Recorded: Welcome to The ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones. A podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price, and confidently sell their best work. Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years, and she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, many workshops and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love, through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do the rework.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hi, friends, and welcome back to The ReWork. Today’s guest wears many hats. She’s a portrait photographer, but she also runs teen empowerment workshops. She’s run a kindness initiative in her area and become famous for that. And for many years, she saw these many hats as separate, and it’s only recently that she’s pulled all of these threads of her life, her personality, her passions together in a way that has made her heart, her soul, and her business incredibly happy. I can’t wait for you to hear it. She’s been in business for 25 years and she’s more excited and more passionate than ever by weaving all of these threads of who she really is together. I think you’re going to find a lot of inspiration here. Let’s do it. 

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m excited to have a little ray of sunshine in the podcast studio today with Miss Debbie McFarland is here.

Debbie McFarland: Hi.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hi, Debbie. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I so appreciate it.

Debbie McFarland: Oh, I’m so happy to be here. I love chatting with you.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s going to be awesome. So tell our listeners who you are, where you are, what you’re doing. Give us a little Debbie McFarland bio.

Debbie McFarland: So I am in Georgia. I just moved from a town called Peachtree City, Georgia, so if that just doesn’t exemplify what Georgia is about, but we moved to the country about a year ago, just about 10, 15 minutes away from where I had had my business all these years. I’ve been in business full-time as a photographer, this is my 25th year, so it’s kind of a big deal.

Allison Tyler Jones: Congratulations. That’s amazing.

Debbie McFarland: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and you just made a big dream come true.

Debbie McFarland: My farm.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Debbie McFarland: Oh, yes. I have my studio on my grounds in a barn, and I just have to walk about four feet to my studio, which is awesome.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, so good.

Debbie McFarland: It’s amazing, yes. But during these 25 years, I also raised six kids and now they’re all gone. I started a movement called Sparks of Kindness, and it’s about changing the world with kindness and deliberate acts, not just random. Then also, I do tween empowerment workshops, well for girls and for ladies. And we’re about to open a flower farm this spring.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh my gosh.

Debbie McFarland: So a little bit of everything, but they’re all kind of tied together, so I’m excited. But yeah, my business has gone all over the place, I feel like, in the last 10 years or so with the way the industry has changed.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’ve been in the industry for a long time, so what have you seen? What has that trajectory looked like for you?

Debbie McFarland: Well, of course, I was film, and for those of you that are listening that don’t know what film is, look that up, Google that. So first it was film, and then from day one, I always gave very, very high-end customer service. I went and got certified before I ever actually took a client’s session. It was very important to me. I got certified through PPA. I mean, it’s very important to me to feel qualified to charge. That was just a head trash thing I had going on. So I did that before I had any clients, and I decided that I wanted to run a high end business. So from day one, I provided… I had all the things. I had the candles and the nice music playing, and I’d run out to their car and help them bring their stuff in.

Debbie McFarland: Then I would have the consultation and the in-person sales and the little snacks and the drinks and stuff, and the little candy and the note in their box at pickup time, so all the little things that I thought I could do to serve them. And then over the years, the industry changed and evolved from film to digital. Then it went to being saturated with, everybody can do this. It didn’t take any certification. You could just hang up a sign that says, I’m a photographer. And then all of a sudden there was a race with everybody competing for the lowest price. I was still over here trying to sell my wall portraits. Then about five or six years ago, after many, many clients telling me that everybody offers digital images, and I could see that all the photographers were, I decided to add digital images to my price list probably five or six years ago. Then immediately, I saw my averages plummet.

Allison Tyler Jones: Interesting.

Debbie McFarland: Yeah, so-

Allison Tyler Jones: Interesting in not a good way.

Debbie McFarland: Right, not a good way. I felt stuck, really stuck. How am I going to get out of this? Because I couldn’t see a way out. I felt like that’s how the whole industry had become. In the meantime, I’m still providing this high-end customer service.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Because you can’t go back on that.

Debbie McFarland: You cannot.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s not who you are.

