Monday, September 28, 2015

Get the Job Done: Photoshoot Virtual Auction to Benefit Efrain Cruz

Picture Your World Photography will be hosting a Photoshoot Virtual Auction to raise health care funds for Efrain Cruz, my very first photography instructor who is fighting cancer.

To help support this effort, I will be auctioning off a full hour long photography session (retail value $300). You get the whole shebang: 15 edited high resolution digital images, a personalized session with my favorite makeup and hair artist and a release form to have your images printed at any lab of your choosing.

Just leave your highest bid in the comments on my blog here or under the post I'm going to copy and paste on my business Facebook page.

The bid will open at $50.

I want to share a personal plea to help me save the man who saved my life, even though I don't think he knew that's what he was doing at the time.

After my mother's sudden death in 2005 at the tender age of 48, I was still reeling, still needing something to get me out of bed, still searching for a reason that would keep me here when all I wanted to do was end my life so I could be with her. In therapy, my counselor taught me about a depression coping technique called "mastering a skill-set." Basically when we learn something new and find out we are good at it, it improves our  confidence and self-esteem while at the same time lessening our depression. I had always wanted to take a photography class, so I bit the bullet, bought a $1,000 digital camera and took an Intro to Digital Photography Class at the now defunct Denver Darkroom.

Efrain was my teacher. I was new and I was scared, so scared I actually went to the class with my camera still tucked away safe and sound in it's box. I mean, really...a $1,000 camera??? That was the greatest luxury item I had ever purchased for myself that wasn't a car or house payment. What, was I crazy! I didn't want to break it!

Efrain talked me through the dicey prospects of removing the camera, a Canon Rebel XTI, opening from the security of its bubble wrap. He didn't laugh at me when all the other students in class kept giving me side eye. When those students would talk to Efrain about concepts like aperture and ISO and shutter speed and depth of view, it was as if they were speaking Greek. It was clear that while they might have been new to digital photography, they weren't new to the craft itself, like I was.

A week later when I thought about quitting the class because I just wasn't getting the concepts, it was Efrain who told me this: "Stay. Don't leave. You have a gift, a natural eye. I promise you if you give me the next month, these techniques will literally click for you. It will all make sense."

I his class. And I stayed alive.

I remember taking my first few prints of flowers, and trees and clouds to my group cognitive therapy class and showing the other attendees the images I had created. Look! I did this! Suddenly, the irrational thoughts of suicide that had been haunting me were slowly being replaced with wonder and awe of a new technology, a HARD technology, that I seemed to be actually getting.

Efrain was right! After just a month of attending his class (and getting some side help from photographers at The Denver Post!) I was shooting just as well as the other students. When I was brave enough to get underneath a car with my Rebel XTI and shoot the nooks and crannies of my muffler and front and back differentials, I shocked the hell out of Efrain and the students who so intimidated me before shared in my success.

When Efrain had a conflict and wasn't able to shoot a paid special event assignment, he sent out an email to his students asking if anyone could take over for him. I was the only student who replied back: I can do it.

I got my first job as the event photographer at an awards ceremony for the Denver Women's League of Voters. It was history in the making, my new history that changed the course of my life. I started  taking on more and more paid assignments until I had the courage to start my company Picture Your World Photography. Efrain, my company was nominated for a City of Aurora "Best of the Best" small business award last month. That happened because you believed in me, pushed me to continue.

We have all had those teachers in our lives who directed us, challenged us to do things we didn't think we could, who saw things within us that we weren't able to see ourselves. Efrain was one of those teachers for me. Help him now, if you can, by donating whatever you can to honor not only him, but every earthly bound guardian angel who took the time to take interest in you, to believe in you when no one else would.

Thank you Efrain! We love you, and you are not alone in this fight.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Get the Job Done: Thumbtack features Picture Your World Photography

Picture Your World Photography's photo.

Thumbtack has published a blog post featuring Picture Your World Photography! My story will be visible to all potential customers who visit the page -- a fantastic opportunity to win new business! See the post here at
Here is the great write-up. They featured one of my favorite photos...a great shot of the Newell of the first family portraits I ever shot many, many years ago. The friend I'm talking about who told me to just get up and shoot, no matter what, was Derrick Horynan. Jessica Friedman also kicked me in my butt a time or too, telling me to do the same thing. They were right.
Photojournalistic Special Events, Weddings & Portraits
Provided by: Picture Your World Photography
Q: What do you love about your job?
A: My photography helps bring me joy. It's really that simple. I am genuinely happy when I'm working with clients and even editing in Photoshop later makes me happy. I didn't realize how important being able to get to that place inside myself was until I suffered depression that was so severe I could barely get out of bed. One of my colleagues told me to pick up my camera and shoot, no matter how bad I felt. It would help me feel better. I didn't believe him because my depressed mind made it seem like nothing could help, but on a good day when the depression wasn't so overwhelming, I picked up my camera and did a mini photo session with a client. The change inside me was immediate! I was laughing and smiling while I worked with my client to help her get the best photos possible. That residual energy lifted my spirits and that carried through the editing process. It's when I realized that photography wasn't just saving my clients lives but my own as well, and I need to keep doing it not to make a living but to live.
Q: What or who inspired you to start your own business?
A: My interest in photography was born out of the tragic and unexpected death of my mother in 2005. Two years later, I bought a Canon Rebel XTi and took my first digital photography class to cope with her loss and reclaim some sense of self. I needed new challenges, a fresh perspective and a positive way to appreciate a world that no longer had my mother in it. Now, photography isn't just my saving grace, but it's a driving passion. Mom, this is for you -- my promise to be brave and to live.
Q:Describe your most memorable project.
A: My most memorable project was a family portrait session I shot for the Newell family. It was around 2008-2009, and I was a cub photographer building my portfolio. I bartered a photo session for a month of free doggie day-care services with the Newell family who owned Mile High Mutts in Denver. The session was great, but the images would become even more important 2 years later when the mother, Cristal Newell, died in a traffic car accident. I had given Cristal and Marcus, her husband, a CD with all the images. When Cristal passed, her family displayed the images at her funeral. Her family members told me that seeing those photos and having access to the ones I uploaded to a private online gallery helped with their grieving and healing process. It impressed me that photographers aren't just shooting pictures for that moment; we are creating histories and a record of people's existence for a lifetime. You can see these images in my blog post here at…/rest-…

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