The Confidence Journey - 100 days

Today, there are 100 days until showtime. Just 100 sets of 24 hours to get to where I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally. 100 days to get it right. I do NOT feel like I will be ready. Let me tell you what has been going on. Officially I have been on prep for 4.5 weeks, in that time my weight has barely moved. BARELY. Most certainly not as much as I had anticipated, I honestly expected to drop around 10-15lbs by now with the initial water weight loss....but that didn't happen. My calories have been cut, my cardio doubled and still I am stagnant. My frustration and anxiety level are through the roof as the days continue to pass with little progress. I get up every morning at 5am to hit the stair master for 45 minutes - roughly 150/200 flights of stairs. I go home and get everything sorted out there as far as Mom and Wife are concerned as well as get myself ready for work. I head to my corporate job, then back home in the afternoon for another 45 minutes of stairs and lifting. I end every day exhausted, sore and extremely discouraged. 100 days, they are ticking by and I feel like I'm failing. Everything is done as I'm told, but I feel like my body is not cooperating. I'm at a loss and defeated. I know that it is unwise to measure success by the gravitational pull of my body, but when you're in a sport that requires minimal body fat it is pretty hard to remove that portion of it from your mentality. Things are being done on the back end, I'll share later once I know more.
Stephen had surgery with Dr. Morales February 14, just two weeks ago, and has managed to not do a lick of cardio and continues to eat a small village's worth of food daily and has lost 10+ pounds. This, my friends, is why women are made crazy by men. We can work our tails off to try and drop weight to no avail.
I will be posting daily for the next 100 days, a diary of sorts, it's about to get real!


The Confidence Journey - I Was Not Prepared

After the first few weeks of recovery were complete, a new stage kicked in, one that I was not prepared for. This stage will be dubbed Struggle Stage.

Struggle 1: As I  headed in to being cleared for a small amount of gym time I didn't quite realize just how difficult it would be. The last two years I have consistently been in the gym, increasing strength and intensity. I was happy with the levels I was putting out, then enter recovery gym time, the restrictions that are present physically are a big mental game. Before surgery, I was hitting the stairs hard for 45 minutes 5-6 days a week. I was lifting heavy or doing high volume with moderate weight. The first day back in the gym with Dr. Morales and Sarah was a shocker, I couldn't engage my core, I couldn't get my heart rate too high, I couldn't lift over my head, I couldn't lift with my chest. I felt so stifled, I felt weak, I felt slightly defeated because my normal was no longer normal. I hit the elliptical, I hadn't stepped foot on an elliptical in years and I had to keep the pace fairly low, my heart rate needed to be between 125-130, that's it. I had a routine down that included a lot of glute and hamstring work, guess how restricted I am during recovery....leg day consists of 4 workouts with high volume. Seated hamstring curls, leg extensions, abductor and adductor, yep that's it. No squats, lunges, hacks or the like to get my behind in check. That has been one of the hardest parts, not being able to feel free in the gym, BUT I will be cleared to lift almost normal in 14 days, oh yes, 2 whole weeks and I get back to my real iron therapy.

Struggle 2: The itch that cannot be scratched. As you know, I had extensive surgery from chest to hips, the numbness that came along was a bit of an odd feeling. Roughly one month post-op, the itch came. As the feeling began to spark back to life in my midsection, the internal itch that could not possibly be reached began. Imagine trying to itch your intestines, that's basically the feeling, you can't, but it drives you crazy because it's so intense. Once I got a little feeling back on the external layers that I could feel on my abdomen came the most bizarre feeling. I would touch near my tummy tuck scar, but would feel it layers deep by my rib cage, apparently that is where that particular piece of skin used to reside.