Debbie McFarland: So I was working harder and harder and harder, more hours, more hours to make what I used to make and wasn’t even coming close. It was very discouraging, needless to say. More people were purchasing digital images than the wall portraits because they’re like, “Well, I can just go print that on my own,” they thought.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Debbie McFarland: But even more discouraging than that was that I would run into a mom after a year or so, or they would come in for their second senior portrait or whatever, and they would tell me, and I’d ask, “Well, what’d you do with the other images?” And they’d say, “Well, I don’t even know where that flash drive is. It’s somewhere in a drawer or something like that.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Debbie McFarland: Yeah. And that broke my heart because the whole reason that I do this, that I do photography, is to show people how incredibly beautiful they are, just the way they are, to accept themselves and not compare themselves to others and not be crazy, crazy photoshopped and stuff like that. So that would break my heart, and I’d picture these senior girls who had got their hair and makeup done, or they’d went shopping for all these dresses and then their flash drive as missing somewhere. What? But then the last draw was when I went to my friend’s house and she had purchased digital images from me that I had taken of her gorgeous little four year old girl who was just so squishy and cute. I walked into her house and saw a new canvas from across the room and I didn’t even recognize it. It was dark, blurry.

Debbie McFarland: And as I walked closer, I realized it was one that I had taken of her in the garden and her face had a greenish grayish undertone like when someone’s really sick. You know what I mean? Like she was going through some treatment or something like that. And I thought, well, what is this doing to this little girl’s confidence? She’s looking at this like, oh my gosh, is that what I look like? So then I was in the point of just throwing on the towel. I couldn’t figure out how to do this business in the direction that our industry had gravitated towards. I knew it wasn’t how I wanted to do things. It wasn’t serving people in the way that I wanted to serve them, and I wasn’t feeling proud of the work that I was producing.

Debbie McFarland: The final product wasn’t something I could stand by. I wasn’t able to guarantee my work anymore. I had to take that off of all my literature. I’m not able to give the lifetime guarantee anymore. I just felt empty and not fulfilled, not able to do this kind of thing anymore. And then I found you and The ReWork, and that’s where things changed.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Well, and I love that because you’re such a great member of our community, and I appreciate that, but I did not realize that that was so transformative. I thought you were just… This is the first I’m hearing of this, so I love it. So tell me more.

Debbie McFarland: Yeah. So the funny thing is I thought that previously I had all the ingredients on the way that I had served my clients. I had spent so much time over the years trying to come up with better ways to serve them and all these little things that I do. I mean, I’m sure I missed some things, but-

Allison Tyler Jones: Probably not.

Debbie McFarland: I’m sure I did. But this was a whole new level of customer service to me. I’d always had the consultation where we talked about what colors they liked, what locations they liked, and I showed them examples of all the different places we could go, where we could go anywhere they wanted, without any reference really, to where it was going to hang in their house. I mean, we talked about sizing and the proportions of the face or whatever, that kind of thing, but not in regards to the style of their home. So I have clients who tell me that they’ve had a wall portrait hanging above their fireplace, for example, for 20 years. I hear it all the time. That’s a long, long time to have a piece of art above your fireplace. So when I started taking your classes and started serving on a whole new level, it made me cringe because then I realized, what if all those people had a photo up there that was not the right-

Allison Tyler Jones: Gray green child.

Debbie McFarland: Yeah. Well, no, no, even prior to that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, okay.

Debbie McFarland: The wall portraits that I printed even, maybe it wasn’t the right size for that area or the right colors for that room, or was it even the right style for their home. For example, if they had a formal home and I took their pictures and it just happened to be the picture they like the best. We would go in for the in-person sales, and then they just pick the picture, they like the best, and it hangs up on their wall. Well, what if they have a formal home and I took the pictures, jeans, barefoot in a field, laughing or something and it doesn’t even match the home or vice versa? They have a casual home and here they’re all dressed up or the colors are all off or whatever. So this just feels so complete now.

Debbie McFarland: I serve them from the actual beginning to the end in a whole new way, and it just makes so much more sense to me. I can either pop into their home for a home visit and see their colors, their styles, the actual space, and shoot for that. Shoot for the end in mind. Or they can send me photos or they can even describe it better, because now I have that in my mind, the colors, the style-

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. You’re having the conversations now.

Debbie McFarland: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Let me back you up for just one second, because I think just listening to your story, I’m just making notes as we’re going, I don’t think you’re alone. I think this has happened to many photographers and what I think you’ve done in coming through The Rework and being in our community, I really think you’ve just come back to who you already were.

