Ally and the Shrew

DSC_6670Meet Ally. She’s an indoor cat, but every morning she joins the family for an hour of garden time.

This time of outdoor adventure is one of the ways we make sure our kids have regular exposure to nature. They’re expected to help in the garden for the first half hour then they’re allowed to have a half hour of “adventure time.” The only rule is they must stay outdoors (and no, that doesn’t mean bringing their digital devices outdoors).

When we started this several years ago, there was much whining and complaining, but soon creativity set in and they would go about the yard or garden pretending to be dinosaurs. These days there are few complaints and we’ve used this time to enjoy watching tadpoles, snakes, and turtles and tasting berries and honeysuckle.

Every morning, Ally and ourDSC_6668 dog, Jackson, sense when we are about to go out and get all jittery with excitement. This morning, I was ready to head out before the rest of the family and took a very enthusiastic Ally with me. Our garden is a fenced-in area within a fenced-in yard, and since she could easily get through any of the fences, we try to keep her with us. Often, though, she jumps out and explores the brush that lines our back fence just beyond the garden. When she does, we coax her back where we can keep a better eye on her.

This morning she was quick to jump out of the garden area. I stopped my weeding to pick her up and bring her back into the enclosure. Usually, she doesn’t even need to be picked up but the simple “threat” of being picked up will send her bounding back to the garden. Not today. Immediately after I put her back in the garden, she jumped right back out and headed back to the same sDSC_6676pot, burying her head in the brush.

Once again, I grabbed her. And once again, she looked as though she were about to hop back out, so I stood guard for a bit. In a blatant attempt to stop my guarding behavior, she laid down as if she were going to relax. As soon as I stepped back into the garden, she was out again. At this point, my son was heading out. “I’ll take care of her,” he called out, so I went back to weeding as he made his way from the deck to the back of our yard. By this point, Ally was deep in the brush and my son commented on how hard she was to get out. Then suddenly, she turned and bounded into the garden–and in her mouth, there was a shrew!

We immediately sent a text to Rob, who was still finishing breakfast, and within moments he and Sierra, our daughter, had joined us. We spent most of our garden hour watching Ally play with her prey.

Not much weeding got done today, but the primary purpose of our outdoor hour was fulfilled. Our kids had an up-close-and-personal view of nature in action–predator and prey doing their thing. It was an entertaining, educational, bonding moment–and it didn’t cost us a thing!

Too often, I think, we miss moments like this because we’ve separated ourselves from the natural world. What are some things you can do to make sure your family is spending time out in nature on a regular basis?

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Getting a Close-Up Look

ImageWhen Rob and I were dating, we started going on nature walks together. I would walk along briskly, getting a feel for the overall aura of the natural surroundings. Rob, on the other hand, would stop frequently, peering through his binoculars (which he kept in his car so he would always have them with him) at the wildlife I was missing.

So it should come as no surprise that Rob has developed a knack for photographing those creations many of us miss in our hurried lives. 

What amazes me most is that Rob does not use a macro lens. I asked him what the advantage of this was, and he mentioned that by not having to get as close to the wildlife as a macro lens would require, he’s able to get their picture without scaring them away.

ImageAs we make a concentrated effort to get Rob’s view of the world out where others can enjoy it, one of our projects will be a photo book (or perhaps several) focusing specifically on the smaller beauties of the natural world.

It has been our dream for years to do a book together. And it’s certainly a logical project for a photographer husband and writer wife to accomplish. Yet, until recently, that dream has seemed out of reach. (I know first-hand the soul-draining process of trying to get published traditionally.) With the skills we’ve been learning lately, we feel confident that we can successfully self-publish and market such a book. Meanwhile, the pictures he gathers for the book will also be made available for sale in other formats. If you’re interested in purchasing these  or other photos, check out our online storefront.

 

Creating a Price That’s Right

With graduation and sports camp season over, our big push for the rest of the summer is getting some nature art products ready to market to retailers. To prepare for this, we watched Megan Auman’s CreativeLive class “Sell Your Products to Retailers.”

Like every class on CreativeLive, this class was an excellent. If you have any product you’re selling, whether or not you’re wanting to go retail, we highly recommend listening to what Megan has to say.

One of the most eye-opening segments of her class was about setting a price point. Up until now, we’ve been following the traditional materials x3 or x4 method that many enterperneurs start with. But for many reasons this pricing system wasn’t making sense. Some prices seemed too high in comparison with others, which were probably too low. And when it came right down to it, like nearly everyone in Megan’s class, we weren’t bringing in enough to pay ourselves a living wage–let alone make a profit. So one of the first things we’re going to tackle is re-examining our prices using Megan’s method.

There are four components to consider when setting prices this way: materials, labor, overhead, and profit. Add those all together, and you have your wholesale price. Multiply that number by at least two, and you have your retail price.

Let’s look at each of these elements individually.

DSC_58781. Materials 

These are any expendable goods used in your product. That’s the number we were multiplying by three or four. But as Megan said, “Your product is worth way more than the sum of materials.” So now we’ll just plug in the actual cost of materials into this new equation and move on.

DSC_58852. Labor If you’re creating the products you sell, you need to pay yourself a living wage. As obvious as that seems, that’s where many of us are failing. When figuring out your living wage, keep in mind that only about half your work time will be billable hours, so set a wage that’s double of what you really need to make per hour. Also, keep in mind that unlike most corporate jobs, you’re not getting benefits on top of your hourly wage, so you’re going to need to cover things like insurance and vacation time. Megan, who says she lives in a low cost-of-living area, pays herself $60 an hour. One thing that’s nice about this amount is that it breaks down to $1 per minute. So if a product takes you 12 minutes to make, you tack on $12 to the cost of your product.

