Rachel Abelson

Launching Rachel Abelson to SOAR!

This week is a special week for our community.  Together, we get to celebrate and launch our SOAR! Recipients to SOAR!  The SOAR! Scholarship is a program that Brian and I founded over two years ago.  With the generous help of SOAR! Partners like SONY, Adobe, The Wisdom Connection, Fastline Media, Smug Mug, Shoot Dot Edit, Pixel 2 Canvas, Jille and more, we spend a year equipping three ladies with all they need to soar with their photography dreams.  This week we want to celebrate ALL their hard work from last year and their new websites (thank you Fastline Media!)!

For those of you who followed the weekly blogs of these ladies, Rachel, Charisse and Ali, you share my pride in them.  You know how hard they worked.  And wow, I’m THRILLED at where they find themselves now.

Let’s start today with Rachel Abelson!  Going backward in time, this was her submission video for the SOAR! Scholarship.

I will never forget Rachel sitting in our AZ CONFIDENCE Workshop.  She introduced herself as the “Face of Auto”.  Between the three recipients, Rachel was the most green with photography.  But in her introduction she went on to say that even though she may rate herself as a level one (beginner) in photography, she was a level FIVE in confidence and determination.  Rachel showed this all year long!

As a military wife, she had unique challenges to her SOAR! year.  In the middle of the year, her family was uprooted from the East Coast and transferred to the West Coast.  And not only did she do a huge move, but she has two precious babies that keep her hands full.  In the midst of all this, she still did her SOAR! exercises and got her blog post up every Tuesday.  She also found beautiful ways to meet a personal goal of giving to the military community.  And I know that we have all watched her photography skills transform–I mean amazing!  Check out Rachel’s new website (and definitely leave her a comment on her new blog–you know how good those feel! :) ).

Below are some final words that Rachel wanted to share with all of you…

As I sat down to write this post, I had another wave of shock come over me. A year ago at this time I was wondering who had won the SOAR! Scholarship and why nothing had been posted about it. I brushed it off and thought, “I’m excited to see who won, but I should figure out what I’m going to do now.” Lo and behold, just a few days later I get the knock at the door. You know, the one where I’m in running clothes, haven’t showered and definitely do not look my best! The one where Wendy (SOAR! Coordinator) told me the news and then I screamed so loud that I scared my 5 month old (check it out here). Yeah, that’s the day. It will forever be in the top 10 days of my life.

The past year has been such a whirlwind of excitement, stress, laughter, but most of all accomplishment. I honestly never once thought I’d grow up to own my own business-big or small. Now that I do, it is an awesome feeling.  I’ve had two really, really awesome things happen to me this year. When I moved last summer I was able to start introducing myself as a photographer. But even more than that…..Pete and I went to a guest dude ranch in Dec for 4 days (coolest vacation ever!). When we got home he told his mom that he had told people “my wife’s a photographer” and that he was really proud to be able to say that. Him not knowing that I was within earshot, me hearing him say that was such an amazing feeling.

This last year has taught me so many lessons;

-Figuring out a style is not easy.

-Finding a brand is even harder.

-There is always room to learn.

-People will support you even if they don’t know you.

Most of all…even if you never imagined them, great things can and will happen.

I am in tears right now (good tears) thinking about all that I have been gifted the past year. Amazing mentors, a business of my own, being able to capture special moments for people, and the gift of all the SOAR! women-who I admire in more ways than I can list.

You women have given me so much knowledge, feedback, inspiration and support. I can not thank you enough. Now I have one thing to ask of you-never stop believing in yourself, no matter what.

Thank you for a fabulous SOAR! year! I send each of you a big hug!!!

World, here is Rachel Abelson Photography-watch out!!!!!!!

Now, Go for it!!!


On behalf of all the SOAR! Partners and this wonderful community, we proudly launch Rachel Abelson to SOAR with her photography dreams!  I have full confidence that there nothing this woman can’t accomplish!

Rachel, we love you, I love you, and super proud of you.  We celebrate you today!

Your Cheerleaders Forever!

Me Ra, Brian, Wendy and this awesome community!

*I invite all of you to leave a comment of encouragement, love, celebration, wisdom…or all the above, in celebration of Rachel today!

What are you thankful for?



Back to the Future

Knock Knock…who’s there? “Wendy Zippwald on behalf of Me Ra Koh to present you with the SOAR! Scholarship. Will you accept it?” Me: Ahhhhhh! Baby: Waaahhhh!!! Wasn’t it just yesterday that I scared my 5 month old baby when I found out I was a SOAR! recipient? Nope. That was about 10 months ago. Holy Cow!!!! Did this year just fly by or is it just me?

