I can't believe it's already been over a month since I finished my first Texas School experience! Texas School, short for Texas School of Professional Photography, is a week long event sponsored by Texas Professional Photographers Association, with the support of many vendors and my favorite local camera store, Arlington Camera. I have to say, it was an extremely well organized week, and ended up being well beyond my expectations.
Texas School veterans know the tricks to registering at the right time to increase your odds of getting into the class of your choice. Class sizes are limited, but for the chance to spend a whole week learning from one of dozens of pros, it's worth the effort to be ready to submit your registration the very moment it is opened at the beginning of the year. I followed the advice of all my seasoned photographer friends, poised myself to press "submit" the moment the clock struck the appropriate time, and then I waited. And waited. AND WAITED. The wait to find out if I had made it into Ana Brandt's Newborn and Maternity Imagery class seemed to be endless. Over the course of two weeks, I kept checking my email, and then was a little deflated to find out that anyone who went to Imaging USA got to find out their assignments there. Bummer, I didn't go to that expo. Finally a letter came in the mail another week or two later (old school - an actual acceptance letter!) and I ripped into it immediately. I literally squealed when I read that I did in fact get placed in Ana's class! Texas School of Professional Photography LogoBest Little Photography School in the World
The other great thing about Texas School is that it takes place close to home, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addison. Not one to really enjoy fighting with rush hour metroplex traffic, I opted to get a room for the week, and boy was I glad I did that! Not only did classes start early, but you really had to mind your schedule to fit in visits to the trade shows, special talks, and the after parties. Yes, parties plural. I had no idea a huge bunch of photographers would party so hard EVERY NIGHT and still get up for classes that started by 8:30 AM everyday. I did say it was my first time, right? Wow! All in all, with dinner included every night, and often free drinks, entertainment and a WHOLE week of learning with the pro of your choice, Texas School is one heck of a value.
Rewind to the start of the week, and I have to say I was really excited to meet Ana Brandt. And nervous. Really nervous. I didn't even dare to show her my previous work. I just wanted to sit quietly and absorb everything I possibly could. Then she asked us to get up and talk a little bit about why each of us was there, and what our goals were. She was open to us, and listened intently to all 30 of us tell our stories. I think the biggest thing I was worried about was that this photographer that I'd been following and who's work I admired might not actually be as nice as I imagined she is. Fortunately that wasn't a problem :)
Newborn classObserving Ana Brandt pose and soothe a newborn during Texas School 2017 Ana lined up several newborn models as well as maternity models. They were all really fun to work with and were patient while we all watched, observed, assisted, and sometimes shot some images. As you can imagine, especially with the tiniest models, logics can be a challenge. Babies do what they want, and you have to be sensitive to how they are reacting to the situation. We observed a lot, and shot images here and there. My biggest take away was that my shooting angles were not the best. Ana helped teach all of us that, to improve the images we create.
Ana was incredibly open about sharing how she creates her masterful images, and for that I am thankful. The one week I spent with Ana Brandt, and 29 other women also pursuing my craft, did more to accelerate my understanding of this genre of imaging than I've been able to self-teach in the last 3 years. Wrapping. Posing. Props. Lighting. Even how to set up my posing beanbag changed when I got home from class. We learned soothing techniques, and found out about products to help keep babies happy.
We all got to know each other, and started to figure out who we were naturally drawn to. The room that was intimidating at first - 29 other photographers, most in my local market, all doing the same work as me - became a room full of friends and women who were ready to support each other! We shared experiences over lunch, and at break, talked about our favorite prop suppliers, and started to think about how we could learn from each other. I think this really started to happen when we were working with our maternity models. We helped each other pose the models, and point out small details to attend to. Then things really got fun when we started learning the fabric techniques Ana uses for her stunning maternity portraits. Look at the smiles all around, on the mo They NAILED it!The concept sounds simple, but creating the beautiful movement of fabric in this image takes collaboration, communication, and great timing from the assistants, model, and photographer. del and the assistants, after they absolutely NAILED the fabric toss in this pull back! I may or may not have jumped up and down after I captured this image. I definitely couldn't wait to edit it, and once I had it finished, I took advantage of the free 17x22 prints being done onsite courtesy of Canon!
I was basically a sponge all week long, soaking in everything we were shown, and everything that Ana said. From how to work with models, to the real purpose of marketing, every day was valuable. I came home with lists of things to do. There was a suggested list of what to stock in our studios for expecting and new mamas. Ana challenged us to find like minded businesses and to establish affiliations. Most of all, she emphasized that marketing is about telling the world who you are. The quality of your work is important, but if no one knows how to find you, it doesn't matter! Wow, powerful to think about. Time to stop worrying about whether or not your work is good enough. Believe in it, and go out there and tell the local market who you are!
Before we closed out class and received our certifications and merits, Ana made us commit to the first thing we would do upon getting home. In true fashion, I really struggled to come up with just one thing that felt more important than the rest. I committed to printing marketing materials, and then I started talking about the like minded women I had met. I said not only did I want to market myself, but I wanted to reach out to some of the women in the room who were practically my neighbors, and work together. To my absolute amazement, Ana set that as a challenge for the whole class, and promised to reward us nicely if we made good on the promise.
Immediately after the close of class, three of us visited a local Dallas fabric outlet and shopped together for tossing fabric for maternity portraits, and posing fabrics for newborns. Before we'd left that shopping spree, we'd promised to get together to shoot. I'm excited to be just a couple days away from hosting my first collaborative model shoot! Before my week at Texas School, I would have been afraid to ask other photographers to come and share work like this. Now, I simply see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, and to be supportive of each other.
Me and Ana BrandtYep, I finished the week :)
I made it through the week, and after making my commitments to myself, I earned my certificate of completion for class. Although I had a week of travel right after class, I could not wait to get home to start putting my week of learning into action.
Now that class is done, I am proud to be able to say I'm "trained by Ana Brandt!" To close out this not-so-brief recap of Texas School, here are the final edits I produced during the two sessions shown above.