A big thanks to Scott and Brad for asking me to be a guest blogger. It is really exciting to be here and I look forward to sharing a bit about my crazy world. I will be honest, I checked out samples of previous guest bloggers and I am humbled to say the least. I questioned myself why Scott would choose a baby shooter when clearly he works with some of the most amazing photographers in the industry. As I perused his blog I was overwhelmed at the beauty of the work and I found myself dreading pulling sample images. With great apprehension, I finally pulled up my 2009 favorite images. As I started to review my work, hundreds of images of mothers anticipating their new arrivals, precious babies, children, seniors and loving families appeared on my screen. Soon I was carried away remembering the moments I spent with each client. Each image was a part of someone’s history and captured a time that would not be forgotten.
Although I am still intimidated by the great artists found here, it is with pride that I share a small part of my world. Yes, I am a baby shooter, but I also have the privilege of capturing a lifetime of memories for families who trust me to do so. So, with only a bit of hesitation here I go…. http://sandypuc.com/favs
Our studio is located in Littleton Colorado. Over my years of growth, I have been surrounded by the most amazing and talented people in the world. With over 28 full time employees, there is always great energy running through the building. Every day is an adventure and we literally have a ball doing our jobs. We laugh, work and sometimes cry together. We do run a very busy studio and it can get stressful, but we thrive on chaos and love every challenge. I am so grateful for their passion and for all of the inspiration they bring to me each and every day.
I started my photography business when I was 17. Photography is the only real career I have ever known. The first 13 years I worked out of my home. From a small apartment kitchen, a basement in a triplex and even my master bedroom, I found a way to do what I loved regardless of the difficult surroundings.
About 10 years ago, my business outgrew my home. In addition to a busy in-home studio, we were foster parents to six teenage boys and I was pregnant with my fourth biological child. Having 10 kids in the house was certainly reason to move the business out!
I opened my first commercial studio in a small 2,000 sq foot space. I also hired my first employee. It was at that point we started to really grow. In just three years there were eight employees so we expanded to a total of 5000 sq feet. We continued to grow and last year we purchased a building. The building is just over 10,000 square feet and now we have a staff of about 28 full time people. It is sometimes hard to believe that just 10 years ago I was shooting in my master bedroom and I handled everything on my own.
Our studio is known for our maternity and baby work, but we also provide family, senior, boudoir and a few select weddings as well. We are very passionate about what we do and we strive to create new and interesting images every day. Working with children is wonderful because it is exciting, entertaining and always a challenge. We love tough sessions because we know that when we do capture that moment, the parents will be even more excited to invest. We truly love our clients and their families and we have been blessed to be a part of their lives.
It is interesting to note that when my own children were little I specialized in children’s work. As I have aged, my passion has as well. Currently we are very busy with boudoir work. Our goal is to capture the beauty that a loving relationship can bring. Although it is always fun to photograph a gorgeous 20+-year-old woman, our target client is actually 30+, in a loving relationship. We want to work with someone that just wants to give an intimate gift to a special person that she loves. Helping a woman feel beautiful about her self is an incredible experience. From the first shy and uncomfortable moments as we test lights and begin the session, to seeing her truly feel and exude beauty as we capture these intimate images, it is truly amazing to see her inner beauty shine through. Knowing that we will create an amazing album that she will proudly share makes it even better.
Although charity work has always been a huge part of our studio core, in 2005 I had the honor of capturing the final moments of Maddux Haggard as his loving family said goodbye to their beautiful son. It was from that session, his mother Cheryl and I founded Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. This non-profit was created to ensure that families whose babies will never leave the hospital would have a chance to have professional portraits taken. Our members provide this service and all of the retouched images at no charge. These priceless images become the only link to those brief moments. It has been an honor to see this organization grow from the original four members to now over 7,000 members in 25 countries. We have been blessed to have NAPP members join us to provide retouching services to photographers that need additional help with difficult images. Although this is some of the most difficult work you could ever do, our members know that these images become the most priceless possession these families will ever have.
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. –Sir Winston Churchill
My other passion is teaching photography. Each year we conduct a 60-city tour that includes the USA, Canada and Europe. Our goal is to take a new topic each year and cover in detail all aspects of the subject matter. In 2008 we launched our first tour, Bellies & Babies. We covered everything maternity through the first year. In 2009 was Tots to Teens the follow up program that covered 18 months through 17 years.
Currently we are on the 2010 Family tour. We have completed 25 cities and are excited to complete the rest of the USA through May first and in the fall we will complete the show in Canada and Europe.
Teaching is important to me because I strongly believe that we will only sustain the health of the photographic industry by teaching new artists how to be successful. We must teach them not only the skills needed to shoot, but all aspects of business including marketing and management as well. In 2011 we will be covering Wedding and Boudoir photography. We are really excited to present this show and we have a special guest that will be featured as well. These programs are not only created to teach all of the essentials to manage and run a portrait business, but we hope to ignite passion and inspire people to truly live their dream.
At the beginning of the 2010 tour, I made a commitment to help 1,000 photographers become professionally certified through the PPA certification program. Not only will we create a study group together, but we will share ideas, challenge each other and by taking the test, we help make this industry stronger as well. I have even committed to taking the test again just to make sure I still know my stuff!
