Dive Deep into Fine Art with Joshua Simmons

April 16, 2022 Artist Spotlight

Clubhouse Conversation: Joshua Simmons

The tradition of portraiture extends into the classical period and beyond. As photographers, we are part of this rich, cultural practice that helps humanity understand the depths of our emotions and the profundity of our existence.

In the latest episode of the Portrait System Podcast: Clubhouse Edition, Kevin Conde and Ashleigh Taylor are joined by fine art photographer Joshua Simmons for a conversation that delves into the economics of art as well as its meaning and purpose.

If you are interested in pursuing fine art portraiture, you won’t want to miss hearing Joshua talk about his process, which involves his client as much as possible. Joshua begins with an in-depth conversation, learning about his client’s stories and passions as well as what draws them to his work and what they hope to express about themselves through it. From here, Joshua draws upon his own research into classical literature and art for the timeless resonances between his client’s lives and the lives of those who have gone before us. Next, he begins to develop his artistic palette of light, color, properties, and compositions. Joshua storyboards 10 ideas that he brings back to his client for continued collaboration and evolution. After a process of several months, he produces up to 10 canvases for them to hang in their homes.

Joshua firmly believes that everyone who considers themself an artist has an obligation to pursue excellence in their craft because the role we play for humanity is vital. Not only do we document and preserve records of people so that they can exist past their time living in this world, but we also have the potential to express emotions and themes that renew the human spirit that longs to experience those timeless feelings.

Be sure to listen to the whole podcast so that you can delve into this fascinating conversation that also discusses balancing economic need with artistic drive while respectfully acknowledging the nobility and necessity of finding that balance.

And if you are interested in boudoir photography, your curiosity might be piqued by Joshua’s reframing of boudoir in classical terms, where the boudoir is a private place of refreshment and repose — a place of preparation. Joshua also shares how he creates a space that helps his clients feel safe being photographed nude.

Joshua just retired from active-duty service in the military to pursue his artistic passions full time. Thank you for your service, Joshua. We wish you and your wife great success with both your fine art portraiture business and your fine art backdrop business.

In this blog, you’ll find some of Joshua’s beautiful fine art portraits, links to his websites, and answers to some bonus questions.

Here are links to some things mentioned in this conversation:

You might also enjoy these Portrait System courses on body image and boudoir:

Q: When did you first come across Sue Bryce Education, and how has it affected your career?

A: I came across SBE 5 years ago when I was making my initial foray into the world of portraiture. It laid the base for my understanding of lighting and posing in a studio atmosphere as I was brand new to photography at the time.

Q: When first starting out, many photographers hit roadblocks on their journey to start their business. Whether they feel their equipment isn’t good enough or need a studio to start a business. What roadblocks did you encounter, and how did you get over them?

A: My greatest roadblock was the fact that I was an Active-Duty Army Officer when I began this journey. So, my education and production had to be scheduled around the at-times-chaotic nature of my previous world. So, with the help of my wife, I was able to provide structure to it all through actively setting aside the time during my times of leave to build a portfolio to have quality work to put forth.

Q: How do you feel about your current work/life balance?

A: I am in the midst of a major transition period due to recently retiring from military service. These next 12 months will be a juggling act as I learn and build a new daily workflow. In my entire adult life, I have never had this much time to myself and my own personal interest.

Q: What (beyond money) has owning a business given you?

A: A greater appreciation for the products and services that others offer. An implicit respect for the price points of those who produce high-quality work and give excellent service. A desire to honor their dedication by being a patron of their work while caring very little for the prices they demand.

Q: What is your favorite advice that you’ve been given along your journey that has helped you the most?

A: If it is not helping your composition, it is hurting your composition.

This applies in all areas of life as it requires us to objectively step back and pay attention to the details. We must ask questions of who we are, what we do, and who we allow within our respective circles and determine whether they or it represents an asset or a liability.


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Joshua Simmons

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Click Here to Read the Podcast Transcript

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Please note this transcript was generated by AI and may contain errors.

00:00:00:21 – 00:00:37:09

Welcome to the Portrait System podcast. I’m your host, Nikki Closser, and this show is here to help you succeed in the world of photography and business, to help you learn to become financially free, doing what you love and so much more. With over 1 million downloads, countless photographers have taken what they’ve learned from both our episodes and from theportraitsystem.com. And they have grown their businesses, quit their day jobs and are designing a life of their dreams. We keep it real and share stories about the ups and downs that come with running a photography business. You’ll hear real life stories of how other photographers run their business, and you’ll learn actionable steps that you can take to reach your own goals.

00:00:37:18 – 00:00:40:06

Thank you so much for being here. And let’s get started.

00:00:40:24 – 00:01:12:05

Hey, everyone, it’s Ashleigh Taylor, and I’m excited to introduce you to this week’s Clubhouse Edition of the podcast. This week, Kevin and I spoke with Joshua Simmons. His studio is named Fine Art Portraits. And interestingly enough, we had a deep conversation all about fine art portraiture. We discussed how he defines a fine art portrait, his process to create fine art portraits, and how he sees the role of art and artists in our society.

00:01:12:18 – 00:01:25:07

This really ended up being a rich and more philigsophical conversation than we typically have on this show, which made it so fun and interesting. I’m excited for you to hear it. So let’s get started.

00:01:26:02 – 00:01:57:25

Welcome, everyone, to the Portrait System Podcast Clubhouse Edition. My name is Kevin Conde, and I’m here with my co-host, Ashleigh Taylor. If you are not familiar with the portrait system, we are a portrait photography podcast that is powered by Sue Bryce. Nikki Closser hosts our Monday episodes and Ashleigh and I co-host our Clubhouse Edition, which is live here on the Clubhouse app every Friday at noon Pacific. And then our episodes are released on Thursdays. You can tune in on your favorite podcast app by searching for The Portrait System. Ashleigh, How are you doing today?

00:01:58:17 – 00:02:09:07

I’m good. Kevin And I just wanted to say happy birthday, even though your birthday was yesterday. But I feel like the listeners should know. So happy birthday, Kevin.

00:02:09:09 – 00:02:10:09

Thank you very.

00:02:10:11 – 00:02:12:00

much. I won’t sing you happy birthday, I’ll spare everyone.

00:02:14:03 – 00:02:20:05

But I am also very excited to welcome our guest Joshua today. So welcome, Joshua.