This year I have grown in so many ways. I have learned so many things from so many different people. I have found comfort and certainty where before there was none. I have added a new title for myself. Heck, I learned how to use a digital SLR camera!

After Wendy and Christine left my house, I was still in shock. I was so excited, honored, and scared! I was so nervous about being able to run a business while still being mommy. I was nervous I’d fail and let all of you down. I was simply nervous about learning to use the camera! Then my husband reminded that’s what this year was for-to learn. Who cares if my pictures weren’t perfect every time? (I did) Who cares that I might not have a booming business at the end of 2011? (I did) As long as I took in everything that was given and offered to me this year, it would be a success. He was right. (such a rare occurrence ;) And I truly feel that this year was a success. I have learned everything from what shutter speed is to how to figure out my target audience and almost everything in between.
When I first applied, I had just received my first dslr a week prior. I asked a girlfriend the best way to learn to use it. She pointed me one direction. Then the next day she emailed me and told me about SOAR! and that I should apply because I’d make a good photographer. And so I did. And here I am. I’ve always loved taking pictures (and being in them-not gonna lie!), I just never knew how much I loved it until this year. I never knew I could make a difference by capturing special moments. That’s another thing I figured out this year-what I want to do with my life. I want to make a difference in someone’s (or many people’s) life. Be it through photography or fitness (or a combo of the two-wouldn’t that be unreal!?), that is my life’s dream. Thanks to SOAR! I am completely confident that I can do just that!
Oh my word! I just looked at a couple of pictures from before my SOAR! time. Yipes! So many things….let’s take a look.

1.all the distractions on the floor, on the wall. 2. the yellow tint–ahh the yellow, story of my life before SOAR! 3. How about that line coming out of Pete’s head. 4. the shadows. oy.
Dont’ get me wrong-I love this picture! It was something they did together at that time and I love having captured it. Now, I know how to make it better for next time.

Or this one..

the distractions on the side. the flash. oy!

Fast forward……I have Me Ra’s workshop under my belt. Whoop!

Taken at the workshop. Not perfect, I cut off some of her head and his knees. But Much better than before!!!

And most recently…..

Captured at the first military homecoming I photographed. Though you can’t see his eyes, I don’t think you need to. Emotion, love, happiness. All right there. Bam! Now I’m on to something.

As the year has gone on, with my skills growing, so has my confidence. When I went into my first shoot, I was a wreck! I was so busy worrying about all the details that I don’t think I totally captured the essence of the little boy. His parents were happy, but I wasn’t overjoyed. Now, I go into a shoot and I’ve still got those nerves, just on a smaller level. I know that when I show the family their pictures, mom’s gonna love ‘em. Here’s one thing that I really, really love about how I’ve grown—most of the pictures I put in the proof gallery are unedited! That’s right…..I know that I know my camera because I”m not spending hours on end editing-that, folks, is something to be proud of!

I cannot say “THANK YOU!!!” enough to Me Ra and all the partners for giving me this awesome gift. You have changed my life more than you can imagine. Me Ra, your goal is to empower women-you have done that for me with this Scholarship-thank you isn’t enough.
I wouldn’t be right without thanking my husband-he is my biggest supporter. I love you-forever, a day, and then some.

And with that, I am ready to SOAR!

Smile an Go For It!


Looking back….and forward! (watch out-it’s a doozie)

Oh. My. Word. Is it really the last biz coaching blog of the year? Didn’t I just attend Me Ra’s workshop like last week? It certainly feels that way. Let me first answer the questions Karen posed to us…

Looking back….

What were my goals? What did I accomplish? What remains?
My big goal for the year was my financial goal. I started this year off not knowing a single thing about shooting in manual, how to take great pictures, or anything to do with business. By July I had met my financial goal!! Hooty-hoo!!! I won’t lie….I”m pretty proud of myself! Just last month Fay and I set a new goal-4 family shoots (mini sessions) by the end of the year. Guess what folks…..3 down, 1 to go! And because of it, I have doubled that financial goal. Now that, I am super proud of!

