Lockdown. Quarantine. Isolation. Shut down. Whatever you choose to call it, it's been 3 weeks since it started, and 3 weeks since I posted anything to my photography pages. But it's time to finally crawl out of my cocoon and start to work through it all. I'm gonna get real here and share what I've been experiencing personally, because I don't know any other way to do it.
I haven't posted because I haven't known how to do so in light of this whole nightmare we are living through. As a business owner, I'm told that I should continue to market my business, to stay in front of my audience, to stay relevant. As a human, it just doesn't feel right. How can I try to convince people that they should spend their money on photography when our country is on the verge of economic collapse? Luxuries are the last thing on my mind right now and I know I'm not alone. Personally I am annoyed that I'm still getting calls about my car's extended warranty and DM's asking if I'm ready to transform my life in 30 days or less. No Karen, I'm busy trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage ok?
We've never been in this situation in our entire lives and it's a very scary position to be in. I know it won't always be this way, but I'm worried. Worried about personal finances, whether I will still have a business when this is over, whether my family is ok, if our country will ever be the same again, whether this is really the apocalypse or just a massive overreaction, the list goes on. The thought of blogging and posting photos as if nothing is wrong just seemed inappropriate when there's so many families like mine who are struggling to get through this. And when it's all said and done, are people going to be spending money on "non-essentials" like photography anyway? Is it as important to others as it is to me?
I was so unsure of how to continue that backed away from photography all together for the first two weeks. Didn't pick up my camera, didn't read any photography blogs, didn't invest any time in education. Two weeks away might not seem like a long time, but when it's something that you live and breathe and spend nearly all of your time on every single day, two weeks is a lifetime. I just didn't have it in me. Photography usually brings me such joy, but suddenly I felt like it was being taken away by this virus that's making us prisoners in our own homes. Looking through my portfolio brought me to tears one day because I worry that my dream of having a succesful photography business might be over. It may sound overly dramatic, but I said I was going to be real, and that's exactly how I felt in that moment.
But then I remembered that I had an online class coming up which I had signed up for long before the shut down. It was a portfolio & website review with Elena S. Blair, and I wasn't about to miss it since I had already paid. It forced me to sit down and look at my work again, and because I'd been away from it for a bit, I was able to see it with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
I said all of that so that I could say this: I need to make pictures. I need that creative outlet in my life, now more than ever. I know there are far more pressing matters in all of our lives right now, but creating and sharing my art is how I will get through it. I have a personal project that I've been working on for about a year now, and I've held back sharing it because I was unsure of how it would be perceived since it's not about beautiful newborn babies and carefree kids. It's a little bit heavy, but seems fitting in these times. I'll be adding it to my website soon so check back to see it. And know that when you see me posting on Facebook or Instagram, it's not that I'm insensitive to the crisis we are facing. It's just me trying to survive it.
Hang in there friends. This can't last forever.
Tracy Miller is a family, newborn, & fine art photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities in Pennsylvania including:
Greensburg, Latrobe, Irwin, North Huntingdon, Ligonier, Penn Township, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Monroeville, Penn-Trafford, Squirrel Hill, Wexford, Murrysville, and beyond.
~ NOW BOOKING ~
You may have seen news recently about a woman posing as a newborn photographer, who drugged the baby's mother in her home with the intent of kidnapping the baby. While this is an extremely rare occurrence, it is a legitimate cause for concern and all parents should be diligent about who they invite into their homes.
I have put together some basic guidelines to follow when searching for a family photographer. While none of these are a guarantee, there is a much greater chance that individuals who meet these basic criteria are far more likely to be trustworthy than those who don't.
1. Make sure the person you are hiring is running a legal business.
Photographers aren't required to have a professional license per se (like cosmetologists, attorneys, physicians, etc), but anyone operating as a corporation, LLC, or partnership is required to have a federal EIN number and to register the business with the state in which they are located. Sole proprietors are not required to have an EIN, but if they operate under a fictitious name they are required to register it. You can check to see if a business entity is registered in Pennsylvania here, or check with the Department of State where you live.
2. Ask if they have business insurance.
Any legitimate business entity should have general liability insurance. This protects both you and the photographer in the event of property damage or bodily injury while he/she is in your home. You can ask to see a certificate of insurance coverage if you are unsure.
3. Ask to see clearances.
While not necessarily required for photographers, any professional who has direct contact with children would be wise to obtain a state police criminal history record check, child abuse history clearance, and an FBI criminal history background check. These clearances are mandatory to work or volunteer in schools and many other facilities.
4. Do they have a professional website?
These days it is extremely easy to create a website, and there are countless platforms on which to do it, and at no cost. Therefore, having a website is not an indication of legitimacy, and not having one certainly doesn't mean the person is not a professional. However, there are some things to look for that might be a red flag: not having a dedicated domain (i.e. tracy-miller.godaddy.com vs. tracy-miller.com), excessive grammatical errors, generic text, and lack of contact information are just a few signs that the person you are dealing with may not be a professional. Check the address bar in your browser - is there a little padlock next to the website address, and does it start with https and not just http? This indicates that the site is secure. Photographers who take their business seriously will take the time to build a proper website.
5. Ask for references & check reviews outside of their website.
This is a no-brainer. A good photographer will have plenty of satisfied clients and should be willing to let you speak with a few of them if you ask. You can also check Google and Facebook reviews. While positive reviews can be easily faked, someone who is not reputable may have an abundance of negative reviews as well.
