The Most Important Question Every Photographer Needs to Ask

When you question your value and start to wonder why you bother…

When you doubt your ability and consider giving up the fight…

When you lose your focus and can’t seem to find your way in the dark…


Then ask yourself one question that can change everything…
Think about it. Answer from your heart. Has your art been brave enough?

Whether your art is photography, writing, filmmaking, storytelling, design, running a business… whatever you call your art… have you been brave?

If the answer is no, then you have some work to do. Maybe some internal work before you get to the act of creating. Some processing of the core issue before you try to tackle the practical.

This is the year of the creative, the enthusiast, the artist.
Be bold. Be brave. Be insanely great.


Day 3 of Project 365: Texture Series

Today’s background is an image I shot of a canvas painted over 7 years ago by my talented younger brother. He is an artist. He’s also an engineer. I imagine he uses his vision as an artist to work out engineering problems. Personally I’d love to see him create more art with the paintbrush. But all that really matters is whether each of us can answer this question in the affirmative.

It doesn’t matter if I think you’re brave, because deep down you know when you’re really pushing your own limits. Same goes for me. What you think may look to be brave from the outside, may be easier than you think. But other things you find easy may be a mountain for me to climb. We all have different strengths that equip us to fight the battles we need to fight. Are you ready to get brave this year? Isn’t it time?

Want a practical way to find your strengths and pick your battles? Check out StrengthsFinder 2.0. I recently re-took the test they offer when you buy the book and was amazed at the results. I’ll share more later, but it’s all part of an alpha test called Class 0 that I was chosen to participate in with John Saddington at tentblogger. It’s already amazing and we haven’t even met in person for the first time.

So what’s the truth? Has your art been brave enough?

Let me know in the comments and tell me how you’ll change or continue!

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Use a 365 Photo Project to Get Motivated

Featured Photographer Carrie Stadelman shares her inspiration for embarking on her first 365 challenge in 2012!

I started the 365 project to get some motivation…

After months of being stressed and overworked from the summer and fall (not to mention being pregnant), doing photography everyday was the last thing on my mind. However, I am a forever student. I don’t believe in settling and am always striving to make myself a better artist.

You can always learn something, even if you feel you know it all. So I thought this project was the perfect way to do that.

My goal is to try something new each day, something that I have been dying to learn or just something simple that I need to improve on to make my work more consistent. (Can we say White Balance?).

I want to try a new technique, new lighting style, new photoshop trick; just anything and everything that will help me move to the next level.

I know myself pretty well, and my biggest fear is that I will set my goals too high and not be able to reach them. I tend to jump into things feet first with the best of intentions and don’t always come up for air, and therefore drown. I want to prove to myself that I can do this, and will!

My hope is that I can continue this journey all year and see a much needed improvement in myself as an artist, my photographic style and my business as a whole.

How Battling Cancer Can Make Your Life Better

Guest post by scrapbooker and photographer Laura Vanderbeek. This is her story of courage and conviction in the face of cancer.

Ahhh, cancer. It’s a frightening word. You’re no longer the invincible person you thought you were.

You remember that day for the rest of your life.

I was thirty years old. It was April 21, 2006 and I had just put my newborn son down for a nap while my four year old daughter was playing on the neighbor’s trampoline as I called my doctor anxious for the results. I’d been sick for four years and was finally getting an answer.

I had a stage 2B Hodgkins Lymphoma tumor inside my chest and neck. It was 3 inches wide and over 12 inches long. During 2006 I photographed 4 weddings but made 22 thirty page wedding albums and served on the inaugural editorial board for Digital Scrapbooking Magazine. And here I am almost five years later. I can honestly say that more good came from it than bad.

So how did battling cancer make my life better?

#1 – I found out who I really was.

I found this quote on and it said, “Remember who you really are. It is important to remember that while you may have leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, [insert your problems here] you are not your illness [or problem]. Your illness is something that happened to you, and although treatment may temporarily affect your appearance and capabilities, you are not what you look like or what you can do.”

