Welcome to another CLN Exclusive! This month I am excited to feature three very successful entrepreneurs in the Western industry. They have come together from separate backgrounds to form what they call “Cowgirls with Cameras”. The team is made up of photographers, Phyllis Burchett, Kim Beer, and Cara Taylor Swift who are on a mission to help you share your vision with the world through your lens by telling the stories you want to tell from the perspective that holds the most meaning for you. I was lucky enough to interview all three of them to get their thoughts on this venture and how they plan to work with photographers across the globe. Let’s dig in!
Krysta: How did you three come together to create Cowgirls with Cameras?
CwC: We originally met at an equine photography workshop in Wyoming. All three of us saw a need for more beginner and learning-friendly equine photography workshop opportunities. We are all three versatile professional photographers with very different, yet complementary skill sets so it made total sense to team up.
Krysta: What is the mission of Cowgirls with Cameras?
CwC: Our mission at Cowgirls with Cameras is to facilitate the creative expression of the Western lifestyle through photography. Our live and virtual experiences are designed to actively expand knowledge and creativity by building technical, artistic, and business skills within a supportive community of like-minded people who are passionate about photography.
Our Learning Immersion workshops offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced photographers a chance to grow their skills in a safe and supportive environment. Learning photography in a workshop setting can be harsh, feel competitive, or stifling, and we don’t want that to be the experience for our students. We want this experience to allow our participants the room to establish a solid foundation and/or expand their skills while having fun and getting the knowledge they’ve been craving.
Krysta: The years of experience you three bring to the table are unmatched, what do you want most for the people that work with you to take away from their experience with you?
CwC: When we set out to create Cowgirls with Cameras, our mission became to incorporate the things we most wanted when we attend workshops; seek growth or expertise; work with a mentor; or access our support community. As we grow and expand Cowgirls with Cameras opportunities, we are focusing on nine points we feel will bring an enriched experience to those who attend our experiences and offerings.
Collaboration over Competition
Photography is a competitive industry — and although none of the three of us will shy away from the overall competition, we wanted our events and community activities to be focused on collaboration first. Women especially thrive in a collaborative community with an open communication and sharing platform where we can lift each other up. In our events, we offer an ongoing group space where both we and the participants can share expertise, knowledge, and experiences freely. We encourage collaborations between participants and do our best to model collaborative interactions with each other as leaders not only in the Cowgirls with Cameras community but also in the larger photography community.
Open Gates to Our Knowledge
A big part of our mission is to see photographers be able to achieve their photography goals. Gating our knowledge to those attending our events (for example, not showing an editing technique directly at the event but instead sending the participant to an offered paid resource to gain that knowledge) would go against that goal. In all our experiences, we offer participants open access to ask questions about any facet of our photography knowledge and seek to answer that question as fully and openly as possible. We also wrap mentorship opportunities into most of our experiences, so participants have access to us before, during, and after the event to maximize their absorption of skills and techniques as well as gain support as they work toward their individual photography goals. We also strive to support the broader Western and Equine photography community by offering the Cowgirls with Cameras podcast where we share our collective expertise as well as free short video tips and techniques on YouTube and other sources of free-access education and inspiration.
Empowerment of Women Photographers
52% of photographers in the United States are women but this percentage is not reflected in the leadership of the photography community at large. Our experiences are primarily attended by women, and although we don’t exclude men from any of our events, we have a particular and vested interest in seeing women photographers shift the leadership in our industry to a more representative percentage. Our goal is to model that shift in our own business and to encourage other women to do the same through actively supporting other women photographers across all genres of the craft.
Foster Expansion of Technical Expertise and Creativity
Photography is both a technical and artistic activity. For many photographers, myself included, this is one of the draws to this medium. Our goal with Cowgirls with Cameras is to expand both the technical expertise and creativity of our event participants so they can freely manifest their vision for any one image as well as their overall portfolio, business if they have one, and life for that matter! To make this focus point a reality, we must be deeply committed to the next focus point which is providing a safe environment in which to learn and create.
Provide a Safe Environment in which to Learn and Create
It is not easy to learn photography — as mentioned above, there’s a measure of technical expertise with camera equipment and software that you need to acquire before you can move into a creative process — which in turn can be daunting. To thrive in both your technical expertise and creativity, you need to have access to a place where you can receive knowledge and ask questions with as little fear as possible of judgment from your leaders or your peers. Conversely, you also need a place where you can get honest feedback as you work toward improving your craft. These two needs are often in conflict with each other. We do our best to create an environment where both can be offered with what we hope is joy, ease, and enthusiasm. We begin each of our events by making agreements with each other and the participants that we will do our best to be kind, and considerate, employ positive critique, and honor one another as we are all working toward the same goal of improving our photography skills and creativity.
