Tag Archives: Photography

Turning Art Into A Living

I realized something earlier this week: aside from my business networks and friends in West Seattle, not very many of my friends know what I’m doing with my photography these days. They may remember some art show stuff or the Tree Woman Project from last year. And, yes I have a few creative side projects on the back burner, which when they’re ready, I’ll share here on Holli with an i.

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But, what am I doing now? I’m a portrait photographer focusing on serving the business community in Seattle with marketing photos, head shots and those images in between.

I’ve been focusing on business photography since January 2015, because it uses my skills and experience in a unique way that allows me to work while the kids are in school or after they’re in bed. And, yes, I’ve got a dedicated website at NativeLightPhoto.com as well as on Facebook.

The reason for the shift in my focus is quite honestly, because I need to make a living with my art. I wasn’t successful doing the art fair circuit selling my art nature photography. I got to the point where the art was paying for all of the fees and costs for production to be out selling, but it was a lot of work away from my family for about $43 in profit. This new business is another branch to my experience where I need to stretch out and try to see if I can really make a living from my art, even if it’s applied to a format that is more of a service than an art. This is kind of like the painter who turns to graphic design to make a living while painting on the weekends for fun. Yes, some painters make a living from their art printing it on pillows and canvass, but some need a day job too. This is my “day job” photography business.

Tree Woman Project In Review

A hearty Thank You to everyone who attended the Arts In Nature Festival last weekend.

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It was such a fun experience to not only show off a project I’ve worked so hard on over the past 10 months, but to also give a little bit of the “Tree Woman” experience by braiding hair and making crowns. Here is the first family group to get their crowns on to enjoy the festival in fashion:

Family of nature lovers!
Family of nature lovers!

The cabin exhibit was a sensory experience: I created a soundtrack from recordings during hikes this summer to capture the sounds of the forest. We added branches from our friend’s tree farm on the Olympic Peninsula to the shelves and walls of the cabin which surprised people the most: the pleasant sound of the trees! The visual part I worked the longest on for ways to display the Tree Women in a way that had variety. From tiny wood mounted prints to large canvasses and extra large prints hung from clothes pins…here are a few phone photos:

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The entrance of the cabin.
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A braided flower crown.
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Canvass mounted portraits.

And a few photos of me with a couple of me and the Tree Women as well as with the Art Program manager, Yeggy.

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The project was a success thanks to my wonderful community. I am thankful for everyone who help me pursue my crazy idea. Each model was a friend or acquaintance. One of them I had only met through Facebook and the parent community. Another I met at a model session a month before. My Mom and cousin helped make crowns and braid hair on the second day of the festival, which was wonderful since it seems twice as busy as the day before. And, the supplies of birch branches, willow and hydrangeas were from my family and friend’s gardens. The tree branches for the cabin came from our friend’s tree farm.

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My favorite moment from the event itself was a conversation I had with a boy who I believe was about 8 years old. You see, I had imagined the show would strike a cord in the imaginations of women, but it really engaged many men and people of all ages.

Boy: “What is that smell that’s so good?”

Me: “That’s the smell of the trees.”

Boy: “But why do they smell so good?”

Me: “It might be the type of tree. (knowing they were Noble Fir “Christmas tree “branches)”

Boy: “No, I mean, why do they smell like that in there (cabin) but not out here (outside)?”

Me: “The tree smells stronger when you cut it. Out here the trees haven’t been cut. The branches in there have and that is why they smell so much stronger for us.”

Being in Seattle and surrounded by amazing programs that get city kids into nature, I never would have imagined giving a boy the first opportunity to see what a tree really smells like.

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I wish that every Tree Woman model could have attended, and it’s difficult to find another venue that could provide another such experience. The best I can do for now is share a slideshow of the exhibit photos with the sound track…enjoy!

Tree Women Project: You’re Invited

You’re Invited!

The debut of this personal project celebrating the stages of womanhood and the seasons of nature through our connection to trees.

Arts In Nature Festival this August 22nd & 23rd

Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-6pm, tickets and more info here: Arts In Nature Festival.

Creative Personal Portrait Session

The fun thing about personal projects is that you get a chance to show off what you’re capable of beyond what you normally do. My Tree Woman Project inspired a friend to revisit her favorite portrait from college taken by a friend on film.

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We took inspiration from it, and had a lot of fun creating something new. Though we didn’t have a snowy forest to work with, we did find some amazing tree branches in the Kubota Gardens. Like the ying and yang of life, I think these two personalized portraits are lovely in their opposite tones, but complimentary in style.

