BLOGtober Round Up!

November 30th. I can’t believe it. This past month has flown by, faster than I can remember any month going ever!  I feel like I blinked and missed it!

You’ll remember that last month I was attempting to blog every day for the month of October, BLOGtober… I managed 28 out of 30 days. Not too bad!  You may also remember that I was blogging via my three different blogs:

www.wildlifebyjo.wordpress.com

www.jofoowildlifephotography.com/about/blog/

www.meiphotography.co.uk/blog/ 

It’s a little tricky to track them all so I thought I’d round them all up here for you to read.  Here goes…

October 1st:

Welcome to BLOGtober!

October 2nd:

Lost Along the Way…

October 3rd:

Baby Claudia

October 4th:

Birthday Girl

October 5th:

Beauty in the Details

October 6th:

A Grizzly Encounter

October 7th:

Wedding Nerves…

October 8th:

The Glancy Family

October 9th:

European Bee Eaters

October 10th:

Why I Love This Shot – A new blog series.

Facing Anxiety

I Am Enough

I Am Enough

For as long as I can remember, anxiety has played a massive role in my life. I can barely think a time where it hasn’t at least lurked somewhere in the background, threatening to rear it’s ugly head.

Most of the time, you’d never know it. I believe “high functioning” is the term used to describe it, meaning the majority of the time I can get through a day without any obvious issues or falling apart into the stereotypical anxious wreck that people tend to conjure up images of when you mention you have this. Instead I appear together, efficient, busy, organised, controlling…

I’ve struggled with it privately for many years. Thanks to the stereotypes and the misplaced shame our society associates with hidden illnesses like this one, I wasn’t confident about admitting to it. Being anxious is for people who are weak and can’t cope right? It was something I wanted to hide and pretend wasn’t happening to me.

A few months ago I came across this blog by Sarah Schuster on The Mighty Site and I felt an instant connection with her words. Finally someone was able to explain how I was feeling and the impact it had on my every day. I realised I wasn’t alone and it gave me the courage to speak up and talk to people about the constant worry; the late nights lying in bed unable to quieten my busy mind; the not being sure if my concern was rational or a symptom of this illness; the panic attacks over seemingly small things that my body reacted to as though I was about to die. You see, anxiety is a mental illness, but what people fail to realise is that it has many physical aspects. Increased heartrate, shallow, panicked breathing, increased temperature, flushing, sweating and shaking. You body responds to stimuli in an extreme manner and it’s not at all pleasant.

We learn to avoid these panic attacks by planning and controlling as much as we can. We fill the quiet times by keeping busy so our overactive mind doesn’t run away with itself. Small things can become overwhelming, so we work out our triggers and avoid them or change things to avoid setting a panic off.

It’s constant.

It’s exhausting.

I was surprised to find so many people who had been feeling the same way. So many people who felt they had to hide this for fear of being judged by others or made to feel like they can’t cope. People who are extremely successful in all walks of life also suffer from anxiety and find ways around it but unless you suffer from it, you wouldn’t necessarily know their struggle.

So I decided to start a new photography project. Facing Anxiety aims to help people find a way to stand up to their anxiety and find support with likeminded people who understand what they are going through. To show people who don’t struggle with this illness that the stereotypes are wrong and misinformed, that people they’d never suspect have this are fighting a daily battle.

One of the issues I have thanks to my anxiety, is feeling as though I’m not enough. Like I always need to be and do more. Here’s a shot I took a few years back. Something I need to remember more often.

If you are interested in taking part in this project and are based in Glasgow (or nearby) or in Frankfurt, please get in touch. I would love to speak to you about getting involved.

10 Weeks, 10 Selfies – A Photographer In Front of the Lens

Ah, the dreaded selfie. Some love it, others hate it. You only need to look at a person’s social media profile to see which category they fall into.

I love a selfie with my other half to capture our latest adventure, or with a friend where I inevitably pull a silly face to distract from the discomfort I feel in front of the camera.

