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-…

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

High School Senior Portrait Sessions starting at $99!

Happy first day of school to the Senior Class of 2016! You've had all summer to chill, but now it's time to get down to business. Many senior portraits are due to the yearbook staff by the end of September. Now is the time to get them before the rush with this amazing deal!

Packages start at just $99.

Makeup/hair services will be made available at an additional charge. Need inspiration? Check out these photos in my High School Senior galleries at

Monday, June 18, 2012

1,000 Facebook Fans and a drawing for a free photo shoot!

I have news about an amazing achievement: My Facebook business fan page has secured more than 1,000 likes. I am celebrating by offering a free 90 minute long photo session. Here's my solution: Leave a comment under this blog post about why you think you should win a free photo shoot. I will assign everyone a number and then use a random number generator to decide the winner. It's the only fair way I can think to do this. And what do you get: a free 90 minute portrait session valued at $150. You can use your winning entry for any type of photography you need including high school seniors, family, business headshots, boudoir). You pay for prints or CDS of edited images. Usually, I would have just printed off a list of all of my fans, assigned everyone a number and used a random number generator to pick the winner. But I can't do that and here's why: last year when Facebook disabled my account for three months after I posted some artistic nude maternity photos, I lost access to the 500 or so fans I had secured then. Since the page was restored, I've earned about 500 more new likes. But I don't think it's fair to do a drawing if all of my supporters who are eligible don't have an equal shot of winning. I thought about having people leave me a recommendation in order to qualify for the drawing, but that seems to take some of the fun out of it, especially when so many of my new fans are potential clients I have yet to work with. You have until Sunday to leave a message telling me why you deserve the free drawing! Good luck!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Dream Realized: Professional Print Journalist Becomes a Professional Photographer!

This post has been a long time coming. I wanted to tell you guys the good news as soon as it happened, but I think I had to really accept that my dream had finally come true before I could share. I took a buyout from the Denver Post in November, ending a 15-year career as a print journalist to pursue my photography passion full-time! My last day at the Post was 11-29-11. I grew up at the Denver Post; experiencing some of the greatest accomplishments of my career to date. In 1997, I received several awards, as well as a 1997 Pulitzer nomination for "Breaking the Cycle," a personal column I wrote about my childhood experiences growing up on welfare. And I was among the DP staffers who shared the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for our breaking news coverage of the Columbine High School massacre. Heck, my friends at the Post even sent me a huge bouquet the weekend I closed on my first new house in 2004. And when the tides turned, they helped me weather some of the worst tragedies of my life, including my mother's untimely death at the age of 48, and a recent car accident that would have claimed my life had I not been granted a miracle and a guardian angel.

Apparently others knew long before I did that my destiny would one day take me away from the Denver Post where I had fully expected I would retire from. When I sat down to speak with Denver Post Editor Greg Moore, he told me this: "I knew you were leaving the Post." I asked him why he thought that when it hadn't occurred to me to ever become a full time photographer until a few months ago. "I could see your passion just by reading your Tweets and your blog posts. You were learning something new everyday, and you were totally excited by it." Many years ago Greg hired me to shoot his family's portraits. I remember the look on his face when he pulled out his check book and asked me how much it would cost. When I said, $150, he did a double take and my heart sank because I thought I had charged the head editor of the Denver Post too much money (can you say FIRED, anybody?) "You aren't charging enough for your work," Greg said. "The fact that you drove all the way out here to shoot these portraits in our home was worth $100 alone, and that's not even getting to the time you've spent shooting and what you will be editing!"


That was my first lesson in pricing for the value of my work, something I am still struggling with now especially in a bad economy when photography is considered a luxury item. A few years later Greg paid me $150 for one framed print of "Teri's Rose" after he saw it hanging on display at the Heidi's Deli in the downtown DP building. He hung it in his office until his secretary told him he should probably remove it since Teri worked in our office as an editorial assistant! ;) Always loved you for your willingness to do that, Greg. You rock!

