Man, it has been awhile since I last posted – almost a month – but things suddenly kicked into gear a few weeks ago, and it’s been a bit of a blur ever since. Tons of pictures to share as I babble on, so let’s get to it.
Someone challenged me on Flickr to post a ‘just me’ photo without makeup or a wig. I didn’t do it – I actually have a TON of foundation, contour, and highlighter on in this photo, and yes I did edit it – but this is as close as I’ll ever get to a truly ‘naked’ portrait (I was actually just test shooting my lighting here).
A few weeks after Harvey, my business phone starting ringing like crazy. I have picked up FIVE new clients in the past three weeks! I am now at 10 students whom I tutor, and have had to start turning people away or referring them to other tutors. I really didn’t do anything differently this fall to promote myself, but two of my new clients are referrals from parents whose kids I am already tutoring. I also think those two weeks students had off while districts in the area dealt with the aftermath of Harvey (many schools functioned as shelters and it took time to prepare for the return of students, plus schools that were damaged by the floods had to figure out where to send them) threw everyone off, and grades are low as a result. On a psychological level, I am so much more confident this year than last that I think that has to be vibing out into the atmosphere in some way; I know last year I often stumbled when I felt I had to ‘sell’ my services to a parent, whereas now I just do what I know works without feeling nervous. It’s a good place to be.
I found this shirt at Goodwill, and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the other half!
Most of my clients are for English tutoring still, which is actually fine as I enjoy it now. They’re mostly middle-school students, for some reason, which is age 11-13 here in the US, but I also tutor one fourth grader, one ninth grader, and a high school junior as well. The student I coached over the summer and had such a hard time with (as far as feeling like what I was doing was actually helping) has texted me several times since his new school year started to update me on his progress – he made all As and Bs on his first report card, which is a HUGE improvement over his grades last year. That has really given me the confidence boost I need in relation to that aspect of my business. I am now coaching another high school freshman, and am meeting with a potential coaching client this afternoon; it’s fun work to do so I am still hoping to build up that side of the business as well.
I often get comments questioning why my ‘job’ isn’t photography instead of tutoring, but let me reiterate that I really enjoy teaching and consider it the best work I can do. And honestly, a “busy” working day for me involves tutoring for three hours, tops. Houston is very spread out and most of my clients do not live near me, and since I drive to their homes or a nearby library I do put in another hour of drive time each day, easy, but I really don’t mind that. Having grown up here, driving is a part of life and I am used to it; plus, I have always enjoyed getting out and taking a drive. Since aside from my tutoring I’m pretty much a homebody, it gets me out of the house and helps me feel like I am still a part of the world. Plus this one particular drive I make several times a week is actually a nice, pretty drive, which helps.
This wig is called a ‘bump’ wig; Paula Young came out with this line years ago that literally has a pouch in the crown that closes with a snap! It came with a little foam piece that you were supposed to tuck into the pouch and snap closed for extra height, but of course I had to shove as much wadded up newspaper as possible in there to see how high I could get it.
On the photography front, I hadn’t taken many photos at all since Harvey. In what at least felt like an unrelated decision, I took myself off of Facebook for various reasons, and almost immediately began taking photos again. I also got back to being active on Flickr, which hasn’t been the case for well over a year now. I’m assuming these things are related, somehow; I do think it got so easy for me to load a photo to Facebook and get so much feedback that contributing on Flickr lost its panache, and while I do miss getting to share my photos with my friends there, cutting some social media out of my life for now has had more benefits than drawbacks, so I’m sticking with the decision. Interacting with other photographers, I think, is important to me, and Facebook had a tendency to make me feel like I was doing so much more than I actually was – not just in the photography arena, but in other ways as well. And I admit that social media is freaking me out more and more every day I read about how American voters were manipulated during this last election. My biggest concern is how easily Russia got us all to turn on each other – pitting opposing sides against each other by playing to our worst instincts, fears, and prejudices. I was as susceptible to this as anyone – understanding that people I may have fought with in comment sections weren’t even real people but foreign agents just trying to get me to feel hatred for conservatives was the nail in my Facebook coffin. I do not want to be manipulated into hating other people, and I’d gotten to a point where at least 50% of the time I spent on Facebook I felt pissed at someone or something. So, I’m done with that.
