let any and all descriptions come to mind when you focus on your main word. Yes, you can use a thesaurus. What shows up for you?

4. Be Brave
You've meditated on it; you've done something new for it; you've dived deep into meeting it; now it's time to be brave and trust your inner artist. Once you've started down your artist's path, it gets iffy. You'll doubt what you're doing (there's the imposter syndrome popping up again). And you'll tell yourself that it's not that important. Um, hello, it's more important than ever! You've come this far, it's time to trust yourself and trust the artist inside you. And heck, just have some fun with it already. Life is short. You should be making something just because you want to.

As always, I'm here to chat. Let's grab coffee and deep dive into your artistry and how you can live fully in a creator state. Shoot me an email here at courtpaigeray@gmail.com.

Courtney Paige Ray on the Feed Your Brand Podcast with Tracy + Tom Hazzard

I've got some big news! This week, I'm a guest on the Feed Your Brand podcast with Tracy + Tom Hazzard. They're mission is to get you off the marketing roller coaster and onto the fast track with  digital marketing for your biz. If you like the episode, I'd be so grateful if you could leave a 5-star review and a few kind words of support on their podcast page!

Feed Your Brand, The Art of Storytelling For Your Business, Courtney Paige Ray

Top 4 Tips to Being Your Own Model

courtneypaigeray_brandingphotographer

"I'm not a model!"
"I need to lose 10 pounds!"
"I'm so awkward!"
"I'm not photogenic!"

When you start out as a creative entrepreneur, there's one major thing no one tells you: You're going to have to step in front of the camera. Like, a lot. 

Branding photos aren't just about photographing your products with the right colors. They're so much more than that—they're an expression of your brand, your story, and the experience your clients have with your business. And there's no one who will represent that experience and feeling better than your brand's fearless leader. That's you.

Ok, I hear you: "I'm not a model!" "I'm so awkward in front of the camera!" "I have no idea what to do with my hands!" "I have to lose 10 pounds!" "I'm not photogenic!" 

Here's the thing: No one is born camera ready. So today, I'm sharing my top 4 tips to being a faaaaabulous model for your own brand.

1. "I'm not a model!"

First of all, reality check: Models and celebrities don't wake up like that. After living in Los Angeles for 10+ years, and seeing many celebs without makeup at the grocery story, the yoga class, Runyon Canyon, etc., I can promise you—they aren't born looking like models either. It's mostly smoke and mirrors, and a killer glam squad.

The good news is, you can have a glam squad too, one who will make you look like a red carpet-worthy model. (Hair, makeup and wardrobe styling make ALL. THE. DIFFERENCE.)

So yes, you can look like a model. And with me behind the camera, you can pose like one.

2. "I'm so awkward!"

Well, it's a little more complicated. I'd never actually put you in a pose. The reason you look awkward in photos is because you're trying to capture yourself in a moment, and trying to freeze that moment with a single pose. Nuh-uh. Not working.

Instead, you should be moving. Those beautiful moments you're striving for? They usually happen in the middle of an action: laughing at a joke, sweeping your hair off your face, walking to the boutique, etc. These moments can't be faked, they have to be genuine or else, yes, they'll be awkward. You need to get moving and get excited, and those moments will come naturally.

3. "I'm not photogenic!"

Babe, yes you are. Before you start to argue, let me say this: It's all about the angles. Every person really does have a "good side." How can you tell? Well, two ways: All of us have one eye that is a little higher than the other, and all of our noses tilt slightly to the left or the right. Depending on which is more prominent, that's how you determine your good side. You probably already know which one it is based on instinct and past photos ("I don't know why, I just know I like this side better,"). And now you know why.

4. "I have to lose 10 pounds!"

I understand this feeling. I've battled with my own weight for years, since middle school, and for the most part I've won that battle. But! I have spend many months in hiding because I've lost that battle too. There were months where I hid from my friends, avoided networking events and jumped out of impromptu photos like the devil was chasing me. I get it in a big way.