However, I really believe that to be a good portrait photographer, you need to be comfortable both infront and behind the lens. I’ve tested myself a couple of times by having portrait shots taken and volunteering for model calls. They both start the same way, with me awkward and giggling, but after a while, I start to relax and I learn new ways of helping my subjects relax when it’s my turn to capture them.

I still need practise at this though and I have a lot to learn about being at ease as the subject. So I decided to set myself a challenge. Over the next 10 weeks I’m going to take and post a self portrait. Each week, I’m also going to challenge a photographer friend to join in and do the same. Here’s hoping a few take me up on the offer. I think we can all benefit from being in our subject’s shoes.

This is a self portrait I took a couple of years ago for a different project. It doesn’t count as my first one, I’m posting those on a weekly basis on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. At the end of the ten weeks, I’ll post all 10 for you to comment on!

 

High Key Me

High Key Me

Why I Love This Shot – Cheeky Munchkin

Fifth in my “Why I Love This Shot” blog series is from my first official photoshoot with my cheeky munchkin niece.  There were many “unofficial” photos taken before this date but this shot is from the first time my sister and I had a play with different backdrops and props.  At one point I considered specialising in this style of photography but I learned that I was better at candid moments instead of posed ones.

And that’s why I love this shot. We had a few different costumes and props but the best shots from this shoot are when she’s laughing and doing her own thing. She’s an incredibly cheeky wee girl who is full of spirit and joy. This photo of her grinning at us always makes me smile.  

031_Leila Photoshoot_6th May 2013 WRCorner

The Importance of Taking a Stand

The other day I found myself in an awkward position. I was witness to a group of people reacting to a photo of an unsuspecting person online. They were commenting on how this person looked and I was uncomfortable with it. It was out of context for the forum it had been posted in and I’m never happy when there’s a lot of focus on how someone looks. I firmly believe everyone deserves respect and shouldn’t be objectified.

It started off quite mildly in comparison to how many recent conversations of objectification of people in the media have been, especially those relating to a certain presidential candidate. So at first, I was uncomfortable, but decided not to say anything. Then it got worse, with a photo posted of the unsuspecting person in their swimsuit and more responses about how “hot” they were, how they (the people commenting) were single & interested and lots of tagging other people to come have a look.

Surprisingly, the person being treated this way was a man and the majority of people commenting were female.

I’m fully aware that the #notallmen and “men get objectified too” cries from privileged males is a form of deflection and denial when women speak up about how they are treated. Women are sexualised from an early age, treated like objects and every woman has been verbally or physically abused by a man in her lifetime. It’s absolutely not ok and no amount of shouts of “us too” makes up for how women are treated. It’s a horrible problem with how society views and demeans women and it has to stop.

But I am also uncomfortable with women acting as though it’s somehow permissible to treat men this way too. I think equality means everyone deserves respect and women behaving in this manner damages the movement towards a society where people treat each other better.

So I spoke up. And it went like this…

Facebook - take a stand blanked

Facebook - take a stand 2 blanked

I was appalled. The replies from the women were the same kinds of things you hear from men to justify their absurd behaviour. They had taken a photo without consent, posted it for comment without the man’s knowledge and defended themselves by saying it was a compliment. They even went as far as to call me, and the other people who had politely voiced our concern, “boring”. I couldn’t believe it. I had expected better.

Interestingly, the original photo poster (in grey) was at least aware her first reply (where she called me “boring”) was more than a bit inappropriate. It actually read like this:

take a stand - edits

“If he didn’t want his photo taken by a drooling woman (or many), he should have worn a panda suit.”

Just take a moment and switch the pronouns:

“If she didn’t want her photo taken by a drooling man (or many), she should have worn a panda suit.”

Sound familiar? Slut shaming and victim blaming are the phrases that come to mind.  For me, it’s not ok to treat anyone this way and we need to speak up more about it. Women are far more often the target of this kind of abuse but that doesn’t make it OK to treat men this way either. If we behave that way it somehow makes it acceptable for others to. We need to step up and ask for better.

