Inspiring interview and Tote & Shoot GIVE AWAY

by Mary Jane

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Well, today is an EXTRA special day! I have a really fun interview from Courtney who runs the blog, Click It Up a Notch and she is building a great community on her Facebook page – HERE. She is an amazing photographer, teacher, mother and the kind of person you want as your BFF. Do you ever wonder how some women just seem like they can do it all? Well, I do! So, today she is dishing on photography, motherhood, and the never ending juggling act called life.

EEEEEK, I’m also giving away a Tote & Shoot by SHOOTSAC. (Thank you Keats for donating a bag :)). Now, ladies, this isn’t just any ol’ camera bag – it’s a mama’s camera bag! It’s the real deal. The cleverly placed front pocket allows you to access your camera in a snap! And it’s got places for sippy cups and more than a few diapers. Trust me, you.want.this bag. You can get more info on the Tote & Shoot on their Facebook page located HERE.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here telling me what color of bag you want. They come in RED, BLACK, SILVER, PEARL or BLUE. Ready.Set.Go.

The winner will be randomly selected and announced on my Photog Mommie Facebook page on Friday, June 28th at 7 p.m. PST. Deadline to enter will be 5 p.m. on Friday.


Now – onto Courtney’s amazing photography and a glimpse into the life of a real “photog mommie”.

1) How has motherhood changed your perspective on the importance of historical documentation?
I have always been one to photograph everything, but when we had our first daughter, I felt like I needed to photograph every.single.minute. I went crazy snapping away to capture each passing day. After years of learning all I could soak up about photography, I have learned how to use my skills to create stories with my images, not just snapshots of each day. Don’t get me wrong, I still take snapshots, but I am able to use my photographs to capture the details of their lives to help tell the whole story. I want to give my children the gift of images from their childhood.

2) How often do you take pictures of the girls & are they planned sessions?
I used to take photos every day since I was doing a Project 365. I don’t make a point to take pictures every day like I used to, but I still photograph almost everyday. I don’t take a lot of planned sessions as I want to capture life how it is. I do a few planned sessions every few months. When they are babies, I try to photograph them in a planned session once a month to capture their first 6 months.

I have started a new project this month of taking a picture everyday for the month of June. I hope to do this every year in the month of June to have our daily lives documented every single day for one month. It seems to be more manageable for me to shoot daily for a month than a whole year.

3) How do you organize and backup your photos?

I am actually a little obsessed with having my photos organized and backed up properly. I actually wrote a whole post about how I organize my images – Organizing Your Photos.

Our computer crashed when I was pregnant with my first daughter. We lost all our images from the first 3 years of our marriage. I had some on CD’s but the majority of them are gone. Honestly, as sad as I am that those pre-kid images are gone I’m glad it happened. It taught me how important it is to back up our images. I would cry for a year if I lost all the images of my kids.

All my images are on an external hard drive, as well as another external hard drive. I also use CrashPlan to back up my computer. In fact, a few weeks after my third daughter was born my computer crashed again. But I didn’t shed a tear! All our images were backed up. This year I started to print my images as 4×6 prints to have hard copies and something for the kids to look at. There’s nothing like holding an actual photo album in your hands and sharing stories with your kids.

4) What about time – running a successful blog & also being a mother of three – how do you do it?
It’s a challenge, I’m not going to lie. When I started the blog two years ago I spent WAY too much time on it. I’m talking eating, sleeping and breathing the blog. I finally had to take a step back and devote more time to my family. I have a rule that I don’t work on the blog after my husband gets home from work. This frees up our evenings as well. I still mess around on the computer, but this forces me to stay focused during nap time to get stuff accomplished. I am very type A and have an editorial calendar and daily to-do list as well. I would love to say that I have a week’s worth of posts done ahead of time. That is a goal but not my reality. All my kids take great naps so I’m guaranteed 2-3 hours each afternoon to work on stuff. I do social media posts throughout the morning but try to answer emails and write during nap time. I am learning how to balance my blog, photography, and three small kids.

