Susan Dixon Photography » Blog

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As a Jacksonville photographer, things can get pretty overwhelming. Fast.

Socrates was on the right track when he said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Rather than going through life reacting to one thing after another, it’s important to step back and analyze how things are going. What is important? What is truly meaningful? What is going to stand the test of time?

I’m going through a course right now with Justin and Mary Marantz that involves digging deep into who I am as a person, as well as who I am as a photographer. This has been an eye-opening thing for me. It’s hard work to set aside the hustle and business and really think about what I stand for….and how I am serving my clients.

One of the assignments in the course is to identify several “I believe….” statements. These are the important things that [should] drive my photography business. Collectively, they form the filter through which I need to funnel all of my business decisions. Big and small…..my believes affect what I do.

You might think this would be an easy thing to do. You would be wrong! After several days and quite a few edits, here’s my list:

(1) I believe in being real over striving for perfection. There’s no replacement for authenticity.

(2) I believe in true love that never fails.

(3) I believe in finding beauty and joy in the little things.

(4) I believe in lifelong learning.

(5) I believe in pursuing God and His plan for my life.

(6) I believe in making moments count and living life well.

(7) I believe in being married to your very best friend.

(8) I believe in the importance of stories and how powerful it is to share YOUR story.

(9) I believe in printing your favorite pictures because they are visual anchors to important relationships.

So there you have it…..these are the core values that drive my photography business.

I am so glad that I did the hard work of thinking through these and writing them out. Doing something like this really does make things more clear.

I also think I need to do this for my life in general. There will be several points that overlap, of course. I think that’s quite natural and good. :)

Find out more about me right here.

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Routines. We all have them. They make life a little smoother. A little less stressful. Routines are the parts of life that we can do on auto-pilot.

My morning typically consists of a whole bunch of routines strung together. Wake up. Get a shower. Make coffee. Do my daily devotion. Eat breakfast. Make the lunches……the list goes on.

My final routine before I walk out the door is to stand at my dresser and put on my jewelry. And right beside my jewelry box, tucked into the edge of the mirror, is one of my favorite photos in the whole world. I took it back in 2010. That’s seven years ago, if you do the math. :) I’ve never put it in a frame [although I probably should.] But when I see this picture, it makes me smile.

My best-friend-in-the-whole-world/husband is the person behind the camera in the picture. When I took this image, we really didn’t know what we were doing. At all. Neither of us were professional photographers [yet.] And please, PLEASE don’t judge us by that horribly cheap and flimsy tripod! We were just two people in love that were discovering our love for photography. Together.

I remember that day well. We were visiting family in Tennessee. And it just so happens that our relatives lived right next door to part of the Appalachian Trail. How awesome is that?!

It was December, so of course as native Floridians we bundled up in our warmest jackets and went exploring. As we walked along the rocky trail, birds chirped back and forth, and we were soothed by the cheerful bubbling of the nearby mountain stream. I can still remember the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. The crisp air made the climb down to a small waterfall easy work.

I’m pretty sure it took BOTH of us to set up the tripod for our beloved little Canon Rebel T1i. (Yes, that was our first DSLR.) And I remember being nervous the whole time that it might fall. But we were so excited to try a slow shutter speed for the first time!

Then we went further on the trail, chatting back and forth, soaking in all of the beauty around us. It was a great afternoon!

Since that day, we’ve upgraded in many ways. I now have a Canon 5D Mark iii. Troy has gone micro four-thirds on me. But now we don’t fight over lenses. Oh, and we have MUCH better tripods! I own a Manfrotto, and Troy has a great travel tripod. I went on to become a professional wedding and portrait photographer, while Troy is content as a hobbyist. He enjoys landscape photography most.

This picture of Troy from that special day back in 2010 stays secured in the edge of my dresser mirror. It reminds me of our trip. But, even more than that, it speaks of our deep love and friendship. It causes me to remember the joy of discovering photography together and what it was like when we first realized that we could capture meaningful, artistic images that can stand the test of time.

I’m so glad this picture is not buried somewhere in the megabytes on my computer. It’s printed for us to enjoy. In the midst of the monotony of my daily routines, it’s a visual anchor to my person and the love we both have for photography.

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I had the honor of photographing Joey’s senior session last month. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

I believe that a senior session is BEST when it takes place during the few months just before graduation! There are a few reasons for this:

(1) You pretty much look like the person that actually walks across the stage and receives the diploma. Students change so much over the course of their senior year!

(2) We can shoot for the announcement you want to send out. Friends and family members absolutely LOVE receiving picture announcements! Often, the template you love the best will require a certain layout for the pictures. If I KNOW you’re looking for a horizontal orientation….a tight crop of your face….or something with a lot of open space to the side….I can accommodate that!