6. Are they a member of any professional organizations?
Legitimate business owners look for opportunities to grow their businesses and network with other professionals. Ask your photographer if they are a member of their local Chamber of Commerce or other professional organization such as BNI: Business Networking International.
7. Do they give back to the community in which they do business?
Hiring someone who supports their local community and charity organizations is a win-win situation. By hiring them, you in turn help the community. Not to mention it speaks to the integrity of the person you are looking to hire. Support local!
8. Trust your gut.
Listen to your instincts. If you feel something just isn't right, don't ignore your intuition for the sake of being polite. The safety and security of your family is far more important.
None of these tips are a guarantee against getting scammed in and of themselves, but someone who meets most or all of these conditions will greatly improve your chances of finding a professional whom you can trust, and who will stand behind their work.
Tracy Miller is a family & newborn lifestyle photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities in Pennsylvania including:
Greensburg, North Huntingdon, Penn Township, Wexford, Murrysville, and beyond.
~ NOW BOOKING ~
Think you missed your chance if you didn't get photos done when you brought your newborn home from the hospital? Think again! We may not be able to get those sleepy, curled up poses after the first week or two, but how adorable is 5-month old Mia now that she's discovered she has feet? 👣
Don't miss another opportunity to capture these sweet moments of your baby where he or she is right now - contact me today to book your session!
Tracy Miller is a family & newborn lifestyle photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities including:
Greensburg, North Huntingdon, Penn Township, Sewickley, Murrysville, and beyond.
~ NOW BOOKING ~
For those of you who don't know, my daughter Carly is an artist. And even though I don't always like to admit it, she gets a lot of her personality traits from me: stubborn and headstrong, sarcastic and sassy. She's creative, but in a dark and moody sort of way. She doesn't like the spotlight and prefers to stay behind the scenes, and does not like to have her picture taken. She acts like she's tough, but deep down she's emotional and sensitive. She hates dresses and the color pink. She loves cats a little too much. Although not a musician, she has a deep connection with music and often uses it to inspire her art.
I asked her to paint something that has a strong personal meaning for me - Three Crooked Hearts.
It took me way too long to figure out what I was meant to do in this life. It was always there, in the back of my mind, but I ignored it for way too long. Carly has found it early, and I hope that she follows her dream and gets to do what she loves for the rest of her life. I can't wait to watch her.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
Tracy Miller is a family & newborn lifestyle photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities including Greensburg, North Huntingdon, Penn Township, and Murrysville.
~ NOW BOOKING FOR 2020 ~
I was so excited to be doing Rachel's senior photos because she and her mom had chosen to do them at their home, which is a spectacular location for a session. I knew this because I had done a session there last year for one of their friends who chose it for the same reason.
One of Jayna's senior photos from last year, also shot in Rachel's backyard
I love the contrast between the red of Rachel's shirt and green tones of the plants, while the yellow of the flowers compliments both.
As much as I love color, black & white photos will always be my personal favorite.
A message from mom ❤️
Those eyes! 👀
It was beginning to get dark on Rachel's back porch, but she wanted to include a few shots on the swing so I used a reflector and bounced a speed light to create this look.
The sun was shining in just the right spot, and I'm always happy to include a few shots of boyfriends/girlfriends in my senior sessions when asked. How cute are they?
Thank you Rachel for allowing me to create your senior pictures! Have a fantastic senior year!
Today I made a very unexpected and impulsive decision to visit the Flight 93 Crash Site Memorial in Shanksville. It's taken me 18 years to be able to go there without becoming emotional and having to leave. The last time I tried several years ago, I couldn't get beyond the parking lot. Today I was able to go in - and stay - from behind the safety of my camera.
I sat awhile and observed the other visitors and overheard some of their conversations. Many seemed oblivious to the significance of the site - one man in particular caught my attention as he walked hurriedly past the Wall of Names, engrossed in a conversation about overdue accounts and unpaid invoices (on the Sunday of the 4th of July holiday weekend no less). He never paused or slowed down, never even looked up to acknowledge the 40 names engraved on the wall next to him and what they meant. Nearly everyone who walked the 1/4 mile pathway that leads to the wall stopped to take a photo when they reached it. I was no exception. But most seemed to dismiss it as just another photo op that will end up on Instagram next to a picture of whatever they ate for breakfast that day. One couple smiled happily as they stood in front of the wall after asking a stranger to take just "one quick pic" on their iPhone. Just beyond them, a grandmother took a photo of her teenage grandson giving a double thumbs up for the camera. One more for the scrapbook I guess.
Eighteen years after the tragedy that we swore we would never forget, it seems many of us have indeed forgotten. Most can't see beyond their cell phones to appreciate the sacrifice that was made that day. There were a few exceptions, a few people who stopped for just a moment to write a message of gratitude and condolence to the families, or to read the names on the Wall and acknowledge the courage and strength they showed that day. These few will surely never forget.
Please, if you visit this or any of our national memorials, take a moment to at least read the names of those who sacrificed. The Flight 93 Memorial has an exhibit with pictures of all 40 victims. Take the time to look at them, and think about their lives that were cut short and the families they left behind. Put down your cell phone. Really think about why the memorial is there. It’s designed to mirror the flight path of the plane - look around, think about what that must have been like. The plane was going over 500 miles an hour when it made impact, accelerating as it neared the ground. Can you even imagine what that was like for those on board? It’s not just a tourist attraction. Never forget that.