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Where has that been?

July 7, 2024

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From Struggle to Empowerment

Creativity over the last year has come at a premium for me. I hate typing that but it’s me being honest with myself for the first time in a while. There were times where we did things that were slightly outside the box but not like we used to. In 2020 we were fearless, we were new and had nothing to lose. No one knew what the hell Elevation Boudoir was, and definitely not us personally. Expectations were non existent. Even when we quit our full time careers we still had that edge. There’s a thing that happens with growth, at least in our case, where the stakes are a littler higher and that means the fall (in this case failure) will hurt more. I look at it like a skyscraper, it starts with the first floor, never mind the other 50, in the beginning there’s just one. That was us in 2020, fall off the first floor and not much happens, maybe some discomfort or a broke leg but you survive. Fast forward to 2023 and we are now building the 12th floor… you don’t want to fall from the 12th floor. The thing is, the skyscraper isn’t real and just like in your dreams when you fall, you wake up and are thankful to be where you are. For those still with me here, yes this is the type of bullshit floating around in my head all day. It’s wild up there. 

The last two years we’ve had so many things and ideas that we wanted to implement but I held us back. I would always end up talking myself out them though, Rachel would be instantly on board and start planning instantly. I would get excited for a day but then start feeling like anything fun, anything creative would be a waste of time and deflect from the business. In all honesty it was me not taking my own advice, I was afraid to try something that didn’t work, I didn’t want to fail. Failure is always a part of the process no matter where you are in life or how far along you are with your goals, theres just no way around it. It still hurts too, I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten used to that feeling. It helps when you remind yourself that there’s no avoiding it. For me though, the issue was Elevation, it wasn’t as much ego driven as the business just not doing as well as we wanted it to. We were still successful and in my opinion one of the best but we stopped marketing and got comfortable. Five years ago the economy was insane, I don’t care about your political opinions, just use the eye test, we all had more money and were happier. Here in good ole’ 2024 that’s not the case. Regardless of what anyone says money will always play a factor. More than anything else though, it was that we were working so much and got so comfortable in our routine that we neglected the audience that helped get us there. This was single handedly the biggest factor in everything negative we experienced in the last two’ish years. 

The wild part about this is that we’ve always been a higher volume studio where we would take on 180-200 clients a year. If you’re new to this industry or not familiar with other boudoir photographers, that’s an insane number. In most cases full time studios shoot anywhere around 120 or less in a year, with the majority being less. High volume studios mostly utilize associate photographers to ease the burden of shooting that much. Our mindset has always been higher volume means more women we can help, and in a mid sized town like Tuscaloosa that’s huge. Most likely right now if you live here and haven’t already had your session with us then you know 2-3 people that have. The problem for 2023-24 is that number while still higher than average was down by 50 or so. I haven’t updated my numbers yet but it might even be slightly higher. Again, still insane numbers when you consider that every session is their own day on the calendar. You can also start to see where it’s hard to have a normal life with kids, plus doing all the back end work for the business at that volume. To me though, it was hard to see dates that I thought should be filled go vacant. Funny enough, it was my fault that it was that way. Even when dates would open from a cancellation/reschedule I wouldn’t post the availability, and we took more time off than we have in the last 5 years combined. Im looking at this now with fresh eyes and can confidently tell you this saved our business. It’s not that we were going downhill but we were headed for burnout.

Going back to the point here, even though dates were open I had that deer in the headlights moment. I could take the time to be creative and do the fun things we loved; Podcast, Creative Shoots, Vlogs, Youtube, Education, or I could spend the day marketing. What option did I take most days? Neither. Simply put I had so much freedom that I couldn’t make a good decision to save my life. The good thing here is that I took enough time to make me realize how much I truly love what we do and it made me miss it on the off days. This applies to both of us. Strangely enough it also made me learn to really appreciate the little things in life again. We finally started back 100% and it’s paid off in a massive way. I have more drive right now than when we started. That fearlessness that made us who we are is back in a big way. 