(3) We can incorporate your college choice in the images. For example, Joey will attend the University of South Florida. So we featured a USF hat. I’ve also done college banners, pom poms, confetti, etc. for other clients. It’s a neat way to let everyone know which college the student has chosen.

If you still want to have senior portraits taken during the summer between your junior and senior year, that is totally fine! But consider either waiting OR doing an update. You won’t be sorry!

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This session obviously took place at the beach. Big Talbot Island, to be exact. But if you scroll down, you’ll see that I also did some fitness shots of Joey at his gym. The beach pictures were in my comfort zone. Totally! I love shooting at the beach!

Honestly, though, I haven’t done much fitness work. But I LOVED it! As a runner, I admire pretty all forms of fitness. I know how hard it is to train and meet goals and stay inspired. We were able to shoot at the gym where Joey trains, which made him more comfortable and added meaning to the pictures. I’m not going to lie….the lighting was a bit challenging. But I brought along plenty of options/tools, and I love the way the images turned out! I’m a big fan of black and white images, and these fitness shots were great candidates for b&w conversions. This is something I’d like to do more of in the future. I’d love to hear your feedback. Please let me know what you think!

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Jonathan and Cristina are both seniors in Jacksonville, Florida. Because they attend different schools, they also got to attend TWO proms! And, of course, they needed prom pictures for both. Would you expect anything less???

Jonathan’s prom came first, in April. Eagle’s View Academy held their prom at the beautiful Garden Club of Jacksonville in historic Riverside. Since his school rented the venue for the prom, we had access to Garden Club’s gorgeous courtyard. [It’s normally gated to the public.] We happened to be the only people there at the time, so it made the photography session so much easier than trying to work around other visitors in a local park.

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Cristina’s prom came next, in May. Douglas Anderson School of the Arts held their prom at Everbank Field, which is the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. We wanted a location near great restaurants that also wasn’t too far from the football stadium.

We originally planned to take those prom pictures in Avondale. One of my favorite parks is located there near St. Vincent’s Hospital.

However, looming rainstorms caused us to change locations. Seriously, we were so fortunate to NOT be soaked with rain during this session! In fact, it rained on our way to the session……plus a little at the beginning. But, on the bright side, I finally got to use the clear umbrella I’ve been saving for just such an occasion.

When I realized that rain was NOT going to be avoided, I suggested a new location: San Marco Square. The main reason for this is that I knew we could deal with the ground being wet better HERE (rather than a grassy/muddy park.) There are so many sidewalks and paved areas. Plus, San Marco is absolutely A D O R A B L E! I’ve shot here several times, and it never disappoints!

ONE sweet couple…..TWO completely different looks.

THREE cheers for great prom nights for Jonathan and Cristina!

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Tomorrow, my son will walk into the doors of Eagle’s View Academy for the last time as a student. It’s so hard to believe that he’s a senior and about to graduate from high school! Jonathan entered EVA as a small, wild-eyed fourth grader. He’s always been our mischievous child…the one with whom we never knew quite what to expect…the wild card. Oh, and the brilliant one, too!

Our wild card has grown up into a handsome, curious, compassionate man. Jonathan is full of life and questions and answers and pursuing God. I love him so much! He’s so very different from his older brother and younger sister. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

After a [much too short] summer, Jonathan will pack up and move into a dorm room at Florida Polytechnic University near Lakeland, FL. He’s wanted to go there for the past two years, and we’re so happy that it’s working out for him to attend his #1 choice! He plans to study some sort of computer science. Exactly where will that take him? Only God really knows!

While searching through old pictures for his senior video (an EVA tradition), I ran across a scrapbook album that I created for Jonathan when he was just four years old. And I found the sweetest note that I wrote to him fourteen years ago:

                   Jonathan, 

                                   We are so glad that God chose you to be a part of our family. At the completion of this album,

                   you were four years old. But you are growing so fast that you will be all grown up before we know it!

                   No matter how tall or how old you get, you will always be our precious little boy. We love you!                 

                                                                                                                                                                                        -Mom and Dad

Oh, I wish you could see the whole scrapbook album! Those baby and toddler years were so cute!

Another section that I found particularly meaningful was a page that listed our hopes for Jonathan. Here are a few:

                   There are so many things to wish for in life, but some of our biggest HOPES are that Jonathan will…..

                   …..come to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord.

                   …..love deeply.

                   …..have great faith.

                   …..one day fall in love with and marry a Christian girl with whom he will share a family.

                   …..seek and follow God’s will for his life.

                   …..choose a career that he truly loves.

…..be blessed with many true friends.

Those hopes for Jonathan were written fourteen years ago, and I still agree with and wish for each and every one! As my boy steps out of this chapter of his life and into the next, I know that many of these things are already true. And I pray for God’s great blessing on his life. My heart is full, and I’m so happy for my son! So this last day of high school is a happy one. A job well-done. A future full of hope!

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