Debbie McFarland: Right. Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think you come home because you departed at some point from the core of what you really wanted to do. Because what do we always do? We look to the side and what is everybody else doing and we compare. And then obviously, clients will come in and say, well, what about this and what about this? We get scared. We think, oh my gosh, they’re not going to come back unless I do this thing or whatever. So it’s easy to not stay the course. It’s easy to just say, okay, well then I’ve got to go down this rabbit hole, and then how do I get out once you’ve done that? So those stories, that story of the last flash drive, the story of the gray green kid, the bad printing, to me, those aren’t failures. Those are your stories about why you’re not doing that-

Debbie McFarland: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Going forward. That’s your ability to say, I did do this. I did try that and this is what happened. Then I realized that I can never do that again to my clients.

Debbie McFarland: Right. But then you took it to a whole new level to where the style of the home, that was just something I hadn’t really considered prior to that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I think it takes an evolution. When we learn something new, then we can incorporate it. If it speaks to us, that’s great. So now as you’re talking to your clients about this, what are some of the things that you’re saying to them and how are they responding to this new way of serving clients?

Debbie McFarland: Well, I think it’s something that they just hadn’t… They’re just dumbfounded because they just hadn’t thought that that was even an option. They’ve never heard of anything like that. They just had the picture taken, they got the pictures, and then they tried to figure out what to do with it on their own. I’m shocked at how many people don’t even decorate. I’ve gone to these clients’ homes now who just, in my mind… I can decorate. I have an art degree and so I had this background and I just assume everybody else can do that. Then I go to their houses and it’s like beige walls with nothing on the wall and they’re okay with that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, or they might not be okay with it, but they just don’t know what to do.

Debbie McFarland: They don’t know what to do, right.

Allison Tyler Jones: How many times have you heard that? We’ve got a million walls and I just am afraid to put anything on the wall because I don’t know what to do. I’m not good at that.

Debbie McFarland: Right. And for me to be there in person, they’re like, “Well, gosh, do you think I should move myself here and then put something above…”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Debbie McFarland: And they love that. They just get so excited to have my opinion in their home. It’s been a game changer for me.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that.

Debbie McFarland: I absolutely love that part of it. It just takes it to a whole new level. It was like this light bulb moment for me in my business.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Well, and you already had it. You already had the chops, you already had the art background, you knew how to photograph beautifully. You have the soul for it, the love of the people, the positivity. I mean, all the things that you actually can’t train, you had in spades, but by “the industry”, making a big change makes sometimes makes us feel like we have to do something different and I think also economic times. There are different things that will come along and make us doubt the way that we’re doing it and make us scared, and then we make tragic decisions.

Debbie McFarland: Rash decisions like I should have a sale.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. It’s easy to do something quick like that rather than to think, okay, how could I be really creative about this? And we are creative. So if we just take a minute and pause and think, look at all the creative things that you’ve done. You’ve started this Spark of Kindness, you’re doing this tween empowerment, now you’re going to start a flower farm. I mean, there’s no lack of ideas over at the McFarland residence.

Debbie McFarland: Lot of ideas. I just need more time, which was the other problem. I was working all the time. I didn’t have time to do… I wanted to serve them in a deeper level.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Talk more about that, how your business was before you made this change versus how it is now, as far as the time that you’re spending and how satisfied you are with your career.

Debbie McFarland: Oh yeah. It’s so exciting for me now. For example, with these tweens, I’m doing now tween empowerment photo sessions. I started that maybe two years ago. So what I do is I have the moms send out questionnaires… The kids don’t have any idea that we’re doing this. They just think we’re doing a cool photo shoot. In the meantime, mom sends out questionnaires to people that love them or admire them. Might be a coach or a grandma or a neighbor or a teacher or something like that. My questions are all geared towards the inner qualities that they admire of this tween. So in addition to showing them the beautiful images, how beautiful they’re on the outside, I want to show them that what really matters is what’s on the inside and if you don’t love yourself, it’s not going to shine outward and show.

Debbie McFarland: So when they come in to see their slideshow during their view and order appointment, the kids don’t have any idea that this is coming. But these words start popping up. So they’ll have these beautiful images, and then it’ll be like, “Well, I remember one time in our classroom she shared her cookies with the new student who was feeling lonely,” and it’s Mrs. So-and-so. And then the kids are like, “How in the world do you know Mrs. So-and-so? How do you know my soccer coach? How do you know my vocal teacher?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh my gosh. That’s so cool.

Debbie McFarland: And the kids, I’ve seen them, they just start crying. They’re laughing and crying at the same time.

Allison Tyler Jones: No.