00:02:21:01 – 00:02:23:01

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

00:02:23:16 – 00:02:49:11

So Ashleigh and I got the opportunity to talk to you at WPPI this year for a brief moment and learn a little bit about your fine art work, as well as your involvement with fine art backdrops. And we thought it would be a you’d be a fantastic person to have on to learn about your process in photography as well as what goes into helping run a custom canvas backdrop business.

00:02:50:14 – 00:02:51:10


00:02:51:27 – 00:03:18:07

So to start us off your business, your photography business is fine art portraits. Yes, but how do you actually define the what fine art portrait is? What is the experience that you give your client? Is it the experience that you give your clients, the lighting, retouching that makes it fine art?

00:03:19:16 – 00:04:01:06

So that’s an incredible question. And my definition really took time to really build and to evolve into what it is today. And ultimately, what it comes down to for me is telling a story, and that for me is the heart of what constitutes fine art. So whether or not I’m working with a client or I’m working with a model for a personal project, I really want to sit down with this individual, especially if it’s a client, get to know this person on a very deep level who they are, why they are the way they are, what makes them tick, how they think, and to try to find the best possible way to tell their story.

00:04:01:08 – 00:04:07:26

Utilizing everything at my disposal from the light, the shadows, color and everything in between.

00:04:09:12 – 00:04:26:23

I love that answer. I’m wondering, when are you learning everything about the client? Is this in a consultation or is it during the shoot in the process of creating the images that you’re just getting to know them better and making decisions sort of on the fly? Like how much of this is planned out ahead?

00:04:27:22 – 00:04:58:14

Everything is. It has to be planned out ahead for some of my process. It requires that it be very slow and methodical. I prefer that I’m not working in a very quick manner. It’s very well thought out. The planning is what really makes everything go forward. It’s 90% planning and 10% execution from that point on. And so I’m you know, I’m trying to plan these out well in advance. We’re talking probably months.

00:04:58:18 – 00:05:31:08

I’m not someone who was probably going to shoot and have 20 or 30 images to show somebody at Max. I’m looking at ten, ten, very best possible images. And so and each individual image has to be able to stand on its own. Yet at the same time be included to tell a bigger story. And so, you know, this is for that consultation. And I’m going to sit and speak with this individual. We’re going to talk and go over all of these these little details.

00:05:31:10 – 00:05:53:03

The you know, the more detailed, the better. So that I can go back to the drawing board, plan everything out, think through my concepts. What is my what do I want my life to look like? What color do I want to use that’s going to help tell this story a little better? And so all of those little details become necessary, and it’s why the process can’t be rushed.

00:05:53:26 – 00:06:12:21

And how involved is the client in all of this? I mean, is my son, as you said, it’s a long process. Are they telling you, hey, are you are they helping build ideas for the set? Are they what are they getting to be involved in or is this all you?

00:06:13:02 – 00:06:45:26

They’re they’re not. No, they’re so they’re as involved as, you know, as we can make that happen over that course of of time. And so I’m going to come up with my concepts, what I’m thinking, this story, the direction that it should go, share that with the individual, get their feedback. And then I’m going to go back to the drawing board and and rework it. I mean, this is a it is a process in and of itself just to get to the point where we can get to the shoot day. And but this is how I plan this is how I’m going to be working going forward.

00:06:46:04 – 00:06:59:06

As I’ve just I’ve only recently retired from the military and I haven’t really shot anything for a very long time. And so this is what this process will look like for me going forward.

00:07:00:17 – 00:07:18:15

I’m wondering if your military background like plays into this methodical nature of like your process because. Well, I I’ve never served in the military, so I don’t know what it’s like, but I’ve known service people who are very disciplined, very methodical. Do you feel like that has influenced you at all, like your background?

00:07:19:05 – 00:08:01:24

I would I would say that it’s it does play a hand and sometimes probably subconsciously, I wouldn’t even be able to, you know, pinpoint in certain areas where it has. But also where it primarily comes from is my art is the artistic influence that I that I draw from, which is some of the some of the classical painters that whose work I follow and love and, you know, have, you know, all over my computer that I’m and I’m constantly thinking through what their process could have been or what it was when you read about them and the time that it necessarily took because of how long it would take to paint something or how long it would take to sculpt someone, it was a long process.

00:08:01:26 – 00:08:07:19

And with that, what what comes from that is a work that can stand the test of time.

00:08:08:06 – 00:08:40:16

Yeah, I love that. I was a big art history nerd in high school and college especially. And I remember like, you know, someone would have to sit for a portrait, not just like one time, like they come back multiple times and models don’t just, you know, it’s not this quick thing. So do you feel like in that way, like having those touch points with your client over a period of time will get you closer to that sort of classical experience for people?

00:08:41:19 – 00:09:14:19

Absolutely. And that’s and that’s the end goal for me. And I’ve I’ve I find it easy to just sit with somebody and to find out about who they are. I it’s I can it’s just something that I’m I’ve always been able to do. I sit down with somebody, have a conversation, and before you know it, we’re talking about very personal things. And so if you’re coming to me for a portrait session, my, you know. I’m already expecting that you will know what you’re getting yourself into to an extent.

00:09:14:27 – 00:09:45:02

And so you’re going to come sit down and we’re going to and we’re going to talk. And I want to know those things about you. There’s nothing. And I you know, I’ll let people know there’s nothing that you could ever say to me that’s going to shock me or be make me think any different about you. My goal is to tell your story. My my my role as an artist is to preserve a historical record of who you are so that it can go past your time in this world.

00:09:46:02 – 00:10:16:03

Yeah, I love that. And I can attest to, like, for the 15 minutes that I talked to you at WPPI or however long of time it was, I felt like we had this like intense conversation and I was like, Oh, my gosh, we need to bring you on the podcast because you are just so like just talking to you is such an amazing experience and I think like hearing your wisdom. And so I can see how a client having a lot of touchpoints with you and talking to you deeply over a period of time would lend to storytelling.

00:10:16:06 – 00:10:45:10

And one thing I’m wondering is like, so if someone tells you personal things about them or their life story, how does that translate into a fine art image? Like, is it props? Is it like the things that you’re choosing to be in the set or you mentioned color, like what would make you choose like a red for someone versus a blue light? This is all very abstract. In a way. It is, yeah. How do you think? Like if you could explain how you think about that?

