Time to Share

by: Tera Girardin on

Time to Share

I have to tell you a cool story. So bear with me as I seem to ramble on here. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a while ago? Well, I got nominated to do it like so many of us did. And I really really didn't want to get wet and cold and I really really don't like being on camera so this whole thing wasn't cool with me. Plus I thought maybe I could make a difference in a different way and use my photography skills instead. I offered to do a full session for a family affected by ALS. I know when a loved one is facing terminal illness sometimes the last thing families are thinking about is photos but when their loved one is gone, the first thing they do is cling to photos. 

So I put out the call on my Facebook page and got in touch with the family of Bruce Kramer. I had the honor of photographing his entire extended family in October 2014. Several family members had flown in from out of town and it was a reunion of sorts. A lovely but heartbreaking reunion. At this point, Bruce was confined to a wheel-chair, on a breathing apparatus, had limited mobility in his hands, easily tired, but had a huge bright spirit and I instantly felt his grace. It was an amazing session. With the star of the show -- his only granddaughter who was a year old and delightful. 

I was able to capture this set of images of them together. Honestly I've not really shared these before because it was such a poignant moment. And such a sacred moment that I didn't share them all over as I often do with images I'm super proud of. Well, obviously I gave them all to the family and they've enjoyed and shared them as they've wished. But I've not felt right about sharing it publicly much.

I didn't know who Bruce was before I met him. And I only met him once, for about 90 minutes. I was in photog mode during the shoot and didn't get emotional myself even though there were emotions flowing all over. Laughter, tears, love, longing, nerves, gratitude...all witnessed. But as soon as I stepped into the elevator as I left their home, the realization of what I had done hit me. I realized I would likely never meet him again as his journey was near the end. The emotions I had been setting aside during the session hit me and a sobbed all the way to the car and then some. It was an honor to be a part of his journey.

I wasn't the only one who was touched by Bruce. Turns out he was sort of a local big deal. :) He was a dean and professor at St. Thomas and well loved there. He was also working with MPR's Cathy Wurzer who interviewed him for a series on his ALS diagnosis called "Living While Dying." I didn't know any of this until well after I photographed him. And that was just fine with me. I wouldn't have changed the way I did the session. It didn't surprise me he was such an impactful man to so many because in the very short time I spent with him, I was touched too. He passed away a few months after I met him.

Are you still with me? Well fast forward to this week and Cathy Murzer sent me an e-mail. (Not often I get an email from MPR!). She and Bruce co-authored a book based on the interview series. It was published just a couple of weeks after he passed away in March of 2015. She is now doing a TEDx Talk this weekend at her alma mater UW-River Falls to discuss her time with Bruce and his story. She emailed to ask to use the image below to share with her audience. I of course said YES!

I couldn't be prouder to have one of my images on a TEDx stage. I'm honored to have captured that moment in time. The emotions that cross his face in these three images speak volumes. 

And it's time I share it with you.


Bruce's St. Thomas obituary

The book "We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying"

Living While Dying Podcasts

Bruce's Blog: Dis Ease Diary

Cathy Wurzer on MPR

TEDx Talk Details

An Interview

by: Tera Girardin on

I received a lovely email from a high school student the other day. Alexis, from Shakopee High School, wrote, 

 "I am doing a project for my photography class that is due Friday. I would really like to use you for my subject! I looked at your work and I liked it a lot and I was hoping you could answer some questions for me (not very complicated ones I swear). If you could, please let me know! Thanks! :)"

How could I resist?! I thought it would be fun to share my answers here on my blog. Thanks for asking Alexis! And good luck with your project! (Hope you pull an A!)

What inspired you to pursue photography and how did you start?

I've always had an eye for photography. I always remember seeing things in a certain way and thinking it would make a good photo. I had wanted to take photography in college but it didn't fit with my major and being a broke college student, I didn’t have a SLR camera or the money to buy one so I skipped it and stuck to a more “practical” degree in Business. Which actually worked well in my favor as it’s more important to have good business sense than artistic sense. I had always had a drive to own my own business - even as a teen - so it was a good foundation for what I’m doing today.

Later in life, when digital cameras came on to the scene, I was itching to get one. I got the first Canon Digital Rebel for Christmas 11 years ago and I was so incredibly excited. I was determined to learn to use it so I took a basics class. And then I read, researched, joined message boards, read more, practiced, failed, practiced again and found I still had an eye for it. And a love for it.

I mostly took photos of my own children to start but then I started taking photos of friends’ children and one of them said to me, “I want you to photograph my son for his 9 month photos.” And a light bulb went off and I thought, maybe this could be my business that I’ve always wanted. 

Was there any family/friends that influenced your career in photography?
My biggest influence early on was an online message board filled with other photographers who were also just starting out and finding our way with creating businesses, learning photography, sharing business ideas, finding workshops and seminars to learn from, and critiquing each other’s work. If I hadn’t joined that group, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.  One of my favorite photographer and a mentor to me has been Audrey Woulard out of Chicago.