It still shocks me to say that I'm not working for the industry that has been such an integral part of my personal and professional development. I was just a wee lass when I started as a news intern at the DP in 1996, fresh out of college with my degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Iowa. Once I was hired full-time, I worked in the news department covering nightside GA, then on to numerous city beats including Denver Northeast neighborhoods, Boulder and Aurora. I spent my last 8 years working my first dream job as a features reporter in the lifestyles section. I honestly believe that the work I produced in the last three years of my Denver Post tenure featuring articles about sex, dating and relationships were the best written work of my life, where I had finally found and embraced my own voice. One of my last relationship articles about GPS-enabled smart phone dating apps appeared on the Front Page of the newspaper, definitely a crowning achievement. The skills I gained there are far more numerous to count, and will continue to give me credibility and a solid foundation as a writer.

You want to know how I was able to make this transition that started five years, ago back when I was too afraid to take my camera out of its box because it cost more than $1,000? Well, it was one big thing and a lot of little things leading up to it.

When I survived my car accident in July, it forced me to think about my mortality and question if I had been living an authentic life. Somewhere along the way, my love of photography had become equal to or even surpassed my life-long love of writing. And my desire to focus on this new creative adventure wasn't going to be denied! I often dreamed about studio lighting setups and shooting subjects in far away locations. It was time for me to take the next step...and you know me...I'm not just gonna stroll...I'm gonna RUN!!!

I would like to thank Eric Strom for his patience in teaching me aperture, and helping me master the basic skills I initially struggled with in my first digital photography class. To think that I almost thought about dropping that class because I couldn't understand the concepts. Eric's tutelage resulted in my "Aha moment!" when everything clicked, and I suddenly knew I had the ability to speak photography! Just another push from my first photography instructor Efrain Cruz sealed the deal for me when he told me not to drop the class, that I DID have an eye and that if I stayed the full month with him, he KNEW I would be able to do it! Thanks for your belief in me even then Efrain!

I want to thank Elana Jefferson, one of my editors for trusting me to shoot images of her family, including her daughter's sunflower portraits, a Halloween party and holiday photos. Can't wait to do the candy store shots we had planned with Edie, Elana! Thank you for being a constant cheerleader, going to bat time and time again to have my photography appear in the Denver Post. And I believe it was her advice that broke through the din in my fearful mind when I agonized over whether to take the buyout. I'm talking not sleeping, barely eating, crying in the bathroom stall at work kind of anxiety about if this career move was feasible. I was afraid that I would lose everything I had achieved including my house, my car and the prestige of being a reporter. Even though the industry is suffering an identity crisis right now, readership is low and advertising is nearly gone, folks have to admit that it says something when you can say "I'm a reporter at the Denver Post." And that's not even counting the loss of a getting a definite paycheck every two weeks! One co-worker couldn't stop the words from escaping her mouth: "Are you CRAZY????!!!" Of course she tried to downplay what she had uttered, but she was only saying what I know so many people were thinking. Hell, I was thinking it too!

"It's a no-brainer," Elana told me. Not only had I been tirelessly building my photography business behind the scenes for five years while I still cranked out copy for the DP, but Elana said it was extremely wise of me to have garnered a new skill set at a time when journalism is so wounded. Nothing is forever. Nothing is sure. Don't let your fear stop you from taking advantage of this opportunity. "Take the money and run!!!" she said. Long time Denver Post reporter Jeff Leib was the nail in the coffin, so to speak, that finally gave me peace of mind when I turned in my paperwork to accept the buyout. I remember being afraid that just saying I was interested in the buyout would blacklist me among my co-workers. Jeff reassured me that the union protected its members from things like that. And that all I had to do was ask myself: What makes you happy? Right now, nothing makes me feel more alive than when I'm practicing my new craft of photography. I had to take the risk or forever regret it.

I remember times when I would come into the office and find photography books on lighting and posing that just randomly appeared on my desk. No note, nothing to let me know who left it. Just an unspoken angel who encouraged me by acknowledging that my passion for photography wasn't a passing notion, but something solid, something real. I kinda think it might have been the features editor, Suzanne Brown! Thank you Boss Lady! On my last day at work, Suzanne gifted me with these two books she had been saving for me, Night and Low-Light Digital Photography and Boudoir Photography, both must-haves for the type of photography I love to shoot! I also appreciated the emails I often received from co-workers passing along information about an upcoming seminar or workshop that might help me improve my photography -- yet another gentle push to show that maybe I did have something worth pursuing.