00:10:45:24 – 00:11:16:22

Well, I tend to draw on the you know, the time that I spend, you know, not only looking at art, but reading, especially classical literature. And so and it’s because ultimately there’s nothing new under the sun. There’s nothing that any of us are going through that hasn’t already been done in history. We’ve just found a more technologically advanced way of doing it. So the stories that can be told have been told.

00:11:17:00 – 00:11:51:06

So I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but somebody out there has either written about it in such a way that can be brought to bear and be in between the lines of a frame in a camera. And so when I’m starting to think about these colors, if I’m thinking about something passionate or I’m thinking about something where I want to portray a more somber mood, that thematic element is going to, you know, lend to a particular color palette. And so I can start to work from there. Then that’s going to influence what type of wardrobe, if any wardrobe at all.

00:11:51:26 – 00:12:14:09

The props that are going to be used and every single detail within the frame has to lend to telling that story. Because if it doesn’t if it doesn’t help your composition, it’s hurting your composition. So yeah, I mean, this is why it’s such a process because, you know, you kind of draw up multiple scenarios and figure out what works and figure out what doesn’t.

00:12:15:14 – 00:12:21:01

So would you say that as you’re creating something and hearing the client’s story, you’re referencing

00:12:22:18 – 00:12:31:29

specific literature in your mind, like, oh, that reminds me of this, which I can then incorporate that into my artwork here for this client.

00:12:32:19 – 00:13:06:22

Absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s also why it’s incumbent upon me to continue reading and constantly reading to have these ideas ready to go at a moment’s notice or perhaps to put a different to put a different spin on it in a particular way that hasn’t been done yet, even if it’s, again, the paintings that we all know and love. Okay. Well, you know, drawing that inspiration, but tweaking it a little bit, how can we adjust something here or adjust something there to make it more personal?

00:13:07:09 – 00:13:31:28

When you’re looking at one of these, whether it’s a painting or finding in literature, is there a particular part that you’re initially looking at? Like, you know what, I this is where I want to draw my inspiration from to then incorporate it into the work. Or is it just like your when it comes to you that that’s it, no starting point, just let it hit you naturally.

00:13:32:29 – 00:13:58:18

So it’s kind of it’s it can be of both and, you know, where I could be, you know, sitting with someone having a conversation where I’m just, you know, just sitting at the office and have a thought, come to my head about a particular thing that I want to do. And I imagine I probably seen it somewhere. And so I go searching for it, but also it could be just sitting down with somebody having that conversation. And it’s through having that conversation is what

00:14:00:13 – 00:14:02:23

gives fuel to that particular fire.

00:14:03:24 – 00:14:41:06

So I did notice that in our text chat in clubhouse. Carmen McDonald is, you know, loving this. And she wanted to ask about the fact that you’re only creating ten images, so. I mean, she didn’t get too in-depth with what that means. But like, can you talk about only selling ten images? Is that because or showing ten images? Is that because you’re going to do mostly wall art? Is it because it’s really all that’s feasible to create when you’re creating on this high level? How do you imagine pricing something like this out, packaging it out?

00:14:42:25 – 00:15:11:04

Yes. No. So, yes, it’s definitely it’s all wall art. Okay. Every bit, every every bit of it is wall art. And the time that I have to invest not only in the pre-planning. Then there’s the post-production and the retouching that goes all into it. So I’ve I’ve tried doing 20, 30 images at a time and spending 4 to 5 hours per image. Just got exhausting. Yeah.

00:15:12:09 – 00:15:14:15

4 to 5 hours. As in the retouching time.

00:15:14:29 – 00:15:16:03

Yeah. Wow.

00:15:16:12 – 00:15:20:16

Per image or per image. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.

00:15:20:28 – 00:15:21:13


00:15:23:20 – 00:15:54:15

And but also the other issue for me became where multiple images were very similar to each other. And that just didn’t sit well for me. I didn’t feel like I was providing, you know, the individuals who were working with me my very best. And so of whittling it down to no more than ten, but ensuring that each image is a standalone image from it could be from the posing to the wardrobe to the setting, the environment.

00:15:54:25 – 00:16:10:16

Every single image is going to speak to something specific or help move the story along even further. So that’s that’s where that comes from, being that, yes, it would be all wall art images that I’d be producing.

00:16:11:06 – 00:16:44:09

Okay. And Carmen said, this is exactly what I was wondering. This is that this is completely the direction I am so curious about and heading for myself. So I’m really glad that we were able to answer her question. And one thought that came to mind for me is, are these ten images? Like, are they a collection in the sense that it’s one image building off each other? Are you imagining them as like diptych and triptychs on the wall? How are you thinking about the ten images as they relate to one another?

00:16:44:28 – 00:17:16:11

Well see. That. Also, it depends. Everything is context driven. And so it really just depends on who I am, who I’m working with, and who I’m sitting down with and what it is what kind of story that must be told. Because, as you know, yes, certain stories are best told with a triptych and certain stories may only need three images or five. Ten is just is just that that max number. I may we may never even get there, but I’m going to be able to tell your story, you know, in however many images we get, you know, are going to produce up to that number.

00:17:16:27 – 00:17:32:00

But like I said, it really just depends on who I’m sitting down with and what direction this story goes. That’s going to determine either, a, the number of images that are going to be produced and how that story is moved.

00:17:33:04 – 00:17:44:21

So you had said with ten images, is this something that clients are aware of and they’re going to be purchasing all ten? Do they get presented just to ten? And then they’re like, Oh, I want three or four of those.

00:17:46:20 – 00:17:51:17

How is that working when it comes to creating those ideas for every single setup?

00:17:52:28 – 00:18:24:26

So you go there, you’re under there. And there’s no obligation, obviously, to purchase to purchase anything. But that’s when it comes to, you know, that set up and the production, the ongoing I’m producing, I’ll have ten images that I’m going to sing through, that I’m going to storyboard it to be able to tell, you know, that that effective story. And then when they come back to see those images, then they’ll be able to, you know, decide going forward, you know, how many you know, which ones do they want to purchase.

00:18:25:03 – 00:18:43:01

And it’s not a one time offer. These I will continue to have them at any time they can come back at a later day and come purchase more to add to that collection. I’m always going to keep them. I’m always going to have them, and they’ll be ready for them at any time.

