My First (and last?) Customers

June 3rd, 2008

“Heidi, do you take pictures for other people?”

My head jerked up and I eyed the woman sitting across from me at my kitchen table.

I was the new Bear Den Leader for our church’s Cub Scout Pack and the woman sitting with me was my new assistant.

We were planning out the next month’s Den meetings and the last thing I expected was for her to say those words.

Silence hung in the air.

“Uh… no,” I finally stammered, “I mean–a few people have asked me to, but I told them I wasn’t sure. And I was going to tell them no, but now I’m kind of thinking about trying it. But how did you know I take pictures?”

My heart rate was sky high and words were spewing from my mouth at an alarming speed.

“My husband heard you enjoy taking pictures and he wanted me to ask if you’d do it for us,” she answered with a level of calmness I was light years away from, “We have three kids and I really want to get some pictures done before my son gets any bigger.”

“Oh,” was all I said.

“So….., will you do it?” she finally asked point blank.

Holy smokes! I thought, What do I say???

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess,” I started spewing again, “I mean–I’ll have to check with my husband and it would have to be after my son went to bed but I guess maybe we could do something sometime probably.”

“Great!” she said, “What do you charge?”

And that’s when my lungs deflated and my brain shut down.

“Uh…..,” I said, staring at the floor uncomfortably and then hesitantly meeting her eyes as I told her as fast as possible.

Strangely enough, however, she wasn’t scared off by my blabbering and officially set up an appointment with me.

And from that minute on, my blood pressure skyrocketed and my intestines tied themselves into 50 million knots.

Then I had the same thoughts over and over again…..

Holy smokes, what am I going to do?

You’ve never been paid for taking pictures before!

You don’t even know anything about photography!!

And you think you’re going to take pictures of three kids who’ve never even met you before?!

Holy smokes!

And then the day of our appointment finally arrived and it was time for me to step up to the plate and see how I did.

So, I put the Bubbers King to bed, took a deep breath and then went downstairs to prepare my little “studio” of black fabric hooked to the ceiling.

Then I heard the pitter patter of little customer feet at my front door and I knew the moment of reckoning had come.

So, I opened the door and welcomed them in.

Things went as planned at first, but it wasn’t long before the children became children and started throwing curve balls at me.

Then I had to take it up a notch and work even harder to get them to hold still, smile and look at me all at the same time.

All the while I worriedly checked the pictures on my camera’s screen to see if they were turning out.

And try as I might to keep my spirits high, my inner confidence began to nose dive and I started to convince myself that I’d gotten in over my head.

I didn’t tell my friend, though, I just grit my teeth, dug in my heels and did the darndest best job I knew how to do.

And I decided that if she hated them, then I wouldn’t charge her a penny.

Two hours later, we finally called it quits and they packed up and went home.

Then I collapsed onto the couch in a pathetic heap and weakly begged my Prince Charming to get me a glass of refreshing water and the plate of dinner I’d been too nervous to eat before the shoot.

He chuckled and asked, “It was that rough, huh?”

I rubbed my weary eyes and nodded, “That was a million times harder than speech therapy!”

A few days later, I recovered enough to finally look at the pictures and assess the damage I had done.

I sifted out my favorites with an overly critical eye and did some editing.

Then my friend came over to choose which ones she wanted and to settle up the bill.

By that time, I had entirely convinced myself that she would be completely dissatisfied and never ask me to take pictures again.

Oh well, I thought to myself as I watched her scroll through the pictures on my computer, I tried and I failed. And now I know I’m not cut out for it.

As she looked through the pictures, she nonchalantly remarked, “So, I’d like you to take some more of my son in a couple of months. And then I’d like you to take a whole family shot in October. Does that work for you?”

Ever so slowly, I lifted my head from the book I was reading to the Wooga Man.

What did she just say? I thought.

When I didn’t respond, she glanced at me and asked again, “Would that work for you?”

“But, um,” I started sputtering, “I’m not doing it anymore.”

“What!?!” she cried and whipped around to look at me, “What do you mean? Why??”

“Well, because, you know!” more sputtering, “It was harder than I thought it would be and I didn’t think you’d like them.”

“What do you mean you didn’t think I liked them?” she burst out, “I told you I liked them! I wouldn’t say I liked them if I didn’t. And I definitely wouldn’t ask you to do it again if I didn’t like them! Why did you think I wouldn’t like them??”

“Because you could get better ones from a real studio,” I told her.

“Maybe,” she said, “But they wouldn’t let me have a CD of the pictures and you do, so I’d rather go to you. Do you have another reason? Was it not worth your time? Do I need to pay you more?”

I continued the conversation with more spewing and confusion–caught completely off guard that she was happy with my service.

And I still haven’t decided if I’ll do it again, but these are some of my favorites from that night in history that I perceived as a failure but was apparently a success…..

PICT0143 for blog

I started the shoot with her sweet little boy (who made me want at least forty-two more newborn babies!!).

PICT0171 for blog

And then I switched to her oldest daughter who did anything I asked and made me sigh with relief.

PICT0234 for blog

After that was her middle child: an adorable two-year-old with a spunky flair for wanting to do her own thing.

