Blogging & Business


Two years ago I wrote a post, "What I've Learned after 6 years of photography." It's maybe one of my most popular posts. Seeing as it's been another two years (I can't believe it) I thought it might be a good time to revisit what I've learned and look back. 

2015 meets 2017 ... 


One thing I have learned over everything else that I think is most important is to give yourself grace. In 2015 I was struggling with my lack of growth. I felt like I should have covered so much more ground as a photographer. But I had failed to see everything I had gone through.

In 2015...I wondered why I hadn't grown more and then I looked back on my journey. I forgot about how much my life changed through my journey. I started photography, but then I moved to Florida, where I lived for a year. Then I moved back to Missouri, where I lived for a year and a half, then I moved to California, where I lived for two and a half years. And now I'm in New York. Moving around a lot requires a lot from a person and learning photography wasn't always a priority.

Grace upon grace in any journey is essential. Even now, after I feel that I have found my footing as a photographer. I can look back on this past year and see how much I've grown, but if I'm not careful I can fall into the comparison game and I start withholding grace. No matter where you are in your journey. No matter how short you feel it has been. No matter how long you feel it has been. Give yourself grace. 


We've all heard it. Practice, practice, practice. This was true for me eight years ago and it's still true for me today. As a photographer and an artist you can't stop and except to always have it. No matter where you are at in your journey, whether you are 6 month's in or 5 years in, practice will always be apart of the game. 


It took me a long time to embrace my failures. But failure as a photographer is always an opportunity for growth. Failure simply means something your tried didn't work. Failure in photography simply means to try again, to keep going, to challenge yourself and to think outside of the box. The sooner you embrace failure and see it as a learning opportunity, the faster you will grow and the more knowledge your will gain. 


When most photographers get started in their industry, whether they are a portrait photographer, wedding photographer, commercial photographer, styled stock photographer or the like, they sometimes play it safe. They do what every other photographer is doing. It's not that they don't want to be unique, but they see that other photographers are being successful and sometimes they think, "I need to do it that way to be successful too." I've totally been there. I've played it safe and created images that we're "current" in my industry. 

The great thing about any journey is that we can continue to grow, find our rhythm as photographers and create things that we absolutely love, even if it's not what others in our industry are doing. That is what successful businesses are made of. They differentiate themselves.

Competition aside, you are unique, the way you do business is unique, the way you see and take photos is unique. Embrace that and your competition isn't really competition at all.


When I first started out as a photographer I was petrified of other creatives. "What if they see right through me?" "What if they tell me I suck?" "I can't hangout with other creatives, I'm not as good as they are." This may not be a concern for everyone, but if it's something you are thinking, take a deep breath. Every creative I have ever met, whether it was another photographer, a lifestyle blogger, or a small business owner, they have all been kind, gracious and giving. 

What new photographers or new business owners don't know, is that regardless of how far we come in our journey, we'er all still learning. And most of the time we still feel like we don't know what we're doing, haha! 


Your camera can do a lot. So can your flash, lenses, and every other piece of equipment you may have. Keep learning your equipment. After eight years I still have things I'm learning. We never stop learning. Keep going, keep trying. keep learning.


I'm so glad to include this one. It does get easier, friend. I never thought it would and some days are still hard, but it does get easier. Things that used to be hard, start to make sense. The things that took you so long to learn become habit. It gets easier and sweeter. You'll find your groove. You'll find your sweet spot. You're clients and customers will find you and you'll love creating for them. It get's easier. 

xoxo. Samantha 


4 photo backdrops on the cheap

Happy Independence Day, friends! I'm so grateful for this day and for the opportunity to celebrate with friends and family! I'm popping in super quick to share 4 DIY backdrops on the cheap. Guys, I love DIY photo backdrops, especially if they are on the cheap. These 4 DIY's are pretty simple and I still use the DIY backdrops we've created all the time! 

  • Are you a Fixer Upper fan? I mean who isn't, right? Try this faux shiplap backdrop. This is one of my most used backdrops and I love it!

  • Do you have any extra foam core boards laying around? Add variety to your foam core with this super, easy DIY.

  • Need a rustic style backdrop? Do you have any extra pallet wood? Try this repurposed wood backdrop.

  • Are you trying to figure out how to create photos with a seamless backdrop? Here's quick how-to on sweeps. A quick and easy backdrop with paper or fabric.

