Recorded: Welcome to the ReWork with Alison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price, and confidently sell their best work. Alison 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. Are you in love with what you’re shooting right now? Does it make your heart sing? Do you love the lighting? Do you love the subject matter? Is it just working for you, or has it gotten a little stale? Are you bored? And do you need some inspiration?

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, today’s episode is a conversation with my friend, Catherine Langsford, of photos by Catherine in Vancouver, Canada, and we’re going to discuss the possible ways that you might fall out of love with what you’re shooting and how to fall back in love with it again or find some inspiration to evolve to the next thing. Hope you enjoy it. Let’s do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, back in the podcast studio, our favoritest guest, besides my husband, Ivan, is Catherine Langsford with photos by Catherine in Vancouver, Canada, and my dear friend.

Kathryn Langsford: Hi.

Allison Tyler Jones: How are you?

Kathryn Langsford: Good. How are you?

Allison Tyler Jones: Glad you’re here.

Kathryn Langsford: Great to be here.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, what we are going to talk about today is a problem that has plagued many artists before us and will plague many artists after we’re gone. I’ve been in 18, you’ve been in 23 years, and at some point, maybe you don’t love what you’re shooting anymore.

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah. Happens.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.

Kathryn Langsford: Sure.

Allison Tyler Jones: So in that instance, what are you doing? What do you do when you either… I think we’ve all been in that mode where we’re editing a session, we’re like, “I need to find another line of work. I suck at what I do.”

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: When we’re not loving this anymore.

Kathryn Langsford: It’s a good question. There’s been times when I don’t know to do anything. I am misinterpreting what’s happening. I don’t see it as a lapse in creativity. I see it as, “Oh, no, my work sucks now.” Oh, I’ve used up all my creativity and now all I can do is phone-

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s over.

Kathryn Langsford: Especially if I’m not in a great frame of mind, I can’t necessarily see what the problem is. I just feel bad about my work. The creativity part of it is not a task list we can check off, it’s a state of mind and a way that we feel and express ourselves that is hard to manufacture. So, you can’t solve it the same way you can solve a problem with the numbers or a problem with an administrative workflow issue. It’s not-

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s true. That’s true. However, it is the product that we’re producing. And so, it’s incumbent upon us. As portrait photographers, we don’t actually have the luxury to languish in a creative slump. You got to pick yourself up and move forward.

Kathryn Langsford: You got to keep producing, and you have to make it great for everybody. And even if you’re having a rough week or the light is horrible or whatever, you still need to make it great. So, there’s that pressure that can sometimes… Creating under pressure can be challenging, but also what I find is sometimes I’m just bored. It’s a beautiful studio. I am very grateful to be in a place where I can have a studio like this. I love it. But sometimes that white wall, I feel like I’ve played it out.

Kathryn Langsford: And so, I think what happens is, one of a few things, one great thing that happens sometimes is I can discover something new by accident. And sometimes it seems like a problem, but the problem leads to something great. For example, maybe it’s a really dark day and we’re having to work with… Because I use a lot of ambient light. I have a wall of windows and I use a lot of natural light, and then I just supplement it with the strobe. So, sometimes maybe the light just isn’t quite right, but those shadows that I’m not used to having, I realize I kind of like, and then maybe that inspires… I want to start creating something out of that look. So, a happy accident. That kind of thing has happened many times over the years. The other thing that sometimes could happen is maybe a client wears a certain color that I see how that… Because I shoot black and white, so all colors are translated to monochromatic.

Allison Tyler Jones: Sure.

Kathryn Langsford: So, I see how a champagne color looks on my white wall in low light and a whole new idea is formed. I want people to come in that palette, and I’m lighting it like that, and it’s this whole new look that was created not on purpose just because of what someone wore that day. So, being open-minded enough to see when a different look can lead to a whole new avenue of creativity has been one way that I can get out of that. But you can’t really create that, it just sort of happens.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, that’s true, but I think you do have to be open to it. But going back to what you said earlier about how… We are taking money for what it is that we’re doing, and we’re being paid very well to do what we do. So, just because we’re not inspired or feeling great or whatever, it doesn’t mean that’s not a really special session for that particular client or this moment in their life. And so, getting yourself up for that rather than, “Okay, just bring them in. Let’s do pose number 647.” Whatever. How are you doing that? So, how do we keep it fresh, or get yourself more into a head space like that? Are there things that you do before a session maybe when you are struggling that get you going? What are you doing?

