Friday, April 13, 2012

WE'VE MOVED!

    
   

...or click here to be rerouted
Don't forget to re-save your bookmark! xo

  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I AM MY MOTHER'S DAUGHTER.

It's that time of year again.... Spring, that is.  The time for cleaning, re-evaluating, organizing to the umpteenth degree, ridding yourself of stressors and beginning anew. Personally, it's my favorite. Much like my mother, any reason to clear the clutter and bring forth a fresh design to my living space is one of the most inspiring things I can do for my mind.  This year, is no different.

With the lack of space I have in my current apartment, a move is in the near future into a lovely Southport apartment complete with a claw foot bath tub (swoon) and double french doors to my bedroom (double swoon) - already my heart is fluttering with design possibilities, and frankly, I just can't keep them in my head any longer. Must. Blog. Design. Ideas.  :)

Right now, my room is constructed of dark colors.  I still have no idea why I thought this was a good idea. As the post reads, I am my mother's daughter - therefore I've embodied the constant urge to bring new life to any space I can get my hands on, and was fortunate enough to grow up with a bit of knowledge as far as smart design is concerned... my current bedroom, was not one of my brightest ideas.  It doesn't help that it's as big as a 2x4, but to cover it with deep golds, reds and purples? It's like a mad house.  Rarely do I feel calm or at ease when I enter the space that's supposed to put me to sleep.  It also doesn't help that clothing racks are right there on display, at the foot of my bed, staring at me in the face just begging to be spread out and given a little room to breathe. My dresses are on top of one another, and I try not to make eye contact, you know, to avoid the problem that's staring me right in the face.

With the next month being the first of many crazy months ahead (wedding season!) I knew that this new room design would have to be something airy and light. Whimsical, really. A place where I couldn't help but exhale (and mean it) every time I walked through those double french doors.  I picture white - everywhere, with touches of accent colors. But only ones that soothe.. light blues, grays, sage greens, blush pinks.. The colors that calm me. (oddly enough, those are my business colors. I see a pattern here)  Here's what I've collected via the dreamland that is Pinterest.  I'm excited to start shopping and putting things together, and even more excited to take photos and share with you what the outcome is.  Just give me.. oh.. a couple months ;)

Do you have a spring project that you're working on? What is it? Share in the comment box below!



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Hello, loves!  It's been a while since I showed my face on my own blog... and for that I'm sorry.  It's never something I wanted to pride myself on - the disappearing act.. but alas, life has sort of taken on its own course and I have had no choice but to keep up with it ;)  But really, the main reason for my absence is the blog re-design is in its final days (yay!) and we're working on the transition.. or, the merge, if you will.  If you have this blog bookmarked, I will be sure to create a post specifically for you so you know which URL to save.  Otherwise, if you're a link follower (meaning you click on the links that I post each day.. whether it be via Facebook or Twitter) you're in the clear ;) Just keep following right along.

Anyway! Today is something a little different. I'm not talkin' about photography. I'm not talkin' about business, or the lovely chaos that is my life. Nope! I'm here to support my amazing sister in law who's involved in a really wonderful project (we can't leak the details just yet) and in order to progressively work towards the outcome, this survey is being passed around hundreds of people in order to take a closer look. I would be so grateful if you'd be willing to take a few minutes out of your day today to complete this survey, and possibly send it along to your family and friends (please feel free to copy and past this blog post link, if that's easier)

The bonus? You very well could win $50 at the end of it ;)

THE SURVEY: http://svy.mk/Imr0Pt

Thank you so much for your support! I speak for everyone in my family when I say that. xoxo

(footnote: I will be back with regular blog postings next week. I can't wait - lots to share!)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

LITTLE LIFE UPDATE: IN iPHOTOS.

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately, so I've been doing my absolute best to embrace the quiet moments, and ensure that I'm surrounding myself with things and people I love as often as I can.  I think it's super easy for us to lose ourselves in times of struggle - I remember the first time my dad was diagnosed, I closed myself into this little cave, and was so insanely overwhelmed with my emotions and stressers, that everything (and I mean everything) suffered.  This time, I vowed to approach it differently. I vowed that I would let others in, I would listen to myself and to my body, and not deny myself of those long morning walks that I love so much, or taking a hot bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon. If I want that cupcake, I'm going to eat it. I'm going to take two hours out of my day to get over to North Avenue Beach, even though I know I'll only last about an hour or so.  I'm going to soak up every single moment I have with my nieces and nephews, with my parents, my sisters.. and I'm going to celebrate along with my friends who are planning weddings and taking new exciting steps in their lives.  Because the thing is, even when we're dealing with something, the rest of the world keeps turning.  It wont ever pause just because we want it to - but the beauty of it all... is that we have full control of the pace in which we move.  I choose.. to move slowly, and to take it all in. And I have to tell you, it feels pretty good.