Debbie McFarland: And their moms are like, “Are you crying? Why are you crying?” “I just didn’t know people felt these things about me.” It gives me goosebumps thinking about it now.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know, I have goosebumps right now. So you’re getting this information from the questionnaire from the mom, and then you’re taking those quotes and putting them on a slide and then putting them into their slideshow when they come to see their images?

Debbie McFarland: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.

Debbie McFarland: And then what most moms order is, based on me recommending it-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, of course.

Debbie McFarland: It’s on a wall portrait where the girl feels really empowered, her favorite picture for her room. Sometimes they’ll take out the mirror in the girls’ bedrooms and just have this up on the wall. But then they’ll do all their other favorites in an album and I will include those quotes in the album so that when the girls are having a rough day, if somebody bullies them at school or if they have those inner negative thoughts in their head that are replaying, like we all do, they can just pull their album back out and read all the things that other people have said about them and see these beautiful images when they were beautiful and they did feel confident during that time. It helps them remember that time when we were together, when I was making them feel that way.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s amazing.

Debbie McFarland: I could never have done that when I was working all the time.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Yes, exactly. Because when you’re retouching or editing until three in the morning and you’re just running around being busy, then you don’t have the time to devote that level of service because that does take time.

Debbie McFarland: It’s a lot more time consuming, right. But it’s really fueled my passion for photography and the whole reason I started it, as well as helping families connect. I mean, I feel like so many families have been struggling since COVID. During that time when they were at home, it was like, here’s your tablet, here’s your phone, whatever. There’s just been such a disconnect at home and their home life. So if I can give them this time together to snuggle and love on each other and laugh and play. Nobody plays anymore as a family without… Okay, if they all happen to leave their phone in the car, or I tell them to, and they just play. Then that’s the same kind of thing when mom has this picture on the wall. She remembers that time together that they had.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, you’re building in… I just can’t even imagine the layers of value for that kid, for that family. It’s just every time they look at that, they’re going to remember that feeling that they had, that moment of seeing those slides come up, quotes that their teacher said. Or with the family, I always think they’re going to remember the good time that they had and the feelings that they had about each other. I don’t want them to remember what it took to get there, because that’s usually the-

Debbie McFarland: The stress of that.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s the stress of that. But it’s making the portrait, in itself, an experience worth remembering, so that the image itself becomes so much more valuable.

Debbie McFarland: And then they want to come back.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I love that. So with this tween thing that you’re doing, are you seeing return? Are they bringing all their kids in? How’s that working?

Debbie McFarland: Well, a recent mom, for example, we did the… Let me think. She was the youngest of three, the girl that I did. She felt guilty because she hadn’t done it for the other two, but each kid has its own things they’re going to go through. One kid, you spend a fortune on because he’s going to the high end soccer team or whatever. And then this particular-

Allison Tyler Jones: Hashtag, life’s not fair.

Debbie McFarland: Right, exactly. And this particular girl had a little trouble adjusting to middle school. Anyway, we did the pictures and the mom hung… This story was actually very, very interesting because it changed her whole decorating style too. She loved the way the pictures came out and the way it made her daughter feel. And so she asked if we could do it for the other two kids, but they were a little older. So I was like, well, we’ll see how it goes. One was a boy and one was a little older girl. Of course, they all loved it, even the little guy. We did some with his football and his baseball and stuff like that. But she ended up getting three 24 x 30s. This is the funny part, because she said the trend has been very neutral homes, like grays or tans-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Debbie McFarland: And all that linen look or whatever. She said that her house, they were so sick of being in their house for the time that they were at home altogether, and everything was so blah. Everything was the same color. The walls were the color, the sofa and everything. She said she loved this one image of her tween that was in front of this floral mural. It was all these bright, bright, bright, bright colors. And so she got a 24 x 30 of each of the kids. I was able to go to her house and we found the spot. It was going to be on the stairway that you see when you come in the front door. It would be the first thing you see in the home. She wanted to incorporate these big, bright, happy colors into her home.

Debbie McFarland: I never would’ve thought to do this if I hadn’t gone to her home. We had to go shoot the other two kids, not shoot the kids, but you know what I’m saying, the other kids with those same colors so that we could have all three of those in 24 x 30s when you walk in the front door.

Allison Tyler Jones: Amazing.

