SOAR! Partner’s Corner

Cheap Cheap

There are some things you don’t ever want to go cheap on. Getting a Groupon for cosmetic surgery or hair replacement probably falls in the “you get what you pay for” category.  Or imagine the buyer’s remorse you’d wake up with the morning after visiting a dyslexic tattoo artist who can’t draw anything more than stick figures and happy faces. And one thing I’ll never ever go cheap on is a mattress – I think a compelling sociological case study could made for the devastating impact of cheap mattresses on marital stability.

After speaking with Roxanne Benton of Pixel2Canvas last week, I’m adding one more thing to my list of Things to Never Cheap Out On: Canvas.

I know you’ve seen them – the Groupons that land in your inbox every few months for ridiculously discounted, decent-sized canvases. It’s tempting to want to jump at the bait, I know.


Here’s the thing: those offers are the equivalent of someone offering you a discounted 60 minute massage…with a spiked club. Allow me to explain:

  • Three letters you need to know: OBA (Optical Brightening Agents). Basically, OBAs are chemicals added to low-quality canvas materials to get a brighter surface upon which to print your image. If you start with high quality canvas material to begin with, you don’t need OBAs. Whiter whites are great when it comes to my honey’s pitted out t-shirts, but when it comes to bleaching out my clients’ memories, forget about it. Then again, if you like that vintage-y, cracked and yellowed look to your works of art after 5-7 years on your wall, knock yourself out with the cheap canvas. It’ll look great on the walls of your vintage Airstream.


  • Archival quality matters: If the Framers of the Constitution and Roxanne Benton had lived at the same time, I’m guessing the curators at the National Archives today would be sitting around smoking their pipes and doing Sudoku puzzles all day instead of painstaking document restoration and preservation. Archival-quality products do cost more, but if you value being able to pass your art down through the generations, then things like UV protectants, OBA-free materials, and Tyvek-backed moisture barriers matter. Even the tiniest details can make the difference for a client.


  • You have spinach in your teeth: Everybody has that one friend who will be the one to tell when you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe or lipstick on your teeth when everyone else acts like they can’t see it. When you have questions or doubts about the look, quality, color or feasibility of an image on any medium (canvas, metal, etc.), Roxanne is the one who tells you straight up the way it is. Try getting that kind of attention from a discounted canvas website. They will let you walk around with snot hanging out of your nose.  Bottom line here: in the canvas business, Roxanne is the girlfriend who’s got your back.

As I’ve journeyed on with SOAR! this past year, I’ve had to opportunity to learn from some of the best artists, coaches and vendors in the industry. And sharing all of those juicy details with you is the cornerstone of what SOAR! is all about. Add Pixel2Canvas and Roxanne’s expertise to your toolbox. As I refine what my product offerings will include in this next year of growth, you can bet I’ll be depending on Roxanne at Pixel2Canvas to help me give my clients the absolute best.

Now where did I put that Groupon for 51% off Root Canals?


Pixels on the Wall

Two of my very favorite things in the world to do include pictures and interior design. A favorite Saturday pastime of my husband’s and mine was to go on model home tours. I could get lost for hours with my camera, photoshop, and store selling home goods. However, what I really like is when things are done with style and uniqueness. Now, how does that all apply to this weeks post about photography, you may wonder. Three words will sum it up…Pixel2Canvas and Roxanne Benton ie, CanvasRox. Let me just tell you, there is a plethra of photographic material out there folks. There are images being placed on everything. However, when we have a woman with the knowledge, authenticity and reputation of Roxanne running a company with some really cool, fine quality items, we must take notice. I definitely have been a little overwhelmed with all of the choices out there. What do I order? Who does what? What is it’s true value? How many samples will I have to buy to get the quality merchandise that I can feel comfortable referring to those who choose to trust me? Tons of questions rolling around this noggin I will admit.

We, Rachel, Ali & I had the benefit of speaking with Roxanne in depth last week and what an awesome conversation we had. Her willingness to educate us on the differences in merchandise and the things we should be looking for was so comforting. The authenticity that poured through that phone from this woman who clearly loved her business and the customers who trusted them with their memories and livelihoods was quickly apparent. Add to this some of their wonderful products that I cannot wait to get my hands on.

This past week, my son blessed me with a rare session in front of the camera that did not require a bribe for his thirteenth birthday. The first one that I will be ordering very soon will be a wallrider! These are awesome for seniors or boys who really don’t think it’s cool to have a canvas of them in their rooms. But my son is definitely looking forward to this. They look like a skateboard without the wheels. No one else has them! This image will look great on this wallrider in his room.

