Necessary Permit Lesson = Learned



So it happened. I have learned a much-needed lesson the hard way and I’m here to pass on my wisdom:

A couple weeks ago I was photographing a family photo shoot in a super popular park here in Colorado called Chautauqua Park (remember that name just in case you ever come here). As I’m photographing all 11 people, a Park Ranger comes up to me and asks if she can talk to me for a minute. I’m thinking “uh-oh, this can’t be good.” She asks me if I have a photography permit and I, being the good kid I am, start to freak out on the inside a little bit. I legitimately did not know that you have to have a permit if you’re going to photograph at some parks. I respond by saying “Oh, no I don’t. I wasn’t even aware that I needed one.” At this point I’m trying to focus on her words because I’m so embarrassed that I’m getting a ticket in front of my 11 clients, I can’t believe that I am in trouble because I NEVER get in trouble, and I’m wondering how much this is going to cost me. She collects my information to issue me my ticket and lets me continue with my shoot as long as I meet with her afterward. I turn around and all of my clients are looking at me like deer in headlights and begin to apologize. I try not to freak out and tell them not to worry about it. I explained to them that I have literally photographed there probably 10-15 times and have myself been photographed there so it was not their fault at all. I finish my shoot and look for the Park Ranger. I find her and she explains the ticket to me. “Because you were photographing without a permit I am issuing you a ticket which does require you to appear to mandatory court.” I’m thinking “MANDATORY COURT????? Whaaattttt?I’m going to court now? Dear God, am I a criminal?” I nod, trying to hide the fact that I might have a panic attack at any moment. A few minutes later she hands me my ticket and I get to leave. “Breathe Alicia, breathe.”

In the next few days, I do some research and find out that this ticket could cost me from $500-$1000. I felt so stressed out and overwhelmed I literally had to pray. I talked with some photography friends and they encouraged me to try to get a permit before going to court so that I can show the judge that I was being proactive and that I wasn’t going to let this happen again so I thought “yeah, that makes sense. I’ll show the judge that I’m a good kid and it was all a misunderstanding.” I go to the Boulder, Colorado website to fill out the paperwork and as soon as I open the PDF I find that in order to get a permit I will need proof of insurance which I don’t have. “Now I need to get business insurance too? For goodness sake!” I begin the process of finding the best, most affordable insurance I can find but run out of time before I have to meet the judge.

A few weeks later I show up to public court and sit in a room full of other regular citizens that also broke some kind of law and in silence, we wait for the judge. My heart is pounding so loud I feel like I can hear it in my ears. The judge enters, we “all rise”, sit, and then she explains what the process will be for the next couple of hours. “What should I do? I feel so lost. What am I suppose to even do in court? What if I mess up and talk when I’m not suppose to? Should I plead guilty? Will I go to jail?” My mind races but I regain focus because I don’t want to miss something important. Soon after, the mini trials begin and one by one she calls up each person in the room, explains the charges against them, and asks them if they want to plead guilty or if they want to talk to an attorney. “Alicia Lewin” she calls out. “Oh my gosh, it’s my turn. Ok, stand up, smile. Don’t make eye contact with anyone but the judge. I’M NOT A CRIMINAL, I PROMISE.” I stand at the podium and try to breathe. “Alicia, it looks here like you were photographing in open space without a permit, what would you like to do? Plead guilty or talk to an attorney?” I clear my throat, “I would like to plead guilty” I say in the sweetest voice I can. “Alicia, I commend you for owning up to your actions. You know, the attorneys might have some other options for you so you don’t have to pay this fine if you would like to talk to them” the judge says. “Would you like to do that?” “Sure! That would be great, thank you” I say. “You may sit back down and wait to be called by an attorney” she explains. “Thank you!” I turn around and feel a bit of relief. The hard part is over with. Now I sit and wait. Thirty minutes later a short older lady wearing a tan skirt suit with shoulder pads calls my name. I collect my things and follow her into the hall that leads to a side room. We sit and she says, “so Alicia, tell me about your situation.” I begin and explain to her that I’m newer to photography and had hardly even heard of photography permits before this situation. I explained how I didn’t see a sign posted at the park about needing a permit and how I didn’t even think to check the website. Honesty is the best policy so I tell every detail truthfully. She then responds with a story of a time when something similar happened to her with a booth she had at a fair (there’s a lot that goes into booths apparently). “Alicia, I’m going to let this one pass this time,” she says. “If this happens again and we see that we’ve cut you some slack before it won’t be so good.” I nod my head in complete understanding. This weight suddenly lifts, my lungs fill with max capacity air, and I can’t stop smiling. “Thank you so so much. I really, really appreciate it. This will not happen again.” We shake hands and I’m free to go. No fine, no jail (lol). “Yesssssss I’m free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty I’m free at last.”