00:18:44:23 – 00:19:14:10

And how much of like what you’re creating is affected by like your home, meaning like so you’re trying to tell the story and that comes first. I totally understand that. But then it’s also a business and we still want to like sell art. And so if someone’s like, okay, well I only have X amount of wall space? Like, does that factor into any of the decisions? Or if someone comes to you and is like, okay, so I really want this in my bedroom above my bed and this is the size of the wall. Or do you not ever get that specific with people?

00:19:15:06 – 00:19:17:24

I will gladly be that specific.

00:19:19:21 – 00:19:37:07

And and that again, to provide that level of customization to someone is something I thoroughly enjoy. And when it comes to printing out this work, if you just let me know what size do you want, what size you need, and I will accommodate.

00:19:37:22 – 00:20:13:13

Okay, awesome. Yeah. I mean, I think that that just like as photographer is, is so important like the more like information both on that personal level that we can glean from our clients is so key. But then also on the like, I guess technical level of like where are you going to put this and how is it going to look in your house? And you know, what maybe are even the colors of the room just so that it matches and fits in it’s home because it’s a piece of art that tells a story. But it’s also a I don’t want to say decor, but it is like a piece of art that lives in an environment.

00:20:13:19 – 00:20:15:00

Exactly. Exactly.

00:20:18:14 – 00:20:37:14

So I also wanted to shout out Erica Lippe in the chat said that Josh is the master at client communication and helping them feel and embrace their own beauty inside and out. So just want to let you know people are raving about you in the chat here as well.

00:20:39:29 – 00:21:07:13

So let’s talk a little bit about having someone be comfortable in your space. Obviously, being nude in front of someone is is a very vulnerable position to be in. How do you get a client to get comfortable and relax for their photoshoot when they know that, you know, yes, this has been preplanned and you know, yes, we’ve already talked about being nude. But, you know, when time comes, it’s a totally different beast.

00:21:08:08 – 00:21:47:28

It is. It absolutely is. And there’s a couple of things. One, as we’ve already touched upon, that that preplanning phase and that conversation is key, is is is essential. Moreover, I’m never alone. My my partner in crime, my my beloved, my bride who’s down in the in the audience right now, Ashley, she’s always there with me. And whether it be during the consultation or at the shoot itself, because for those who don’t know, not only if you’ve ever seen any of my work and you’ve seen the backdrops which may make people know she’s painted, but the hair and makeup, she was also the one behind that as well.

00:21:48:00 – 00:22:00:17

So my wife is always there with me. So these individuals who are with me, they’re never, you know, by themselves, with just me, there’s always going to be someone there in the room

00:22:02:03 – 00:22:02:21


00:22:04:12 – 00:22:35:27

What I one thing I did was knowing that I would be asking individuals to be vulnerable in in the most intimate manner. I took it upon myself to create my own images. I have some I have self portrait images that are nude images of myself. They’re on my website, as a matter of fact, to give people that understanding. To say I know what I’m asking of you. You know, I’m not asking you to do something that I myself have never done.

00:22:36:13 – 00:23:07:24

So I’m not going to put you in a position in that manner. So having that conversation and then when they’re in the when they’re in the studio and they’re in the shoot, it might take some time. We may not, you know, immediately jump into it. I’ve had you know, I’ve had people in the studio where they had agreed to it beforehand. They get to the studio shoot day and, you know, they’re they’re still nervous and that’s understandable. You know, again, that is a level of intimacy that not everybody kind of just jumps into.

00:23:08:03 – 00:23:29:09

And so it just took some time and to have that personal shoot go and just kind of lead into a kind of warm up to it. And eventually, you know, once people let go and they realize that they are safe in this particular space, that’s when everything really kicks off to a new level.

00:23:30:15 – 00:23:58:01

So you brought up doing your own self-portraits. Do you feel that this to be able to do fine art, do you feel that it is? Important for the photographer to go through that experience prior to even offering it to other people? Or is this something that. Anyone can do that is not necessarily putting yourself in front of that lens in that vulnerable position.

00:23:59:04 – 00:24:46:22

I can’t speak for other photographers. I will say, though, that for me, it’s it is it is a necessity because just from a simple perspective of being empathetic with someone too, and to truly feel and understand that vulnerability, that level of fear or panic or wonder that they’re going to experience not only standing in front of a lens, but also thinking, hey, other people might see this. And so I needed to be able to be in that position to only further identify with some of the thoughts that would be going through a person’s head when they’re standing in front of the lens, because it’s as we all know, it’s it can you can feel vulnerable, fully clothed, standing in front of the lens now taking your clothes off.

00:24:47:07 – 00:24:53:20

Now we’re now we’ve only multiplied that. And so for me, it was a necessity.

00:24:54:27 – 00:25:05:20

When you did your self-portraits, you’ve placed them online. How did you feel the moment you hit, publish or send?

00:25:07:07 – 00:25:38:25

I feel good because again, I think this has more to do with my love of classic art in general and just having seen the beauty, because for me, it all comes down to the fact that I hold the human form as the absolute zenith of beauty in this created universe. So any time I do see it, whether it be from my own vulnerability or another person’s eye, it’s a it’s the most beautiful thing to me.

00:25:39:27 – 00:25:56:07

I love that, you know, your specialty is fine art, food, and then you have such a reverence for classical art. I mean, most classical art is like nude art. And I mean, there’s a lot of also religious art that’s not nude, but

00:25:58:14 – 00:26:36:23

but a lot of classical art is nude and like sculpture, especially in the Renaissance era. And I just think it’s like such a beautiful callback. And like, when I think of those paintings, too, they’re they’re not sexualized. No, really. I mean, there are some like later impressionist stuff that’s a little more. But like those classicals like just the Venus’s and stuff. They’re really not sexualized at all. They’re just like a celebration of the human form. I remember like my grandma was an artist and she was very into taking me to art museums and I remember being like a little kid, like seven or something and being like, they’re all naked, Grandma.

00:26:39:09 – 00:27:09:12

I don’t think I should be seeing this. And just she was like, It’s okay. Like, this is a celebration. I’m like, Yeah, she’s she said something very similar to nude to what you said. Like, the human body is the most beautiful thing. It’s okay. And then it’s like, funny because now I am a boudoir photographer as well. So it’s to me, it’s just like a very interesting thing that like as a culture, we sexualize things so much, like we sexualize nudity, but it’s not necessarily.