I can use my core, a little, now. I am regaining feeling in my body with correct association of space. I am excited for hardcore prep to start and the journey that lies ahead. 148 days, but who's counting :)

The Common Question

How did you do it?
Yep, that question. A few times a week it pops into my messages or on a post and it’s likely never the answer they want to hear. There isn’t a quick fix, no magic pill, drink or new diet that will suddenly have them dropping weight and building muscle. It takes time, effort and a whole lot of failure and lessons to get there. It all started in 2016, that fluffy chick on the far left...yep, her. That was my highest low point, if you know what I mean. Unhappiness at its physical culmination and eating everything to drown my feelings, it was awful. The end of that year had me finding myself again after 13 years in a lousy, unhealthy relationship ended in divorce. It was freeing and gave me the opportunity to create goals for myself, focus on my health and mental well-being. So, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the whole process.

First: I decided I was worth it. THIS is probably the hardest but most pivotal point. I had to get in the headspace that I matter, not just as a woman, partner, friend or mom but as a person. I had become so many things and that resulted in leaving myself behind and used food as an excuse.
Second: I had to make a goal. Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, I didn’t achieve my goal but I did make one. I planned to compete in 2017, but life had other plans that I never saw coming (all for the better). The goal should never be to lose weight, it has to be deeper than that. Health, wealth, inspiration, role model, you pick, but it can’t just be to see a certain number on the scale because that thing is a liar!
Third: Food. Putting that goal to the test starts with the food, all the deliciously non-nutritious, carbs are flavor foods have to go. I’ll be honest, the first few days I felt like a majestic Pegasus trotting around, then the withdrawals hit. These dreadful things, they come with doubt and yearning, they come with sadness and shame, they are the hard part that will likely make you fall in your face but you HAVE to get back up. So many times people assume that I cut out carbs, nope. They assume I starve myself, also nope. I eat 5-6 times per day, I don’t mean snacks, I mean real food like chicken and sweet potatoes, eggs and avocado, oatmeal and peanut butter, veggies and occasionally a refeed (don’t call it a cheat meal, this is a mental game). I eat every 2.5 hours, I buy containers from amazon and have everything ready to go, I set an alarm on my phone that tells me when to eat so I get ahead of any potential weak moments during a fit of hunger.
Fourth: Workout. Here is the part that people start to dread, simply because they are intimidated by going to the gym where the fit bunnies, babes and boys hang out. I was that girl, the one that wasn’t 100% sure about what, how, why in there and that terrifying free weight section along with the insane looking machines with vague at best directions. Ask for help, watch the ones that you want to look like, get a trainer. You will need cardio, you will need weights, you need the gym.
Fifth: Go with the flow. Have I, since the moment I started, been on track? Absolutely not. Have I ever just quit? Absolutely not. Take some time here and there to reasses your goal, make new plans and exceed your own expectations.

A typical day:
6am: Wake up
630: Fasted cardio 45 minutes
730: Breakfast - eggs and avocado
8am: Go to work
10am: 2nd meal - chicken, sweet potato and veggies
1230: 3rd meal - chicken, sweet potato and veggies
3pm: 4th meal - cod, rice and veggies
4pm: snack of almonds
5pm: gym (weights)
630: before bed protein shake with peanut butter