You are not what you look like or what you can do? So who am I?

It took me months to finally find my answer and I tell you it was worth the journey. By that time I had lost all of my hair, my skin was sagging beyond belief, I was nauseated 80% of the time, and I could no longer cook, clean, or even carry my baby. By the world’s standards I wasn’t worth much but that’s when I discovered my real worth.

What do I love to do? I was the jack of all trades and master of none, at least until I had cancer and needed to focus my energy. What was I good at and what did I want to be good at?

I discovered that I am a storyteller.

I love combining photos and journaling with my art to tell a more complete story and beautiful story. Our website now focuses on albums. My scrapbooking now focuses on complete storytelling rather than pages with great titles and cute quotes.

#2 – I quit wasting energy on the unimportant and to prioritize like never before.

For me this included grudges, having a perfectly clean house, and worry about what others thought about me. I finally realized that I could only control how I felt about others. When someone was cruel I tried to send positive thoughts their way. I also had to just let go of the worry. My family would survive if the house was not spotless.

I decided that worrying about what others were saying or doing was wasting my energy. My goal was to heal and I had to put every ounce of effort towards that. Today I am feeling a lot better and have more energy but I still need this. I have to decide on a daily basis what’s really important. First and foremost I am a mother. If I’m happy as a mother I am a better photographer and digital scrapbook artist. Having dinner together each night as a family is one of my goals. Some nights we eat hot dogs. Some nights it’s pepper steak made with garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes fresh from my garden. The most important thing is that we are fed and we have time to talk as a family. And because this is important I have to let some things go.

Want to know what the next three steps are? Come back next week to find out! In the meantime, stop by Laura’s blog and leave her a note of thanks for sharing such an amazing honest account with us!

3 Simple Rules To Make Anything Happen

You may not have connections, or an education, or wealth, but
with enough passion and sweat, you can make anything happen.
—Gary Vaynerchuck

Do you believe that? Sure. I’ll bet you do.

Do you live it? I’ll bet you don’t.

The key word is “enough.” What is enough passion and sweat? What must you sacrifice to follow that passion and how much sweat is really necessary?

It’s not passion we’re lacking, it’s sweat.

When it comes to sweat equity, that one word “enough” gives you (and me) an out. The excuse may go something like this… I’m really passionate about xyz, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my family for it, so I can’t put in enough work to really make it happen.

Or maybe your version sounds more like this… XYZ means everything to me, but I have to ______________________ (insert any legitimate need or task that has to get done, parenting, working, cooking, cleaning, etc.).

And it’s the truth. You are absolutely right. Don’t sacrifice family. Don’t neglect legitimate tasks. But also don’t use those very things as reasons why you can’t make something happen. Here’s why:

  • Tolstoy wrote War and Peace and he had 13 children.
  • Nick Vujicic, the man with no arms and legs travels the world and wrote a book.
  • Dick Hoyt completed 1000 marathons, pushing his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy.

They were “regular” people with daily lives to manage before they moved beyond the barriers of time and space to make their ideas happen. Their everyday lives didn’t go away, they just CHOSE to live their passion, instead of just talk about it, think about it, and dream about it.

Skills are cheap, passion is priceless.

People are awesome, or so a video says that I found while writing this article. After watching just 1/3 of it, I had to agree. These are regular people who have clearly invested enough passion and sweat into what they love. Are you next? Watch the video, then check out the 3 simple rules to make anything happen.

Rule 1: Love your family.
Rule 2: Work super hard.
Rule 3: Live your passion.

These come straight from Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuck. He purports that if you correctly channel your passion, you can make anything happen. Start with the first rule, make decisions to love your family and be present when you are with them. Then, be willing to put in the sweat necessary to live your dream. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day writing your novel, taking 1 picture every day, writing a short blog post… whatever your passion, do it. Daily.