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I also realized just how much  I enjoy a creative challenge and trying new things. So, if you have a photograph from your past and want to recreate it or something new, I’m game!

xo,

Holl

Shop Closing: Lessons From Etsy

I have been an Etsy fan since a year after it first began. It boasted 100,000 users/sellers in 2006. Back then, I had my first baby and we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. I had found myself new to the Stay At Home Mom thing, and got crafty. Etsy was a place where I could sell my projects and buy unique items from fellow crafters around the US. And, I had high hopes that it would be a forum where I could help contribute to our family income.

Instead, I found myself without much time to put into the shop as parenthood took a lot more time and energy than I anticipated. So, the crafter in me took a long nap. Then, the creative part of me found an outlet in photography. I had my first art show in January 2012. My business license shows that I started in December 2011, but I wasn’t prepared to sell anything until January. The first art show was fun and gratifying. That lead me to open my second Etsy shop, and I even took a class on how to grow my shop through meeting people at art shows and growing my following.

It seemed promising, but I didn’t make my first Etsy sale until 9 months later, and it was to a neighbor (who is awesome, BTW)! That motivated me to keep going, and with each new art show, I found my sales on Etsy coming from strangers. In all, I’ve made just enough from those sales to cover the Etsy fees (they are small, but add up)…

Art2bToday, I find myself at that point where I need to close the shop. My creative energy is being focused on portraits, and I have to admit that while I will always love fine art nature photography, I can’t do all the things. I have my limits, and admitting that feels like failure, but I’m hoping to move forward with better focus on providing the same quality of my fine art photography in portraiture.

Here’s my past 6 months ledger to prove it (and I haven’t done the annual calculations to pay taxes on those sales yet):

ART SALES Date Fees/sales
Etsy 6/1/2015 -$6.00
Prolab (magnets) 5/8/2015 -23.07
Etsy 5/1/2015 $0.00
Etsy 4/1/2015 $0.00
Etsy 3/1/2015 $0.00
Etsy 2/1/2015 $0.73
Etsy 1/20/2015 SALE $20.00
Etsy 1/1/2015 -$7.76
Profit -$16.10

This experience has taught me that to make Etsy work, you have to work it. Etsy is a great vendor store-front for those who don’t want to manage e-commerce on their websites, but it’s like a giant store. No one will find you unless you stand there to greet and direct them. You’ve got to do the work.

My work is shifting, and that is why the Etsy shop is closing. I decided to make this fun for everyone, because I honestly do not want to have the 2 large boxes living in my garage for the next 25 years full of art, magnets and postcards. I want to see each item find a home.

Take a look and enjoy 50% off of EVERYTHING! I can’t discount shipping, but if I could, I would do that too. I’ll be officially closing the shop on July 10, 2015. Use coupon code: CLEAROUT when checking out to get the discount. And, thank you for following my art photography journey!

Onward,

Holli

BOLIVIA BOUND!

It’s been quiet around here, but that’s because there’s been a flurry of activity. From a little family vacation to working as hard as I could to keep up with client work, and now to prepare for Bolivia!

I would not be able to go on this adventure – to do good while learning and expanding my photography skills – if it weren’t for my husband who first supported my crazy idea. And, the neighbor who volunteered to help me launch the Indiegogo campaign. Then came the flood of support from family and friends!BoliviaBound

 

There have been two very good questions, though, from strong women I admire:
1. How will you?

When I first announced at a family gathering that I was going to do this, she asked how I would be able to – knowing that I didn’t have the funds to go right away. I said that I didn’t know exactly, but that with a vote of confidence and check from a cousin, I was sure I could ask for more help and earn the rest…the truth is that I’m almost there. I’ve put some of the trip on credit, which is a first for my business. This is a workshop/location/cause that fits into a place in my heart that I can’t quite explain. So, I’m taking a leap of faith and following.

And, I’m grateful for everyone who is helping to make this happen: from my Mother-In-Law who is going to fill my shoes for a week to the friend who referred a portrait client.

2. Why not teach the people photography instead?

This is an excellent question, and one that I think could be asked of any group or non-profit who needs to raise awareness. First, the non-profit is working on basic life needs like food and childhood nutrition education. While there may be one or two workers who know how to use a camera, photography is not just the process of pushing a button. The job of photography in this instance is to tell their story in a way that engages and encourages others to get involved. Second, there’s the technical issues with equipment in remote villages – if a camera breaks down it might not be cost effective to fix it or to buy another one. And, I could drone on about lack of Internet access and the other technical details.

There are some who are trying to help aid in educating and enabling those less fortunate to tell their story, but it’s not the most effective model yet*. That’s why non-profits need photographers and videographers. Think about it: You get a letter telling you about a situation so dire it sounds unbelievable, and it’s typed in size 10 font on a double-sided sheet – is that as effective as a short clip or few photos you see your friend share?