The Confidence Journey- Recovery

I don’t remember a solid point of waking up, more just bits and pieces of moments in time of coming to reality only to slip away the next. I remember feeling like I had been doing sit-ups forever, my chest being heavy, a dull ache and people in and out. Stephen was there, making sure I was ok and recording tidbits of my medically induced hilarity. My room at the ACPS surgical center was cozy, quiet and I was the most tended to that I’ve ever been in a medical setting. I didn’t have to ask for anything, they were always ahead of my needs. All of my vitals were set on timer, which allowed me much more rest time. The day of surgery, I don’t remember ever being in the recovery room, only my private room. The morning following surgery, the nurses prepared me for release quietly. I was waking up as they removed the blankets and I was scared to look down. I’ve seen several tummy tucks that made me fearful of the results, more just because of the unknown factor. I had faith in Dr. Morales, but even so, anything can happen in the OR and I had hoped it all went according to plan. As the nurses removed the layers hiding my midsection, I chanced a peek toward my abdomen. I smiled. My stomach was flat from rib cage to pelvis, there was swelling but I could tell that the surgery was immensely successful and far exceeded my own expectations. See, I’ve always hated my belly button, it slanted more sideways than up and down, it always made me self-conscious. When I went for my consultation, Dr. Morales said I would be getting a new one and that made me excited and nervous at the same time. As I looked down at my belly button, it looked real and it was up and down. The first time Stephen ever touched my belly button before, I would swat his hand away, I hated it that badly. I’ve seen other recreated belly buttons and I’ve seen some that were just a slit, some that looked like people pushed their finger into a bit of play-doh. This was different and my excitement was palpable. I looked further down to the tummy tuck line spread across the width of my body, from hip to hip, there was a red line of clotted blood under tape, but I could see that the incision was minute. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. Stephen arrived shortly after they prepped me for release, I slept the entire way home and the majority of the day. He nursed me the entire day, waking me to take my medications, helping me out of bed to walk to the bathroom and entertaining me on occasion. My friends stopped by to check on me and let Stephen take a break to go to the gym. Day 2 at home I was a little more alert, I was finally realizing the feelings going on within my physical self. I expected the tummy tuck to hurt the most, it didn’t. I was numb, my entire torso felt like I was wrapped in a thick layer of bubble wrap, it was an odd sensation to feel so distant from my own body. My breasts just felt slightly heavier than normal, they were high, so high that if I put my chin to my chest it would rest ever so slightly atop my new bosoms. My back, where the liposuction had been done around my bra line and flanks was the worst. It was a deep bruised feeling and showed as such through the purple swollen spaces around the incisions. The remainder of the week I was increasingly mobile, still unable to stand up straight due to the incredible tightness in my abdomen which caused my upper back to hurt from the hunchback stance I carried around every time I paced around the house in my non-so-attractive, tighter than skin stockings I was sent home in. Stephen had to give me a shower daily and redress me. Dr. Morales’ office sent me home with my recovery bag, the special compression garment for my abdomen, gauze, pads and a zip-front bra. Every day before I showered I had to eat, take my pain medication and properly hydrate, it was an exhausting chore for us both that would take upward of an hour every time from start to finish. I was required to use the restroom before the first appointment, I’m not super regular(TMI), but it was a must. I tried laxatives, I tried a ton of water, I had to try more extreme measurements but that’s a story for a different day. The first post-op appointment was the Friday after surgery, Dr. Morales was pleased with the progress as well as I. That next week was much better, I was much more mobile and able to stand up 90% erect which resulted in the pain moving to the middle of my back. Showering became faster and easier, I was able to eat a bit more and I slowly gained my personality back. Over the course of the week I felt less insulated, the swelling decreased and the bruising diminished. My second post-op appointment the following Friday went amazingly well, Dr. Morales bumped me up to the second stage compression garment a week earlier than anticipated, it is reminiscent of a roller derby jumpsuit...but the crotch is missing. Talk about awkward. It took Stephen and I a full 5 minutes to get the shrink wrapped suit over my still swelled hips to connect the suspender straps, yes, suspender straps just below my breasts all the while laughing uncontrollably at the contraption. Dr. Morales let me know that the following week would have me back in the gym and my excitement went through the roof, I missed it!