THE milestone….
This is an easy one…..About 3 weeks ago I did a military homecoming shoot. On my way home I received an email from a gal who I didn’t even know. She said that the gal who I had done the homecoming pictures for highly recommended me and she wanted to book me for her homecoming pictures! Then…..I did a trade with a friend of mine who sells jewelry-I gave her a gift certificate for a print when someone books a session with me, and she gave me earrings that I had been eyeing from her collection. I attended the jewelry party and got to present the gift cert. A gal at the party who I just met that evening called me the next day and booked a boudoir session. What! What! So the turning point would be having two gals I didn’t know book me-one from a gift cert and one from a referral. This was the first time it had happened and it felt AWESOME!!!

I was really nervous to start an actual business and move from the portfolio stage to the charging stage. This meant that I had to tell my friends that-yes I’d love to take your pictures, but it’s gonna cost you (in a nice way of course!). I felt great when I took some 1 year old portraits and my friends handed over a check. That gave me the confidence to put myself out there and tell people that “I’m a photographer”.
What took me off track…..ummm…the whole moving across the country. On one hand it put my business at a stand still. On the other hand it was great for my business. I came in to a new place and could go right into my full prices, and not have to explain why my prices had gone up from the portfolio building stage. So it was a setback that actually gave me a leap forward.

Changes and the effects
I think the biggest change for me was re-pricing myself after my move. Now I know that people, especially friends, are booking me not because I’ve got low prices but because they think I’m worth it (and they’re right!). The effect…..clients who are fun(super fun actually) to work with and more confidence for me!

Looking forward…..
Biggest Boldest Dream for 2012
Honestly, it’s making a difference. I know, kind of cheesy. It could be something as small as capturing the first moment a dad meets his baby after being deployed or as big as capturing a birth while the father is deployed. Any moments that are special to my clients are special to me. If I can capture those moments for them, then I will have made a difference in their lives.

What do I need to accomplish this?
I need to be myself. If I’m myself, clients will enjoy working with me and they’ll refer their friends to me. Then the special moments will come with the awesome clients.

Support System
Hmmm…..definitely my husband (though he’s already at the top). A few close friends…so they can give me honest feedback and listen when I need to vent or when I’m proud and know me well enough to know I’m not gloating. And last….babysitters. Since my hubby is gone a lot I will definitely need good babysitters to take care of my kiddos and so I do not have to worry about them.

Ok, now that’s done. Phew-that was a lot to think about. It was great to think of all that stuff though. It made me realize that I really have used this scholarship to the best of my ability. I have taken in all the information and put it to good use and I think it shows.

Thanks, Karen, for all the business coaching blogs. They made me cringe at times, but they were oh so worth it-every one of them.

Now you gals (and guys), how did your year turn out? Share some tidbits with me in the comments.

Smile and Go For It!



Fall is here and that means it’s one of my favorite times of year….pumpkin time! I love almost everything pumpkin. Pumpkin Spice Lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin patches! When I read that we were going to do a post on the pumpkin patch I was excited….We’d(my family) actually already been to the pumpkin patch.

Now here’s the thing….when I went to the pumpkin patch I was in mommy mode..not photographer mode. Have an of you ever experienced this? I have found that when I’m hanging with my fam I don’t always take into account where the light is coming from. I’m more concerned with getting my kiddos to look at the camera at the same time, and actually smile!
Unfortunately this is completely evident in my pictures from the pumpkin patch. (bummer!) Take a look…..

Why didn’t I go back and retake them for this post or for my family? Because the patch is an hour and half away!  Oy! So what’s a gal to do when she wants a good picture of her family with pumpkins?   Improvise in the backyard! Set up the pumpkins and my family; then get the camera ready and set it to timer mode. Push the button and get int he picture as fast as I can……

Until the dog walks in front of the camera!  Geez!!! Not to worry, I did get a good picture, but I have to save it for my holiday cards!
How do you deal with being in mommy mode vs photographer mode? Do you switch back and forth? How do you get photographer-worthy shots when not in a session? I’d love some help from the seasoned pros!

Smile and Go For It!!!


Goodbye Fear!

“Fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough…..The fear of failure and of success. The fear of beginning at all.” O.M.G. These words jumped off the page and lit up in bright blinking lights right in my living room. How did Julia Cameron get in my head?

Now that I am out of my portfolio building stage, I am ready to move on and start my full pricing and getting more clients. But I haven’t yet…..because of fear. My biggest fear? That my clients won’t love their pictures. I know in my mind they will, all my past families have. I know that I take great pictures. But that stinkin’ artist’s child is blocked by fear.