Here comes another but: But I fully believe that I'm meant to serve creative entrepreneurs by creating beautiful photos that drive their businesses forward. I can't serve you if I'm hiding behind my computer, refusing to pose for photos. In order to connect with you, my audience, then you need to see my face, hear my voice and connect with my story. Without putting myself unique self out there, I'm lost in a sea of social media. Without photos of myself, I serve no one. And what about you? Who are you serving? And who are you not serving because you're hiding instead? Not a single one of your audience cares if you lose 10 pounds first. They need you to show up, just as you are, expertise in hand, ready to serve. Let's take the first step by getting in front of the camera. I'll make your photos painless, I pinky promise.

Don't let your brand be THAT guy on Tinder...

 When you think your date will be normal, but she ends up dancing like this... smh

When you think your date will be normal, but she ends up dancing like this... smh

You know the one: You swiped right on his profile pic, but when you showed up to meet in person, well... He's at least 10 years older than his picture, has a lot less hair and is missing some teeth (ok, that's an exaggeration, but you get it).

Is your brand making the same mistake?

This is a common mistake brands make with their visual message, but in reverse. Your services are FANTASTIC in person, but your profile pic (or any photo you put out there) is just, meh. Imagine if you did that on a dating app: You're gorgeous in person, but you used an "I-literally-woke-up-like-this" photo to attract attention.

Nuh-uh. Nope. Not happening. So why would you risk it with your business?

Yes, it's rad when your friend has a nice camera and can take an ok picture of you for social media. But audiences have a way of sniffing out when you haven't put your full effort and energy behind your offering—even when it's just a photo. And if you won't put your full energy behind the profile pic for your business on social media... what kind of energy would you put behind their business? Uh-oh.

If you're ready to step up your visual messaging and put your full effort into our brand photos—get in MY inbox! Click here or the button below to shoot me a quick message with your questions.

This isn't (just) a photo...

This isn't a photo...
This isn't a portrait...

courtneypaigeray_citrinemarketing_brandphotographer

This is the story of a business. This is the story of a brand. This is how you connect to your audience. And I'm here to support you by bringing the art of storytelling to your business.

What does that mean?

It means sitting down with me, a hot cup of coffee and your favorite inspiration. We create a mood board that nails the aesthetic of your photo shoot. We pick the perfect location (or two) as a backdrop for your story; choose your props (hint: your brand is on point when you can mine your own home for photo props); and style a wardrobe with attitude. YOUR attitude. And lots of personality.

We do this work so that on your shoot day, you're excited, comfortable, and most importantly, in your element. This is where the magic happens. This is where your personality shines through. This is where your brand becomes the story that clients connect to and engage with.

So, I won't just take your photo. I'll tell your story. Your audience is waiting.

Shayna Marks, Citrine Marketing // Branding Photography, Los Angeles

When creatives get together for a shoot, magic is bound to happen. Shayna with Citrine Marketing has killer style, and her branding colors (love the yellow!) were the perfect backdrop. Clearly, we had a ton of fun on set. 

Your Creative Manifesto for 2018

 Looking for inspiration everywhere like...

Looking for inspiration everywhere like...

Yes, you ARE a creative. We all are. And this time of year, when everyone is setting new year's resolutions and making goals for the future, I encourage you to take a step back from specific goals and first create a set of principles that will guide your creative work in the new year.

I love to sit in conversation with other creatives and chat about how we move our work forward, taking risks and reaching new levels of success, especially when we feel stuck.

Common practices come up again and again, and I'm sharing them with you in hopes that you'll get inspired. 

  • I will follow the fire in my heart that leads to creativity and art on a daily basis;
  • I will step into my art with love and excitement; 
  • I will focus on my creative contribution to the world because I'm on my own creative path;
  • I will let go of practices that no longer serve me, including comparison, fear and limiting beliefs;
  • I will embrace practices that push me to grow as a creative, including curiosity, discomfort, education and conversation with other creatives;
  • I will support and encourage my community of artists and creators in their own endeavors.


Get ready, because with a few principles as a guide, then your goals, ideas and inspiration for 2018 will start dropping into your mind, totally on fire. Please share yours
 

Rima Marz // Lifestyle Portraits in Downtown Los Angeles

Portraits can be more than branding work or profile pictures—they can be something special you do just to celebrate yourself. This lifestyle session borders on boudoir, and I love the intimacy and self-love that are pouring out Rima's eyes. They're hypnotizing and gorgeous!