00:27:10:17 – 00:27:24:07

A sexualized things so like you approach your art and you talk to clients like. Do you ever get people who are wanting a sexy image or do they just see your work and you’re saying like, you know, this is not really about that? Or how do you like broach those conversations?

00:27:25:25 – 00:27:59:20

I have yet to encounter that. But then again, I have said I have there is I haven’t done much in my recent history. But, you know, that is a conversation that that always needs to be had because everybody has to understand the expectations. Communication is everything. Communication is what makes these things run. And so we’ll always talk about that and that nothing that I want to produce will or will ever be sexualized, because, one, we have enough of that.

00:27:59:22 – 00:28:30:25

In my opinion. Two. It’s to show not only the people who may view my work, but more importantly the person who I am working with. And for that, you are more than your sexuality. You are more than just something to look at that if you if it when it’s done right, a nude image can speak volumes about a person in ways that nothing else can.

00:28:31:04 – 00:28:39:24

And that is where we come in as as artists and being able to do that. And so having that conversation is imperative.

00:28:42:17 – 00:29:12:19

Awesome. I love that answer. I’m like processing in my brain because it’s just honestly such like a beautiful take on things. I feel like having, you know, been a boudoir photographer for a long time and just seeing so many different sides of the industry and so many different types of nude imagery. It’s actually really refreshing to see someone who’s like doing true fine art nude that is not coming from that space. And I feel like

00:29:14:11 – 00:29:27:26

it’s like, Yeah, we wouldn’t define your work as even boudoir, you know what I mean? But I did notice you do use the term on your website. So how do you also like is that just for Google search purposes or.

00:29:28:24 – 00:29:58:24

I’m actually in an even that even that is is in a state of change for me because my approach to boudoir is actually changing and because of how I view it, you know, boudoir and I am friends with some fabulous boudoir photographers, one of, you know, one of which is actually in this room, my dear Kouyate. And it was a great photographer.

00:29:58:26 – 00:30:02:17

And for those who aren’t following him, please do yourself a favor and follow him.

00:30:04:03 – 00:30:42:12

But a lot of the boudoir photography just doesn’t hold a whole lot of interest for me when it comes to creating. But I’m starting my idea and what I want to do is take it back to really what the boudoir was for a woman. And it was not something that was sexualized. It actually had nothing to do with it at all. It was a place of repose. It was a place of quiet, a place for her to go and gather her, gather herself before she either went into her bedroom or she came out into a foyer to entertain her guests.

00:30:42:14 – 00:31:23:22

It was a place of preparation. And so that in and of itself, you know, gives way to that that place of intimacy because it belonged to her and only particular individuals were allowed into into her boudoir. And so that right there lets you know that this was something that was protected. It was something special. And so to be able to tell that story again for me, fine art, all about story. And so if we’re talking boudoir, from my perspective, it’s going to be about telling that story of, okay, I’m only allowing a certain person or certain people to see that part of me, that depth to me.

00:31:23:27 – 00:31:43:03

And so to be able to tell you it can be furnished and you have particular things inside this boudoir that tell something about that person that they don’t tell to everybody else. And so for me, that is what boudoir will, you know, will mean to me going forward.

00:31:45:01 – 00:31:49:19

That is really that is like a really deep and beautiful answer. So, you know, I.

00:31:51:04 – 00:32:20:28

Know I was going to bring up that. I was I mean, I’m I’m aware of the the concept of boudoir as a genre of photography. But as Josh was saying, I was like, there is a history behind it and there’s an original style of art form that, you know, never really clicked for me. Like, Oh, there is something more that before it became what a lot of people currently see it as.

00:32:21:17 – 00:33:08:25

Mm hmm. Yeah. And, and that’s the thing like and again, this is just this is just me and this is who I am as a as an artist. The how I think about something, what I believe about it, or the history that is behind it. These are the things that often drive me when I am creating something or when I’m or I’m sitting down with someone to plan out a project, or I’m trying to bring a lot of things to bear where because like some of my favorite artists, either modern or historical, they when you’re familiar with their work, you know that you have to pay attention to every single detail on that canvas or within that frame because it was put there for a purpose.

00:33:09:04 – 00:33:41:00

Why are they posed at the angle that they’re posed? Why is this prop sitting in this direction? Why is it this material, that color? It was all done for a reason to tell a story in it. But in our fast paced world of social media and we’ve been so conditioned to just look at an image for 2 seconds and then move on to the next. We never stop. Look and think about what it is we’re looking at anymore. And so I want for people who become familiar with my work to know that if they’re looking at something that I’ve.

00:33:41:03 – 00:33:47:06

Created anything you see in that frame. There’s a very specific reason. Ask the question.

00:33:48:09 – 00:34:23:10

That’s so very interesting. You know, as you say, social media, the attention span that we all have as a society at the moment, we never stop to think. You look at a painting, this was created by someone. Every single brushstroke is there for a reason. And the artist that was creating it. Put it there for a reason. So to translate that information, that idea, that concept to photography and to the level of detail that you’re talking about is amazing.

00:34:23:12 – 00:34:31:09

And something that I think, you know, a lot of photographers probably aren’t taking into consideration when they create their own artwork.

00:34:33:22 – 00:34:36:28

You know, it’s that’s definitely a possibility. But I think

00:34:38:16 – 00:35:20:19

I was actually thinking about this the other day. Whereas in photography, like any other profession, you know, we, you know, there are levels to it. You know, you have we have people in our industry where their primary concern and goal is their their income, and rightly so. They want to, you know, put a roof over their head. They want to have food on the table. And this is how they’re going to go about doing it. And they make it happen. Please do that. But then you also have another subset where it is more of the artistic side, and it has less to do with having X amount of clients or producing, you know, X amount of money.

00:35:21:27 – 00:35:37:00

And they just want to produce the best possible artwork. And there are individuals, I think very few and far between who are able to marry the two. It’s not an easy thing to do. But yeah, so there’s, there’s levels to just about in everything that we do.

00:35:37:11 – 00:36:15:26

Yeah. What you just said actually, like, took kind of a question. You answered a question that I was formulating in my head, which is like just the conflict of the commerce side of having a photography studio or business with the, I guess, time intensive, thought intensive that it would take to create these types of work that you’re speaking of, because they’re sort of in I don’t want to say they’re in direct conflict with each other, but if you’re talking about running a part like super profitable machine kind of business, that’s clockwork.