Another item that I am looking forward to receiving is a Metal Print. Oh my goodness, they look so beautiful. They are classy, yet modern and I love the iridescent sheen! I am all about shimmer. It seems that I have just put my hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Beautiful quality products that won’t break the bank to showcase some important people .Roxanne and Pixel2Canvas have started something. Seriously, thank you Roxanne for taking the time to educate us and answer our questions. It seems I finally know where to obtain some of the products that I am sure to be proud of.

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!

Meet FastLine Media!

Hi there fellow SOAR! enthusiasts!  We are FastLine Media, a small design/development firm nestled in the heart of the bay area.  We have been SOAR! participants for several years now and have had the amazing opportunity of working with the 2011 SOAR! recipients, Rachel Abelson, Ali Anderson and Charisse Rhodes on their new stellar web presences!

So, to start off, if you are looking for an amazing photo hosting platform to really showcase your work, sell prints and bring your photography business to the next level, choose SmugMug.  Not only is the platform completely robust with tons of useful features for photographers, it’s completely customizable!  That’s where we come in – customizing and creating beautiful websites on this robust platform!

I’m sure at this point you’re all wondering, so how does this all work!?!?  We offer several affordable solutions on the SmugMug platform, but for the SOAR! gals, a fully customized SmugMug site and matching WordPress blog we’re in order. :)

To start the process, we sent each of the girls several guidelines, references and resources in terms of their logo designs/branding.  The gals were off to the races and all came up with amazing, beautiful and personal logo designs. From there, we asked each of the gals to answer a series of design questions relating to their new website presences. Things like color preferences, design style, etc. Each of the gals came up with great examples of their preferences and plenty of feedback to get us off hitting the Photoshop canvas!

Overall, we are still in the design process, but soon we will move on to collecting text content, images and other vital items to make the end result all come together. Trust us, you won’t want to miss the unveil of the gals’ new sites!  Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading, we look forward to an opportunity to help you out as well! :)

Interested in learning more about our SmugMug customization services?  Please visit to check out what we have in the works!


Billy & Justin
FastLine Media


The Office Pool

Most every office has some kind of event where there is harmless gambling involved; maybe it’s taking bets on when a co-worker will have the baby. Or how long until the boss gives in and gets caught chain-smoking out behind the dumpster. And there’s nothing quite like the NCAA March Madness brackets to reveal a colleague’s true colors. In my case, I’m fairly certain the good people over at Fastline Media take bets on how long it will take Ali Anderson to make decisions about her website.

It’s not that I’m a commitment-phobe. It’s just that creating a brand for yourself out of thin air with a looming deadline is a little bit like shopping at Target during rush hour. Sure, you have your list in hand. You know what it is you need: super-mega-ultra rolls of paper towels, industrial-sized packages of toilet paper and enough trail mix and shower curtains to last through a nuclear winter.

You’re on track to get out of Target on time and under $100, but then you take a detour on the way to the cash register because there might be some shoes on sale. And just as you’re reveling in the karmic goodness of snagging the last pair in your size, you realize you might be out of dog food. But as you’re hefting the dog food into the cart, you remember you told your son’s teacher you would bring cupcakes to the bake sale tomorrow. At this point, you might as well toss a few extra bottles of wine into the cart with that cupcake mix because your day just got a lot longer and your brain a little bit more crowded, especially when you get home and realize you have enough dog food for the pooch to make it through a nuclear winter too.

My point is that you can be clearly defined with what you need for your business’s online presence. You might even be lucky enough to know clearly what you want. When you’re working within a deadline though (especially as a mother), sometimes the needs and wants of your business get trapped under the wheels of the family bus. And that, my friends, is exactly how you end up standing in the longest checkout line with a shopping cart full of jumbled needs and wants when you’re already running behind and stretched to the limit.

I’ve made some big gains in recent weeks with my website decisions, but to do it I had to realize that I can’t wander around my day like I used to before kids; taking my sweet time because it was practically disposable.  Today, I’m a mother with a business. That means I have to be more efficient with the smaller amounts of time I do have; Thirty-minutes to research and choose fonts I like for my website while dinner cooks and the kids are engaged in something that doesn’t involve me. Ten minutes to sketch out my thoughts on website content while I’m waiting in the carpool line at school. Twenty-five minutes to write a SOAR! blog post while I wait for gymnastics class to finish. And occasionally, I have to be kind enough to myself to ask for help getting over the rocky parts: “Dear Sweet Spouse of Mine, can you please take the kids today so I can have uninterrupted time to get stuff done?”