This is how my life has been looking the past couple of months, in photographs from my iPhone.
(you can follow my feed over on Instagram / cassandraeldridge)







Monday, April 2, 2012

APRIL GOALS.

Well, shoot.

Me, the girl who prides herself on being over prepared and super organized, slipped through the cracks on this months goal list.  But here I am; owning up to it and ready to tell you... with a smile on my face.. that this past month was a huge success.

I do realize that the goal list for March was incredibly short and straight to the point.  No real deadlines needed to be met, other than the dreaded taxes, and all I really had to offer up was a ton of love to my family and frie--- ah, MAN. I actually just went back to my March Goals post to list them out here, and realized I definitely didn't fulfill two of them. Like, at all.  I take back every single thing that implied I kick butt. I don't. Not entirely, anyway.

I did put my family first. All the time. Almost every day, actually. I also put my family in ink!


Well, sort of.  For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (wait, why don't you?! ;) this is what my dad always says to me | "Love you so" in his handwriting.



I also have been pretty good about getting myself to the gym about 4 days a week.  Pushing myself back into the routine of spin class helps, too.  Once you sit down on that bike, there is no getting up. No, really. The instructor won't let you leave unless you're like a weird shade of green. You have to commit, and so far, it's been getting my ars into shape in all the right ways, and totally clearing my mind of any stressers. I swear by spin.

Now, my two failures this month... Working on my secret project. I have done NONE of this! I think about it often - does that count? No? Well then... oops.

Taking pictures of my personal life. Yeah, none of that, either. Unless a photo every other day or so on Instagram counts. Which I would be willing to debate that it does.  I really did intend on putting my point & shoot back into my purse where it belongs. Always within arms reach in case a wonderful moment happens - like when you run into your old college roommate on the street, or you see a famous actor. Whichever strikes your fancy.

This month, the month of April, I planned to go in eyes wide open.  This included not getting fooled on the dreaded first of April. But ALAS, my sister Brittany got me AGAIN.  She's amazing!  She's so believable, and I think I just love her so much that I'm willing to bank on anything she's saying as the truth. (Shouldn't she feel bad for taking advantage of me like that?)  It's a long story as to what she did, but she pulled some heartstrings and almost had me having a slight anxiety attack for her, only to pull the rug right from under me.  This year's was a little less dramatic than last. You know, the year she told me that she was moving to CHINA. Not funny.

Anyway, back to having my eyes wide open. I'm going to embrace this month in all its glory, because it's the last month before wedding season really takes off.  I'm so excited to get into the grove of witnessing so many amazing love stories, but it really is a lot of work - wear and tear on the body, too.  So this month, I'm going to relax to the fullest. Enjoy my friends, enjoy the Chicago restaurant rooftops and patios, soak up the beach during the week and not feel bad when I call PeaPod to deliver my groceries, because I can't stop watching Khloe & Lamar (what? It's my one guilty pleasure)

This is all I really want out of this month.  To enjoy... everything. To enjoy life.  And to enjoy all of you, while I'm at it :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

LAKESHORE.

I think any photographer (or any artist, for that matter) can agree that when you come across the feeling of wanting to create something - anything - you never ignore it. You seize that moment and embrace it, head on. You don't ask questions, you don't even really blink, come to think of it. You just grab your gear, and go. 

Yesterday, I had one of those moments. I live further north downtown Chicago, and we have one of the most beautiful beaches. It's a little more secluded, and until I wrote this post ;) not many people even really know it exists. Or if they do, they're not quite sure how to get there since the trails are a bit tricky. 

It was pretty cold, and although the wind was breathing deep breaths through my hair, I paid no mind to any of it. I was in the zone, and I was in awe with how perfect the color palette of the day was.  That's one thing that will always make me fall in love with photography over and over again; it's constantly giving me new eyes.  My job is to witness the things that I used to so often over look, and to capture them, just as they are, in that moment. 

(some of these images are available for purchase over at my Etsy Shop)










Monday, March 26, 2012

FEATURED | HOW HE ASKED.

Today, I woke up in a fog. Too much sleep, perhaps? This never really made any sense to me. But alas, my eleven hours of deep sleep had me crippled in the early light of the morning. I reached for my phone and dialed my parent's house as I usually do; checking in to see how my daddy is doing, and of course, checking in to see how my super-hero of a mother is keeping things glued together, as always, so gracefully.  I figured using my vocal chords and having to really listen to what she was saying would clear the said fog that was clouding my over-tired mind. It didn't.