Kathryn Langsford: The more I’m able to connect with the people in front of me and their family’s story, the better that part is for me. For example, I’ve been through some difficult things in my family. And so, this year when I needed to come back to work after a period of intense hardship on the home front, I needed to come back and I probably wasn’t ready to come back, and I came back to a big family with big personalities and big kids that I had to shoot, because they were in town from Barbados. It was only going to happen once, I couldn’t reschedule.

Kathryn Langsford: So, I sat for a few minutes before that session and just thought about that family and got my head in the game to do what this family came for because they came a long way and it was really important to them. And that session was all about me focusing on who these people are because I couldn’t be creative. I had no ideas. I had zero ideas.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, yeah.

Kathryn Langsford: My creativity closed down. They brought a ton of clothes, I couldn’t even see straight. I couldn’t figure out what clothes… I just faked that part. I was just like, “Oh, yeah. Wear this, wear that.” Couldn’t think properly. But because I was able to tap into and connect with their personalities and who their family is now and appreciating how much those little girls have grown in the three years since I’ve seen them, the photos were beautiful, really beautiful. And it was all about connection that time. So, sometimes you can really shoot from your heart, really make that work for you even when you don’t have any ideas. I had no posing ideas. There’s some things I just… Are always… My style. I know how to keep people close. I know how to work angles. I know certain things to watch out for. So, that stuff is just autopilot.

Kathryn Langsford: But when it comes to like, “How am I going to have them sit and where am I…” I wasn’t even able to think like that. So, it was just tapping into those personalities that made that happen for me.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. I think that’s such a good example of we’re all going to have days like that where we’re just, whether it’s some external thing has happened and we still have to show up for work, but that really shows your professionalism. So, you know your craft, you know how to light something, you know how to post something. You’ve had many years of doing that. So, that is not a hard thing for you to do. So, you’re maybe not running around going, “Oh, go change into this outfit and do this thing.” Or whatever. But you stayed with actually the most, what I would submit, is the most important thing about what we do, and that is making it about that particular client, not just about the PBK or the ATJ style. We’re not shoving them into our box, we’re actually going even more into who they actually are. So, I think that’s amazing, that’s a really great example. So, when you do have that moment of, “Okay, I’m tired. I’ve played this out.” Tired of everything, and you are motivated to freshen it up, how are you doing that?

Kathryn Langsford: I might do something like move to a different corner of my studio, like backwards against the opposite wall, or I have movable backdrops. I might move one over to the side lit instead of…

Allison Tyler Jones: Front on

Kathryn Langsford: … front lit. Just small differences that make me see things differently. A new piece of furniture, that can go a long way. A new school, a new chair. I remember when I was shooting for that four book that I did, and I had just a bunch of four-year-olds rolling through my office and I was running out of ideas, and I started just putting kids on my desk, just a different height, a different place. And not to say that piece of furniture or that place is going to make it different, it makes me see things differently.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Kathryn Langsford: It makes me stop phoning it in. Yeah, those sort of things help me, and they’re very subtle.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and we all know. I think one of the first things that you discover when you’re learning lighting is the difference that an incremental quarter inch, an inch movement can make to an angle or the way the light is hitting your… It’s like they’re turned a little bit this way, and then they barely… And you’re like, “Oh, oh ,oh. Right there.” It’s just little increments. And the same is true of what you’re describing. Maybe we’ve always been shooting standing. You sit them down, it’s a whole different thing. Or you put them up on a box or a table, your desk, whatever, that’s a little different height than what you’re used to shooting at, and it’s a whole new discovery process. It doesn’t have to be, “We had to build this set that costs $9 million.”

Kathryn Langsford: Absolutely – I don’t even know if I can go to those kinds of great, big efforts to plan ahead and set it up. And I don’t really do that, I just change small things or change where I am. I started shooting Sony in the last few years, and it’s got the screen on the back, whatever you call that. Sony back. Anyway.

Allison Tyler Jones: That you can angle it.