That’s how I move important things forward these days – in fits and starts.

I really truly can’t wait for you to see what I’m working on with the team at Fastline. And if anyone finds out how much Fastline’s betting pool on my responsiveness is up to, be sure to leave it in the comments.



Branding…The Final Frontier

Well, we are coming up on the homestretch of this 2010 SOAR year and it has been quite a journey! The support, guidance and resources that Rachel, Ali & I have been provided have been nothing less than a God Send. It has helped me move out of the safe places or “shadows” where I formerly resided to being able to share my hopes, fears & dreams out loud among a community of women who have been nothing less than supportive.

Today as we are into the website and branding process of this journey with the amazing guys from Fastline Media who has generously donated their support to us, I tried to put into this video a little of what I have learned. When you are done, hop on over to the website of Fastline Media. They have so many sites for you to take a look at and marvel at what they can do for you too.

If any of you would like some more details on our experiences creating our websites or working with Fast Line, hope on over to the forum and let us know. We would be happy to share more.

PS…Please forgive the lighting on my face. We did not have good light and I had to get my videographer when he could fit me into his schedule. He is quite busy, or so he thinks. (smile)

Faster than Fast

The gals and I are well into this SOAR! year (can you believe it’s over half over!?). As the year progresses we are one step closer to having everything set up for our businesses. Which brings me to the exciting news…we are on our way to having official websites! And we have the creative minds at Fastline Media to thank for that.

When we first heard from Billy at Fastline, I was giddy! How awesome it would be to have a website! Somewhere potential clients could come check out my work, but more importantly, check out who I am. The process has been pretty smooth with Fastline. They have given us easy steps to follow to determine what we want in our sites.  What I love was that we could easily look at examples of their previous work. They have a plethora of examples of smugmug customizations they have done. This was awesome for me since I really had not a clue of what I wanted. I knew a bunch of things I didn’t want, but nothing definitive on what I did want. Then I saw one of their example sites and it all came together.  I emailed Billy and told him which site I loved and what I loved about it and how I wanted to incorporate the colors of my logo.  He was awesome…listened to exactly what I said and came up with a draft that I was in love with. With just a tweak here and there, I was set! Yes, folks, the layout of my site is done! And no, I’m not going to give you a sneak peak. You’ll have to hang tight until we launch it!
What I love about Fastline is that they listened to what I said and made it happen. Thank you, Billy, for giving me the website that is perfect for me!

Some things that inspired my site…..


Beauty is Pixel Deep

If you’re a woman, chances are good you’ve been Photoshopping yourself since you were at least 12 years old. Every single one of us has stood in front of the mirror at some point since adolescence and liberally applied the concealer. And you can’t tell me you haven’t been on a date and done the oh-so-discreet spinach-in-the-teeth check in the reflection of the butter knife. The desire to enhance has been around since the discovery of mirrors, which pretty much means our Neolithic ancestors would have given up their best set of blunt tools to have a fully retouched, color corrected and perfectly exposed family portrait hanging above the fire pit. If only they’d had Adobe Photoshop, I’m sure there would have been a lot less tribal violence and political upheaval.

We all know the suite of Adobe products made for photographers is the gold standard in the industry. You know you’re the top dog when your product name is used as both a proper noun and a verb in everyday vernacular (Client: “You can Photoshop my arms to look like Jennifer Aniston’s, right? Me: “Oh, totally. She’ll look like Roseanne Barr compared to you.”). In fact, it’s possible the entire post-production process has become an art forum unto itself. There are countless blogs dedicated the subject. Some of my favorites:

  • Totally Rad – You guessed it. Totally rad stuff on this site.

I’m sure I don’t have to sell you on how great Photoshop and Lightroom are, but take a look at some of my before and afters from the past week and see for yourself.




And don’t feel like you have to skim money off the top of the grocery budget the next few weeks to afford Photoshop and Lightroom either. Adobe offers a “lite” version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements which has many of the key features of the whole hog for a fraction of the price.

One last thing. This probably goes without saying, but there is no amount of magic in any Adobe product that can substitute for getting it right, in camera, the first time. But if you’re like me, sometimes you need a little post-processing help to fully realize the vision you have in your head. Ain’t no shame in that, people.

And the bonus – if you learn how to Photoshop Jennifer Aniston’s arms onto your own, you’ll have one awesome looking Christmas card.


Adobe….it’s not just acrobat reader!