Invest the time, energy and sweat to make it happen. That’s when you start living your passion, you claim your place as a writer, photographer, artist, musician, or whatever other endeavor you dream.


This week, my challenge to you is to spend at least 7 hours pursuing your dream or passion. That could be researching a trip to Europe, planning and completing a photo shoot, doing a daily 365 photo project, scrapbooking your family photos. Whatever it is, if it’s really important commit 7 hours to it this week and watch how your attitude and world changes. Are you with me?

Are you willing to live and breathe your passion?
The choice is yours.

We CREATE: Female Filmmakers PSA

“Because of their age long training in human relations—for that is what feminine intuition really is—women have a special contribution to make to any group enterprise.” – Margaret Mead

42 dedicated women filmmakers and photographers.
Five sparkling days in the Bahamas.
One powerful message: Women Create.

I was a speaker at the first professional event filmmakers and photographers educational workshop and retreat for women, POSH 2010. Inspired by our shared experiences in an industry dominated by males, the group decided to use their creative gifts to craft a short film illustrating the positive power and passion of women in the film industry.

We Create from POSH on Vimeo.

Shot on location at POSH 2010, “Women Create” was directed by Maura Coleman-Murray and Kara Jensen, filmed by Maribeth Ratajczyk and Luiza Perkowska, and edited by Meg Simone. All 42 POSH 2010 attendees collaborated on the piece.

Barnes & Noble Was Taken Over Today – By Girls (D349)

You may have heard the news and speculation that Barnes & Noble will be taken over. Its stock soared last week over the news. Well, today it actually happened. But not in the way you might think. The B&N cafe at the Mall of GA was taken over by girls, Teen Identity girls.

Today I met with the Teen Identity team of girls. I think they were a little giddy from finishing their first full week back in school. We took over 4 tables and thirteen chairs as the 11 girls, me, and my ever patient hubby met for about two hours to plan out the semester’s activities. As you can see, they had a blast. And so did I. (I even think Ron had a lot of fun, although he may never admit it.)

We talked about and scheduled their summer and fall themed senior portraits, creating fun YouTube videos, Senior Portrait Artists Model fashion shoots, and more. As we roll out the Teen Identity Photographers Network next month (read about it here), I’m looking forward to helping other photographers across the nation start their own Teen Identity teams to do amazing projects in their community like the ones we’ve been able to do with our girls.

Cheesin’ for the camera. Can you tell who’s giving me their fake smile?

Get a group of teen girls together and you never know what to expect, especially when Taylor’s in the house.

Budding photographer Sarah brought her film camera for photography class. I may need to recruit her!

Gotta love Niki cheesin’ in the background compared to Sarah looking confused in the foreground. Classic.

I Admit It, I’m Selfish (D301)

In the final stretch of this 365 challenge and in the first 10 days of my 75-DAY SPRINT TO THE FINISH, I’m having to change things up. Committing to losing 30 pounds in 10 weeks requires some intense focus… and to complete that along with the 3 rules I’m already keeping each day to complete tasra365… that means I’ve got to be pretty serious about my time and even my food.

I’m having to be more selfish, with my time, energy, food, schedule. In the past and even still, I tend to think of being selfish as a negative, a dirty word. But when I think about it in terms of this challenge, I have to rethink that assumption. Is it bad for me to be selfish with my time if it means I’m accomplishing a major goal that ultimately benefits hundreds of others? Is it bad for me to be selfish with my food or specific meals I have to eat in order to stay on a diet that gets me back in shape and on track so I have more energy to invest time and energy in my family and those I love? Of course the answer is no, it isn’t bad. So then, by default, being selfish can’t be all bad either.

What do you think about that? Are you selfish?

Tonight I selfishly made my own dinner before anyone else’s in order to stay on schedule and keep my metabolism going. According to the hubby, it looked tasty. I would’ve made more, but we had limited ingredients and I had limited time… more food takes more time. It was tasty and the perfect subject for my photos. So many food photos lately, I’m starting to feel like a food blogger.