Frankly, I have family and friends are super supportive, but they never really “got” the whole photography business so it wasn’t easy to bounce ideas off of and get quality feedback. You have to find a tribe and that type of support is far more valuable. 

What is your favorite type of photography to do? (Babies, seniors, adults, etc.)
My favorite always has been and always will be children. I connect with children. I see their sparkle. I love their personalities and I’m very tuned into to children. Even at the grocery store, babies will often lock eye contact with me and smile. I love that!  I love the chubby 6-month old that is has a toothless grin, I love a wobbly 1-year old learning to walk, I love a 2-year old with their fierce independence, I love a 3-year old who is happy and curious, I love the early elementary ages when they have a zest for life that is unmatched, I love the pre-teen awkwardness and shyness that starts to develop and cracking that facade, and I love the early teens who are just coming of age and hovering between childhood and adulthood. I love all ages and children will always be my favorite.

A close second, is to photograph women — all ages. I find we are so critical of ourselves and having our photograph taken is almost painful for some. I love having a client come in and sense her nervousness and visibly seeing her relax during the course of our session and having her walk away feeling so good about herself. Because we are all beautiful. We are human, that makes us beautiful. I recognize it’s a vulnerable thing to have your portrait done so I work very hard at making my subject look and feel her best. And when she sees how beautiful she really is, that’s why I do what I do.

What is your Faces of Autism all about and what got you started with that?
My Faces of Autism project is a new personal project for me. Not new in the sense that I’ve worked with many children with autism in the course of my business. But new because I’ve recently decided to take it in a new direction. The purpose is to feature children with autism and showcase their inner beauty, celebrate their magic and demystify autism in the process. There is so much negativity surrounding autism — the facts, the statitics, the prognosis, etc. — and it is hard. No denying that. However, it’s not all hard and I want to show the world how amazing these children are and what incredible things they have overcome or their remarkable skills. 

My youngest son was diagnosed with autism when he was 3-4 years old (he’s 10 now). I spent a lot of time at his therapy center when he was younger and I started getting to know other families. I’d see many of the same children day after day and I was so impressed by the improvements they were making. As a photographer, I was feeling compelled to get my camera on them and celebrate these kiddos! I can’t explain it other than I HAD to photograph them. But I had to figure out a reason why — approaching parents and asking to photograph their child for no real reason other than I just wanted to seemed a little creepy. :)  So I created a calendar project and asked for volunteers. I did the Faces of Autism calendar for three years with all the profits benefitting a local charity. I decided to end it last year for various personal and professional reasons. It was the right decision but I knew I wasn’t done with it yet and that it needed to evolve. So after some soul searching I came to the conclusion that Faces of Autism needs to be a book. And that I needed to rethink how I’m photographing these children. Instead of having them into my studio for ultimately one shot for the calendar, instead I’m going to their homes and photographing them in a very lifestyle editorial type of shoot. Focusing on telling their stories through their parents words, my words, and through my photographs. 

Right now I’m in the content gathering phase and taking applications for people who want to volunteer. I’ve had about a dozen or so inquire and I’m working on photographing all these amazing children right now. Their stories and photos will live online for now until I can work out the next phase of the project - publishing. I’ve never published a book so this it new territory for me!  This is a labor of love right now, meaning I’m not making any money off of this project at this point. I’m hoping to once the book is published and I would like to donate a portion of the sales to a local non-profit but I haven’t determined that at this time.

Evolution of a Brand - 10 Years Old

by: Tera Girardin on

I have a pretty big milestone to announce... Tera Photography was officially born 10 years ago this month! TEN YEARS! That's the longest I've worked anywhere! :) LOL Obviously I like my job. 

It's been quite the evolution too. Much like the subjects of my photos, it has grown from a newborn baby business into something a little more grown up each day. I thought it would be fun to take a look back on my journey.

I started very innocently. I got a Canon Digital Rebel for Christmas and decided I'd best learn to use all the buttons. So I took a class. I was hooked. This was the first photo I ever took that I submitted for critique. It's my oldest son Drew when he was 5. Isn't he adorable? I had cute subjects to practice on. I was excited because I used my new 50mm 1.8 lens. It actually won the class contest that time. (Hmmm, maybe I have an eye for this...)

I loved loved loved photography and especially photographing children. I had photographed a couple of friend's children and they loved what I had done so I thought "Maybe I could make this into a business..." I researched and decided to give it a go. I started with a portfolio building period. Oddly enough, I did this while I was pregnant with my third child. NOT an ideal time to launch. But it worked ok, because I tested the waters and then put myself on "maternity leave."  