Kathryn Langsford: Angle, so I can shoot waist height and look at my… And that changes things. Or get myself on the floor, that changes things. Those are things probably people have already played with, but maybe you don’t play with it anymore. Find yourself go back.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I would submit that we don’t play enough. That’s one of the great things about when you’re learning photography, it’s so motivating in and of itself, even though you suck half the time and you’re screwing it up, is that you are playing constantly with it and learning. And it’s so exciting and it’s so rewarding because you’re learning something new all the time. Whereas when you get your style down and people are coming to you because they want that specific thing, it’s easy to get stuck in a rutt a little bit.

Allison Tyler Jones: Now, you and I have both had a similar experience in the last year in that we have moved to new studios, both of us have moved our studios. And so, that can become… It sounds very exciting, it sounds very sexy.

Kathryn Langsford: Sure.

Allison Tyler Jones: And it can actually kill you.

Kathryn Langsford: Oh, yeah. It makes you feel untethered.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. It’s been really hard for me to move to a new spot. Even though I set up a psych wall. Wanted to set it up so that I could do all the things that I do, but I have double the width. The ceiling heights are different. It’s just… Yeah, and you’ve really… It’s been encouraging me because you moved probably six or eight months before I did, and I’m seeing you find your places because you were struggling at the beginning too. So, it’s encouraging me that I know I’m going to find my places again.

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah, it’s interesting because my place is different, but the idea is the same. I’ve got a white wall, I’ve got side lighting, I’ve got backlighting possibilities, and then there’s some different things. I also have a dark wall. But anyway, it was surprising to me how hard it was to learn how to shoot in here because I thought it was just the same thing. Sitting on this white wall instead of my old white wall is a world of difference. And I couldn’t find my way.

Kathryn Langsford: I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I remember my first shoot, I had a friend’s family come in just to check it out, and I got nothing. I couldn’t even think about dealing with my subjects, because I couldn’t figure out my physical space. And that was not even dealing with strobes, I was just using natural light. So, yeah, it’s deceivingly difficult. But what I ended up doing is my assistant and I took a whole day and shot in every square inch of the studio. And when we found good angles, we put tape on the floor where the subject was and where I was. And for the first while we used those things. Because really, it wasn’t obvious, we had to literally physically go through the motions of try shooting from this corner, the middle of the room. We tried it all out, and that helped, and that gave me a few places that were my go-to. And then from there, I started discovering things accidentally like we just talked about. And a few new things have come up that have been really exciting, and it’s definitely renewed my creativity this year.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I can tell, your work’s looking amazing. So, another thing that I think about that helps me get motivated is what my sister, every now and then, maybe every other year, I would love to say that we did this more often, but she has just stacks of design books that she buys all the time, magazines, books, that sort of thing. And they sit, and she doesn’t really have time to look through them because she’s too busy designing people’s houses. And so, she even has a system, like the shrink wrap doesn’t come off them unless she’s looked through them. So, there’s a whole stack of these shrink wrap books. So, one day we happened to be sitting in her living room and I opened one, I dared to break the shrink wrap, and she’s like, “Wait, wait, wait. If you break that, then I won’t know that I haven’t looked at it.”

Allison Tyler Jones: And I said, “Well, let’s just start looking through some of them.” So, we sat there for two hours and just looked through all these design books. And I got a lot out of that because I could see how art was being displayed in these gorgeous homes. And obviously, it was an inspiration for her craft. And so, as we were sitting there at the end of this period of time, she closed the last book and she’s like, “Oh, that was like a spa treatment for my eyeballs.” That’s what going to museums or sometimes looking at other photographer’s work. For me, it’s not so much looking at other photographer’s work as it is looking at other art and how it’s displayed. I find a lot of inspiration there. And then backing that up into how could I shoot something that would look like that on a wall?

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah. Yeah, I love that. I think you are so good at that because your ways of seeing how to have your work displayed are so creative and varied. And yeah, that’s a really cool approach to go backward from how will the look in the room, and then what’s the best way to create something to look good.

Allison Tyler Jones: And it doesn’t always work. Then I’ll try it and I’ll be like, “Well, that looks stupid.”

Kathryn Langsford: No, we have to try it.