The Confidence Journey - Surgery

I won’t tell you I was excited the whole time, there were a lot of things going on that prevented that. I won’t tell you I felt ready, I won’t even tell you that I never had a tinge of fear and regret through the whole if I just backed out it would be a better choice. Let me break it down for you. Stephen has a past, like me, filled with tumultuous relationships that obviously didn’t work out. Those are his stories to tell, should he ever feel like he wants to, just know, dear outsider, that the scars left are ever present. Once I got the call that I was one of the chosen athletes, my mind was on hyperdrive, fear began running rampant. Fear of failure as much as fear of success, fear of unworthiness as much as fear of if I could actually do it. I’m a dreamer, a lover of grand ideas. Yes, I’ve seen some of them to fruition, but I’ve also let many fall through the cracks, this was one, that if given the opportunity, the moments that came with it could change the entire course of our  life in a very small amount of time and that alone made me pause to contemplate if I was actually prepared for that. Stephen and I talked nearly everyday about it, if our relationship could withstand all that would occur, if the choices we would make as a unit would be fruitful and worth every painful step coming. Everything moved so fast, I was glad that we had taken the opportunity seriously and had discussed and planned for if I ended up being one of the two. It was 9 days, from the call until I went in for surgery, 9 days. That very short amount of time made me so thankful that Stephen is the amazing man that he is, that my job is flexible, that everyone at Dr. Morales’ office was more prepared than I could’ve ever imagined. At my pre-op consultation, I was presented with a bag full of gauze, wraps, binding, pads, bra and homeopathic medication to start straight away to help the recovery process. I only had to visit the pharmacy to fill my prescriptions, no guessing as to what I may or may not need. The paperwork gave a timeline and how to best prepare for surgery as well as recover once I was home. The morning of the surgery was an anxiety ridden piece of time that I will be happy to never relive. The drive was just over an hour, we just missed a wreck, Stephen was scared, I was nervous. I had spent the week prior prepping the littles, Amelia (9) and Payton (13) for everything going forward. The surgical center was easy to find in the early hours, it was quiet and serene, very classy and ran incredibly smooth. We waited, once I checked in with the front they asked if anyone was there with me and how to contact them, we waited a bit more. All in all, I suppose it was really only around 15 minutes or so of waiting before they called me back. A sweet nurse, with a kind sense of humor and maternal habits guided me to where I would be for the duration of my stay. She asked questions of my medical history, did a pregnancy test, as well as ask what surgeries I was getting specifically, she wanted to ensure I knew exactly what I was getting done, no surprises. She asked me to disrobe and instructed me where to place specific belongings as she would step out to prepare a few more things and bring Stephen in. Once she came back I was sat into a chair blessed by the hands of angels, it was comfortable and included a personal heater, it was perfect. She prepared my IV as Chase and Lance came in to speak with me, they told me how Sarah’s surgery went and we’re really excited with how smoothly everything was going thus far. The anesthesiologist came in and asked a few questions, prepared me for the next steps, my personal nurse Kelly also came in to touch base. Dr. Morales made his entrance and let me know the next steps, prepared me with the markings that would be a basic guide for him during surgery and answer any questions I may have. It was time to start, Kelly walked me back to the operating room and asked me questions to keep my mind at ease, like a good friend would do. She wiped me down with the antiseptic, had me sit on the table and everything faded to black.
Dr. Morales

The Confidence Journey - Chosen

When the top 10 was announced from the Dallas auditions, I felt like maybe they just wanted to represent variety. There were older, younger, competition ready, and a lot of work required (me). But every single person that I looked at seemed to be so worthy, I couldn’t imagine being the shoes of the ones making the actual choice. November 12, I expected to hear a top 10 list from Houston. Stephen and I were modeling for a photographer that day and tuned in just as the live announcement was ending, then messages started coming in, messages of congratulations. I was not expecting the top 5, overall, to be announced. The next steps moved so fast. I immediately set up my consultation with Dr. Morales. Fast forward to the day after Thanksgiving. Stephen and I were laying in bed, relaxing when my notifications went off, a friend request from Chase Pool, from Behind The Pump, followed by a message asking for my number and if it was a good time to call. The phone rang, Chase was on the other end. He asked how my Thanksgiving was and light pleasantries were exchanged. The next words changed everything. “I have bad news...for three other girls...” I immediately fell to the bed in tears, shocked and at a loss for words. He wouldn’t tell me who the other girl was, only that  I’d find out during the live announcement Monday and that she was my opposite.