So now that I have gotten a major slap on the wrist I want to educate ALL of my photography friends. No matter what city or state you live in be sure to check for permits because the fine is costly and the stress isn’t worth it.

Photography Awesomesauce has a ton of great resources about the legalities surrounding your business, including insurance, income taxes, sales taxes, permits, licensing, etc. There’s a great archive of blog posts about all those things and more, but there’s also a 6-week online class anyone can sign up for who wants to ensure they get this stuff down!

Has Creativity Been Suffocated in the Photography Industry?

Has creativity been suffocated in the photography industry?“Is there an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used as measurement of everyone else’s worth?” I read this line in Daring Greatly by Brené Brown and it hit me like a ton of bricks. This. This is what happens in the photography industry all the time. In fact, it happens too much.

To give you a full context of the quote in the book it says, “Has creativity been suffocated? Are people held to one narrow standard rather than acknowledged for their unique gifts and contributions? Is there an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used as measurement of everyone else’s success?” The answer is yes, or at least from my perspective. Daring Greatly is a book all about vulnerability and I highly recommend it. So, I’m going to get a little vulnerable with you guys with what I’ve been struggling with as a photographer this year.

To sum it up in one sentence I point back to that quote. When it comes to education and leadership in the photography industry I feel suffocated. I feel like sometimes creativity has gone out the door. I feel like leaders teach the same concepts all the time and sometimes have that ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. We forget that we are business owners in a creative industry. Creativity isn’t just about your photography skills, cultivating creativity means being a problem solver. In a creative industry we have such a huge variety of ways of running businesses, learning, teaching, taking photographs and doing things which means there are multiple ways to solve problems. When I go to conferences, events, workshops or learn online I feel like I’m always being told to “do it like I do it and you’ll win.” Like there’s an ideal way of being and I compare myself to it and end up using it to measure my own successes.

What I’ve learned over this past year is that I feel very different when it comes to photography and education. I feel like I want to learn from a variety of people. I learn the most when I’m having one-on-one conversations with other business owners and we’re just sharing our experiences instead of learning from a source where there’s only one high standard or way of doing things. I want to learn from real people and a variety of people. I want to hear more perspectives, more options and I want to see more creativity. I want to see this industry make everyone feel like their unique way of running their business or photography is just as welcome as someone else’s. I want more voices, and more leaders. Ultimately, I want to feel like my unique way of running my business is just as awesome as everyone else’s and it’s not the only way to do things. I think if you’re reading this, you probably feel the same way too. I’d say something many of us photographers have in common is that we’re sick of feeling like we’re not worthy and that’s got to change.

I don’t know where this blog post leads me other than I read this quote in this book and it resonated with me. The message is big and I know many photographers who feel that this applies to the photography industry and that we’ve got to change things. I think the best way to enact change and start making others feel more worthy in this industry is to start re-defining our version of success as something personal and not what the industry or big names tells us what it is. Success looks so different on everyone. One photographer may think success comes from booking that first 5-figure wedding. Another photographer who works full time at another job may feel like success is something completely different for them. A photographer who is also a parent may have a completely different definition of success, like balancing their family and business and feeling like you’ve fulfilled both duties.

What I’m saying is that we have to stop comparing everyone and ourselves. We have to start seeing all the many varieties of success in this industry and celebrating them together. We have to realize that we’re just as worthy as the photographer who books 50 weddings a year or even the photographer who is still building their portfolio.

This book is called Dare Greatly and Brené Brown says that ‘we’re called to dare greatly every time we make choices that challenge the social climate.’ So I’m challenging you (and myself) to make choices that change the social climate of the photography industry. It takes awareness and commitment from everyone in an industry to enact change and do something that is fundamentally the opposite of what we too often see. If you’re with me on wanting things to change, share this article with your photographer friends and start having conversations about it.

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Simple Wedding Photography

Art Heals – The Importance of Personal Projects


I spend a lot of my time with my interns and new photographers explaining the HUSTLE side of this business. I stress, repeatedly, that this job is truly hard work, that you’ll dedicated more hours a week to this than a standard 9-5 if you want to see it grow and be successful, that there’s so much more to it than taking pretty pictures. And believe me, I stand by all that. But right now, I want to change directions for a minute, and talk about the actual incredible power that photography – the actual photographs – can have.


We all have heard anecdotes about lost loved ones and importance of the photos left behind. It’s all the family will still have of that person’s likeness, something to hold on to when the memories begin to fade. And it’s definitely it’s own super power. It’s a version of time travel, transporting those friends and loved ones to a moment in time that they can now access whenever they want to. And that’s awesome. But I want to encourage you that you hold another kind of power in your hands all together.


Art heals.