Happy creating! xoxo! Samantha


4 Questions to Ask to Leverage your Strengths

Determining and leveraging my strengths has really made a difference in how Elah Tree has moved forward. Once I was able to determine the type of business that my strengths would be best utilized, I was then able to stop trying to strengthen my weaknesses and do that which I was best at. 

I have spent many years trying to figure out my strengths and I have also spent a lot of time trying to strengthen my weakness. One of those steps is beneficial, the other one kept me from really finding my groove. I'm not sure where the idea began, but I think there is a stigma to be "welled rounded." The only thing is, we can't be "welled rounded" at everything. We can't do everything and be the best at everything. We all have very unique strengths and gifts and it's important to determine what each of those are for each of us.  


When determining our strengths it is sometimes easier to determine out weaknesses first. Or determine the activities that drain us. It look me a long time to figure out that being a portrait photographer included a lot of activities that drained me. Location scouting, for example, was an activity that really drained me. And every time we moved it was even harder. Adapting quickly to change is also a weakness of mine. Change in general has never been the problem, adapting quickly was. As a portrait photographer, I had to be quick on me feet, I had to adjust quickly to changes in lighting, location, and things that weren't working. During each session I did my best to adjustment to these change with grace, but it was always so draining and it zapped my creativity. 

What are activities that really drain you? What about them really zap your energy? 


One of the reasons that adapting to change was a weakness of mine was because one of my strengths is processing. I take a long time to process things and this is something that is very unique to me. Being able to process information, especially information that I enjoy, really energizes me. One of reasons that styled stock photography is so ideal for me is because I spend weeks processing information for sessions. 

What are some activities that really energize you? Are you energized by working alone? Are you energized by working around a lot of people? How do you process information? Are you energized by going to new places? 


I was thinking about this question and I was thinking about how we probably all have things we would like to avoid, like going to the DMV, haha! But these are things we avoid because they take away from our creative process or they drain us. For me, driving was something I would avoid within a work or creative environment. This particular avoidance is probably due to our circumstances, as Tyler and I have moved a lot since being married. Because I know this about myself I knew that building a business that required a lot of driving just wasn't going to work for me. 

When determining the things you avoid, ask yourself why it's an avoidance. Are you avoiding it simply because it's inconvenient? Or do you avoid it because it's a endurance to your creative process? Also ask yourself if the avoidances are necessary for your business or creative process.  


I honestly think this one is rather hard to answer on your own. I always feel the need to ask friends and family. To get started, list items that make you unique. These are things that are incredibly specific to you. Once you're finished ask a few friends and family members. Our friends and family usually see us different then we see ourselves and are able to point out our unique strengths. 

Something that I learned was strength of mine was processing written information, but I didn't know this was a strength until I saw that it wasn't a strength for others. I always assumed that the speed in which I processed written information or produced written information was average. Sometimes we don't know what are strengths are until someone helps us see them. 

Determining and leveraging our strengths can be such an encouraging experience. Forcing ourselves to continue to work or create in our weaknesses can sometimes cause us to feel inadequate and insecure. I hope these 4 questions will help you determine some of your strengths so you can start leveraging them. What are other questions you have asked yourself to help you determine your strengths? xoxo. Samantha


I used to think I needed every piece of photography gear I could get my hands on. I would read about the gear that other photographers were using and I thought I needed those things too. Never in a million years did I think I would have as much photography gear as I have now. Just recently I was thinking about what I have and use. When compared to others it may not seem like that much, but yet to someone else it may seem like a ton. Two different camera bodies, three different lenses, and an array of camera accessories. Not to mention the vintage cameras I seem to always be collecting, haha! 

But here's the thing, at heart, I'm a minimalist photographer. I don't like to tote around tons of gear. I don't want five different lenses hanging of my body. I like to keep things simple. When I was in Colorado I packed my LowePro photo hatchback and tried to keep things simple. I took my two camera bodies, with two lenses attached. I opted to leave my gorillapod at home, and I only took a few accessories. If It didn't fit in my bag I wasn't going to take it. 

I get easily bogged down if I'm caring too much gear, and you know what the great thing is? I rarely ever need more then I have. I'm able to capture amazing photos with my D700 paired with my 50mm lens; between portraits and landscapes, I'm pretty much covered. :) The 50mm is so versatile, it's one of my favorite lenses. 

You don't need every piece of gear under the sun to take amazing photos. You simply have to start where you are, with a passion for light, and a heart for story. xoxo. Samantha