“Finding it hard to begin a project does not mean you will not be able to do it. It means you will need help-from your higher power, from supportive friends, and from yourself.” I have found it hard to begin to find clients for my fall mini sessions. I haven’t done much advertising other than facebook and word of mouth (mainly my mouth). That fear has prevented me from going for it and getting some clients. Luckily I have supportive friends! How so, you ask? I have two friends who have booked mini sessions with me! Hooty-hoo! (Thanks, Kappels and Harts!) Now that I have those two booked, I am more confident in mentioning to people that I am offering mini sessions. I am also more confident in myself-I even gave out my card to someone at the grocery store!

Though there is that little bit of fear in my head (which is just enough to keep me grounded), but for the most part it is making it’s way out of my head and back into the universe. And what a great feeling that is!

What have you done to overcome your fears? How did you know you were getting past them?

Smile and Go For it!


Why Pixel2Canvas Rox!!!!

OMG!!!!! I got to meet Roxanne, the Roxanne Benton from Pixel2Canvas!!! I was in Vegas last week visiting a friend (no gambling involved!) and Roxanne invited me to come see her at a business trade show to check out all the awesome products she offers….and boy are they awesome!!!

Here she tells us all about the canvases….

(pardon the AWFUL video window, I was mommy multi-tasking with fussy baby in one hand, camcorder in the other and bored little girl on the side….and I’m battling a cough/cold(oy)…..sorry, Roxanne!)(though I swear on my flip I could see everything..*sigh*)


Here she tells us about this AWESOME new product they have. I can’t wait to get a client to show these too!


And now for the metals….they are they new thing on the west coast!

Getting to know you

I think this had to be my favorite photography assignment yet (though it might be a toss up with the wedding assignment). There was no agenda, no perfect pictures I had to get done, it was just watching two people interact and catch it on camera. Jenna and Jesse made this assignment so easy! and so fun! They were super laid back and super easy to talk to. What I loved is that even though they aren’t a PDA couple, I could see how much they loved each other.

Though I have no desire to shoot weddings (that might change after I shadow a photographer…)I really like the engagement shoot! And I know now why this shoot is so important. It’s when you learn all about the couple. You learn how he makes her laugh….or how they love to watch sports together.

Or how they bring out the goofy side of each other.

(can you guess what they are doing here?)

No matter what it is you learn, the engagement shoot is great for getting to know your clients. Thanks, Jenna and Jesse, for some great laughs and a fun shoot!


Smile and Go For It!


PS…check out the rest of their pictures here

Keepin’ On…

Have you read this month’s business blog from Karen? OH. MY. WORD. By far the hardest part of starting a business. It’s something we all think about, and I don’t know about you, but I stress about it! Marketing and Closing the Deal.

This is something I am struggling with right now. I moved to California about 2 1/2 months ago. Though I am settled, Lilly is in school, I found a gym (of course!), and I have made friends; the one thing that hasn’t settled in is my business. In Virginia, I was just starting to get the momentum going. Friends were referring me and people were contacting me and I because of it I reach my financial goal for the year (Whoop!). Now I’m in a new place and the momentum has stopped.  I have been chatting up my new friends, as have my gals from Virginia who are here with me; but no one has taken a bite yet. But….I am taking (baby) steps in the right direction.

Talking myself up to friends
I am taking an ad out in our spouses’ directory that comes out in early November
Placing ads on my local yard sale website
Donating a session to our unit holiday party

I went to see some photographers speak one evening in DC. It was there I met Zach and Jody Gray. They talked to us about how they attract clients and how they “seal the deal”. They shared their tips and one really stuck with me (and I can’t wait to use it-hopefully soon): At the end of the meeting with their potential clients they ask “Is that something you are interested in?” How simple is that?! If the client hesitates they ask “What is your hesitation?” Brilliantly simple. Then they figure out how to accommodate the client’s concerns and adapt/give a little offer of something extra to earn that person as a client. Sometimes the simplest things work the best.

Though I am struggling with attracting clients in my new neck of the woods, I am keeping on keepin’ on. I can’t wait for my ads to come out. I’ll keep you posted here and on the forum on what comes out of it and when (not if) I get my first client from it!

Do you have some tips or ticks to share? Leave ‘em in the comments!

Smile and Go For It!



PS…..Because I couldn’t leave you without some pictures…..here’s some from the beach a couple of weeks ago and a kids gummy bear run.


Color Says it All

One of our tasks this week was to take a look at our favorite color. To see what items we had in that color. Julia Cameron asked us to write a few sentences as if we were that color. See what happens when I take on the role as my favorite color.