00:36:15:28 – 00:37:00:06

You know, you have the full calendar. It’s not what you’re talking about. I don’t want to say it’s like slow food versus fast food because I, I think there’s so many photographers who have really profitable businesses and are creating beautiful work for their clients. And I would probably put myself in that category. Yeah, but I’m but I know that like, I do feel like I take the time to get to know my clients. But the intentionality level that you’re talking about with really creating a story, I wouldn’t say that that’s in my work or at least in my client work, and it just got me really thinking about like not to get too deep, but like capitalism and motivations and why are we here?

00:37:02:22 – 00:37:04:10

Well, you know,

00:37:06:24 – 00:37:38:28

it is it’s important that, you know, that we be able to take care of ourselves, to, again, provide for our our livelihood. And, of course, that’s only multiplied when you have a family to take care of, you know? So, you know, all of these things are valid reasons to do a lot of the things that we do. I just I happen to be in a position right now where I can focus on primarily the artistic side rather than the commerce side.

00:37:39:06 – 00:38:13:03

And so I’m you know, I’m just in that position that may change going down the road. You never know. But also, as my wife would be able to to attest, my my passion is driven by where what I believe the artist means to humanity in general. And I think Kevin and I were touching on this prior to the to the room opening. And, you know, just it’s why I love doing what I do because I think we as artists and you can and that word art or artist is inclusive beyond photography.

00:38:13:05 – 00:38:53:13

So when we’re talking about music, we’re talking about painting, we’re talking about sculpting. We as artists and the role that we play to humanity is an essential thing that we will never be able to get rid of what we provide to each other. We speak the language of the soul. It’s funny because you can look at case in point saying saying something so simple as I love you. Right? That’s okay. Great. I’ve heard that before. Now you put that to a tune and you give it to someone who has incredibly powerful vocal and that can put you on the floor feeling more emotion than you’ve ever felt.

00:38:53:15 – 00:39:26:07

Just those three words. But now I’ve just put them in a different context. And again, it’s the role of the artist. When you have a great painter, a great photographer who creates and crafts, something beautiful will make you stop in your tracks and wonder and think. And. And. Really look at yourself or the world around you and make you ask questions. We comment on the world around us through the work that we produce. We we speak certain things that other people don’t know how to say, but they know it’s there.

00:39:26:13 – 00:39:42:22

But when we capture it in front of our in front of our lens, we’re able to put words to something so deep that they’ve never been able to get to. So these are the things that drive me, that motivate me, because everybody has that story and it’s just what I want to tell.

00:39:44:03 – 00:39:57:25

I love that. Do you feel it going a little bit deeper into that? That. Anyone who considers themselves an artist has a responsibility to create their own artwork.

00:39:58:28 – 00:40:32:10

Yes, absolutely. It’s. Otherwise, why do you call yourself an artist? If you’re going to be the absolute best that you can be. And again, it may not be like not everybody is Rembrandt. Not everybody is Shakespeare, and rightly so. Otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate Rembrandt or Shakespeare. But. There were contemporaries to Rembrandt, there were contemporaries to Rubens and to Bogoro that contributed to the overall story.

00:40:32:17 – 00:40:56:13

But they had to be the very best in the top of their game and invest everything that they could in their craft. And if you are an artist, if you call yourself an artist or you’re pursuing that life, then you owe it to yourself and more importantly, to your contemporaries to pursue the excellence of your craft.

00:40:57:22 – 00:41:22:19

Do you believe, then, that because there can be a lot of limiting aspects in life now with the quote unquote rat race of everything at all, that people might not be able to get to that as much as they might like. As you say, with the commerce aspect of photography, you kind of sometimes can’t. So how do you feel that people should balance that.

00:41:24:15 – 00:41:55:00

That this, as in all things context, is king you know, and sometimes it’s going to be out of balance. Sometimes it is going to be the majority of it is going to be commerce, because you might just need to keep your head above water for a little while, and that’s understandable. But then there’s going to come those other times when it’s going to start to it may start to even itself out. And it may take time a lot longer than what we thought, than what you might think it will. You know, we all have a plan, like everybody started, you know, 20, 22 off with a plan. Okay.

00:41:55:02 – 00:42:30:00

Well, on two January, something happened and that plan got changed. And we all and we, you know, and we always have to roll with that. You know, life has a vote. And in what we do, you know, we can make all the plans we want in the world. But eventually life is going to come along and say, Hey, I’ve got different ideas and we just roll with that. And so I couldn’t really just tell a person, Hey, well, you need to do more of this. It really is driven by the context of that person. And you may not get to at all, but you are in control of giving everything you have in the moment that you’re in.

00:42:31:09 – 00:43:01:20

Mm hmm. Do you feel like in this conversation, I’m really, like, picking up on, like, thoughts of, like, there’s that book, The Agony and the Ecstasy about, like, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel kind of stuff. Like, I’m like, do you believe that artists, like, in a way are always facing, like, this dichotomy of, like, agony over like struggling to make it happen for themselves, whether it’s financially or just struggling to get to that next level of quality of their work.

00:43:01:22 – 00:43:15:09

And then like that ecstasy of like having created it and have seeing it out in the world. Like do you feel like we’re all kind of like stuck in this weird up and down cycle of life when you choose an artist’s life?

00:43:15:23 – 00:43:56:23

I think I think in any in any aspect. But yes, definitely as an artist, when you are pursuing excellence, you’re always going to do that. There’s always going to be the valleys. There’s always going to be the mountaintops. And that goes across every line. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about because you’re not you’re never satisfied because you you want to push and get higher. And so the agony comes with, I made it to this mountaintop. Now I have to walk down and hit the valley and there’s that agony. But however, to get to the next mountaintop, that next level of ecstasy, I have to go through this valley, and then I have to climb up that mountaintop because I’m not satisfied with where I’ve been.

00:43:57:04 – 00:44:08:14

I’m looking to where I need to go. So if you’re constantly pursuing excellence as an artist, as a father, as a friend, as whatever, you’re always going to wrestle with that.

00:44:09:25 – 00:44:10:10


00:44:15:05 – 00:44:25:15

it makes me wonder, though, is there ever anything wrong? Never searching for the mountains, never searching for the valleys and just looking for, you know, the plains to walk on, you know?