So, as I said, I almost immediately started taking more photos, and getting active on Flickr again (and hopefully, keeping up better with the blog). I had a marathon photo session last Sunday; on Saturday I went to Goodwill and purchased 5 or 6 tops to use, then spent Saturday night planning out what wigs, accessories, and makeup to wear for each one. Then I pulled it all together that night, so I could just get up in the morning and get started. I do not usually do this – in fact, I usually take photos when I wake up with the urge to do it; I rarely plan things out in the detail that I did this last shoot. It made for a really long day of shooting, and by the end I was pretty bored, but my goal was to get as many looks as I could out of the stuff I’d bought and have lots of different looks to work with when I edited the shots – when I only do 3-4 looks per shoot, I get bored with them all quickly and then run out of stuff to process.
Something I have done a few times before is start off with a ‘naked’ face – which really just means all the foundation, highlighter, and contouring is done but I haven’t added any color (except a nude lipstick). Then I figure out which costume would work best with a neutral face and take those shots, figuring I can always add makeup later in post if I want (although I’ve hit a snag in that area that I will discuss later). That huge necklace came from Banana Republic; I bought it at least a decade ago, and at some point had loaned it, and a ton of other accessories, to my sister-in-law for a party where they wanted to have a photo booth. I totally forgot about all of that stuff until she returned it to me a month ago – they were moving and came across two bags of old wigs and accessories they’d forgotten they had, and she gave them back to me. Most of the wigs were already shot before I gave them to her to use, so I pitched all but a few of ’em, but the accessories made it into a lot of these shots because they were all pretty cool, and I’d totally forgotten about them.
My face was ‘naked’ in this shot, too – I added the makeup using Portrait Pro.
So back to the makeup: for my second costume change, I will add a little more makeup for a slightly different face to work with later. Again, this is easier to do when I plan in advance, so I can be sure the makeup, or lack thereof, will work with the costume and not be a problem later.
Actually, all I’d added as far as makeup for this costume change was blush, a brighter lipstick, and mascara; the eyeshadow was added in post. And yeah, that necklace is one that was in the bag of goodies my SIL returned to me. It was broken before I loaned it to her, so I had to just wrap it around my neck. And the other hearts are cheesy, but I couldn’t resist them.
I think you get the idea now for what happens next, and next, and next. With each costume change, I just keep adding makeup until the end of the shoot. It certainly does make for a greater variety of photos to work with later – I took almost 600 this day, which I haven’t done in a long time.
This is one of the returned wigs that I kept. Also, I think those glasses were originally from a cheap Halloween costume I bought on sale after October 31st at a grocery store. They’re actually vinyl and really floppy. The top was actually a dress that was too small for me, so I cut the skirt part off to be able to get it on!
The tops I found were amazing, and taking the time to even plan which backdrops to use was helpful. It made for a lot less thinking during shooting, and a lot more posing, and things went really smoothly even though it took a long time having to stop between costumes and apply more makeup and change backdrops. I even got use out of that pastel one that I almost never use, because it has never really worked with anything I’ve used it for in the past. This time, it was perfection with some of the brighter colors.
Now for the problematic bit: Just this past week, my most-used Photoshop plugin, my beloved Portrait Pro, started crapping out on me midway through working on a photo. I’d just “upgraded” (I put that in quotes because even though I already owned a previous version of the software, I had to pay full price for what they called an ‘upgrade’) to their newest version, which is fantastic – it has a sharpening tool within the skin softening category that solves the issue of skin looking ‘too soft’ perfectly – so at first I thought it was a problem with the upgrade. But then, it started happening with a few of my other plug-ins too. The oddest part was how it would happen out of nowhere, sometimes right after I’d just used the program and attempted to access it again.