It can feel lonely when you take a stand. I don’t like conflict and tend to avoid it but when things are so obviously wrong, I recognise the need to use my voice. Our voices have power. So do our actions. We make decisions every day about how we want to behave, what we will stay silent about and what we will allow to continue.

When I started my photography journey I was painfully aware of how easy it is to turn people in to objects and the pressure to make people “look good”was enormous. Unattainable beauty standards have shaped what the majority of people find attractive and we’re taught to look for certain physical traits from an early age. As photographers we’re asked to edit people to make them thinner, smooth their skin and get rid of flaws, add cleavage, add toned muscles and even make them taller.

This was something that made me uncomfortable about this industry. Please don’t misunderstand me, I love photography but I think we have a responsibility to help change the way people see beauty and to move away from the idea that there is one standard form of beauty or attractiveness to aspire to.

My #RealGirlsRealBeauty project is something I started last year with this very aim. To encourage people to recognise that their own beauty lies in something much more important than physical appearance, but in who they are and what they love and makes them happy.

#RealGirlsRealBeauty

#RealGirlsRealBeauty

Real Girls, Real Beauty Press WR

Even though taking a stand can be lonely at times, I will keep doing it, whether it means speaking up when something I disagree with is happening, asking questions that people sometimes find difficult or reaching people through my mission-driven photography projects.

And as for being “boring”? My good friend Katy recently reminded me that “Standing up against injustice is never boring.”

Adopt Don’t Shop: Helping Friends

Cheeky Chinchilla

Cheeky Chinchilla

You may have followed my other two blogs about our the many foster animals who have been in our care since the start of 2016.  If not, you can read about them here and here.

Once the puppies left I didn’t have the opportunity to volunteer for fostering again for a month or so. This was because of my tendency to travel for work. Foster animals tend to need more stability than I could offer with the exception of some emergency cases.

However, much like buses, fostering opportunities seem to arrive all at once.

Next to join the Latifoo Foster care were a couple of chinchillas, Dusty & Rocky. These little balls of fuzz were incredibly hard to photograph as they took a bit of time to warm to us.

They came from a friend who was fostering them and needed someone to take them for a week while they had visitors. It felt more like pet-sitting than fostering, especially now that my friend has had another “foster fail” and adopted them both! It was the first time I’d looked after chinchillas. These funny wee creatures were a lot of fun despite their love of throwing their poo out their cage… I had grand ideas of clicker training them but I quickly learned that chinchillas have exceptionally delicate digestive systems and finding suitable edible rewards was no easy task. Plus, these guys were nervous and it took time to help them settle.  But settle they did and we soon had them running around the hall, using us as part of their parkour route as they bounced off of the walls enjoying the freedom to run.

dusty & ziggy

Dusty & Ziggy

At the same time, another friend was looking after two pups she and her fiance were thinking about adopting. To be able to spend that time with them, they needed an extra pair of hands for a couple of the nights. So I helped out again and we had a fun with two lovely little pups as well as the chinchillas.

Trust is a big thing for pet photographers. You have to understand your subject’s behaviour and be able to predict it fairly accurately.  You can’t explain to them why you want them to sit a certain way to get the shot. To get the shots I’m looking for, they need to be comfortable and relaxed.

When working with foster animals, I’ve learned quickly that taking a camera out in the early days of getting to know them doesn’t always work. Some of the animals are nervous and anxious after being abandoned or passed from pillar to post. We only had a very short time with these guys and so, I only have a couple of phone snaps.

Luckily though, they all found their forever-homes with two of my favourite people here in Madrid, so there will be more photos to follow! x

Why I Love This Shot – Real Beauty

Fourth in my “Why I Love This Shot” series is one from my first Real Girls, Real Beauty project shoots. Lovely Hannah was my first ever model for this project and it’s a been an exciting journey since then with another 6 models photographed (two #RealGirls and four #RealWomen), two more #RealGirls due to have their shoots late next month and at least another five #RealWomen preparing to schedule theirs.