Allison Tyler Jones: But yeah, looking at the end, of what is that finished product, even if it’s a painting in a museum or whatever the way it’s framed, or maybe it’s like a partial bust of a head, or maybe it’s cut off in some way and like, “Okay, how could I shoot in that way? Graphically, how could I make that happen?” So, that’s something that can get me inspired.

Allison Tyler Jones: If you’re a portrait photographer, you know the next few months are going to be crazy. This is our busy season. And how to make the most of that busy season is to make sure that our client communication is in order, that we are not having clients showing up with the wrong clothing, that we are not having clients shocked in our sales appointments by our pricing and needing to go home and measure or going home and asking their husband, and then sales burning down, and our client’s not getting what they need and we not being able to build a sustainable business.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, how are we going to make sure that this season is the most successful that it possibly can be? Well, it starts by getting on the same page with your clients so that nothing is left to chance. And how I’ve done this is that I’ve spent the last 13 years revising my own internal consultation form, which by the way, you can download the consultation form that I use in my business absolutely free. But I realized after tweaking that form for about 13 years, that I needed something more.

Allison Tyler Jones: And it wasn’t just a pretty brochure, and it wasn’t a price list with no context, because we all know you can send a price list to somebody, and they’re still shocked by the price because they never looked at it, or they have no idea what those prices even mean. It’s happened to all of us. What I realized is I needed a single printed piece for my client to take away with them that would leave nothing to chance, and that it would allow me to educate my clients about the price range of my products, it would help them to understand what we would and wouldn’t be shooting for during their portrait session, actually creating a game plan for what is it that we’re actually going to be shooting for, and let’s prioritize that.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then also something that would allow the clients to feel confident about selecting the clothing for their session, a printed piece that would allow them to share with their spouse and be able to put together the game plan for their session. So, I needed it to be part brochure, part getting ready guide, part last minute checklist and part consultation form, because my consultation form was internal. I was keeping that form, but I wanted this printed piece to go with my clients. And I wanted it to be sexy and good looking, and that they felt completely and totally cared for. So, I wanted all of this in a single booklet that the client would take with them at the end of their consultation.

Allison Tyler Jones: Now, I’ve been using this, I created it about five years ago. It’s called the ATJ Game Plan booklet. And I started off by using it in my studio, and I’ve been revising it for the last five years. And now for the first time ever, I’m offering it to the ReWork community to use in your portrait studio. So, what’s included in that? In this course, it’s a little mini course, not a big long course, there’s a video lesson with me on how to use the game plan booklet in your consultation. You will also have a video recording of an actual client consultation with me and a client using the booklet in real time. And then you’ll have layered PSD files of the game plan booklet that we use in our studio every day, as well as a PDF version of the latest and greatest ATJ consultation form.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, all of that is included for just a one-time payment of $295, just $295, to completely change the way that you interact with your clients, the information that they have, how taken care of they feel, by making things transparent to them, putting together the game plan for the session so that everybody’s on the same page. We all know what we’re shooting for, we know how much it’s going to cost. They know what to wear. Everybody’s on the same page. This is the document, this is the booklet that has changed my business, and I want you to have it too if it works for you. So, go to That’s, and download that booklet and start using it in your business this busy season. I know that the game plan booklet will be a game changer for your business.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, looking at the client going more into who they are, I think that’s probably… To me, that would be first, second, third, down to maybe the top 10, would all be that. Number one: checking back into the client and realizing how special it is for them.