The Confidence Journey - Auditions

Late September, Stephen sent me a message about something he saw on Instagram for a full bodybuilding sponsorship that included plastic surgery. My sweet husband has gynocomastia and would love to have it removed. We chatted a little about it a few times and I figured I would toss my name in the hat as well, it never hurts to try, but would wait to see if I would actually go through with the audition. I wanted to get a better feel for the whole thing, including the other contestants. We drove from Houston to Dallas October 6, arriving at 180Culture around 9am. Stephen and I were one of the first ones there and as everyone trickled in, we started to meet some wonderful people. Chase and Lance showed up, shortly thereafter Dr. Morales and his team arrived and we were able to get things underway. Stephen auditioned first, as I waited and looked over all the other people there I couldn’t help but feel very out of place. Nearly everyone was in stellar good shape, we’re discussing their last competition or one they had coming up. Here I was, overweight, never competed and a hell of a lot more work would have to be done to me versus every other female there. I suppose I didn’t take it too seriously because it seemed like such a long shot, there were gorgeous girls with experience to choose from. As I sat down with Lance he looked over my before and after pictures, having started at 224lbs and worked hard to get down to a more manageable weight, it’s hard to feel like I’ve made progress. In my mind I am definitely still that fat chick. He asked questions about past training and what I looked like at my leanest. Sadly, I had recently gained almost 20lbs when Stephen and I took a break from the healthy lifestyle. After the time with Lance had finished, I met with Dr. Morales and Linda. He was so cool, calm, collected and personable. He looked over my paperwork, which held a little bit about me. It touched on my past marriage, my weight gain and loss, it went over my girl group - the crown fixers, and how I enjoy networking and lifting up others. I left feeling welcomed, but never thought I stood a chance against the others there. Once Stephen and I began our drive home, we compared notes and I figured it would just be a good experience that we had together, just another adventure.


How to take better Instagram photos

Hello to all! Well it's been a while since I have guest blogged on Morgan's blog and I'm so uber excited that she is having me back! Thank you so much Morgan! Stay tuned to my guest posts on her blog for tutorials and such in the future :) Well and also stay tuned because Morgan is awesome, but that's a given lol.

Anyhow! I know that my IG feed is always so full of light, airy, and beautiful photos by photographers, designers, and artists alike. I swoon over all that beauty just as much as I do over the real life images. Have you ever wondered how they do that? Does everyone have airy beautiful offices with all white walls, white desk, white everything to where all that light is bouncing around and off of every item to create the best light and white balance? Maybe some of them do, I have my own little studio space which you can take a virtual tour of on my blog here : The Paper Unicorn Photography Home Studio

However we do not all have spaces allocated for our business's, hobbies, or whatever suits our fancy in which case I can show you how to create your own little space using inexpensive items! As you can see I have one light source which is my sliding glass doors to the left of my boards, and very dark walls in my country style home. However with just one light source and the whit boards you can accomplish some really great photos. Below is a list of what I used, where you can purchase these things at, and "approximately" how much each item cost.

1: Medium weight styrocore poster board 2 pieces, from the art section at Wal Mart, Hobby Lobby, or Michaels. Approx 1.79  each

2: Glitter scrap book paper from Michaels. Approx .82 each (use your coupon on your smart phone!)

3: Glitter foil confetti from Michaels. Approx 2.99 a bag

4: "Sparkle" dish or jewelry tray from Michaels (this was a gift.) Approx estimation 5.00-10.00

5: Crystal drop earrings and crystal CZ ring from Burlington Coat Factory. Earrings 4.99, ring 7.99.

6: Silk flower bouquet bundle from Michaels. Approx 13.99 (use your coupon!)

Over all cost Approx 44.36 before tax and BEFORE coupons, I spent about 35.00 total and I can use my poster boards, etc more than once. Pretty small investment for items I can use throughout the year for IG posts. And you may even have items lying around your home already you can use! Thanks for reading and post whatever comments or questions you may have. Now go make and post some pretty pics!  XO ~ Amy Jo

Amy Jo of The Paper Unicorn Photography
FB: TPUP - FB   |  IG: TPUP - IG  |  Pinterest: TPUP - Pinterest  |  Periscope: The Paper Unicorn Photography

Helping Yourself

 "Ask yourself if what you're doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow."

What do you need? I genuinely mean it...what do you need? How can you achieve it? Nearly every goal is achievable if there is enough effort exerted. I'll admit it, I am the absolute worst at coming up with a hair-brained idea and then letting it go. It could be the most ah-mazing idea ever, but I tend to not follow through so well. I chalk it up to my personality, have you ever taken the test? Turns out, I am a debater (ENTP-A) and we are known for brilliant ideas, but don't have the drive to see it through til the end. It told me that I would be great as a business owner as long as I have others to do the work for me. That's hilarious!