The #RealGirlsRealBeauty project is really important to me. Empowering girls and women to see their beauty in who they are and not just what they look like is vital. Especially in this industry where we’re taught to pose people to “look better” and we’re expected to edit out “flaws”. Recently, the project has evolved and I’m excited to update you all on the changes very soon.

I have many shots that I love from this particular shoot. Partly because I could see Hannah becoming more and more comfortable with the camera, me and most importantly, herself. We did a range of poses, with her favourite book, her teddy that she’s had all her life, her violin and her piano – all things she loves about herself and her life. I could pick a number to share with you but I chose this one. I chose it because it’s a moment when we were being silly and showing off her wonderful sense of humour. A moment where she relaxed completely and giggled. Showing her #RealBeauty with a smile and plenty of sparkle.

2015-05-01-029-Mei-Photography-Hannah-Paton-Real-Beauty-Portraits WR

The Social Business


Social Media.

Most of you will agree it’s both a blessing and a curse, and I think from my friends list, I’d find more people who leaned towards curse. Maybe that’s our age more than anything. We’re just not prepared for the information overload that comes with being social online. There’s the pressure to read everything, share everything, comment and like/love/laugh/cry/frown/grimace angrily at everything. I know I spend a crazy amount of my time attached to a laptop, tablet or phone which allows me to check what’s happening in all corners of the world. It’s exhausting.

facebook faces

Many of my friends regularly take month-long breaks from social media and re-calibrate their lives and reactivity accordingly. Some have come off it altogether. At times I am a little jealous of them. It’s something that regularly crosses my mind as I find my reactivity peaking and my ability to process information waning.

However, my business and livelihood rely heavily on social media. More than 85% of my bookings and sales come through social media leads. Gradually more and more people are finding me via my website but the social aspect of business is incredibly important for success.

It’s not enough just to exist on social media, to truly make the best of it, I have to be engaging and interactive. Present most of the time. For the most part, I enjoy it but when my personal Facebook feed is full of politics, arguments and negativity, there are definitely times I wish I could switch off.

Facebook and Instagram (the two main social media outlets I use) don’t make things easy for us small business owners. Their set up means that sometimes my reach is only just into double figures. Which basically means that despite having over 670 followers, sometimes Facebook only shows ~3% of them my posts. It’s extremely frustrating and at times, disheartening.

One “helpful” way Facebook offer to solve this problem is to pay them to show your post to more people. It’s not a lot of money per post but it quickly adds up and businesses with my size of marketing budget see their money drain away really quickly. Facebook is a business itself and needs money to survive but this system has the biggest impact on small businesses.

All is not lost though. Another way around this issue is having followers like, comment on or share posts. This seemingly insignificant act instantly increases our reach and is a massive help. I’m so grateful for the people who regularly like and share my posts and leave their thoughts. Their feedback and response itself is valuable and helps me gauge how well I’m doing but it also means that their friends and family see my work too. This increases my chance of reaching new customers on Facebook and expanding my business. I know, that tiny split second when you click on one of my posts means so much more than you may have realised!

please help lrg

So how does a small business owner keep from losing the plot in today’s hectic online world? I’ve had some success with the following:

1.Scheduling my posts.