Debbie McFarland: She’s like, “Now I have to get throw pillows that have bright, happy colors.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Debbie McFarland: It just transformed the whole mood of the house, she said.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, the thing that I think too, that I want to highlight for our listeners is that what you’re doing is you aren’t just taking pictures. You’re not just documenting. You’re not just making a portrait. You’re doing something on five different levels. You’re doing self-esteem, you’re doing interior design, you’re solving so many problems for that family and for those kids, or you wouldn’t even have to call them problems. You’re serving them in so many valuable ways just by being more creative and thinking differently about what it is that you do, rather than I’m just photographer just creating images.

Debbie McFarland: Right. Because as you knows, some days we’re a therapist, some days we’re an interior decorator, most days we’re all of the above. But this gives it a way to be, like you said, you’re not comparable to anybody else. It’s a concrete way for me to see… I guess maybe it was my own mind that I couldn’t see it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Debbie McFarland: I couldn’t see my own value as a photographer.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Debbie McFarland: But it’s not value in me. It’s value in the service that I provide. I think that’s the biggest thing I got from you was that it was my services are valuable now and forever. It’s not just the photo. It was the time leading up to the session, it was during our consultation, me popping into their house, if I do them coming in to see the slideshow and then seeing those pictures over and over and over. It’s that value that keeps reliving. It was something that I couldn’t see in my own value maybe, but I could see in the service that I provide, because it’s not even comparable to the girl who shows up at the park and hands over the digital images.

Allison Tyler Jones: 100%. And also what I think what is really core to what you do and how you operate, just knowing you the little that I do, is that the real value is that you are showing them their value.

Debbie McFarland: Right, that’s what I strive.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that’s easy to have confidence, even when you don’t have that much confidence in yourself. You have the confidence and the beauty of a human being in the beauty of a young girl that shares her cookies with a lonely friend. I think about… There’s a book, one of my favorite marketing books is called Difference by Bernadette Jiwa. She talks in that book about how our clients don’t really care about us. They don’t really care about our brand or anything like that. They care about how they feel about themselves in the presence of our brand. So it’s not just like, oh, Chanel makes me feel beautiful. It’s like, no, no. Carrying a Chanel bag makes me feel like, fill in the blank, that I’m successful, that I have good taste. It’s how I feel about myself in the presence of that brand.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so that mother, if I’m one of your clients, I feel like a good mother because I’ve brought this child who’s struggling to you, and she’s had this amazing experience, and then I’ve brought my other kids, and now I’m redecorating my house. All of that started with your creativity and your idea and your expertise by thinking out of the box and arresting your race to the bottom by trying to do what everybody else was doing, which is what we all do. We all do it, but you stopped yourself.

Debbie McFarland: Well, I think that was from you though, because I think somehow, you got it through into my head where I’ve always struggled with finding a niche. I don’t really have one niche. But then somehow you got through to me where I could just be me, authentically me, and to be me louder and in my business where I always kept it separate. I kept my Sparks of Kindness separate. And the thing is, I’m known for that in the area. Everybody knows me as the Sparks of Kindness woman. It’s been all across the world. I’ve been all across the country on the news, been interviewed and stuff like that, so everybody knows me as the Kindness Lady, but I kept it separate. Then I did these empowerment workshops for ladies and life stuff, for ladies and for girls. and I kept that separate. 

Debbie McFarland: But then just as of a week ago, I developed a new website that incorporated it all together. I’ve been wanting to do it for years and years and years, but I thought it was weird, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. But then it was like, no, my niche, this is my niche. This is who I am, and I just need to be authentically me and be me louder, so that the people who are drawn to that will come and then who are different or have different needs or whatever, then they’ll go to somebody else and that’s okay. The biggest thing that you taught me was not everybody needs this level of customer service either right now or in this situation and if you do, I’m here. And to be okay with that. That was huge to me.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Well, I think it’s a match made in heaven because it’s you. You’re great. I truly believe, I’ve talked to so many photographers through the years and have so many friends in the industry, and we can only be ourselves. Everybody else is already taken. We can’t be anybody else, as much as we try. You see that shiny thing and think, oh, I’m going to do that. I’m going to do that.