So, what do you need? More time, more money, fitness, health, hobbies, there is a wide, wide world of possibilities. Your goal could be hobby related, business or personal. What do you want, how will you take it, how far are you willing to push yourself to actually achieve it. In a nut shell, is it a priority? Telling yourself you don't have enough time isn't accurate, in reality it's not a priority, or maybe you're just too afraid to fail. Maybe you don't want it as bad as you think.

Let's talk about success and how to make it happen. First, success is a relative term. Some consider success a happy family, others would consider it a massive bank account, while others would consider a mere 3 minutes of silence the best thing.

Step 1:
Evaluate what you want and how you can possibly achieve it. Who could be your biggest cheerleader(s)? Do you currently have the assets to attain it?

Step 2:
Plan out your goal. Set a timeline so that you can achieve parts of the whole, to get you closer each day.

Step 3:
Do it! Don't just talk about it, get out there and put your nose to the grind and do it.

Step 4:
Celebrate from the rooftops when you get there. Invite others to revel in your success, how they do that is up to you.

No matter what you do remember to persevere, revise and succeed all the way to the end. So, tell me, what are you working on?


Choosing The Right Photographer

I want to start by saying that one photographer is NOT the right one for everyone. There will be photographers that you just don't click want to get along with your photographer, make sure you like their personality or you won't get the 'magical' portraits you're looking for. 
When you start off looking for a photographer that is right for you, you will have three main choices.
1. The retail chain 
2. The professional
3. The shoot and burn

Feel free to share this post, just make sure to link back here :) Thank you!

The retail chain
The goal of retail chain portrait studios is to reel you in with an AH-MA-ZING deal, like free sitting fee and a few freebies, but what are you really getting? Sure the sitting fee may be free for the first person, but what about the rest of your family?
A simple search of a major portrait studio says their special offer is 26 portraits for $7.99 - crazy deal, right?
Did you read the fine pose, one subject, natural color only, additional sheets $19.99 (which are typically 8x10, my 8x10 is $15). That session will probably last 10-15 minutes and you will get 7 shots to choose from, not necessarily usable shots. If you wanted an 11x14 canvas, guess how much that is...$149.99 (want to know how much MY 11x14 canvas is...$100).

The professional
The goal of professional photographers is to create a lasting experience that yields quality portraits. There usually isn't any crazy deal to reel you in and then give you sticker shock after you're there. You are able to ask for a comprehensive price list before hand so you know what you could be investing.
Your 6 person family will probably be charged a sitting fee of $100 - $200 or maybe more and that probably will include only the photographer's time and talent. The session will typically last 1-3 hours, yes HOURS! That means you can change outfits and maybe even locations, and did you say you needed to feed your baby-there is plenty of time for that too. You will end up with 20-40 great images for you to choose from. For print orders professional photographers use professional labs and give the highest quality prints. The professional also edits with one of the Adobe programs such as Lightroom or a version of Photoshop's Creative Suite.

The shoot and burn
The goal of the shoot and burn photographer is normally to make some quick cash. Please do not confuse the shoot and burn photographer with a portfolio building professional photographer. You will probably spend $25-$50 and your session will last about an hour. You will get a CD with the images from the session, probably around 100 or so and a 'copyright' release. The shoot and burn photographer may not offer prints and if they do most likely they are printed from a consumer company that anyone could order prints from. Basically the shoot and burn photographer is like a friend with a camera...except they are a stranger and you are paying them to do what you could get with any point and shoot or cell phone. Just remember that just because they have a 'big camera' does not mean they have any idea what they are doing with it. The shoot and burn photographer typically uses free editing software such as picasa or picnik.

With all of that being said, the equipment does not make the photographer! I have seen amazing images taken with iPhones or point and shoots, and horrid images taken with top of the line pro level DSLR's.