After the shock of wining the SOAR! scholarship started to wind down, I went through and checked out how lucky I was to be receiving all the amazing prizes/gifts. One that jumped out at me was being gifted from Adobe. This was a company I was somewhat familiar with. I actually already had photoshop-and loved it. It wasn’t until I took MeRa’s workshop, I learned about Lightroom. Then I learned about Bridge. Oh my! So much to learn.

After the workshop I was all about Lightroom! I played around in Lightroom trying to figure it all out….though it didn’t take long; Lightroom is quite user friendly. In less than 2 minutes I can start with these two pictures….


And end with 4 pictures (the two originals and these two edited ones)

Lightroom is a great one stop shop for editing. I can import my pictures, edit them, and convert them all to JPEG (since I shoot in RAW) all in one program. Converting to JPEG is super easy to. Click export in the file menu and this screen comes up…

Here I can tell it where to put the pictures, what format, how I want them named, what size, and more.

To broaden my horizons, I have tried my hand at Bridge too. This works in conjunction with Photoshop. Bridge is great because it works right from where your pictures are, no importing. I can edit in Bridge, then when I’m ready to convert to JPEG it opens Photoshop for me, converts them, and places them in a special JPEG folder within my RAW folder. Again, so user friendly.

I could write all day about how awesome Adobe is and how much they have to offer (like online trainings, in person trainings, books, classroom in a box, and so much more), but your eyes might get crossed after staring at the computer that long. So I’ll sign off and leave it to the other gals to fill you in more on the greatness of Adobe!

Smile and Go For It!


The Scenic Route

Nobody takes the scenic route any more. Who has time to stop and smell the roses when your GPS indicates it will take 12.398 minutes to get there by car, 1.452 hours by foot and 3.7 days by elephant caravan. The scenic route doesn’t interest me at rush hour when I’ve got a live human grenade in my backseat who will leave a trail of Cheerio-laced destruction if her her pin gets pulled before we reach our destination. Sorry, Officer, but you have no idea how long it took me to vacuum the rugs in my car last week, so can you just give me my ticket so I can get home and self-medicate with a candy bar? Really – what’s the point in taking the less-traveled road when the freeway you’re on appears to be working just fine for everyone else?

The point is that the scenic route, while it at first seems like a colossal waste of time and gas, might be the one that gets you there in a little better condition than when you left. The point is that sometimes the scenic route keeps you from rear-ending the lady in front of you who just stabbed herself in the eye with her mascara wand. The point is that sometimes the scenic route gives you the gift of time to craft a better story for your life.

SOAR! has been taking me down the scenic route this whole year. It was off the beaten path for me to even apply for the scholarship. Waaaay off. In fact, before SOAR!, I would have told you a blog was a character in a Dr. Suess book. Whether it’s photography or another part of your life, sometimes you have to approach things unconventionally if you want to get somewhere.

One of the many landmarks along my scenic journey this year has been The Wisdom Connection with Karen Buckley, Fay Freed and Genie Ohashi. I am comfortable in the space of women’s leadership and advancement, but admittedly, the concept of feminine wisdom in business was foreign and unconventional to me. My mind conjured images of group sing-a-longs, warm and fuzzy trust circles and maybe some yoga on a mountain side (actually, I’ll take the yoga with a side of green tea, please). Let me just tell you – it ain’t that, people.

Sometimes it’s strategies that work especially well for women to manage priorities. Sometimes it’s marketing and income generation development. Sometimes it’s short and long term goals (and being held accountable for them…ouch). And sometimes it’s a coach who listens while I’m banging my head against the wall because it’s impossible to focus on starting a business when I’m cleaning up spilled paint in the dining room while dinner gets charred in the kitchen and the kids answer the front door buck-naked.

Like most new experiences, you get out of it what you put into it. As a woman in the throes of starting a business, I have strengths that differentiate me from a man. Karen, Fay and Genie are uniquely suited to teasing out my strengths and helping me see the forest through the trees.

And that’s something I think many women struggle to master somewhere in between the school run, the commute to work, the weekends spent sitting in bleachers and the laundry. I do.

Nobody blinks when you seek out a specialized doctor for your annual Pap. Nobody laughs when you heat up your Lean Cuisine lunch in the break room at work because you read an article about weight loss in The Oprah Magazine last week. And nobody looks down upon your seeking out professional counseling to save your marriage or understand your partner better. When we effortlessly rely upon professional sources for guidance in our every day lives, why does the concept of feminine wisdom in business feel so…unconventional?

I’m not exactly sure yet, but maybe that doesn’t matter right now. I’m too busy enjoying the scenic route to worry about when I’ll arrive with all the answers.