I stumbled out of bed, still half asleep, reaching for the coffee pot that wouldn't make itself, as much as I wished otherwise. I spilled, of course, as I usually do, and decided that in that moment, this was ridiculous. Keurig's were made for people like me. But then I snapped out of it and realized that I can make a friggin' pot of coffee - I didn't need to be such a diva about it.. tired or not.

It brewed, and I stared at it with such intensity I thought I'd burn a hole into the pot. I ate a banana to gain some energy. Nothing. I took my vitamins. Still nothing. I plugged in my laptop and trailed my coffee in my freezing cold palm, and lit a candle. Climbed under the blankets hoping that the lights of the computer screen and the words jumping out at me from my email would force my mind to wake up. But today was one of those lighter days where my inbox was telling me, "you can take the day off today, kiddo." In that moment, I rested my eyes once more. I closed them, actually. I listened to the sound of... nothing. The sound of silence, and embraced the fact that it's okay to be tired some days. It's okay to miss a class at the gym you had planned on attending. It's okay, because.. well, it just is.

So I closed my eyes. I wrapped both hands around my coffee, and I drifted for a few minutes. Taking in the scent of my Pumpkin Spice candle- one I will never stop burning just because fall is over. But then, for some reason, I opened my eyes and looked back over at my email, only to see that seconds prior, I had gotten something from How He Asked - one of the sweetest, most inventive wedding blogs to surface. A blog dedicated to the future bride and groom; not the photographer. While our work gets featured of course, their story gets shared from their perspective. Katie and Mike had been chosen, and I, all of a sudden, had woken up.

Thank you so much to How He Asked for loving Katie and Mike and their story as much as I do.. and for connecting to their images and their love for one another. I know I speak for all involved when I say we're humbled to the core :)

To see the entire feature, click here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

THE ESSENCE OF TIME.

I received an email the other day from a friend, and he said this:

Life is essence, like time is essence. You can only take every minute like its your favorite and every other like there was never a minute better. 

I honestly think I read it over at least twenty times, wanting to make sure I fully understood the meaning behind it all, because I loved the way it sounded, how it made me feel upon the first time I took it in. It came as a comfort from him for the current situation my family is in - handling my father's illness and coping the best way we know how; with humor and patience, love and positivity, strength and perseverance. 

What I didn't recognize until having read that line of comfort, was that the past couple of weeks have felt... well... different. I'm generally a pretty fast paced person. Impulsive, really. But as of late I've felt a shift. I walk slower down the streets of the Square. I look up more than usual; rather than down at my phone. I'm thinking longer, deeper, before choosing my words. I edit what information I want to share, and I do it carefully, whereas before I would treat myself as an open book to just about anyone.  This doesn't come from a place of being jaded, or like I haven't been appreciating the small things.  I think it's just the nature of change.  I didn't decide one day, "I want to slow down." It's been more of a natural progression that I'm just now noticing. I'm taking every moment and embracing it. Treating it as if there was never a moment better than the one I'm in right now.  And the best part of it all, is that it isn't forced.  It's all just sort of happening. 

I couldn't have thought of a better time for it, either. With wedding season right around the corner  and 32 weddings in the crossfire, this feeling of calm and readiness will hopefully guide me gracefully from one occasion to the next - where I hope to continue to embrace all of the little moments along the way.



Photos from my Instagram feed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

BUILDING MY BUSINESS | Q+A.

Over time, I've gotten a nice amount of emails asking the questions below. Generally it's about one or two, per email - sometimes its more general such as, "would you mind letting me know how you got started?" I kept telling myself that I wanted to put together a blog post dedicated to questions about building my business.  Please, I beg you ;) take this for what it is - my own personal experience. I do not claim myself to be an expert in entrepreneurship (hopefully one day!), I do however, claim myself to be someone who is insanely passionate about what they do for a living, and lending out any tips I can to those who are on the border of taking the brave leap to a brand new journey.  xoxo


WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST REGRET DURING THE PROCESS OF BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS? WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

To be honest, there isn't much that I'd do differently. That isn't to say that I haven't made mistakes - but as cliche as it all sounds, those mistakes led me to where I am today; and I'm happy. However, I would have become an official LLC right from the get-go. Instead, I decided to wait due to self-doubt. I wasn't sure that I would be good at this whole "entrepreneur" thing. I wasn't sure that my business would take off and grow the way that it has and continues to (in large part to all of my readers, so let me sneak in a warm loving thank you right here :)  So, I waited... Big mistake, for a couple of reasons. One, taxes. Second, that self doubt held me back from doing some great things early on. I let fear get in the way, and its a lesson well learned. 