We three met at a photography workshop and have watched happily as friendships, joint ventures, and sisterhoods formed among our event participants. We are committed to seeing the community of Cowgirls with Cameras grow and expand. In all our experiences, we build in time for the community through group meals, group shooting, group editing space, group classes, and encouraging our participants to keep in touch before and after the event itself. For all of us, finding a community where we fit in and were supported was key to our growth as photographers. We want to pay that forward at all our events.
Real World Business Skills
One of the most gated places in professional photography is business practices. We’ve all found other professional photographers who were unwilling to share their pricing paradigms, workflows, and business resources. In my own career, I ran into the “go learn it yourself,” advice more than once and it was disheartening. Although all businesses reserve some specific brand secrets, we strive to be as open as possible in answering questions about how we do business, our pricing, our business models, resources, and more. All of our events offer a dedicated time to discuss the aspects of building a professional photography business and we all offer photography mentorships that include business as a part of the program if that is an area you’re interested in expanding.
Overcome Barriers and Obstacles
Photography and the business of photography can sometimes hit up against barriers and obstacles inside us that can’t be solved with a change of settings or a different business approach. Many times, these barriers are rooted in past trauma, limiting beliefs, or ideations you simply swallowed whole rather than questioning. As a Certified Gestaltist, I specialize in guiding people to get out of their own way in business, access to creativity, and life. I frequently partner with horses to assist in this guidance. Many of our events contain at least one optional Gestalt group session that seeks to better connect participants to their creativity and all events where I am in attendance offer you an opportunity to work with me 1-to-1. Just so you know, Gestalt is not a “talking” talking approach, it’s a “doing” approach — I promise you; we will not sit around in a circle and simply talk about our feelings!
Use of Images
If our goal is to see you grow and expand your abilities, impact, and business as a photographer, it makes no sense for us to limit your usage of the images you make in our experiences. All our experiences include full model releases, and property releases where applicable, without limits on the usage or selling of images. Our participant’s images have been turned into salable art pieces and published in numerous publications, ads, social media outlets, book covers, and more.
Krysta: What is it like working amongst each other? Do you all have different styles/creative processes?
CwC: We are three very different photographers and all successful in our own craft using different approaches and techniques. We each offer our unique superpowers, methods, and viewpoints about photography. We believe this offers our students the opportunity to truly choose what works best for them. Our instruction style is open, engaging, non-judgmental, and friendly. We are all equally passionate about photography, artistic expression, business, and having fun!
Krysta: What is your favorite part about what you do with Cowgirls with Cameras?
The community! Relationships are key to Cowgirls with Cameras — both within the events and experiences themselves and beyond into personal life. We have developed a lifelong friendship with each other and we see that also happening within the Cowgirls with Cameras community. We love seeing those friendships bloom over time into deep, supportive relationships.
Krysta: Can you tell us a little more about any upcoming workshops or mentorship you’re offering?
Cottonwood Ranch Immersive Photography Experience — August, Wells, Nevada
CwC: This event is one of our flagship experiences and is the perfect opportunity to grow your expertise, craft, skills, and portfolio. The host ranch has some of the most comfortable accommodations we enjoy all year — along with amazing scenery and incredible light, you will ever experience. As an immersive experience, this workshop-style event has a big educational component as well as community, business building, and more. The 2023 price is $3950 including mentoring, lodging, and meals. The dates are August 24-29. Register on our website at http://cowgirlswithcameras.com.
Trappers Lake Lodge Photography Adventure — Fall 2023, Colorado
CwC: There are few things in the world that rival Colorado’s beauty in autumn. This photography adventure meets that fall color in the middle of the Flat Iron Wilderness for some spectacular scenery and new shooting opportunities. Our host for this adventure is Trappers Lake Lodge, located about 40 miles outside Meeker, Colorado. Our guide, Kaysyn, has set up a ranch and equine shoots at local ranches as well as in the wilderness around the Lodge itself. This event will be light on the educational side but heavy on shooting opportunities. 2023 price $2250 lodging at Trapper’s Lake Lodge and meals included. The dates are September 29-October 3. Register on our website at http://cowgirlswithcameras.com.