00:44:26:17 – 00:45:05:06

No, there’s absolutely nothing there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There isn’t. What the the only time it becomes I would say wrong is if you have made some sort of statement that you’re going to pursue a level of excellence, because if you’re going to pursue it, then you need to expect this because there’s a there’s a price for everything in life, no matter what. And if you you have to count the cost. So if you want to just sit back, relax and enjoy those beautiful plains or you want to enjoy that rolling water, by all means, please do that.

00:45:05:13 – 00:45:28:19

More than likely, you’ve earned it. So there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s when you flip that switch and say, Well, but I want to be this. Well, understand, there’s a cost to being whatever it is you just said you want to be. And if you don’t check your pockets and see if they’re deep enough to pay that cost, then you then you really, you know, you’re missing it.

00:45:30:15 – 00:45:31:00


00:45:32:17 – 00:45:34:14

Kevin and I are speechless.

00:45:34:22 – 00:45:54:22

Well, this was, you know, originally it was like, okay, we’re going to be talking about canvases and we’re going to be talking about talking about, you know, I never expected to go down the path of life and and, you know, how we should handle it. So, no, this is this is fantastic.

00:45:56:09 – 00:46:00:11

I did want to pivot. I’m, like, breathing heavy.

00:46:03:20 – 00:46:12:07

I wanted to bring it to a little bit towards the discussion of because I had wanted to hit the backdrop discussion with your

00:46:14:08 – 00:46:18:14

you and your wife running yours or her running the studio for.

00:46:20:21 – 00:46:29:28

There you see, for your fine art backdrops. So to pivot a little bit away from the of the grandiose of life.

00:46:30:14 – 00:46:30:29


00:46:32:09 – 00:46:40:11

And we can. Sorry, can I interrupt? We did have like a question that literally just came in from the chat. That is a little bit still relevant to what we were.

00:46:40:13 – 00:46:41:08

Oh, sure. Go ahead.

00:46:41:12 – 00:46:49:00

Sorry. Now that I guess, like now that this chat feature is more robust, people don’t want to, like, talk, but they want to ask questions.

00:46:49:02 – 00:46:50:07

No, that’s fine. That’s fine.

00:46:50:09 – 00:47:16:07

However you guys want to ask your questions is great. So Lucia Griffin is asking. Can I ask what are the questions you ask your client that help you propose a certain look for them? Do you have a few standard ones that you always ask? So I feel like this is like, how are you getting into these deep conversations with people? Do you have like a starting entry point that you go in with people before you go deeper?

00:47:17:27 – 00:48:04:26

No, I. I’m sorry. I really don’t. The conversations really are often organic, but if I were having this conversation right now, you know, I would just ask one what drew them to my work? You know, what is it that brought you to even approach me in the first place? You know what? Was there something that you saw that spoke to you? Okay. Why? What, what? What what was it? You know, specifically? And then I’m listening to everything that you’re saying, and then I’m going to just ask further questions, because the more questions I ask and just keep that person talking about themself, the more information I get to I get to gather, which only adds more questions.

00:48:04:28 – 00:48:37:24

And it’s just it’s just being, you know, adaptable to that individual and being able to ask questions. So just have conversations. You know, you sit down with somebody, have a cup of coffee, and they’ll tell you exactly why they why they came to you, because, you know, people are going to come across your work. They come across my work. If they like it, I’m going to be asking them, you know, why? You know, what was it about my work that drew you to it? Okay. Well, that’s going to give me insight on the type of story you possibly want me to tell for you, and then we’ll go down that rabbit hole.

00:48:38:21 – 00:48:50:25

How can we tell that’s that story best? What has gone on in your life that can lend to this particular chapter? What can we talk about? Let’s let’s get into the to the nitty gritty.

00:48:52:11 – 00:48:53:18

I hope that is off somehow.

00:48:53:20 – 00:49:19:17

Yeah. No. And I was going to say, like, I feel like just our talking WPPI, which is brief and in a very loud trade show hall. And talking to you today, like it’s also very clear to me that you’re a person that goes deep with people quick but not in any kind of like, forced way. But that’s just like your the beauty of you and your your genuine nature. And I don’t know if that’s just the way you were born or if you fostered it over time.

00:49:21:07 – 00:49:42:09

But I feel like, you know, some people can do that with more years than than others. But ultimately, like, yeah, like you said, if you can just ask what drew someone to your work and just start asking, listening, like really listening and asking follow up questions that will always help someone connect with their client. So I hope that helps Lucia and anyone else out there listening.

00:49:43:12 – 00:49:45:18

And one of the things I was going to point out is,

00:49:47:12 – 00:50:20:06

as you said, Ashleigh,I  feel just by having this conversation, I can feel already that having a discussion with you, it can be very, you know, right off the bat, can get to vulnerable, but still very relaxed and and comfortable. Which makes me wonder if likely is the answer, why you as a male might be able to pull this off as a fine art photographer to do nude work in front of people.

00:50:21:21 – 00:50:32:27

But I do want to ask you, in that line of questioning, has that ever been an issue to get some comfortable being that, you know, doing nude work as a male?

00:50:35:03 – 00:51:06:21

So far, no. But I think that has more to do with quantity and the fact that there haven’t been very many that I’ve worked with. So the the pool to draw from isn’t isn’t that large. But I will say that it’s also just, you know, one, never taking it as a personal slight. If a person isn’t comfortable, you know, with working with a male photographer, perfectly understand that, you know, that makes sense.

00:51:06:23 – 00:51:41:11

But also just showing an individual that no matter what, they are the ones who are being, you know, respected. They are the ones who are being made to feel safe and have being able to have that type of even instant rapport with someone has always been helpful. Some people have you know, people will have questions. And I’ve had some women, whether it was during a maternity shoot or a fine, our news shoot, they you know, they would they would have questions.

00:51:41:13 – 00:52:03:09

And I’m going to answer them as as honestly as I as I can and put alleviate any type of fears that that person may have. Just. And as long as I’m being straightforward and honest with a living individual, people can see that and they all understand that. And that helps. It goes a long way into easing their their fears and worries.

00:52:04:08 – 00:52:40:05

Yeah. And I remember I’m like, Sue Bryce did a men’s workshop which is available in the portrait system education to rewatch in. That was a lot of that focused on like how you can be a man and run, you know, a portrait studio, but particularly particularly a portrait studio that focuses on serving women, whether that’s nude or and, you know, any kind of outfit. But I think, like one thing that I really took away from that was like, we don’t need to vilify men, first of all.

