Meet Fabulous Photographer and Amazing Mom Wendy Zippwald from Oahu, Hawaii!
(Above image by Brenda Van Valkenburg of Brenda Van Photos)
This is our last Amazing Mom interview for 2011, and it is a complete honor to have it be Wendy Zippwald!! Some of you know Wendy as an amazing photographer, but she is many, many things to this community! She has also been the greatest SOAR! Coordinator I could ever ask for! She has helped me lead this year’s SOAR! Scholarship with integrity and grace, and seriously, I don’t know what I would do without her. Wendy has also helped host our Ask & Learn Forums on Thursday nights that we have all been inspired by! Her energy is contagious. She has a heart to help others. Her photography, as you are about to see, is GORGEOUS! Wendy, thank you for all that you do and most importantly, all that you are. You are a gift to ALL of us!
Everyone, meet Wendy! Be prepared to be inspired!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the photography business?
I am proud to say I grew up in the great Midwest and hold those values that most Midwesterners do, even after moving all over the United States in the past 11 years. Being an Air Force spouse is engraved in me. I can’t imagine my life without the Air Force. Scott and I have been blessed with wonderful opportunities and great places to live. We have 2 boys, Cooper and Caden who always trek along with no complaints (I don’t think they are old enough yet). You can read 25 more interesting facts about me on my website under “Meet Wendy”.
I have always been interested in photography. I have owned many cameras throughout the years as technology has changed. I thought I wanted to explore starting a business when I attended Me Ra’s Confidence workshop in April of 2007 in Sonoma, California. When I left Me Ra’s workshop, I knew I wanted to start a business. I went home to portfolio-build and never looked back.
The People I shoot inspire me. I take the time to watch how they all interact and try to capture those sweet in-between moments. They inspire me to want each shot to be better than the last at telling their story, showing their personality and the connections they share.
Q: What inspires you as a person, artist?
I am 100% completely inspired by my amazing husband. For the past 20 years he has dedicated his life to the Air Force. We have moved 6 times in the past 11 years and each time he begins his new position with courage and stamina like he has been doing it for many years. He amazes me with his knowledge of each new position he starts…can you imagine doing a brand new job every 1-2 years with very little guidance of how to do it? He is a self-starter and is teaching our sons to be just like that. I love you honey and I am proud to stand at your side in this journey!
Q: How do you prepare for a photography session?
Before each session I reread the client questionnaire they filled out to refresh on all the names of people involved in the session and and what the mom (usually) would like me to capture. This helps me to “get my game on” beforehand. I also make sure my camera battery is charged and I have at least 3 CF cards in my bag. I don’t need all the CF space anymore, I take them just in case one goes bad while shooting. Then I go through my checklist to make sure camera settings are correct. White balance on Auto, ISO at 200, Aperture at 2.8. These are all my starting points when I pick up my camera. I did this checklist because when I was first starting out and would do a session which ended at sunset and then do a session the next day during the daytime, I would get all nervous about meeting a new client and forget to switch my ISO back to 200, so I would shoot a whole session in daylight at like ISO 800, which on my first camera was a big deal.
Q: How would you describe your photography style?
Simple…3 C’s…Crisp, Colorful and Clean. I usually sharpen up the image and bump up the color in Post-Processing, but I don’t use textures or many actions in PS.
Q: Tell us the story of this recent image.
I have an early childhood and elementary education background, so I pretty much know how to work with kiddos, well most kiddos. 🙂 The little guy in this image wanted nothing, I mean nothing, to do with me and my camera this day. I chased him around the beach for a good amount of time. Mom really wanted me to try to get all three of them in an image, but this little guy was as fast at getting up as I was at putting him down. So as the two older children were running on the beach we decided to get him to run with them. Easier said than done. I wish I could post the “outtakes” of the mom and sitter trying to help on this. Well, I gave it one last try, bumped up my Aperture a little to 3.3 and tested the exposure before I let them go. As they were getting close to me running this was one of the frames as I held down the shutter. Even though the little girl is a little out of focus, I am in love with the color and the motion of this image. It also turned out to be ones of mom’s favorites.
Q: What are some of the best resources you have used for learning?
1. Me Ra’s CONFIDENCE Workshop! No doubt, I would not be where I am today without attending her workshop. More on that below!