5) Was being a mother a driving force in your passion for photography – or do you think you would have found it regardless?
I have always been obsessed with photography. When I was newly married, I got a fancy point and shoot. I was always the one with the camera, documenting everything. It was when I was 10 minutes away from giving birth to our second daughter that my husband accidentally broke our camera. I was devastated but luckily, my mom was there with one we could use. The next morning I sweet talked him into getting me my first DSLR. Honestly, I didn’t even know anything about manual mode. I thought it was the camera that created the images. I’m sure I would have eventually purchased a DSLR if we didn’t have our kids but I know that it helped me get it sooner.

6) Have you ever considered starting a photography business?
I have toyed with the idea. I love taking pictures and the thought of getting paid for it sounds so tempting. However, I’m not at a point right now where I want to take on clients. I do take photos for friends and family as a gift to them. Not sure if I’m ready to deal with clients and all that goes into having a business. However, I am extremely interested in the business side like marketing and bookkeeping. I actually have a secret goal of teaching my own “in person” photography workshops. I have found my passion is in teaching photography more than taking on clients.

7) What’s the hardest thing about running a blog and also being a mom?

Finding the balance. I love having my blog and having something that is just for me. I’m not my kids “mom” on my blog. I’m Courtney. It’s fantastic! However, I don’t want to miss the little moments that make being a SAHM fantastic because I was too busy writing a post or replying to an email. It is a daily challenge. I want to cherish this time while they are young, snuggle with my husband in the evenings and have my blog. I want my cake and eat it too.

8) What has surprised you most about being a mom?
How much I’m like my dad! I find myself repeating the same things he used to say to us when we were kids. It is typically when I’m disciplining one of my kids and out it comes, a phrase from my childhood I thought I would never repeat. It actually makes me smile. While we are on that subject, another thing that has surprised me is how easy going my parents are with my kids. They do things I would never have been allowed to do. Didn’t eat your dinner? That’s okay. Here’s an ice cream sandwich. Are you kidding me??? ha! Bill Cosby says it best “This is not the same person I grew up with. You are looking at an old woman who is trying to get into Heaven.”

9) Can you share with us your favorite photograph of your girls to date? And why is it your favorite?
Since I started shooting daily this month I have a lot of new favorites. Choosing a favorite photo is kind of like picking a favorite lens or child. It’s hard and I like photos for different reasons.

I think this may be my current favorite. It kind of captures this season of my life right now. I have little ones under my feet most of the day and although it can be harder to get things done I don’t want to forget those sweet faces looking up at me.

10) What tips can you offer mamas who want amazing pictures of their children but can’t afford a professional photographer very often?
Learn to shoot in manual mode!! Truly, if I can learn about photography then anyone can. I was fortunate to have a sweet friend, Megan Cieloha, take the time to sit with me in my living room and teach me manual mode. I always wanted to hire a professional but couldn’t convince my husband to spend the money. (We won’t discuss how much I have now spent on learning it myself.) I knew the only way I was going to get professional photographs was to take them myself. There are a ton of resources out there to help you learn all about your camera and how to improve your images. Also, find a friend and take each other’s family photos. You need to be in the photographs too!! I had a fantastic friend, Aspen Burke, in Japan and we would take turns taking each other’s photos. We didn’t pay each other with money but instead, our time. She even took Claire’s birth photos for me!

11) What camera would you recommend for a new mommie?
If you can swing it, I highly recommend getting a DSLR. As to which one to get that is a tough choice. Go to a camera store and hold the cameras in your hands. Ask the person how to change the aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Even if you don’t learn how to shoot in manual mode right away, you will at least know if it is easy or a hassle to change those three important settings. Also, this may sound silly but find out what your friends have. If they all shoot Nikon, consider getting a Nikon. Not only can you guys help each other learn your cameras but you can share your lenses. If I had to pick one camera to suggest I would say the Nikon D90. I LOVED that camera. It was not the first DSLR I owned but I quickly out grew my starter camera. I wish I had just purchased that one from the beginning. It is a fantastic camera with a great ISO range. I sold it when I upgraded but I often wish I still had it.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your blog!! Please feel free to ask me anything. Like one of my favorite photographers says “I’m an open book.”

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