I’ve watched it happen. As an underwater photographer, I’ve watched women with true water fears and anxiety disorders surrender to the quiet and peace beneath the surface, leaving the water at the end of the session as a completely different person than the one that entered the water. As a beauty photographer, I’ve been privileged to observe women as they realize, even if only for a moment, the beauty they hold as they get a tiny glimpse of how their friends and family see them. In my work both with film and photography in a short film project I did this past spring called BRAVE Project, I beheld the amazing bravery and vulnerability as woman after woman I met with opened up to me about her own struggles with body image, with sexual assault, with value and worth and where the source of a person’s worth comes from. And last night, I had the immense honor of stepping into the world of infertility with a client as we brought to life her struggle, pain, shadows, and feelings of betrayal by her own body (the image above is from that project). We agreed it was time to bring light to the topic and we jumped in head first. It was emotional and healing for her, for myself, and for our hair and makeup artist, all of whom have been effected by this topic.


In every case, I’ve found myself an eyewitness to the power our medium of art holds. And it refreshes me, brings new eyes and emotions to my own work that has stretched me like no workshop or business course every could. I am a better artist when I surrender to my own art. It trickles down. The tie between great family photos or newborn images and personal art projects may be subtle, but it IS there.

So as we head into the holidays and into, for many of us, a slower season in the beginning of the year, I want to encourage you to dive in to those daydreams and personal projects that have been swimming around in your mind. I promise, it will not only bring something incredible to those who participate, it will bring something new, fresh, and oh-so-needed to you and your work as well. In the midst of the hustle, don’t lose sight of the power of taking beautiful pictures and making powerful art.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, and happy official-start-of-the-holiday season to everyone!


10 Things I Wish I Knew About Using Fonts

10 Things I wish I knew about using fonts

10 Things I wish I knew about using fonts

The abundance model. This won’t be the first time you hear me talk about it as I believe that as technology and the flow of information increases we will seek free information. In fact, in recent years fonts themselves have adapted to this idea and we see more and more free resources and great fonts becoming available from quality font designers. The real question is how do we know a great font from a bad one, (or worse, knockoff) and how do we use them to grow our brand and business? Here are 10 quick tips I wish I would have known when I started looking for fonts.

1.Where do free fonts come from?

Free fonts come from a couple of different sources. First, the designer who is looking to grow their portfolio and develops a font as an exercise or project of passion. Secondly, they can come as a single variant (regular vs italic for example ) from a professional designer who wants you to buy the whole font family.

2. Most people use Sans-Serif fonts for easy readability.

There are several types of fonts, but it really boils down to serif and sans-serif fonts. Serif fonts are fonts with the line attached to the stroke of a letter. Sans-serif fonts (sans meaning “without”) are fonts that do not have these lines at the end of the letters. Smashing Magazine did a study of popular sites and found that most of them use sans-serif fonts in both their headlines as well as paragraph text.

3. S P A C I N G is important.

One of the most frustrating thing I come across is a brand that has effective heart, knows what it stands for, and then visually fails because of simple font spacing. Spacing comes in all forms and is usually used to give breathing room for the reader to consume content at a very thought out rate. It also can provide emphasis on your content.

4. Properly paired fonts created captive audiences.

Most of us have been sucked into a site at some point in our lives because the content is displayed so well. In fact if that same content was portrayed in a different font pairing then we may get bored, frustrated, or simply leave before we even begin reading. A great example of this is a clothing company called Norwegian Rain who uses a sans-serif font for the heading and paragraph text, then a beautiful serif font for the sub-heading text. The fonts they are using are: Heading – Avenir LT Heavy , Sub Heading – FreightText Book Italic, ParagraphAvenir LT Book

Notice that the use of these fonts create a great flow from the heading which captures the reader’s attention, to reinforcing the idea, to the bulk of the information in the paragraph text. Great, now I want to buy expensive winter coats… See how great font pairing can captivate?


Norwegian Rain's use of multiple font families.
Norwegian Rain’s use of multiple font families.


5. Sometimes a single font stands out by itself.

Many times I hear people say they need to have more than one font family. While pairing font families and using multiple different styles, sometimes simple is best. In fact a good example of this is Simply Gum, a company with a brand new take on chewing gum. For their visual branding they chose the typeface Gotham all by itself. Notice how the different weights of the font easily differentiates between content and allows the brand to stay consistent across all channels.



Simply Gum uses only one font family.
Simply Gum uses only one font family.


6. Be consistent.

Speaking of consistency, make sure that when you plan out how you are going to use your fonts, stick to it. You want to make sure wherever your visual identity is seen, (Facebook banner, flyers, ads, website, etc.) that you stick to your guns. Consistency with typography is one thing that makes killer brands stick out from the mediocre ones.