DSC_58433. Overhead This is probably going to be the most difficult thing for us to figure out the first time we price something using this new method. For overhead, you add up all your non-material business expenses from the past year (don’t forget your housing expenses if you work from home) and figure out what additional expenses you want to plan for the next year. Take that total amount and divide that by 12 to figure out your monthly overhead. Then figure out how many hours a month you spend creating products. Divide your monthly overhead by the number of hours you’ll be creating in order to come up with your “hourly burn.” Then for each product include the appropriate amount of hourly burn to include in the cost, depending on how long your product takes to make. (For example, if your product takes half-an-hour to make, you would include half of your “hourly burn” in the cost.

DSC_58754. Profit This is the area where we leave the hard calculations. Up until this point, we’ve plugged in numbers to make sure we aren’t losing money. Here, rather than coming up with an amount that should be our profit, we’re going switch over to value-based pricing and determine the value of our product. One exercise Megan had us do in order to help determine our value was to conduct a Google search to see the highest priced item we could find in our general category. A very quick search for the term for “nature wall art” resulted in a piece being sold for $2,700. That’s not to say that we’re going to sell our work for $2,700 (at least not yet!), but I think that was to show us that there are people who are willing to pay that much for pieces in the same category ours. Megan’s suggestion is to not choose a price that’s middle of the road but to go for something higher than the middle, keeping in mind the mental price barriers that stores like to stay under ($25, $50, $100, $150, $200 etc.). Once you have the price for one item, line up your other items and select prices that make sense in relation to each other.

Although it’s going to be a lot of work to switch over to this type of pricing, I feel a lot better about it than what we’ve been doing. So what do you think? If you’re in business, what pricing model have you been using? Do you think you could switch over to this model?

Busy as a Bee

DSC_5763

That’s how we’ve been feeling for the past month! With five graduations followed by a week of sports camp, we’ve been constantly shooting and editing. But we’re almost done editing our last few pictures from sports camp, and soon we’ll be moving into a phase of focusing on Rob’s first love–nature photography. This week we’ll be taking a CreativeLive class on selling to retailers. We’ve also got some new ideas on how to turn Rob’s photography into one-of-a-kind art pieces. Watch this space to follow us on our journey as we grow the nature photography side of our business. Meanwhile, if you like this bee picture, you can buy a print from our storefront.

You can’t expect your daughter to be perfect…

Did someone say smile

Yup, that’s our daughter–the one making funny faces during the group soccer photo at sports camp.

I guess it’s payback. Long before I became a photographer’s wife, I too was the daughter of an aspiring photographer. Not sure if his dream of becoming a full-time professor would ever happen (it eventually did), my dad signed up for a professional photographer course when I was a few years older than my daughter is now.

“Lori, I need you to model for me,” he would call. Without even brushing my hair, I would put on my headphones (music would keep me from getting too bored) and go down to the basement where his little studio was set up. Since his main focus was getting the lighting right, he never complained about my unkempt look or the fact that I wasn’t smiling or in any way trying to make myself look presentable. This might have been fine had we entered the digital age. The photos would have been deleted and forgotten. But no, everything was on film and everything was printed–and now those horrible photos are part of our family’s keepsakes from my middle school years.

Even worse than the basement modeling sessions were when my dad would take my sister and I out in public to model. For one of his assignments, he had us sitting on a merry-go-round as it spun about. This might have been fine had there not been other kids near my age at the park–and playing on a merry-go-round with my little sister was not a cool thing for an almost-teenager to be doing. Wanting to make sure the other kids knew this wasn’t my idea of a good time, I made the most sour faces imaginable every time the merry-go-round spun me away from my father’s view then tried to compose myself before I spun around to the side he was photographing. Unfortunately, I didn’t always succeed at composing myself in time. Recently, as we were going through family photos (yeah, these shots are also a part of the permanent collection), my dad commented, “You don’t look like you were having much fun.” Sigh. Nope, I was being a disrespectful daughter–and though he didn’t seem to notice at the time (he was probably too busy focusing on adjusting his F-stops just right in order to capture the amount of movement he wanted), my behavior was captured on film as a permanent reminder of my acting up.

“You can’t expect your daughter to be perfect,” my mom once advised me. “After all, you’re not perfect yourself.” She’s right. And so, as frustrating as it is when she acts up during a photo shoot, I’ll try to remember what it feels like to have your picture taken so much that you forget to be on your best behavior when the camera is pulled out.

And though we probably won’t print this photo out for posterity (the digital file will probably even be deleted), we now have this blog. And if she ever becomes a photographer or a photographer’s wife (or even just an over-eager parent with a smart phone) and complains about her kids acting up in front of the camera, I’ll pull up this blog. And, like my mother told me, I’ll remind her, “You can’t expect your kids to be perfect–after all you’re not.”

Oh, and just so you know she can pose nicely for a picture. Here are a couple of the individual portraits we took of her at sports camp. Much better, don’t you think?

DSC_5351-Edit DSC_5524

 

Glorious Clouds

Glorious Clouds

We were leaving an after-hours event at the zoo the other night when this glorious scene caused us to pull over in the parking lot and start shooting pictures. “It almost looks as if Christ is coming!” Mom shouted. At this, our daughter got excited. “Oh, I hope so!” she exclaimed. “Sometimes I think there are things I want to do before Jesus comes back, but if he came back now I’d be very, very happy!” Like this photo? You can buy a print at our online storefront (click on the picture above to go directly there) or contact us directly to negotiate a digital purchase at FutcherFotos@gmail.com.