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah. The age of their kids, how their family feels this year. I had a family come in last week that they’ve been to me every year for probably 10 years. And this year, I feel like both kids came into their own and the parents seemed super relaxed and they just had a whole different vibe as a family this year than ever before. So, I really noticed that. And so, I really wanted to show that and have the girls maybe be a little more out of the box than usual, because they seemed extra confident this year. It’s funny, my assistants, before people arrive, they usually say, “So, where are we going to start? What pose do you want to do first?” I never know.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Kathryn Langsford: It’s always about who these people are when they get here. I want to see what their vibe is, I want to see if I… Maybe it will make sense that I start with the kids instead of the family. Maybe it’s going to be obvious to me that sitting down and being all cuddled up is just not them. I know. I have to see them first, and it drives them crazy, because they want to set up beforehand. But I need to see what the people bring. And this year, that’s what they brought. They just brought this whole new energy with their family, and the portraits were different because of that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, I love that. So, my approach definitely is to set up that first shot. A lot of that information I’m getting from them in the consultation, but I still need to see them. And so, we will set up the first shot and set up the first lighting, especially if we’re using a background or whatever, we’ll get that ready to go. And there’s been plenty of times where I’ve walked out and something’s going on and I’m like, “Yeah. No, I want to do the kids first. And then we just have to scrap it.” So, I think there’s no right way. But doing that first setup, that’s what gets me into my like, “Okay, let’s try this.” And then I can see… I’ve got my assistant looking how the light’s falling on them, “Okay, let’s try this.” I can get a little bit creative in that pre-setup mode.

Kathryn Langsford: Well, for me, I have best results when I don’t have a lot of expectations. So, I don’t like to plan too tightly about exactly what the portrait is going to look like, because sure, I can get the light, I can get the clothes, but maybe those people just don’t work in that position or…

Allison Tyler Jones: I know.

Kathryn Langsford: So, I need to be open and see what’s there, even if it’s not what I planned on.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and I think that it challenges your confidence, especially when you’re a newer photographer, because you look at these behind the scenes of Annie Leibovitz or some, Mario Testino or whatever working, and they’ve got 27 assistants that are pre-lighting these complicated sets. They’ve got George Clooney, somebody’s walking in there that’s got three seconds to shoot before they go off on their plane or whatever. And so, those are very different, but we’re holding ourselves to that standard, thinking, “Oh, I have to have this all figured out ahead of time.” But in a way, I think to your point, it can actually limit you in a way because you don’t really know what’s going to happen. Those are professional actors who know how to get on a mark. They know their angle, they have a persona that is managed, and they know how to dial that crap in and make it happen. But we are not shooting those people. We have people that are like, “I’ve got an extra 10 pounds. I’m freaked out. I don’t know. My husband just yelled at me the whole way here because I spent too much on the clothes.”

Kathryn Langsford: Likely.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Sorry, I interrupted you. What were you going to say?

Kathryn Langsford: I was just going to say, it can feel like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. People who come in here and want, maybe for example, they’ve talked about wanting this artsy, quirky, really different portrait that’s going to be some kind of Warholesque thing. You meet them, and they’re pretty quiet.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Yeah.

Kathryn Langsford: They’re pretty-

Allison Tyler Jones: I love all the huggy, lovey pictures. And I’m like, “Well, is your family cuddly?” “Yeah. No, we don’t touch each other.” I’m like, “Yeah. Well, okay. I can’t Photoshop love.”

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah, yeah. The kids won’t sit next to each other. And yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. No, they hate each other, or whatever.

Kathryn Langsford: We got to just work with what’s in front of us. And it’ll be great. We just can’t make it something that’s not.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and then there’s also what’s your sweet spot as far as what you love to shoot. So, I had, just a couple of weeks ago, this family come in, lovely woman, really great looking mom, and then she’s showing me a picture of her kids. They’re drop dead gorgeous. They come walking up. It was like that Miss Congeniality, that scene where Sandra Bullock is walking out the airplane hanger and the hair’s blowing. They’re coming up the walk, and I’m just like… They’re glamazons, most beautiful children. Zero personality, zero.

Kathryn Langsford: Oh, dear.

Allison Tyler Jones: Can I express to you zero? And so, I’m like, I don’t know what to do with this. I can’t… I found that my kryptonite is no personality.

Kathryn Langsford: That’s the hardest, the kryptonite. Mine too.

Allison Tyler Jones: I thought I was going to die.

Kathryn Langsford: And you’re looking at you with this look like, “Okay, make it happen.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. “I brought these beautiful humans to you, now what’s your problem?” I literally had to go home and take a nap after that shoot. It almost killed me. But then two days later, I’ve got new client, these little boys that are four and two. And she’s apologizing because they’ve already half ripped the lobby apart before they even make it back to the studio.

