By: Mariah Ashley
He wasn't technically voted into office, but he just
might be the best president we've ever had.
Whether Democrat, Republican, Tea Party-er, or Teetotaler,
at least we can all agree on Kid President's platform, Be More Awesome.
It's hard to argue with the message to "Be More Awesome" (in everything
you do). Kid President teaches us that we should be more kind and be less
boring, not to mention that that Diabetes is pronounced (dahy-uh-bee-teez), not Diabeetus. Thank
you for clearing that up Kid President, Wilfred Brimley sure made a mess out of
Kid President has met President Obama, kissed Beyonce,
interviewed Macklemore, and danced with Steve Carell and the Despicable Me
Minions, all because he spends his time being more awesome. Kid President knows
what he is talking about. It's time to listen to Kid President.
Do I digress? This article is supposed to be a recap of my
own awesome experiences at #IUSA14. You may wonder, What exactly does Kid President have to do with PPA?
Turns out, everything!
Everywhere I turned at IUSA14 I saw PPA's message to "Be More." Be More was
plastered on pamphlets, flyers, posters, photographs and videos all over the
convention and I have to say the message got through to me. I do want to Be More! Much like Kid President, PPA's
inspiring campaign of awesome has encouraged me to contemplate my full
potential of Being More.
The best part about PPA's Be More message? You fill in
the blank yourself. For example, this year, I will Be More __________. There's
no wrong answer!
And let's face it; most of us are going to Imaging
because we are looking for answers, some of us with a little more desperation
than others. In 2013, I was the blurry eyed, traumatized, desperate type. I
needed to Be More... able to stay in business and Be More... likely to pay
myself. I was looking for fiscal answers to my woes and I found them by going
to seminars about branding, marketing, social media and also by getting advice
from our friends at PPA Business (formerly Studio Management Services (SMS)).
This year I needed different types of answers. I was
looking to Be More... Inspired, Be More... Educated, Be More... Purposeful and Be More Thankful. I
even found an answer to a question I didn't know needed answering, how I could
Be More... Extroverted.
The magic of Imaging is that the answers are all there,
no matter what your questions. You just need to Be More Present, and Be More
Focused to find them. And so Trish and I set off to find the answers we both needed.
What's the best way to Be More Educated? Take a class!
And so we did, More Crazy Stupid Light with Scott Robert Lim. We were hoping to
get our lighting learn on and walk away with some new flashy tricks up our
sleeve. Scott taught us some cool lighting techniques but something else he
taught us about inspiring confidence in your clients was infinitely more
He said, "If I don't feel like I am a beautiful or
worthy person I won't be able to get that from my client. It will be the blind
leading the blind. You've got to come in strong and confident to see the beauty
in a person and bring that out. You've got to overcome your own baggage."
Woah. I've never heard anyone say that before. Lots of people
talk about how to pose your subject. But who says you've got to feel beautiful
yourself before you even step into the room with your client? Thank you Scott,
I will strive to Be More Loving of myself.
Another class we attended was From Concept to Creation: A
Fashion Shoot with Brian DeMint. To say Brian is a character is a major
understatement. He bought his camera at Best Buy because the sales kid there told
him to. He uses a kit lens and when questioned, appeared to be unsure about
what f/stop he was using. His lighting system is a 100 watt bulb with a metal
cover, which is generally used to hatch baby chickens not to glamorize models.
By all accounts, his photos should suck.
They don't. They're lovely, interesting and unique. Brian
is the Jack White of photography. He could literally pull a camera out of a
dumpster and make a beautiful image with it. Brian added this gem to my pile of
treasures, "If everyone loves your work maybe you are a little too
bland." Thank you Brian for inspiring me to Be More Daring, and to focus
less on my equipment and more on my imagination.
Our next stop was a lecture, Moments Not Poses with Ross
Oscar Knight, where we learned to Be More Prepared. Before listening to Ross I
felt that Trish and I had the market cornered on being prepared. After all, we
practice the 7P's; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor
Performance. However, Ross's level of preparedness makes us look like a couple
of circus clowns. Blending the math and science side of his brain with his
creative side, he has literally developed a formula for success. He unselfishly
shared his biggest mistakes, in the process tossing me this gem, "You
honor your clients by being prepared."
What does being prepared have to do with moments? When
you are as prepared as Ross is, you can live in the moment "letting go and
letting the images flow." Thank you Ross for showing us how to Be More
Prepared and therefore be better photographers.
Another lecture we attended literally blew my mind.
Seriously, my mind exploded around minute 45 of Jeffery Shaw's, Prosperity and
Purpose: The photography Business Through a Different Lens. It does hurt a
little when your mind explodes, which would account for the sobbing and
sniffling. Seriously, it was embarrassing. Jeffrey had many great things to
teach us about our business, but what he taught me about myself has forever
altered me as a human being. I know, crazy right? How you ask?
Well, first, Jeffrey talked to us a bit about
"Finding Your Purpose." What it is that keeps you going? What do you
value? What do you believe? What is the deeper need of your clients beyond
questions he urged us to ask ourselves, but my mind was a blank! I sat
struggling with these questions for the next 15 minutes until Jeffrey shared a
little story about his "Limiting Beliefs" (his baggage). There's that
As a child, Jeffrey hated games, (so do I) because it
meant someone would have to lose. He also feared he wouldn't be picked to play
when teams were chosen (me too). He said, "It wasn't that I would be the
last one chosen, it was that I hid in the back of the line because I didn't
want to play the game."
Commence flowing of tears, running of snot, and choking
back of sniffles. I know it's hard to believe, but as a child I was never the
first one picked for any team and was never a shining star to anyone but (maybe)
my mother. Like Jeffrey, after a while I just got sick of the game and hid in
the back of the line. In that moment, I felt sad for the little Mariah who used
to hide and I decided that big Mariah wouldn't be doing that anymore.
Then I was struck with the answer to the question: What
do I believe and what is my clients higher need?
I believe I am really good at drawing out the beauty in
the self conscious client, the shy client, the introverted client, making them
feel like a shining star on their wedding day. My clients are not celebrities
but come hell or high water they will feel like one when I am done with them. Give
me your worst case wall flower, they are putty in my hands because I understand
them, they are my peeps. Because of Jeffrey's insight, I can Be More Purposeful
and will Be More Extroverted.
I have so much gratitude in my heart for the wonderful
speakers who shared of themselves. In a room full of hundreds of people, I often
felt they were talking directly to me. Thank you also to Gregory Heisler who
taught me to Be More Evocative and Roberto Valenzuela whose hilarious, self-deprecating
stories inspire me to Be More Spicy. I'll be "adding some hot sauce" to my
pictures for sure.
This brings me to my final Be More wish. I wish for
myself and encourage all of you to Be More Thankful. Don't sit by and be a
"taker." If someone has shared with you a story, useful information, words
of encouragement, or a piece of themselves that has helped you personally or
professionally, tell them so! Talk to them face to face, tweet about it, or send
them an old fashioned thank you note. It doesn't matter the avenue of gratitude
as long as you express it. Heck, kiss them if you feel it's appropriate.
About the author:
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van, grew up on a cranberry farm and i
s happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.