7. Use SVG image format for typography based logos.

Is your logo a bit fuzzy compared to the rest of your beautiful website or blog? Don’t worry, it’s most likely that you are using a PNG image for your logo, and fixing it is easy. When you use a SVG image as your logo, you get the advantage of it scaling for all browser sizes and you can have the peace of mind that your viewers won’t try and pull out a cheap pair of glasses.

8. Handwritten text expresses a unique personality.

Our handwriting is often times something most people can’t re-create. The beauty of this uniqueness (no matter how sloppy) is that it gives an immediate glimpse at who we are. If you like the idea of being more personal with your brand, try a handwritten text. If you don’t like your own handwriting, choose one you wish your handwriting looked like and use it. Then get that pen & paper out and practice! Your brand will thank you.

9. 14px – 16px are the most common font sizes for paragraph fonts.

When you are trying to figure out how small or large your paragraph font should be, consider that the most common sizes among a wide variety of international newspapers, magazines and blogs (study here) is 14px & 16px for the main content and 38px for headlines.

10. There are no rules, just conventions.

Like any good art, once you place a “rule” on what you can and can’t do, artists will break it. The same can be said for fonts. When you select fonts for yourself or fall in love with one and use it on a campaign or project, remember that great design doesn’t always fall inside the box. The proverbial box that is.

If this article was useful let me know, feedback is the best way for me to provide and improve great content for you guys! If you walked away wanting to know more or see some practical application, you are in luck! We are hosting a webinar for those who want to go a bit further with their typography knowledge, and see how to apply it to their own brand.

Register for the Webinar

Or get to know me more below! 

Why Community is Important When You’re Ready to Give Up


So about a month ago, I was ready to give up. Yep, I’m getting real. I was burnt out, over worked, under paid, stressed and jacked up on coffee. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t happy and I was yelling at everyone. I felt like lighting a match really close to my camera and hoping it caught fire.

I really wanted to quit.

I was complaining to one of my closest friends (also a photographer), and she said,

“Yeah, you need United.”

What is United? It’s this amazing little conference put on by Showit. Imagine being in a room, filled with 200+ people who all have the same vision and passion as you. Who are all going through what you’re going through, or have already been through it. And every single person is helpful with questions, will talk to you and listen to your hopes and fears. Yep, that’s United.

So apparently I needed United. I kind of rolled my eyes, and sent a text back that was something like “Yeah, I guess so.” I had NO idea what was about to happen in my life.

When I arrived in Arizona, I was TIRED. I had a wedding hangover (like…I photographed a wedding the day before…). I was hot and had no way to get to the hotel. I had missed the shuttle bus. I posted in the United group on Facebook with my phone number. Basically an SOS. It turned out, that someone was headed to the airport at that time to pick up a friend, and she offered to pick me up. I had NEVER met this person before, and she basically said ‘I’m here for you, let me pick you up.’


There was my first OkayIthinkIcangetthroughthisweek moment. There was a pool party/hang out the first night. I ended up leaving a bit early to crash. The time change is NO JOKE. Woke up the next morning ready to go. And ready to help my friend Tim at the Pixifi booth. Ya’ll don’t even get me started on the amazingness of Tim and Pixifi. I grabbed some coffee and got to work. I met so many new faces and got to talk to people I might not have normally talked to this way.

So one of the things I was most excited about was the keynote speakers. I had heard that listening to Mary Marantz speak would make you cry.


She really makes you cry. In a really good way. In a way that makes you feel like you are the only person in the room and she’s talking directly to you.

So Mary talked a lot about being authentic and knowing what is most important to you and focusing on that. In my epic stage of burn out, I was there. Was I being authentic to what I wanted? What about what I wanted to photograph? After all, that’s how I got here, right? I love taking photos, so was I in it for authentic reason and producing authentic images? What is most important to me? This was something Mary said:


The reason we get so burnt out is that we love what we’re doing so much we go in hard and get in over our heads. I LOVE my job, but I was most definitely NOT filling my days with what means most to me…which was making me hate my job.

I also had the opportunity to join a styled shoot with Montana Dennis. I have followed his work for years and truly jumped at the chance. I didn’t take many photos (the title photo at the top is from the shoot!), but mostly watched. After the shoot, he spent quite a long time chatting with me and helping me realize that I wasn’t taking photos the way I wanted, which is another reason I was unhappy. I don’t want to only take ‘pretty pictures’, I want to take EPIC, meaningful photos.

United, and Showit, are one gigantic COMMUNITY. You never realize how important community is until you need it. Being in a group with like-minded people who were there to inspire and help is something of epic proportions. I left with this renewed sense of “I can do this, and I can do this well.” I have noticed a switch in the way I’m photographing my clients. I not only left with a changed head, but I left with a changed heart. I’m so much more excited and jazzed about each session and wedding. This is from my most recent wedding.


I am so thankful that United happened when it did. I met some fantastic new people, made some amazing new friends and have an awesome outlook on my business now. Thank you United!