Sweet Potato Fries are easy to make and not really fried. I just peel the potato and cut into fries. Then use a little Amish butter in the pan to cook until lightly browned. Once done, I sprinkle cinnamon and stevia.

For the grilled garlic mushroom and onions, I use Amish butter again, grill the onions until soft, then add the sliced mushrooms. I like them to brown a little and get close to carmelized, then I add garlic and serve.

Camera Manual: Page 79 – White Balance.

Images: Looked at images by Leila Jones today. If you haven’t heard the news, Leila’s family is in the midst of a tragic loss…. their 18-year old daughter went missing Sunday and her body was found today. Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.


If you’ve been around since the inception of the tasra365 photo challenge (started after a dinner conversation with master photographer Scott Bourne and later watching Julie & Julia in the theater) then you know that our time is coming to an end. (Cue sad music.)

There is something exciting, liberating, and also saddening about nearing the end of a challenge. So instead of just sitting back and meeting status quo on this challenge, I’m taking it up a notch for myself (and you if you’re up for it).

Yesterday I announced that I’m launching a full campaign and challenge to take better care of myself. I also confessed that the time I’ve spent reading my camera manual (nearly 3 times from start to finish), looking at others images, and taking my own images every day is time that I haven’t spent focused on improving or at least maintaining my health and weight.


Starting tomorrow, I am giving myself the remaining ten weeks of this challenge to get myself and my body back.

In practical terms… I’m committed to losing 30 pounds in 10 weeks.

It’s a challenge, to be sure, but so is tasra365. I didn’t know if I could really do that and I’ve surprised myself. So why not do it again? I’ve broken it down in manageable pieces. I know exactly what I’m eating (based on Detox for Women by Natalia Rose and Winning by Losing by Jillian Michaels). And I know exactly how many calories I need to burn every day.

I’ve been inspired by the new Biggest Loser spinoff, Losing It with Jillian. Have you seen it? Seriously inspiring and seems more realistic because she only works with the families for one week then they are left on their own for the remaining 7 weeks before she checks up on them again. In the latest episode, one woman lost 78 pounds in eight weeks. I know Jillian is a bit much, but you have to give her credit for the results her clients have.


You may not need to lose weight, maybe you just need to exercise more or sleep more. Maybe it’s as simple as drinking more water. I’d like to challenge you to pick something you’d like to change and focus on making it happen over the next 75 days. It’s a sprint to the finish… the finish of tasra365, the end of summer, and for me… almost right up to my birthday.


  1. Define your goal. For me, that’s 30 pounds lost in 10 weeks.
  2. Break down your goal. 30 pounds = 105,000 calories = 10500 cal/wk = 1500 cal/day. I need to create a 1500 cal deficit every single day. Make it daily like the 365 challenge… one image, one page in manual, viewing other images. You can do anything for a day.
  3. Do the math. Even if you just need to increase your water intake, do the math of how many times you need to refill your water bottle. For me I had to get my BMR, which I had tested about 18 months ago. You can use an online calculator to figure it out too. My personal BMR is 300 calories less than the calculators say which is important to know… otherwise I’d be eating an extra 300 calories a day and wondering why I can’t lose the weight (but it’s a good base number to start with if you haven’t had yours tested). Based on my BMR, I need to eat 1200 calories a day, which means to create a calorie deficit, I’m going to have to rely on exercise and burning calories not starvation.
  4. Set the timing. Now that I know exercise is key to my success, I have set a schedule for when I am going to work out, how long and what I’ll be doing. I even joined a gym for the first time in two years and already went for the first time today.
  5. Get buy-in from key stakeholders. My husband is a key stakeholder in this process. It’s going to mean strict adherence to eating and exercising, not to mention extra time working out. Making sure he’s committed to the plan as well will go a long way toward my success. Think about who can help and who can sabotage you and work to get their buy-in, help them see the benefit of them supporting you.
  6. Find a buddy and accountability. My daughter is joining me in the healthy eating portion of the plan (not the weight loss). It helps to have a friend along. I’m also enrolling you as support too! Please feel free to check in on me daily via the blog, twitter or facebook.
  7. Prepare for setbacks. I know 75 days of complete commitment will be hard. I know I’m going to be sore, tired, and may even want to give up at some point. That’s why having buy-in from key stakeholders, having a buddy and accountability, and planning all need to be done ahead of time. But even then, when the setbacks come it’s crucial to be flexible and roll with the punches instead of giving up altogether.