It was a good idea because I was SWAMPED with requests. (Side note, what was I thinking with that name?! Wow it's a little embarrassing to look at my early stuff!) And guess what? Much of what I still do is on-locaiton sessions. Both kids in my sample above are my own. In fact they were often early subjects for me. I love this one of my older two and they STILL act this way. I have this photo in canvas hanging on my wall. It's a treasure.

Baby Alex came along and I got lots of practice in on him. This photo actually got some recognition from a large online community back in the day. When that email arrived, I was really stoked! Feedback and recognition from peers! I CAN do this! Time to make it real.

Putting myself on maternity leave was a great time to retool and rethink how to make this a viable, professional, business. I needed a brand, I needed a pricing structure, I needed policies and a framework of how to operate. Not to mention setting up as a legal operating business. I took baby steps each day. Thus my business was born in April 2005.

Yes, that is my youngest son on the cover. He saw that recently and told me he doesn't remember being and angel. :) As I pulled these old marketing materials out, something struck me... much of what I was doing then, I'm still doing and valuing now. My focus has always been children and that is still my first love. I still use natural light. I still strive to capture a child's true spirit. 
I didn't mention that this early stages of my business was while our family was living in Little Rock, Arkansas. We moved a year after I started up. Which could have been disheartening but I actually took as an opportunity to rebrand and retool and learn from a year's worth of business. So when we landed in Minnesota, I created a new look.

I loved this blue and brown combo and I had this for several years. It was a great way to carry my branding throughout my marketing and packaging materials. It was becoming recognizable. And I grew my business and expanded in many ways.

I learned a lot! And in 2011 I experienced a big life change that made it clear it was time to make a business change as well. I became divorced and changed my last name. Couldn't really continue on with Tera Windfeldt Photography any more and frankly that was always a bit clunky and long for a business name. I dropped the last name entirely and went with what my business is called today:  Tera Photography. 
This seemed like a good time to have my brand evolve as well. Even though I loved the brown and blue and the script font, it wasn't really reflective of the style of photography I was shooting. My style had evolved. I wanted something that reflected my brand that is whimsical, authentic, clean, fresh, fun, editorial, storytelling, memorable, timeless. I wanted to keep the blue but needed to ad a bit of pop to catch your eye. And so...

My logo as you see it now. And I love it. It's everything I wanted it to be and I feel it represents my entire business so well. Bright and fresh and fun. It works so well for me. 

And that's where I am today! Still photographing children, on-location in a fresh authentic way. I simply cannot believe it's been 10 years. I'm so grateful to all the families that have been a part of my journey. It's a amazing to me how many children I've photographed and to be able to watch them grow up through my lens is an honor. 


Behind the scenes: Editing

by: Tera Girardin on

"What are you doing today?" Usually, my answer is "Editing photos." A photographer's time is often spent in front of a computer instead of behind the camera. But what does editing photos mean? Why does it take 2 weeks from the time I shoot a session for a client to see her proofs? What are you doing Tera?! :) For me, it means first, I cull through all the photos I capture at a session. Weeding it down from the 100+ to about a third of that. I keep the best of the best  so clients have a manageable number of images to go through. Sometimes their are blinks, or shots I've missed or duplicates - that's what is tossed. Experience has taught me that clients who view more than 40 images get overwhelmed and frustrated with the process. My job is to preselect what I know will be their favorites. Next, I take a closer look at each image. Adjusting color and exposure if needed and checking to make sure the focus is accurate. Then I open up Photoshop and use batch actions to sharpen, pop the color or add artistic touches. I sometimes paint on saturation or add vignettes depending on the image. Tweaking as I go since no session is exactly the same as another.  I crop each image as well - I think this often is the most important part as a photo can look completely different just with cropping. Every image is cropped to a 5x7 ratio. I save each image before and after I crop so if I client orders a wall portrait, I can go back to that original and resize it to the correct dimensions. When I've gone through all the images, I convert them all to black and white so clients can view each of their images in both color and black and white. Then I resize them for the web and prep to make the slideshow. I load the private shopping gallery and create the slideshow. Then the email is sent off to the client for their viewing. It's important to me and it's my business philosophy to personally hand touch each image. I believe most clients cannot envision what a final product will look like unless you show them. So that's what I do. It's that level of personal service and attention to detail that brings clients back to me year after year. Yes, I could just burn all the images I take to a disc and hand them over to a client. But I'd be doing them a disservice. I'd be leaving out an important part of the process. And that's not the way I choose to do business. Hiring a professional to photograph your family is a big deal. I know the effort client's put into arranging their schedules, coordinating outfits, getting hair to behave, bribing their children and crossing their fingers they don't get their clothes dirty or fall and get a scratch on their faces. I want to honor their commitment to hiring me so I take extra care with their images after their session. Here's a peek at my crazy desk and a little what editing day looks like for me... So that's what I'm doing today! Tera