This post is about the care and consideration as well as the intentions of the different types of photographers that you can book a session with. You may be a retail kind of consumer- if that works for you then go for it! Just like you may prefer a shoot and burn to a professional- again if that works for you then go for it!
Just know that not all photographers are created equal : in price, quality, or experience you receive.
No one can tell you what the right photographer is for YOU

What to expect:
Retail store: in and out in 15 minutes, 1-3 good images, spend $10-$300
Professional: 1-3 hour session, 20-40 great images, spend $200-$1000
Shoot and burn: 1 hour session, 100 maybe decent images, spend $25-$50
The difference is in the quality and experience. When you look back at your images on your wall how will they make you feel? Will you even remember how that day was? Will they make you smile because of the memories they bring back?
I know that when I look at my favorite images of my kids hanging on my wall, which are professionally done, I remember every detail of what happened that day and can't help but smile at the chaos that went into getting that priceless image.
When I look at the retail images from when my son was a baby all I can remember is that we only got the one image and we spent so long just waiting to be seen for a 10 minute - what felt like going through a fast food drive thru- session.
When I look at the images from when we had a shoot and burn session, those are all on my external drive - never printed because they honestly weren't wall worthy at all. I just remember that my life would be no different had it never happened.

Let's get down to recognizing good work and bad work
You will notice on the bad newborn image the lighting is bad and very uneven. Not to mention the use of selective color, the bad posing of the baby and the fact that the baby has a pacifier in his mouth. In the good image you will notice the nice even lighting, a serenely sleeping baby that is well posed. The good image  looks over all more put together and effortless.

Another example but this time maternity.
The bad image well....that's a dreadful color cast, she really wasn't that color-she was not an oompa loompa.
The good image has even lighting and good composition.

Notice the bad image- on board flash used, harsh shadows and that crazy oompa loompa color again. Poor composition and I could go on and on about no vision or real connection with the subjects. Of course the bad angle and posing too...I just, no.
Notice the good images- Nice even lighting, clear communication and you can feel the way the subjects feel ♥

Bad image- wow lots of bad in this one. Terrible posing, completely crumpled background, it's just really bad, like really really bad.
Good image- interesting angle and composition. Good color and exposure, great tonal range and depth.


A note from Morgan

For all of you that are thinking OMG, she is totally bashing aspiring photographers and I feel so bad for the photographers that have their images put up on this post....don't feel bad, all the craptastic images are mine! Yes the bad images are from when I first started portfolio building almost seven years ago. Let's just say I thought I was awesome and knew what I was doing, and thank every day that someone told me I I strive to prove them wrong :)
Every professional photographer starts out not knowing what they are doing, what you need to know is that there is a difference in someone doing it for a hobby, someone doing it for the quick cash, and someone operating a business or aspiring to do so. With each different type of photographer there is a different style and quality that you will get. A good rule is to look through your potential photographer's portfolio/website and if you love 80% or more of their current work then they may be the right photographer for you, I also suggest having a chat with them by phone or in person to see if your personalities match up. Lastly ask yourself if you would want to hang these images on your wall for years to come and pass them down through the generations to come.

Tarkington Senior Photographer | Ashlyn

I absolutely adore shooting seniors! There is always so much personality and beauty at each and every senior session I have. The girls are definitely killing it in 2015, they are all so stunning, inside and out.


The Woodlands Senior Photographer | Ashley

When I get a message from a client that says we can do whatever I want, I totally get giddy! This chick messaged me and she sent me every fabulous outfit possibility (even from her friend's closet) and we set up a great set of styles for session. I think they turned out AH-mazing! From flower child, to USA in honor of her brother that is a Navy S.E.A.L, from street glamour to vintage fab we rocked the heck out of every set up! You're gorgeous girl! Rock it :)


Houston Newborn Photographer | Baby W

I just adore shooting itty bitty babies! This little dude was over 2 weeks and it was storming outside and had only two small windows to light this session, but it all worked out amazingly well :) He was so squishy and loved being swaddled. I'm always so happy to meet new clients and become their go-to gal, because it allows me to watch their little darlings grow up. Welcome to the world little man!