Kathryn Langsford: I love it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, and I was just in my zone. It was my favorite thing I could have shot all day. I could have been shooting for six hours. So, there is that too. Knowing who you are and knowing what works well for you, and you still are going to have things that come in front of your camera that are difficult for you. And I don’t actually have an answer for that first one. I just don’t know what the answer… We have beautiful images, but it definitely was difficult.

Kathryn Langsford: I have had a session like that recently, and I concluded that you can’t make that happen. You just do your best with who’s in front of you.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, last thing I wanted to talk about is the idea of a creative restraint. So, sometimes we think, “Oh, I need more bigger.” But the idea of actually that something is restraining you, can help you be more creative.

Kathryn Langsford: So, for example, sometimes I might get into the mindset of it’s like a task list. Okay, I need mom and kids. I need dad and kids. I need the kids together. I need the kids separate. I need the kids with a dog. I need the dog with the family.

Allison Tyler Jones: It sounds so exciting.

Kathryn Langsford: It feels like I’m phoning it in, and I am phoning it in. Usually, I’m only doing something like that for an album. Every one of those combinations can’t be gold. You just can’t. It just doesn’t work. And it’s very unsatisfying sometimes. Whereas if I am just able to shoot, like I had a family come the other day that just had one 14 year old child and we wanted to get one great photo that showed her whimsical personality. And so, I was just in super tight, really wide open aperture, eyes sharp, rest of the face falling away, fan blowing the hair, and I just worked that personality and just concentrated on that shot for probably 20 minutes.

Kathryn Langsford: And that is so much more fulfilling. And even if every client doesn’t want that…

Allison Tyler Jones: Sure.

Kathryn Langsford: … that experience awakens my creativity.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Kathryn Langsford: So, the next session will be… Even if the next session has no content like that at all, that part of my brain is awake again and thinking about how fun things can be and how great it feels to get something great. That’s the part of me that I need to keep energized. And it’s not always energized by the same thing. I just need to always be open, have that channel be open.

Kathryn Langsford: And what’s funny is I think a lot of photographers, this piece is easy for them. It’s the business part that’s hard. You and I are a little different in that. I know we’re both creative and talented, but making the sale and being able to come up with the promotion and craft the words for the website, that’s the easy stuff. I can do that all day. I can sit in sales meetings all week, every week. That would actually be my happy place. But sometimes this part is hard. The creative part is hard. It is what I fell in love with first, but it’s been 23 years and sometimes it just feels like that part of me is tired.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and I think that it’s weird because when you first are starting to even get an image that registers, feels hard. Then you get your go-to, and that part becomes easy. So that you don’t have to think about it, it’s on autopilot. So, then what becomes hard is that you are stuck in a bit of a rutt. And to your point about shooting all the things, that’s why I maintained that we’re doing the consultations the way that we are so that we aren’t doing that every single time. Because to me, that is the death of creativity. To know that every single year that when they come in that they’re going to want mom and the girls, dad and the boys, and then the opposite, and then headshots of each kid. And then each one of those, you can’t do that much in a one hour session and not have it be spreading some mediocrity around.

Allison Tyler Jones: You have to be able to have some kind of a conceptual focus to where you’re like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.” You have to have that moment of, “Yes, this is so good. I love this.” That creative moment. And so, to me, I was realizing before I was shooting in that way and consulting in that way, and narrowing it down and making myself come up with a concept for that year, that was what made it special, was to think about it ahead of time and just say, “Okay. This year, it’s going to be… That this might be the last year that they’re… A puppy’s in a pile and cuddling up with each other.” And I want to do tight, close, more dramatically lit, not running around and being maniacs, or the vice versa. But being able to make it special, just slow down and think about it rather than, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve got this. It’s fine. I know I can just run them through my paces because that’s not very satisfying.”

Kathryn Langsford: No, it’s not. But also to understand, there are sessions, like people who want albums using that example, where you just have to do that. And it’s okay, it’s all right that you’re not going to have that amazing, wow, incredible portrait that you spent 20 minutes creative with. That just won’t happen. It’s not that kind of session. But allowing yourself to do the checklist sometimes and then on other sessions where it’s more possible, let your creativity come out.

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m challenging you on that because I really don’t love it. Even with that, even when I know I have to shoot all those things, I’m thinking, “Okay, what is another way to do this?” And I found some weird things that actually work really well. One is, how many men are in love with their dog, and they secretly want a picture of just them with their dog?