Now? I'm fearless ;)  

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING IN THIS INDUSTRY?

Oh gosh.. there are so many amazing things about being in this line of work; the wedding industry especially.  The relationships that you build along the way is by far the most special thing, to me.  A lot is in part to the amazing world of social media. Gina Gomez and Camille Wynn, for instance, are two woman I admire and respect and consider "friends" even though we have yet to meet. How cool is that? Or the fact that I learned almost everything I wanted about this business just by connecting with Justin & Mary Marantz's blog. There are also endless opportunities for collaboration, and creativity explodes on a daily basis. If you play your cards right, and you're fair and kind to your peers, amazing things can happen. Another thing I love, that I learned early on, is that photographers (especially wedding photographers) are so eager and willing to help others in the business.  Again, I'll focus on Justin & Mary. As I mentioned they were a huge learning tool for me in my first year (and continue to be to this day) simply by putting it all out there on their blog for all of us to read and benefit from.  Their encouragement and zest for photography gave me the confidence that I needed to not waste another minute just dreaming about what I wanted to do. Believe it or not, this industry isn't competitive.  It's warm and inviting. And that, is a beautiful and rare thing when it comes to business.

...and being able to form your own schedule doesn't hurt either ;) 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW, IN YOUR OPINION, FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN THIS INDUSTRY? 

It is so important to know who you are, 100%, before diving into this business (or any business for that matter) You are your brand, you are your business, and what you deliver is a direct reflection of your morals and business ethics. Have the confidence in yourself to do great work, and you will. Also, know your gear. This should go without saying, but I think a lot of people assume that a good eye will get you wherever you need to go. While having great composition helps, you have to know the gear that you're working with for those tricky situations (dark chapels, a killer sun, temperamental reception lights, etc) - but really, you should know your gear because people are putting their trust in you to capture their most important day. Invest in your passion - read books, go to seminars in your area, ask questions. Have a desperate thirst for knowledge... never stop learning. 

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT GETTING SO MANY BOOKINGS? 

In my first year, I never turned down jobs. Weddings and lifestyle sessions alike, I wanted all of the experience I could get. I heard from someone in the industry that you should "only take on jobs that felt right and felt like "you" - I agree, but not for someone who is just starting out and trying to grow their business. Like I said above, you should be desperate for knowledge, and eager to photograph as many things as possible to define your style and learn who you are behind the camera. In doing this, I learned very quickly the importance of building trusting relationships with my clients and delivering on my promises. It was (and still is) the most important thing within the way I run my business - which brings lovely referrals from past clients, and this, my friends, leads to bookings! Lots of them. 85% of my weddings within my 2nd year have come from referrals from previous clients. The other 15% come from vendors I've worked with in the past (event planners, make-up artists, venue coordinators), being featured on wedding blogs (The Knotty Bride, Style Me Pretty, etc) and Google is a God-send. Make sure your analytics are in line and that you're showing up on the web. 

HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE WORK FLOW? HOW DO YOU KEEP FROM GETTING OVERWHELMED?

The wedding photography post-work can definitely be a beast of sorts, if you let it.  Again, my first year, I found myself swimming in a mess of images starting at me in the face with beading eyes - begging to be blogged, delivered, noticed.  While I met all of my timelines, I felt a sense of inner panic, and I promised myself that come 2012, this would change.  I've designed a fail-proof flow that should be a saving grace. Here it is, in bullet points so we're not here for years :) (keep in mind, this is stretched over a 4-6 week timeframe)
  • Immediately gather up all of the images from my second shooter(s) and put them into a labeled folder. The folder is immediately transfered onto my hard drive for peace of mind :) I do the same with my images once I return home
  • The next morning (assuming I don't have another wedding), I begin my culling process in iPhoto, flagging up to 800 images based on my gut reaction to the image. If I don't love it, I don't keep it.
  • After I've culled, I place them into a folder labeled "Jack and Jill Final Picks" and send them off to my favorite post-processing group, Photographer's Edit, for color correction and file organization. 
  • Once I receive my edits, I back these up onto my hard drive.
  • Each image is individually loaded into CS5 where I add my personal touches. I know this sounds incredibly anal, but I'm a perfectionist, and want to ensure that each image reflects my style and is cohesive to the collection. (also why it can take up to 6 weeks!) However, I don't fuss with the images more than a couple of actions - I want the natural beauty of the image to override the edits.
  • I choose a personal favorite (sometimes early on in the process) that will be my Sneak Peek for the blog. This will also show up on Facebook and Twitter where I will "tag" or "@" my clients.
  • After the "touches" to the images have been added, I create a folder called "Jack and Jill Album" where I choose a collection of favorites that I feel would be perfect for their wedding album (this is what I will show them during our follow-up consultation) 
  • Then, I create a folder titled "Blog" - here is where I choose my top 30 images that I will post onto my blog with a personal story of the couple. These are also the images that will go into a Facebook Album.
  • I also create an array of folders each titling the publications that I feel would best represent the wedding at hand. These images are the ones that I will send off for hopeful features.
  • After the blog post has been drafted and the submissions have been sent out, I upload every single image onto my website where my clients have their own password secured gallery. I love this, because this way the couple doesn't have to wait days to see all of their images. They're able to share them with family and friends immediately. 
  • Clients receive their package within 7-10 business days of the blog post date. The day I post, is the day their packages goes out in the mail. 
...So there you have it, the brief(ish) description of my post-work timeline! Wait... are you asleep?? Wake up! :)