00:52:40:07 – 00:53:13:08

And if you’re a man that shows up and like you clearly cares, listens, ask the right questions, is vulnerable with the client. Like why wouldn’t you hire someone who is super talented like that? Like there’s like, you know, there’s the fear is like around someone being predatory. But you can when you have a conversation with someone, you can really sense who they are. You know, I guess some people are like master manipulators, but I would say, like when you have a real conversation with someone, you you can see their heart and you can see their why.

00:53:13:15 – 00:53:22:22

And so the question really is for like men who want to do this work, it’s like, why do you want to do it? And can you explain that? And I feel like you explain it so beautifully in terms of,

00:53:24:10 – 00:53:30:29

you know, your art background and your interests and how you want to tell people’s stories. So I don’t know if that makes sense, but, you.

00:53:31:12 – 00:54:24:29

Know, I appreciate you saying that it actually reminded me of something. And it’s that I have found that very often. We never. Many people never stop to think about think about why they think the way they do. You know, we we all have our opinions and we all have, you know, the things that we love. But very rarely do we just sit down and literally contemplate, okay, why do I love doing this? What what motivates me? What is my. Because that’s how you’re able to articulate that is by asking yourself that question and constantly asking yourself that question is the only reason why I’m able to have the conversations I have right now or to be able to articulate my mind in the way that I do is because I’m asking myself that question all the time so that when I am asked, I can give you that that answer.

00:54:25:01 – 00:54:27:04

And it’s going to be deep because I’ve thought it through.

00:54:28:14 – 00:54:47:05

Yeah. So I don’t mean to because that was such an amazing answer and I don’t mean to cut it off, but we do have one more question in the chat. The chat is popping and it’s a little off topic, but it is. What is your favorite shoot that you’ve done so far for a client and why? So if you have like a particular story.

00:54:49:06 – 00:54:59:25

So it actually wasn’t for me. If I would say for a client, though technically this person wasn’t a client because she used her family discount.

00:55:02:10 – 00:55:03:03

That’s okay.

00:55:03:25 – 00:55:08:02

It was it was a it was a shoot I did for my big sister.

00:55:09:29 – 00:55:44:03

And it is up on my up on my website, you know, you’d be able to see it there. But she was going through some things in her life at the time and as my way of. You know, consoling her of being there for her, of strengthening her. I flew her out because she was living in Alaska at the time. I flew out to to my wife and I and we set her up in the studio. And I was able to produce a fine, fine art nude boudoir shoot format for my big sister, who,

00:55:46:05 – 00:56:17:07

you know, there we have history, you know, the two of us, where she and I went through some incredibly traumatic experiences, too. And all we had in the world at the time were each other. And that built a bond for us that will never go away. And so I I’m the youngest of four and my strongest bond is with is with her. And when I’ve struggled with with certain things from a mental health aspect, you know, she was there for me as well.

00:56:17:12 – 00:56:42:03

And so the able to produce that for her was after everything that she had been going through. And then to hear back from her and she tell me what that did for her, how that strengthened her, how that was breathing life back into her again, that she could get up and push forward, you know, and even carrying her children and taking, you know, taking on the world at the time, that meant everything for me to be able to do that for my big sister.

00:56:43:12 – 00:56:53:10

I love that. I’m like, about to cry. It’s really beautiful. And I feel like now it’s sad because we’re almost at the one hour mark, haven’t you?

00:56:53:29 – 00:57:18:25

Oh, yeah. I was. As he’s talking, I’m like looking at his website. I’m like, oh, I think this is it. The leather jacket one. Yes. Yeah, that’s a beautiful image. And it’s like, you know, it’s such a beautiful story. And you know what we as photographers can do to really change the way people feel and really influence that just to, you know.

00:57:20:11 – 00:57:38:29

Just what it can mean to someone else’s life. So that’s that’s beautiful. But as Ashleigh said, we have hit the one hour mark. But before we let you go, we always want to be sure that people share their social media with us and where people can find you online.

00:57:41:08 – 00:57:50:08

Yeah. So as far as Instagram goes, I think for anybody who’s interested, you’ll be able to find it in my in my profile

00:57:52:12 – 00:58:06:21

and which is jds_fineartportraits and then my website, which is fineartportraits.org and yeah, those are the two places where I’m usually at and you can find my find me or my work.

00:58:07:12 – 00:58:18:08

And we didn’t get to talk to you about the backdrops or talk to Ashley today. So I’m feeling like there’s going to have to be a part to where we get Ashley on to talk about the backdrops, right?

00:58:19:07 – 00:58:22:21

Of course. Yeah. That’s definitely I’m super interested in that as well.

00:58:23:00 – 00:58:37:05

Yeah, she would be well worth well worth the time, I’ll tell you that. But yeah like fineartbackdrops.com is is her website and as I said for those if you ever see any of my work and you see a canvas backdrop, that’s her.

00:58:37:22 – 00:58:43:24

So these are a power couple for sure. So you definitely have to have her on as well.

00:58:44:20 – 00:58:47:26

Jot that one down Ashleigh. It’s on the list.

00:58:48:04 – 00:59:30:17

So everyone, please be sure to go follow Joshua and everyone, please be sure to follow the Portrait System on Instagram and on Facebook as well. Also, be ask on tag us in The Portrait System Members Only Facebook group and we can get that from Josh.

00:59:31:17 – 00:59:46:11

And if you are not a member of The Portraits System and you are interested in learning more about how we can help your business succeed, email Ella with support at support@SueBryceEducation.com.

Thank you again for joining us and we hope you can join us next week.

Thanks again for listening today. And don’t forget, you can listen to either me or our special guests every Friday on Club House at 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Thank you so much for listening to the Portrait System Podcast. Your five-star reviews really help us to continue what we do. So, if you like listening, would you mind giving us a review wherever you listen? I also encourage you to head over to SueBryceEducation.com, where you can find all of the education you need to be a successful photographer. There are over 1,000 on-demand educational videos on things like posing, lighting, styling, retouching, shooting, marketing, sales, business, and self-value

There’s also the 90 Day Startup Challenge, plus so many downloads showing hundreds of different poses. We have to-do checklists for your business, lighting PDFs, I mean truly everything to help make you a better photographer and to make you more money. Once again, that’s SueBryceEducation.com.