Debbie McFarland: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: We all want to do it. We all want to try the new thing, but we really can only be ourselves. But usually, even when you’re trying something new or see something that you like, there’s usually always a thread in there that will pull all of that together. So hearing you talk about the Sparks of Kindness and even your flowers, this empowerment, there’s a thread through all of that that is so you, but sometimes we can’t see it.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think of my former mentor, I won’t say old mentor, Carol Andrews said to me one time, “You can’t see the label from inside the bottle.” And so sometimes, you need somebody from the outside to say, “Don’t you see this thread? How this all works together?” And then leaning into that and becoming more and more… All the best ideas are weird. Those are the best ideas. The ones that feel like, wait, that’s really weird. If it’s like, oh, that’s a great idea, usually somebody else has already thought of it, or it’s time has passed. But something that feels weird and a little bit scary, that’s usually always the best thing. So I love that. Be more you and louder. I think that is just… Or quieter. You know what I mean? Maybe you’re quiet, but be more you and amplify that. I think that’s such a-

Debbie McFarland: Right. And I don’t know why I thought that for so long. I felt like nothing was working until finally I’m like, I’m tired of being every which way. Everything’s scattered. And people knew me for these different things, but I’m like, okay, just bring it together and then this is me. Whether they want that service or not, it’s okay.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, and it makes it so easy to talk about because you’re convinced of it. It’s core to who you are. You don’t have to go read a book on sales to talk about it because it’s pouring out of you.

Debbie McFarland: It’s just easier. Yeah, for sure.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s so easy. And then it immediately will attract the people that want that, and it will immediately repel those that don’t and the hardest-

Debbie McFarland: Which is good, because I honestly don’t want them either.

Allison Tyler Jones: No, I know. But that’s the hardest part because everybody’s like, well, but I don’t want to repel anybody. They want everybody. But you can’t photograph everybody. You’re one person.

Debbie McFarland: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Even if you had a team of people.

Debbie McFarland: I don’t want the high maintenance people who are really, really vain. I took senior pictures of this girl recently who said she had one side of her face that was better than the other side, which I’ve heard before. But this girl literally only wanted me to take one side of her face. So she turned her face the whole time. As much as I tried to talk her into it, I was like, okay, she needed to go somewhere where they did super high end makeup and the glam look and stuff like that. That’s just not who I attract, normally.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s interesting. But even knowing that, and so it’s to be more, you need to know you and excavate that a little bit. So what do you think it was? What was the catalyst for you to integrate all of those separate pieces? What was like, oh, yeah, I do need to do that? What did that look like?

Debbie McFarland: Well, honestly, I looked at, you have a nation. You’re like, this is what I’m doing, and this is what I’m going to do. If people want that, then they’ll come to me. I’m not going to go to the mountains. I’m not going to go to the beach. I’m not going to… It’s like, I’m going to be in my studio. I could see that boldness in you and I was like, why can’t I?

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that.

Debbie McFarland: Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I?

Allison Tyler Jones: That just shows your positivity because what most, well, I won’t say most, but what a lot of people will do when something is working for somebody else is they automatically think of all the reasons why it won’t work for them. I could never do that because I live in an igloo in Alaska, I live… For whatever reason. So congratulations on asking that, why not me? I think that’s amazing.

Debbie McFarland: Well, we’ll see. I just got the new website last week, so I don’t know if people will go to it and be like-

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, tell us what it is. What’s the website?

Debbie McFarland: It’s Cedar Hill Studios with an S.

Allison Tyler Jones:

Debbie McFarland: Dot com, yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. Okay. Is that your Instagram also?

Debbie McFarland: Actually, my Instagram is The Studio at Cedar Hill.

Allison Tyler Jones: The Studio at Cedar Hill, okay. I follow that. Okay. Well, I could not appreciate you more. I think you’ve given us so much good to think about, so many good ideas. And mainly at the bottom of all of that is just too, you don’t have to be vain to think you’re great or to value yourself. You just have to be convinced that this is the way I want to do it and this is the way… You’ve seen the proof is in the pudding. The proof has been in the pudding for 25 years. You’ve seen how people look at their images and can love themselves better and then you lost sight for a moment, a little bit, and then came back and embraced and brought all these disparate parts. You were trying to do… The thing that’s interesting to me is you were trying to do this meaning part and this core of who you are in all these other areas and not bringing it into the photography.

Debbie McFarland: Totally. Totally.

Allison Tyler Jones: Until you brought it into the photography, the photography started to languish.

Debbie McFarland: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Once you brought your full self into it, wow, there’s just no-

Debbie McFarland: Yeah. Because I was looking at everybody else and what they were doing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. Yeah, you can’t. And be more you, louder.

Debbie McFarland: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. Thank you so much, Debbie. I appreciate your time today.

Debbie McFarland: Oh, thanks for having me, and thanks for teaching me all of this.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, well, I don’t know. I think you knew a lot of it, but I appreciate you so much, if you only knew. I really do.

Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at and on Instagram at do.the.rework.


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