How I more than tripled my clients | Part 2

Hopefully you have read Part 1, if not, go now :)
So, now that I know who I am marketing to and what is working I need to create a call to action moment for potential clients.

Evaluate the time of year
Is it Senior, Wedding, Baby or Family season? Yes, there really is a season for each thing! As of today, December 28 it is heading out of Family season and into Senior season and will be there for the next 3-5 months. After that is Wedding season from May-September, then Baby and Family season July-December with each overlapping at times...stragglers :)

How do I create a call to action? I find a model if I don't already have one on the books. Usually, for senior season they need a kick in the boo-tay to book, like seeing someone else's rockin session! I scout a model that would emulate my ideal client's look and offer them a heck of a deal for them to model MY idea...that's right, every detail is what I want, what matches completely with the direction my brand is heading. Tag the heck out of their images and drag them out over a week and posting at varying times and on every platform. This will drum up interest for an immediate need, for both you and the client.

Let people know what your clients think!
Encourage clients to write reviews, screen shot their reactions to their images, brag about them bragging about you! People want to know that other people were happy with you, your professionalism, personable personality and quality of work. Before you drop several hundred dollars for something do you look at reviews...I know I do!  If you have trouble getting clients to organically write a review, try a reward system ie. 5% off your next purchase, $10 toward prints, etc. Sometimes, clients need a little encouragement :)


Will your memories be seen?

One of my most treasured memories as a child was sneaking into my parent's and grandparent's closets and quietly pulling out large bins and boxes littered with dust. Inside the bins and boxes were little moments in time, long gone and nearly of people and things past. Faded images of my parents as children, my grandparents, great-grandparents and plenty of people that I had no idea who they were filled my childhood. Even though I would sneak in and find the places they gathered, I always ended up pulling them out and taking them to my elders and asking about the people in the images, who they were, what it was like and every little detail about that time. I'll admit, it really made my parents and grandparents light up and reminisce with me about days long gone.

Do you get your pictures printed? I know, we all assume the internet will be around forever. That smart phones, back ups and everything in between are infallible and that's how we will look on things from the past...but what if it's not. What if tomorrow, Facebook was hacked and it was all gone, forever. What if the cloud fails, what if your phone kicks rocks? Do you have printed pictures? I'll admit it, I'm guilty of not getting pictures printed often and that has to change! For me, for my children and grandchildren I will get pictures printed! I want them to sneak into my closet and pull out boxes of faded, dusty old pictures from when I was 20, or they were tiny little babies. I want them to run into the living room, box in hand asking about their cousins in the pictures, or the house we used to live in. I want them to remind me of what was, at the same time making me grateful for what is.

Will your memories be seen? Or will they be forgotten, left to rest on a hard drive or cloud until it's purged forever. Print them, hang them, store them just let them be seen, let your memories be remembered.

Did you ever do this as a child? Maybe you do it still....I know I do.

Cleveland Engagement Photographer | Adams

During this busy season, I rarely take last minute clients, sometimes I make exceptions :) I've known this guy since he was about 4 years old, and I can't believe he is about to get married! Congratulations you two, you are an absolutely adorable couple and I wish you a lifetime and more of happiness!





Conroe Child Photographer | Raegan

Can you believe how absolutely adorable this set up is? Little Raegan's momma totally came up with this idea and came with an SUV full of goodies for her 2nd birthday session. We trekked down to a little river in the woods and set up shop, however, Raegan just was not interested at all! Hooray for smart phones and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! (I swear it has saved more smiles that I can count)


Conroe Baby Photographer | Jake2

I've known this gorgeous couple for ages! I was so honored when they contacted me to photograph their maternity and new baby shots of their little J2. I visited them and snuggled with their fabulous new little guy in their home, which was warm and full of love for their new little guy :)



The Confidence Journey

Dr. Morales

Spartan Performance Meals


The Confidence Journey - 100 days

Today, there are 100 days until showtime. Just 100 sets of 24 hours to get to where I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally. 100 d...