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO FEELS OVERWHELMED WITH THEIR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS? 

I can't say this enough times: Take care of yourself. Always. For instance, this may make me sound like a pre-Madonna, but I'm okay with it - I require myself to take time out for a massage once a week during wedding season. NO EXCEPTIONS.  Generally on Mondays, since the weekends are when I'm working myself into the ground. You will be shocked at how much a small act of kindness to your body will make a difference. Alongside massages, I always make time to sneak off to the gym and spend time with friends. This gives me time to clear my head and keep me grounded. This job can become a lot about your clients (which is great!) but its good to remember who you are at the root of all of this, too, when you're not behind the lens.  Know when you need a break, listen to your body, and never be afraid to ask for help. Post-processing sites are amazing, and they're there for that reason.. to give you your life back :) Again, Photographer's Edit  is my go-to.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH REJECTION?

Ah, rejection. Embrace it! It's inevitable, and the thing is, everyone gets rejected. Even the best of the best. Never take it personal, because they've reached out to you already. They love your work enough to consider you. The only reason you're getting rejected is because you either a) are priced a little outside of their budget - which is okay! or b) you took far too long to respond - which is not okay! ;) Prompt responses are a must, and something your clients will commend you for - trust me. I get thanked for this on the regular.  In hindsight, you shouldn't expect to book 100% of the clients that reach out to you. In my opinion, that means its definitely time to raise your prices. Know your worth. The rest will take care of itself. 

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BUILDING A BUSINESS, IN YOUR OPINION?

That, is a loaded question!  I have to say that staying true to who you are, and using your own voice. Once you figure out how to do this, you will have the time of your life! But in the beginning, it's super hard. I won't try and sugar coat it. You can become overwhelmed by all of the success that's happening around you with other people in the industry, and it's so easy to assume you should be doing exactly what they're doing, speaking exactly how they're speaking, tweeting what they're tweeting, shooting how they're shooting. On the contrary - in order to stand out in this industry, being unique is everything. It's beautiful. The most vital piece of advice I can give you is to completely embrace who you are as a person, as an artist. From there, your brand will be born, and consistency will follow. Once you come to terms with your inner-self and why you're in this business, the rest will just come naturally; it will show up for you day in and day out; reminding you that you're special, and that you deserve to be here doing what you love. Because you do. 

HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU SHOULD BE PRICED?

I think this is a great question, but its a strange one to answer because it sounds kind of... vain. You have to compare your work to others in your industry and ask yourself, "Am I as good as this person? Do I think I offer something that they don't? Well okay, they're getting a lot of clients, so I know I need to be priced within that neighborhood." From there, as mentioned above, if you notice that you're booking every single client that comes your way, it's time to re-evaluate. Also, look at your experience level. During my first year, I was incredibly affordable because I had only shot a handful of weddings. I had no right to be pricing myself as high as say, a 5 year veteran in the industry being published monthly on Style Me Pretty. I knew I would get there some day - and now, I've had so much more experience that my prices need to reflect this. I offer things to my clients that are worthy of costs, and I charge accordingly for the time that's invested into each and every job. Know what you and your business are worth - but whatever you do, don't sell yourself short. 

I love this quote from one of my favorite wedding bloggers, Alison aka: The Knotty Bride: "The only thing that's as important as being able to do what you love, is staying profitable so that you can do it FOREVER." 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER WHILE ON THE JOURNEY TO BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS? 

Enjoy every single minute. You are living your dream! You get to wake up, every day, knowing that you are doing what you love. You are creating timeless images that your clients will cherish for the rest of their lives. You are building new relationships with people who believe in your talent. You are documenting love, day in and day out. Go ahead and pinch yourself. This is real life.  ;)