"But what do I do with my hands?"

 I clearly know what to do with my arms...

I clearly know what to do with my arms...

It's the biggest mystery for anyone who steps in front of a camera...

Where. In the world. Do I put my hands? And my arms—wait, do I have extra elbows now? Why can't I stand normally?

I get it! I've been there. As a photographer, it's important for me to know exactly how YOU feel when you're in front of my lens. And you're feeling just like I did in this shoot: awkward, a little insecure, kind of goofy—and you definitely don't know what to do with your hands.

It's small things like these that are easy to forget about until you're sweating under the lights. You plan your outfit and get your hair done, but once the camera starts clicking—you go blank on what to do. But rest easy; it's my job to get the best look from you, and that includes un-posing.

I know what you want: Casual yet professional, fun and frisky photos that are dripping with personality. And definitely not—heck nah!—POSED. (Yuck, I know.) Laughter, light and happiness are must-haves in your photo shoot. Of course, you didn't expect that being a model is so intense. And you still don't know what to do with your arms.

No worries, babe. I gotcha. Here are my top 3 tips for getting that casual, oh-so-cool, yet still professional, look in your photos.

1. Loosen Up

Literally, jump up and down, do some chanting, sing at the top of your lungs, spin around like you're 4 years old again and there's a pile of leaves nearby. Do whatever you have to do to get out of your own head and into your body. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to feel grounded in the moment. Think about the art you're about to make with your rad photographer. And then... laugh! I like to be goofy to make my clients laugh—anything that gets a natural reaction out of them, and I don't care if it's because they're laughing with me or at me, as long as there's happiness. 

2. Beware of Sorority Girl Arms

Don't do it. I know it's your first instinct, and when I see you put your hand on your hip and stick your elbow way out, I cringe inside. There are other ways to slim those arms than posing like every sorority girl on a Friday night, taking photos and hiding your drinks from the house mom. (Yeah, I've been there. Guilty!).

Instead, drop your arms to your sides. Pretend there's a string tied to your elbow and it's slowly—oh so slowly—pulling your arm backward and wrapping around the back of your body. This will give you a slight, subtle cutout of the shape of your back

3. Rock-n-Roll Those Shoulders

There's nothing that will kill a pretty photo faster than bad posture. Take a cue from your youth and stand up straight. It does wonders for the shape of your body, but it's so easy to forget and fall into a hunched pose.

Putting it all together, here's what I want you to do: 

Shake out your upper body and roll your shoulders back. Point your hips at a 45-degree angle away from the camera and twist your upper body back toward the lens. Pop your weight to one hip to get the sexy, S-curve in photos and drop your arms against your body. Then, use the string trick to give a little shape to your torso and arms. And don't overthink it—you'll start to look stiff if you're conscious of every little movement. 

Most importantly—forget everything I've told you and have some fun. Start laughing and dancing and singing, and your beauty will shine bright like a diamond, Rihanna style. 

We Are All Creatives

CourtneyPaigeRay

When we talk about "creatives," we're usually referring to people working in creative industries: art, graphic design, writers, painters, photographers, etc. But regardless of your day job, each of us is a creative—oh heck yes, even you, hiding behind your keyboard thinking, "If only..."

I believe that our purpose in life is to create. We're all driven to produce something. Whether it's business or babies or paintings or buildings—or all of the above—we're here to build, to create, to dream.

As creatives, we start with a big, not-so-simple question: "Why?" 

"Why am I here?" 
"Why do I feel the need to create?"
"Why is there this constant, fiery drive to build something of my own?"

Creating keeps us connected to our inner selves and to each other; creative energy quiets the noise of the world and pushes us to build the legacy we leave behind. 

Of course, after the "why am I here?"—to create—comes the next question: "What am I here to create?"

I'm here to create photos, to tell stories, to document experiences and to connect with others in the creative process—whether that's through education, conversation or critique.

I'm here to help you find the path of your own creativity, and I want to hear from you what will help—do you want to learn how to take better photos? How to create art from a place of authenticity? How to explain to everyone around you that you want to quit your successful career as a journalist (or insert other job here) to take photos and run a business—none of which you've done before? Been there. Done that. Happy to help you do it too. 

Please share what you're driven to create in this world—let's chat!