I can plan a month or more at a time and make sure I am posting everyday on Facebook to keep up regular interaction with my followers. It means I spend a couple of days planning my message for the month and actively scheduling the posts. This leaves me free to do my daily work without feeling the need to have my Facebook tab open. It’s too tempting to be reactive when it’s sitting right in front of you. Instead I try to plan in time during each day to check in and respond as necessary.

facebook schedule

2. Ignoring this guy…

facebook response

Yes that’s right, on any given Facebook page there’s a little sign that tells you how good the owner is at responding. We get rated by Facebook and given a “badge” if we fall within in the parameters that they deem worthy of honour. When it first arrived I felt really stressed out and kept trying to respond quickly to everything.  As it turns out, that’s just not practical and sometimes I have to live without the badge.

facebook response JFWP

And I quickly learned to live without it. My job means I can’t be at a computer all the time and that’s one of the reasons I decided to start this business. The freedom to get outside and be away from a computer screen. I shouldn’t let the powers that be at Facebook convince me to trade that for a little green marker.

3.  Set up your business hours.facebook hours

And more importantly, try to stick to them. I fail more often than I succeed at this. But I’ll keep trying. The important part is to communicate it clearly with my customers. I have a Facebook “Away message” which should be enough but I still find myself replying after the auto response has been issued. Social media makes us think we need to be reactive all the time and while some people expect an instant response, the majority of people understand that we can’t be online all the time.

There are many other marketing strategies for small businesses. Social Media is by no means the only option, but for my line of work, it’s important to be active online. However, for my sanity and ability to sleep at night, there’s a balance to be struck somewhere. I’m not quite there yet but I know I’ll figure it out.

Adopt Don’t Shop: Puppies!

The other day I posted about my first foster experience… here’s what happened next…

I waited until life was a little more stable before volunteering again. I was due to travel a bit in January and February so the opportunity didn’t arise again until March. That’s when the Rugrats arrived.  My friend had been helping with a litter of puppies who had been thrown in a bin. They needed round-the-clock care and feeding every few hours. It was a demanding role and so it was split between a group of us over the course of a few weeks. I volunteered to take them on for a week and it just so happened, their arrival fell on my birthday. Happy birthday to me!

Puppies in a box

Puppies in a box

The box contained Chucky, Phil, Suzy and Tommy, named after the cartoon characters in the Rugrats. By the time they got to me they were on solid food but still needed a lot of care. And so the routine began, feed-pee-poop-run around like nutters-learn something new-sleep for an hour aaaannnnndddd repeat. With four of them running around we lived with puppy pads and a permanent mop bucket in the corner.

They chewed things, peed everywhere, barked during the night, pooped in annoying places, stood in their food/pee/poop and trailed it everywhere and I hardly slept.

But they also entertained us as they learned new things. We watched them get bolder and work out puzzles in their environment. Their different personalities developed and we got to know them as individuals. Plus they made excellent photography subjects, at least in the moments they sat still or fell asleep.

I loved it.

Tommy

Tommy

Suzy

Suzy

Chucky

Chucky

Phil

Phil

These guys were with us for a week before heading to stay with a lovely friend of mine. I was sad again, there were tears but I knew they were in safe hands before they went to their forever homes the following week. My other half had also planned a weekend away so our empty apartment was less of an issue. I visited them again before they left for their new homes. It was incredibly hard to part with them but it was a job well done by a dedicated team of foster carers. We did a good thing. x

Tommy

Tommy

Chucky

Chucky

The Boys

The Boys

Phil

Phil

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

Why I Love This Shot – Break the Rules

So it’s time for the 3rd post in my new series “Why I Love This Shot” and this one comes from an outdoor family shoot from March last year. We had a cold morning in the park but it didn’t stop any of us from having fun. The shoot was of eight people, two families of four and there was a lot of silliness on the day which resulted in brilliant, unique shots.

When I think back to the shoot, I always think of this shot. There are a few reasons for it. This girl was an absolute star in front of the camera. Lots of cheeky poses and zero inhibitions. It made for a fun shoot. But this is a moment when I caught her relaxing and unaware and I love it. Us photographers always have to be ready to capture the moment when the opportunity arises.

From a composition/photography point of view it is a rule-breaker. The focus is slightly soft, the eyes are not showing or in focus and it only just makes the “rule of thirds”.

But those are the reasons I love it. Sometimes you just need to break the rules.

Break the Rules

Break the Rules