Yep, another prop returned to me by the SIL; the nails used to light up but the batteries are dead now, and they never showed up properly in photos anyway. The sweater is another one from the Goodwill haul.
I took the error message I kept getting when trying to access the plug-in and typed it into Google, which sent me down a rabbit hole to figure out what the hell was going on. I got Doug involved, and together we finally figured out that a security update to Adobe Flash Player was the culprit: we uninstalled the update, which sure enough had been installed the same day I started getting the error, and then I had to uninstall the plug-ins that had been affected by the update and re-install them. And then I stumbled across another problem: Portrait Pro would not let me re-install the software. My license key was only good for one download, and since I’d already used it once, it wouldn’t work again. I get it – no one wants their software to be purchased once and then shared all over the world, but this was on the same computer and simply needed to be re-installed, so there should have been a way for me to manage this. However, I’ve actually dealt with this issue with Anthropics (the makers of Portrait Pro) before, so I knew there was going to be no way to get this remedied.
This is actually a pajama shirt, but I liked the colors on the sleeves.
See, I ran into this issue when I got my new laptop last year. I had to reinstall all my photo editing software, and of everything I’ve purchased, Portrait Pro was the only one that wouldn’t let me use my license keys a second time to get what I paid for installed on my new machine. I opened up a help ticket, which went nowhere, and because this program is my primary portrait editing tool I gave in quickly rather than waiting, and purchased the software a second time.
The lace sweater is from Goodwill and it’s so comfy, I now wear it around the house (which I don’t do with most of my costumes). That ‘necklace’ is actually a fascinator that I’ve worn in photos before; I spied it at Nordstrom and even though it was expensive, I had to have it. The colors are fabulous! Oh, and I changed the color of the eyeshadow on the right in post.
I admit that in this case, I was itching to finish a photo I was working on, so I just said to hell with it and bought the software a second time rather than deal with waiting on a support ticket that would probably take at least a month to get answered, if it got answered at all. So yeah, I bought another copy of the upgrade I’d just bought a month prior. Stupid, I know – especially when, on the very next night, the plugin quit working again.
Come on Portrait Pro! Will you deny the world this beauty?! And yes, that’s a Goodwill sweatshirt, and it’s AMAZING.
Turns out the Flash Player update had automatically installed again, around 8 o’clock at night. I know this because I had just been using the plugin when all of a sudden it quit working, and I went to see what updates had been installed, and there it was. So, now I realized I had to figure out a better solution, or every single night my damn software would stop working again once the update installed. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to stop the Flash update from installing only to discover that it is actually a crucial update that is needed to fix some massive security flaw or another. I hemmed and hawed on this for a while – should I just uninstall Flash altogether? Turns out that’s not so easy to do, although it is possible. It just started to turn out to be a hell of a lot of work to do just to get one stupid Photoshop plugin to work (the others that keep failing I don’t use that much anyway, and the help tickets I submitted to those companies will most likely be addressed since they actually have real online support) plus, it was already clear I would have to purchase yet ANOTHER license to fix the damage done to the program by the new Flash install.
I am not gonna lie, I was seriously upset about this. I use that program for everything and it is a major part of my workflow. But this is the downside of utilizing a product that has no support; when something goes wrong, you’re on your own, and I saw no real way to fix this one without a lot of ridiculous work and spending yet more money. So, I am now on the search for other software that can at least get close to what Portrait Pro could do, which sucks. I’ve found a few things to noodle around with, but so far nothing comes close to that program. But I’ll have to make do for now. I did go ahead and submit a help ticket, but I have no hope anyone will ever respond or fix this issue. A perusal of their forums made that clear; it sounds like no one ever gets responses to their issues and it’s a real shame some other company can’t buy this software from Anthropics and service it properly, because all of their photo editing tools are really great products.
This about sums it up.
So that’s my life as it stands. I haven’t talked about my injuries but I’m now out of time, and I’m fine anyway. I need to go get ready for a day of tutoring, so I’ll catch up with you all another time. Happy weekend everyone!