On a more personal note, I have had questions about inequality and lack of awareness since moving into the North Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle. The heritage of this part of West Seattle lies in depressing statistics and a bad reputation as a place where gentrification and inequality mix like a sick city experiment. Our neighborhood is home to the lowest life expectancy in the county. We have been labeled as a food desert for lack of a grocery story or farmer’s market.

Basically, I hope to bring back some understanding of how to better work in my own neighborhood to bring us together and work toward improving and changing the depressing statistics. For all the years of volunteering and photographing our happy community gatherings, I feel ineffective, like I’m not making a difference yet.

xo,

Holli

p.s. A short interview of Kevin Kubota, an instructor, explaining what Workshops With Purpose is all about.

* Brooke Shaden uses her photography skills to help survivors of human trafficking tell their story in India. Her Promoting Passion blog is what inspired me to apply for the Bolivia Workshop.

Indiegogo has hosted several campaigns aimed at teaching photography to youth in areas such as Africa to tell their story through photojournalism.

Tree Woman Project: Moss

The beautiful thing about this project is how it appeals to women of all ages and stages of life. Remember the model who sat patiently for me while I worked through my studio lighting technique with my classmate, Alecia Lindsay?

Well, after telling her about my project, she offered to join the volunteer models! And, since I didn’t have a specific tree in mind, she braved the cold, rainy Seattle weather to adventure around the Duwamish Greenspace with me as we found pretty mossy places in the trees.

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This session was more of an adventure than classic beauty portrait of a tree and a pretty woman…

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I treated the session much like all the rest of the series, by creating her crown, and planning around her dress to pair with a green velvet jacket and a little glamorous makeup…

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This session inspired me to be more adventurous with my editing, and I explored some techniques to make them look like old school film prints…

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Much thanks to Jessica Marie Cantu for being an adventurous Tree Woman!

 

Bolivia Update: Almost There

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I can’t believe it’s almost time to purchase airplane tickets for this trip! The fundraising urgency has slowed down as we entered 2015, and I’m happy to report that I was able put all of my profits from 2014 into this trip, adding another $465. After trimming any excess spending (goodbye, Hulu subscription), I was able to add even more. And, I’ve been surprised and humbled by more family who have further supported me where I least expected it.

The plan moving forward is to put 50% of all my business profits toward the trip. I plan on borrowing the rest of the tuition from our family savings account and paying it back as fast as I can. I’m sending in the last of the tuition March 2nd!

Thank you all for inspiring me from the beginning with the launch of the Indiegogo campaign – that $550 start was the spark I needed to really reach for the chance to grow. I can hardly wait to share what I learn and show you another part of the world.

xo,

Holli

What I Learned From A Model

I never would have thought that I would know a fashion photographer. But, as I’m growing in my work, I’m meeting other photographers from various genres. Last year, while taking a Creative Live course in studio lighting, I had the opportunity to befriend Alecia Lindsey. We got together just this past month to practice what we had learned, and she coordinated work with a model, Jessica Marie Cantu.

This was a really fun opportunity and I am so glad I finally worked with a real model and got to see a fashion photographer in action…and I finally am starting to feel confident with my studio lighting work!

Jessica Cantu by Holli Margell

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My passion is to help everybody, no matter what shape or size, look and feel beautiful in photographs. While I do get inspired by images in fashion magazines, my focus is really on captivating portraits. Until last month, I have only photographed what I call “real women” – but the truth is that we are all real women. And, I realized that while I had the opportunity to work with a model. Yes, she was able to move her body in ways many of us cannot, but she is just as kind and real as all the real women I know.

I also realized this while walking through some mud in the green space while talking with another mother as our kids played. She talked about an article where a ballerina defended the wear and tear on her feet (often regarded as ugly and inhumane) as akin to the hands of a wood worker, a craftsmen. The ballerina was proud of her feet. That gave me an “aha!” moment where I thought about how we are all so different and about how art and media tries to celebrate only a fraction of the body of humanity.

This changes the way I see myself as a photographer. I used to use the phrase, “photographing real women” and I want to change that. I need to stop buying into the divisiveness that kind of language reaffirms. We’re all real. Instead, I will say I aim to capture the beauty in everyone.

Tree Women Project: Bamboo

When I posted about this idea I had for the Tree Woman Project, I was pleasantly surprised. First, I was not expecting so many of my friends and family on Facebook to support the idea. Second, I was impressed by the number of volunteer models that emerged.
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Jackie is such a doll. When I met her we were children attending the same church. She was my friend’s younger sister. I always thought she was adorable, and so it was really like a mini-reunion dress up session to photographer her for this project.
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She’s a strong woman who never stops encouraging others…and with a flair for fun. She brought her own fairy wings that are special to her, and so we snapped a few of those too.

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Jackie was up for wandering around the Kubota Garden with me, so we tried a few other locations too. I think it was a pretty neat way to mark the half way point toward my goal to capture 12 Tree Women!

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