And it was around this time that I had convinced myself I was doing a horrible job, so I hauled the girls outside to see if I could salvage things.

PICT0256 for blog

So we stepped outside the French doors and I asked silly questions to get a smile.

PICT0285 for blog

Then I sat them next to our tool shed.

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And made up corny “knock-knock” jokes.

PICT0301 for blog

And then I told them not to look at me and not to smile–but they wouldn’t listen! :)

PICT0319 for blog

Then I caught a brief reflective moment that I just loved.

And then they begged me to play on my swing set and I said, “Okay, after one more pose you can play…..”

PICT0352 for blog

And then I thought to myself, “I have no idea if any of these will turn out…..”

PICT0357 for blog

“….. but hot dog if these kids aren’t dang cute!!”

*

Pictures by: Heidi (on the verge of apoplexy)

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15 Comments

Kati | 6/3/2008 11:23 pm

Heidi, they turned out great! I’m sorry it was so stressful, but you caught some great moments :)

 
charlotte | 6/4/2008 5:56 am

Heidi, you’re a natural! If we still lived there I’d pay you take pics of my kids! Seriously – those are waaaay better than what I get at Sears. Want to take a road trip? ;)

 
Suzanne | 6/4/2008 6:26 am

Heidi, dont ever doubt yourself these are beautiful photos and if I lived closer I would be happy for you to take our family portraits. They have turned out so well and I hope you dont mind me asking if you used any extra flash, natural light or do you have some secret receipe.
Keep taking photos you are a natural.

 
Kara | 6/4/2008 8:01 am

I love the outdoor pictures. They turned out great! I would love to have you take pictures of my kids. Lucky for you (and too bad for me), I’m too far away! :) I think you should keep doing it. Like anything else, the more you practice the easier it will be. It could become really fun for you!

 
andrea | 6/4/2008 8:04 am

you have a wonderful gift!!!! use it as much as you can. those pictures turned out great and i agree with kara. practice makes perfect, but i already think it’s perfect!!

 
Julie | 6/4/2008 8:41 am

Heidi,
I can understand how that could be really stressful. But for your credit, those pictures turned out great.
A lot better than the last pictures I got done at a studio. I felt like that photographer didn’t know what she was doing either. I think you aught to keep it up, if you feel like you can handle the stress.
I think for you photography is a gift, and a talent. And you know what they say happens if you fail to use your talents. :)

 
JS | 6/4/2008 8:49 am

Well, if you really don’t want to do photography for other people and feel bad for saying no, you could always set your price to high, then maybe they will decide differently. But on the other hand, if it is something you like you enjoy doing you could charge a small fee to cover your costs of the film, or disk, or prints ,or whatever, and use that as good practice time! And remember that yes, kids are hard to take pictures of, but dogs are much harder! And I think Sears may give a cd of photos.

 
Wandering Nana-Linda | 6/4/2008 10:08 am

You are too hard on yourself. You really did a wonderful job. The difference between you and the others is that you have caught the child and their personality, not just a picture of the child. You have caught the “tell me a story” picture. You really do have a talent.

 
Shawna | 6/4/2008 10:17 am

I think your picutres are beautiful. You did an amazing job with these pictures. If I lived closer, I would love for you to take picutres of Mr. D and Mr. H.

 
tearese | 6/4/2008 10:52 am

I was reading along, and wondering if you were ever going to show us the pictures…I’m glad you did! I like the baby, and the ones by the shed the best. You sounded just like I feel when people want me to draw things for them. I want to, but I don’t, and I have no idea what to charge! I’m glad your first venture was successful…
oh, I have two blogs I look at because the ladies who do them have excellent photos. If you’re interested, they are:
http://shortonwords.blogspot.com/
and
http://peaceandpandemonium.blogspot.com/
the second lady does a lot of portraits for other people, and they’re really fun to look at!

 
apple | 6/4/2008 6:29 pm

You really did a great job. Those pictures are great!!!

 
Jesse | 6/5/2008 11:53 am

Great job! So how do you get cute, spunky, two-year-olds to smile like normal children? Mine wants only to stick her tongue out. Hopefully that phase will pass quickly. But really, looks like you got some rvery nice shots.

 
Melissa and Dorian Ducker | 6/6/2008 5:57 pm

That is such a FUNNY story!
And it’s funny that I’v always thought how absolutely wonderful your pictures are and always wondered if you’d take some of my family if I asked! :o)
Now I know that it scares the CRAP out of you. Let me know if you ever want to make some extra cash! We need a big family picture so bad.
And, I might just bug you again anyway…because I can!! You take the greatest pictures. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

 
Heidi | 6/17/2008 7:20 pm

Good job on the pictures!!! They turned out so cute. I love the ones outside and the girls are so cute. Their smiles are real smiles- love it. Keep it up if you can (if it’s not too stressful, which I think it would be for me!).

 
Josh | 6/17/2008 9:31 pm

This is the dad of the cute kids pictured above. Heidi, you did a great job. Please continue to do it. You have a repeat customer from us-if you’ll take us.

 

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