Several of our 2024 workshops are already listed on our website!
CwC: All three of us offer one-on-one and group mentorship programs. Photography and Photography Business mentorships are an outstanding way to hone technical, artistic, and business-building skills. Although each individual will determine their own customized plan with the mentor or mentors they choose, all of our mentorships begin with a complimentary 15-minute consultation to determine goals. Request your consult at https://cowgirlswithcameras.com/photography-business-mentorships
Krysta: Along with the mentorship and workshops, you three also host a podcast, can you tell our audience a little more about that?
If the sound of hoofbeats and shutters snapping gets your heart pumping and adrenaline flowing, you’re in the perfect place to feed your passion for Western photography with the Cowgirls with Cameras. We talk about everything equine photography on the show including skills, tech, business, creativity, mindset, and more. We release two episodes a month and are available on all major podcast outlets. (We also have a lot of fun with podcasting, so come ready to giggle or, occasionally, laugh out loud!
About the Photographers
Prior to launching into photography, I was a horse trainer and breeding farm manager. I primarily showed Appaloosas where I won Appaloosa World and National Championships along with several Honor Rolls. I trained horses for my amateur and youth clients who went on to win several titles as well. After my show career, I managed an equine breeding farm where I was in charge of all aspects of the Artificial Insemination Program from collection to breeding.
I was bitten by the photography bug, and a severe case of wanderlust, I have traveled the Earth capturing the amazing creatures that inhabit the world with us. I found myself captivated by the birds, bears, and stunning landscape of the United States and Canada, in awe of the beautiful White Horses of the Camargue in France, documented the Horse Fishermen of Belgium, depicted the Connemara Pony of Ireland, and highlighted the iconic landscape and horses of Iceland.
In addition to capturing the amazing animals of our world, I also enjoy capturing the bond that we humans have with our four-legged friends. I work one-on-one with clients to create custom artwork that they will treasure for a lifetime. I stop time so that you will be able to hold onto those happy moments with your furry friends forever. Additionally, I love sharing my passion for photography and art with other photographers. You can frequently find me leading Equine Photo Tours to Iceland, and hosting workshops throughout the country from the beaches of Florida to the ranches of Montana.
I have been a photographer since age 13 (actually before, but you wouldn’t want to see my “early” work) when I bought my first SLR 35mm camera. Horses were among my first subjects — and, ironically, I earned the money to buy that first camera by working a colt for my mother.
I have been a professional photographer since 1996 when I put out my shingle under Midnight Productions, Inc. Since then I’ve had the privilege of traveling all over the country shooting photos of horses and people and other animals (and native ruins and abandoned stuff if you want to get technical). I also volunteer as a photographer for various rescues and shelters. I have found that I really enjoy teaching photography. I have a passion for helping people get in touch with their creativity both behind the lens and in the editing/artistic process of post-capture image development.
No matter what I’m photographing, I enjoy every minute I spend behind the lens! I am also an Equine Gestaltist (which is a tool I use to help photographers get out of their own way in business and creativity) and an accomplished business/marketing consultant.
Cara Taylor Swift
As an equine portrait specialist, I help equestrians who enjoy time with their horses, run a horse-inspired business, or are cultivating an equine or equestrian-inspired brand. It’s my passion to create true-to-life images to show connection, elicit emotion, and inspire action. Whether you are looking for heirloom equine wall art of the horses you love, OR you are ready to design visual content for your horse business or equestrian brand that truly converts, you’ve found the right professional equine photographer!
As a lifelong equestrian, my knowledge of equine behavior and the people who share their lives with horses allows me to capture photographs that are truly reflective of their equestrian lifestyle.
Fast Horse Photography provides an unparalleled level of service through my relationship with each client and my personal commitment to providing a fun and luxurious experience from start to finish.
I’m your expert for:
- Ensuring YOU look amazing in your pictures with your horses
- Capturing you and your families’ life shared with horses
- Helping you memorialize the final days of your senior, ill or injured horse
- Equestrian lifestyle photography
- High school or college equestrian senior portraits
- Creating captivating horse images
- Designing heirloom equine wall art
- Recording your horse and human soul connection
- Bringing your equestrian brand to life through:
- Equestrian branding photography
- Custom commercial equine photography
- Licensable equine stock images
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