2. Pinkletoes-Michelle Anderson
Without the PT4P subscription I would not have been able to handle the business portion of running a photography business. Her downloads helped me get my initial paperwork done and keep me organized!
4. Clickin Moms Forum, Go4ProPhotos, and Flickr Discussion Groups were my earlier websites and learning forums. I have now narrowed it down and am a member of CM Pro, the Bloom Forum and the B School. I also just stumbled upon Elizabeth Halford’s site for learning. A great one!
5. MCP Actions Blog-Another great site for learning.
Q: What is one of the best pieces of advice you have been given?
“Your images can be good, even great…but what keeps clients coming back is you. You give 200% to each and every client.” When I am shooting a family, a wedding, or a military homecoming…I am there, I mean really there. Nothing in the world matters to me at those moments, but making the wonderful people that stand on the other side of my camera comfortable enough to show me their true personalities. I want my clients to think of me as “their friend” once the session is complete.
I want to share a story about really “caring” for your clients and going the extra mile. The image below is a friend of mine here in Hawaii. I didn’t know her really well before her session but now we are much closer since her session. On her client questionnaire that everyone fills out when they book me, she said, “We had a baby girl who was stillborn at full term with a fatal birth defect. We named her Hope Elizabeth and she is very much a part of our family and interwoven into our conversations. We celebrate her birthday each year as a BIG family day, etc. I would LOVE to do something maybe with HOPE written in the beach sand. “ Well my wheels started turning in my head about how I could make it even more special for her. I decided to make this quick “HOPE” banner that I pulled out for them in front of my favorite Banyan tree. She was left speechless. That was a bonding moment for us all and that is what I am talking about when I speak about giving 200% to each and every client.
Q: What is one piece of advice you could give a “newbie”?
If I could tell newbies one thing…I think it would be that starting a photography business doesn’t happen overnight. You must be as prepared on the business side of it as you are on the photography/technique part of it. It is very hard to catch up on the business side of it if you jump in too soon. I also highly suggest that you are shooting in manual before you start your business. Oops, I guess that was two.
Q: What is the best piece of Marketing advice you can give at this time?
I think the most important piece of marketing that has really grown my business is word of mouth. You have got to get your name out there you can also do it online with marketing companies perfect for you as the small business marketing san diego. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are a photographer. Practice in your mirror if you have to, but do it! I also think it is very important to start networking with other photographers in your area…immediately! Join a SMUGMUG Meet-up, Pursuit 31 Group or PUG (Pictage User Group). I get a ton of referrals from local photogs that are either booked, an inquiry is not a good fit for them, or even moving. Network Ladies!
Q: How do I know Me Ra Koh?
Four years ago now, I was Googling everything about photography under the sun. I just happened to come across her website. I spent the next 5 hours reading the entire Archives of her blog. After that I decided to put her CONFIDENCE Workshop on my Christmas list (I know, a little large on the gift), but I did and I knew my hubby knew how important it was to me, as he heard “Me Ra this and Me Ra that” for the past couple weeks. So about 2 weeks before the holidays, I was messing around with my DSLR and had screwed up some setting. I was walking down the stairs in our house, cussing under my breath, and the phone was ringing. I got to the bottom of the stairs and Scott handed me the phone and said, “Tech support for fuzzy pictures is on the phone”. Me Ra was on the other end of the line, telling me that my dear husband was surprising me with a trip to the Sonoma CONFIDENCE Wkshp in April and she couldn’t wait to meet me. Blah, blah, blah, you can read more about this story on Me Ra’s blog. Yes that is me in hot pink PJ’s!
Anyway, that was my first encounter with Me Ra. I had no idea that attending her workshop in Sonoma, would forever change my life in so many ways. Yes, I went home with the Confidence and tools to start my own photography business. But I also gained some serious new BFF’s that weekend. We still to this day hold each other accountable, hug when needed, listen to each other joys and tears and just plain love each other.
From there we kept in touch a couple of times, but when she announced that she needed a coordinator for the SOAR! Scholarship I thought that would be a perfect fit for me at the time. It has been an amazing year for us all and I am so blessed to end this year’s cast of wonderful Ask and Learn Photographers.
It has been a complete joy serving this year as the SOAR! Coordinator. I love this community and think it is a great place for support, whether it is about photography or just life as a woman and mom. I wish you all success in your business ventures. Please give me a ring if you think I can help you in any way!