A BIT ABOUT ME
On a personal note, I love taking risks and enjoy crazy adventures like sky diving, flying in helicopters and watching any sport as long as it is live. I have studied martial arts for 7 years and I am currently training to fight in the Worlds this fall. I love sparing because it is fun to take out all of my extra energy in a good clean fight.
In addition to martial arts, I have set a goal to compete in the 2011 Iron Man. I will be running several races this year to get ready. I am not a natural athlete and we train three hours a day (six days a week) to prepare. The truth is, when it comes to triathlons, I love to bike, I am an ok swimmer and I am not a huge fan of running on the road. Regardless of my skill level I love pushing my own limits and once I set a goal, I never give up without a fight. I am excited about this challenge and I look forward to the events.
Travel is a big part of my life. On average, I am on the road teaching five months out of the year. Although I love traveling for work, each year I take the first weekend of December, select a country, and travel to shoot just for myself. I have only one rule for myself and that is that I can only be in the country for 24 hours. Last year I selected Turkey (my birthday was Thanksgiving day and it seemed appropriate). I flew into Istanbul and the challenge began. As I traveled all over the city, I try to capture the beauty and culture as I soaked it all in. Working on virtually no sleep, everything seems intensely more beautiful as the combination of exhaustion and the adrenaline kicks in. My goal, of course, is to capture something amazing, but being limited on time and the weather being whatever it is, sometimes the strongest images are the ones I capture in my mind.
One of my favorites travel stories is when I went to London for my 24-hour trip. It was my first time there and I eagerly ran around the city looking for that perfect shot. It was dreary and freezing cold and after hours of shooting, I had hardly anything to show for my efforts. I finally hopped on an open tour bus because I knew that the sun would soon be gone. As we zipped around the city, I could barely capture any thing and was almost ready to give up. At one point we quickly crossed the Tower Bridge and I missed the first shot so in frustration I flipped my camera over my shoulder and snapped and image without even looking. I was laughing so hard when I downloaded the image and it was upside down. It actually became one of my all time favorite images because it was proof to me that even in impossible condition there is beauty all around.
Although I have a lot on my plate, laughter gets me through everything I set out to do. I find humor in every little thing and I love to make people smile. Part of my foundation is that I believe that my success is due to a rapid series of mistakes. The key is that I learn from them and I use them as a springboard to get to the next level. I do not mind embarrassing myself and I am the first one to laugh at my own silly mistakes. The nicest part of being ridiculous is that everyone that I work with gets my crazy sense of humor. Sometimes we start laughing about something and the rest of the day we can barely look at each other without a smile breaking out.
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” –e.e. cummings
Having started my career 22 years ago, I have been through the full digital revolution. Although I still miss the smell when you open a roll of 220, I see that digital has created two unique situations. On one hand, it has made the industry easier to get into, bringing an influx of new shooters, it is easier to cheat at the creation of a fine image and it has created a void in skill and technique.
One the positive side, I have seen images created now that 10 years ago could only be dreamed about. Artists have taken what was once the standard best and pushed to levels that were unheard of in the industry. I am a firm believer in change and I see artists evolving into a new level of skill. We are now redefining what we are, what we produce and how the final images will be delivered. It is really exciting to be a part of this revolution.
One of my favorite new tools is the Canon Mark II 5D. When I saw the potential for video capture to be included in a traditional portrait session I got very excited. Here was the opportunity to take an already emotional connection to the subject and add the element of sound and motion. This allowed us the opportunity to capture a real moment in real time. Right away we started adding video clips within our clients’ slide presentations. The reaction was tremendous. Our clients were already moved by the musical slide presentations that we produce for the viewing session, but the element of video took the reaction to a new level. This tool has opened new opportunities for product sales and creative ideas.
MY FAMILY PHOTO
Although, I am very proud of the work we do and I am grateful for the opportunities that life has presented, truly my greatest joys are my children. They are the reason for every breath I take. I am so honored to be a part of their journey and I have enjoyed every step of the way. This fall my oldest daughter will go to collage. It is hard to believe that time went by so fast. As a family we decided to do something to celebrate this new horizon. This summer we will take six weeks and backpack through Europe. I am so excited to have this time with my children to show them the many wonders of this amazing world. They are very excited for this journey. I can’t wait to document all of the adventures and fun. It will be wonderful to shoot just for the fun of it and to capture the moments as they see new things. The truth is, my work, my life and my passion revolved around the families I serve and my own special family. I truly believe that the images we create will be a testament to the lives we touch both now and far into the future.
“The opportunity to capture a family’s memory is a privilege. We should not take this privilege lightly but treat each session like it could never be captured again, because it can’t. Long after our work here is done, someone will gaze into our images and see a reflection of their life, their history and of loved ones long gone. In each portrait we create there is a story. A moment stopped, captured and documented in the press of a shutter. Although only a single moment in time, within the image there is a lifetime of love, HOPE and joy.” — Sandy Puc’
You can view more videos from Sandy on her YouTube channel.