I sit here today on the July 7th and can say that with the exception of four August dates we are fully booked. Like, FULLY booked for 2024. It’s wild, we had such a demand that we had to take our off days from the calendar to open those dates. We even have 14 new clients traveling from out of state over the next few months and we couldn’t be more thankful and excited that you all of chosen to put your trust in us. All of that to say that being at this point gives me a strange freedom. It’s having the freedom to create just because, no chasing likes, no more worrying about whether that thing will help drive business but just loving the art. 

This takes me to the pool shoot, this is where we are now. Taking chances and trying things because we just want to. The majority of our day yesterday was spent on the lake with some amazing friends, and no device in sight. I don’t think I can accurately describe just how much we both needed that, massive shout out to them for being some of the best people we know. We finished up around 4pm and had to rush to Sam’s club to get food for our daughter’s sleepover that was happening in an hour. Sure enough the minute we pull into the parking lot the bottom falls out and for a second I got a glimpse of those folks from the Noah’s Ark days. Ok but seriously, we might as well have been swimming in the parking lot. The 30 something people watching with their carts under the awning thought we were insane, it was actually fun, kind of like being a kid again.

Turns out it was a wasted trip as they were out of everything we came for. We ended up making a quick trip to Publix then on to the sleepover. They only lasted a few minutes at the house before we had to take them next door to the pool. 20 minutes in and I’m siting there looking at the light on Rachel thinking, “If I only had my camera”. 

The sun was getting lower and the light was changing every minute. I finally convinced myself to just do it. I jumped out soaking wet, ran over to the house, put a fresh layer of pool water all over the kitchen and studio floor and came back with the camera giddy and ready to grab some epic portraits. One problem, it’s 90 degrees with 80% humidity. My lenses and camera sensor looked like the window of a steam room. At this point that familiar “Fuck it” voice started creeping back in and I’m ready to throw in the towel. I sat everything down and walked away, I was so frustrated that all I could do was pace. Typically it takes 10-15 minutes to clear up and in this case it was every bit of 15. The light had changed by this point and not what I hoped for but I didn’t care, I waited that long so I was going to make it happen. I grabbed my 24mm lens which was a first. I live with my 50mm on the camera so this was going to be a challenge, good, because why not. I’m already shooting outdoors in a pool (That’s in the middle of having turf around it with tools and equipment still out) with different light and no boudoir style shoot. It was just about creating fun portraits. 

In the end I loved how they turned out. It’s not what we do, it’s not the lens I use, It’s not how we pose clients, it’s definitely not how I expose my images and edit but it was FUN. It’s crazy that shooting some random shots in a pool can reinvigorate that drive unlike anything else. The rest of 2024 is going to be taking chances again. I have a list of over 50 creative shoot ideas and I’m going to start checking them off one by one. I have no expectations of how things will turn out and even when they fail I’m still going to share them because I want to show the ups and downs. I want to be comfortable with the idea of failing, and then coming back with that knowledge to turn that failure into success. 

As for Elevation as a whole, where we are right now is the strongest it’s ever been. We have a very clear direction and the best damn clients in the country. We are going to give all that we can to deliver in a big way. We are currently working through the ideas of a studio refresh as well as some new things with posing. The fall is going to be insane and that’s just how we like things. To those wanting to book sessions our calendar for Jan-Mar 2025 is open and we are already down to only a few days left in Jan. This next chapter of the business is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen from us. I’d love to end this with a list of things to expect but I think keeping it a surprise is the better choice. Lastly, as always I want to thank each and every person that supports us whether that be from booking or just telling your friends about us. I don’t think we’ve been able to go anywhere in this town in the last two months and not had someone ask us about the business or tell us how much they love what they’ve seen for us. Your word of mouth and support is what drives this everyday and keeps this train moving. Thank you. 


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Justin & Rachel

She soothes your nerves, he captures your fire. Rachel & Justin, your dynamic duo, guide you on a journey of self-discovery through laughter, pampering, and unforgettable boudoir adventure.

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