And last but not least, all hail to Cyrus McCrimmon, one of the best features photogs ever. Cyrus always took my photography seriously, answered all of my stupid noob questions and allowed me to watch him work his own magic whenever I was lucky enough to get paired with him while writing my articles. I will never forget the pride I felt when page designers mistakenly thought that several photos I had actually shot were taken by Cyrus. That was the day my photos appeared as a full page spread in the lifestyles section featuring a Fairplay dome house, right next to the section cover article that also bore my byline. Talk about a one-two punch!

"Not many people are gifted with the wonderful ability to use both word and visual images - you are!!" said Barry Staver, a former DP staff photographer and owner of Barry Staver Photography.

On top of all that, I think what's going to help propel me and set me apart professionally is yet another skill set I gained while at the DP: social networking. I learned how to blog, Tweet and Facebook -- anything to drum up new sources and more readership. It started with the DP's Homegirls blog that I co-wrote with Elana, which is now called "Weekend Features." I remember having a hard time learning how to blog and foolishly thinking to myself, "Blogging isn't REAL journalism!" Boy was I ever's now the future of the community journalism movement.

So what am I going to do next? I plan to combine my talents into a new umbrella company called Picture Your World Communications. It will of course feature Picture Your World Photography, but will include two new divisions: one for contract journalism services such as editing and writing press releases, etc and hosting blogs. launched this week, and you can expect to be going online very soon. The well from which my writing flows is long from dry. To that end, I will seek opportunities for freelance writing. I just turned in an application to write about sex, dating and relationships for (wish me luck on that).

So the moral to this long-winded story: I still am in woeful need of a copy editor. ;) No, but seriously, don't ever question the impact you may have an another person's life just by doing the little things to let them know they are cared for, supported and uplifted. Everybody I've mentioned in this post plus all the others I didn't helped make me become who I am becoming. I can go all the way back to when my elementary school principal used to oversee me walking home from school so the kids wouldn't bully the new girl (they used to run behind me throwing rocks, ala "Run Forest, Run!)But I won't do that. A little more recently a kind elderly couple from Iowa took me under their wing when I went to college and are now my adopted grandparents for life. And even more recently, the "someone" who left photography books on my desk like pearls of wisdom and growth.

It all matters. You matter. Thank you!

You've come with me this far. Let's keep it moving...
Photo by FMJ Photography

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Get the Job Done: Cheyenne Car Show Photo Booth

(Photo by Illusive Dreams Photography)

I'm blogging to you live today from the Trend Settas Car Show and Benefit for the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. The show is sponsored by Liberty Storage & the Wyoming Army National Guard and is running from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. at O'Reilly's Auto Parts, 1211 Del Range.

This is the first time that I and my colleague Jason Peckovitch of Illusive Dreams Photography have taken our photo booth concept out-of-state, from Colorado to neighboring Wyoming! We are hoping that car show participants who haven't come in contact with us before at the many Denver-area shows we frequent will generate new sales and interest in automotive photography, Jason's specialty as well as my fast turnaround editing and printing on site. Models pose with cars during a professional, on-location photo shoot with Jason. Then I edit the photos and print them on-site!

Here are the prices: $10 for 4x6, $15 for 5x7, $20 for 8x10 (all with models) Our first sale of the day was a t-shirt! But the models are hitting the participants up right now to generate a buzz so it's bound to get busy soon!

As a dog lover, I'm personally excited about being able to promote the car show's goal to raise donations for the local animal shelter. A special request has been made for the following items: non-clumping cat litter, dog and cat food, trash bags, pet toys and treats, miracle grow chemical sprayers, rack and shovel pooper scoopers etc.

Maya is one lucky dog. She was rescued two months ago from the Cheyenne Animal Shelter (Photo by Illusive Dreams Photography)

Come visit our booth!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Get the Job Done: My 5280 ad campaign for Ignite Matchmaking Services

The second photo in my first ad campaign featuring my photography will be appearing in 5280 Magazine in July!

Earlier this year I shot photos of several of Ignite Matchmaking Service's real clients so they could appear in the company's new advertisements. I worked along side Ignite's executive director Sheryl Williams and ad director Chris Faria of Ad Genie Creative.

See this ad on page 136 of July's 5280 Magazine Issue

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