Kathryn Langsford: Wow.

Allison Tyler Jones: I have done several of those that ended up being a piece of wall art. So, there are combinations that we haven’t even thought of because we’re so busy just doing what… Sometimes it’s the clients come in with a list or whatever, can we push back on that? So, that’s another way to creativity for me and to make me not get bored, is to think, “Okay. What do I have in front of me right now? And what’s something interesting?” And maybe it’s something that the kid pulled out of their backpack that we weren’t even planning on shooting or whatever. I don’t know. Like you said, it’s the serendipity. But being open to the serendipity and the way to be able to be open for that now that we are in the fourth quarter and it’s busy, is to be rested and hydrated and be able to just be present physically in that way, mentally.

Kathryn Langsford: And to that, something I did really consistently this year, I’ve tried it other years, but really consistently this year, is I made my shooting schedule really strictly, no more than two sessions a day, no more than two shooting days a week. And when I do two shooting days a week, I wait three more weeks before I book more shooting days. We don’t need to get into scheduling, but I’m just saying-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I like it.

Kathryn Langsford: Spacing my sessions and not having marathon days of shooting or week after week of shooting days has really helped me. Because then I’m in shooting mode, totally focused on shooting mode. It’s special, it’s concentrated to that week. And then I get a big break before I’m doing more. And that’s really helped.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I love that. I have found similar. What I’ve also found is the concept of managing my energy rather than just managing my time. And so, there’s a book that I read a long time ago called the, I think it’s called the Powerful Engagement or something like that. I’ll find it, we’ll link it. But it’s really managing your energy, that’s the most important commodity or asset, is your energy. Because you can have a lot of time, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good time. It doesn’t mean that you’re happy and focused and that sort of thing. So, for me, when I’m looking at the type of shoots that we’re scheduling, I can’t do a huge generational session with 40 people in the morning and all the breakouts of that, and then do some three kids and a dog in the afternoon. You have to really look at… Generational, one in a day, one.

Kathryn Langsford: One per day, and maybe nothing else that week. Depends on…

Allison Tyler Jones: But I could shoot four elementary school age kids, so not toddlers, but that four to eight grade school kids, little family like that of naughty kids. I could do six of those in a day, and just that gives me energy, that doesn’t drain me. So, I wouldn’t do six in a day. But three, easy. So, I could schedule three of those. So, when we’re having to communicate that to my client coordinator that, “Okay, I need you to look at these sessions.” And don’t just book whatever on a day, because I said this was a shoot day. That if you’re going to book me a generational session that morning, that day’s booked. I can’t do more than that because I need all of my energy for that. It’s going to be everybody in the studio, and then we have to go into a quiet place.

Kathryn Langsford: And get massages.

Allison Tyler Jones: And have somebody pet me and bring me some Mexican food.

Kathryn Langsford: Exactly. And put an ice pack on my eyes.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. The other thing that just occurred to me, this is probably out of order of our outline here, but is that in cleaning out the studio to move, I found some old props that I still really loved and had just been gathering dust. And so, we’ve brought those back into the rotation also throughout so many other things, and I find that really, I’m going to make myself move the studio around more often. The physical space does make a huge difference.

Kathryn Langsford: Yeah, for sure. It is surprising how much of a difference it makes to move over eight feet.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Kathryn Langsford: It just makes you see everything differently and you have to shoot there, not just look at it. You got to get the camera in hand and a subject in front of you, and then you see things so differently.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I love that. Well, I think that’s a lot of good ideas. I’ve actually taken notes as we’ve been sitting here. And

Kathryn Langsford: The husband And dog, I love that idea. I’m going to take that one.

Allison Tyler Jones: Husband and dog. I’m telling you, they love those dogs.

Kathryn Langsford: And that’s true. When I think back, that is true.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. They’re like, “Oh, well…” That’s his first baby, he really just loves that kid the best. And maybe it’s the mom that loves him, I’ve done that with the mom too, or just the dogs alone. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, I think keeping our eyes open for serendipity is a good way to creativity. I love talking about this step with you. Thank you for being here.

Kathryn Langsford: Love it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you.

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


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