So… what do you think? Let me hear your thoughts, your goals and whether or not you think you might join me… even if just in some small way!


There are things I would like to have to make it easier… a Body Bugg to accurately track my calories eaten and burned, a Foam Roller to ease my aching muscles, weighlifting gloves so I don’t get calluses… BUT I’m going to start anyway. Maybe the stars will align and someone will send me a Body Bugg they aren’t using or the company will send me one to review. Perhaps I’ll run across a clearance sale on foam rollers. Until then, I’m going to make it work with what I have… and trust that what I need will show up.

Today’s images are a result of our grocery run to Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck). We stocked up on healthy food for the entire week and have a clear plan. The eggplant will be part of our evening stir fry. The butter is straight from an Amish farm! How cool is that. Butter will be used to cook instead of oils… you may think that’s weird since I’m losing weight, but it’s about eating whole food, not processed and the butter will be used sparingly.

Photographing a True Poser on White Seamless Background (D292)

I don’t know where he gets it. Maybe he was born with it, maybe it’s me… the photographer with a camera always ready to capture his faces and poses… maybe it’s his dad… the filmmaker with a pro camera out for every major family event… whatever the cause, we now have a true poser on our hands. He actually asks me to get my camera and shoot some images. His sister eggs his on from behind me too.

If you’re seeing more images of my kids, it’s for two reasons… 1) summer time and 2) I’m spending more time with them. Both are good things.

The other thing I’m doing is launching a full campaign and challenge to take better care of myself. I’ve been so proud and amazed at how far I’ve gotten in this 365 challenge, but I have to admit that my own health is a little worse for the wear. The extra time I’ve spent focusing on my photography has come at the expense of time I might have spent working out, planning better meals, or sleeping.

SO, I’ll tell you more details tomorrow. But starting Monday I’m launching an all out campaign to get myself and my body back. It’s a 75-day sprint to the finish challenge that will help me not only finish tasra365, but finish it with a sense of accomplishment in my photography AND myself. Big plans, big goals, big challenge.

Maybe you’ll join me?
Start thinking about what you might want to accomplish this summer and we’ll chat more tomorrow.

The Crazy Life of a Creative (D272)

Do you ever just think to yourself… “What in the world am I doing?”

The subject of my photos today had to be thinking that at some point. Who is he and why is he standing next to a freeway dressed like a leprechaun?

By the same token, who am I that as soon as I left the church building this morning, I pulled my camera out of my purse, rolled down the window and prepared… just in case something caught my eye. Who does that?

What are the chances that I’d have my camera poised and ready at just the moment this green guy in suit and top hat looked and waved in my direction? Obviously, not that unlikely since I captured two quick frames before we whizzed by on our way home.

Such is the crazy life of a creative. It causes us to do things that others may see as odd, out of the ordinary, even abnormal. So here’s to you this Sunday afternoon… a quote from the famous Apple Think Different Video…

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently… they change things, they push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones who do.

Tell me. What might someone else see as “cRazY” in your life as a creative?

Technical Knowledge and Images: Watched PBS documentary, The Wizard of Photography, about Eastman Kodak. Fascinating film about the man who put a camera in the hands of regular people, who democratized photography. While his business life was an incredible success, his life ended alone with suicide at 77.