Today’s blog is becoming one of my favorite kinds of posts to do! I’m featuring another Amazing Mom who is going to inspire you and probably make you cry at the same time. But before we get started, one quick item. It’s GOOD NEWS!

In case you didn’t hear, we are going to extend the Early Bird Discount for the Minneapolis CONFIDENCE Workshop to this coming Friday, September 4th! A handful of you have signed up last week, and I know a few more wanted to get in at the Early Bird rate. So instead of ending the discount on Tuesday, we’ll go to Friday! I hope the little bit of extra time helps. CLICK HERE to get one of the last spots!

Okay, Today I’m super excited to introduce you to the beautiful Tracie Stier-Johnson!

Tracie Stier-Johnson, an Amazing Mom and Portrait Photographer!

When I invited blog readers to send me an email if they’d like to be interviewed, Tracie was one of the many who emailed back. I was so excited b/c Tracie is one of the most beautiful spirits I’ve ever met. We first met when she attended our CONFIDENCE workshop in Chicago last November. And I fell in love with her. This amazing woman has endured so much hardship in life, and yet she still sees promise and hope in every new turn. You’ll see what I mean. She is simply amazing.

1. Tracie, when did you start your business and what was the turning point of taking it from a hobby to a business of charging people and putting up a website?

I started my business only a few short months ago! Like most photographers, once I had children (starting 14 years ago), the camera was constantly in my hand. I have photos everywhere.

Then, mid-last year, enter the blog world and flickr {both new to me}. I found my insides turning with a strange feeling of angst in wanting to take images like the beauty I was seeing all over the Internet. So I signed up for a couple of workshops. I truly just wanted to take better photos of my children and our travels. Starting a business was the last thing on my mind!

I already owned a business, a small stationery store I’d had for 8 years, at the time … I seriously was not looking for a new or additional career!

Apparently, God had other plans for me. After attending Me Ra’s Chicago CONFIDENCE workshop in November of last year, I came home and offered photo sessions to several of my friends and their families. Just for fun and to continue to hone in on the skills I learned at the workshop.

Tracie Stier-Johnson

Me Ra, you truly made the technical side of photography click with me! {get the little pun?} :) I walked away from the workshop thinking, “I can do this.” And an ever-so-small voice was whispering to me … “you can do this.”

For other lengthy reasons that revolve around wanting and needing to be emotionally ‘present’ for my children, I decided to sell my stationary store. And somehow … in the meantime, I started a photography business.

It was crazy. It all started with a donation of a photography package to an auction. I typically donated a stationery package from the store, but couldn’t. So thought, “Hey, I can donate a photography package.” One thing led to another … I needed a name {tsj photography}, a website, business cards, pricing packages … whew! A new business was born!

After I sold my store, I’ve never looked back. This is the first summer I’ve been home with the kids. My photography business is building at just the right pace for me. After each portrait session, I’m continue to learn and evaluate what went well and/or needs improvement. I’ve got just enough sessions that I’m not overwhelmed with editing, etc., but also have ample playtime with the kids. It’s been amazing!

And like Leslie, I’m amazed when I look back at my sessions from just six months ago how I’ve continued to evolve in my work, but also my confidence.

2. What inspires your photography?

Honestly, I continue to be inspired by the amazing images I see all around me. I definitely strive to have my own look … and when I see other images that inspire, it makes me want to be a better photographer. Truly, there is something that happens to my insides when I see an amazing image and inspires me to want to be a part of that incredible beauty and deliver that beauty to my clients.

Tracie Stier-Johnson, Amazing Portrait Photographer and Mom!

3. What inspires you as a person, artist?

First and foremost, God. I’m seriously inspired by the gift He’s given me. I believe God has entrusted us all with a gift or talent and it’s up to us to nourish it, which in turn, thanks him for giving it to us.

Tracie Stier-Johnson, Amazing Portrait Photographer and Mom

Secondly, my children inspire me {is that cliche?}. They make me want to be a better person, a better mom. They make me want to give them myself, and ultimately my clients the very best of me. I’m constantly inspired by their innocence, energy, creativity … they inspire me to be the best I can be.

4. What are the classes/workshops/DVDs you’ve watched to teach yourself photography? Were they helpful?

I feel incredibly blessed with the path I’ve taken. It amazes me when I look back at how each piece fit perfectly for my future plans … even if I didn’t know it at the time.

Of course the only DVDs I’ve ever watched are the very amazing “Refuse to Say Cheese” and “Beyond the Green Box.” J I watched Refuse to Say Cheese last summer and immediately took the girls outside to ‘play’ and catch all the little details of toes, dimpled hands and dress ruffles. I thought I was “it!” The stuff photographers were made of! Seriously, Me Ra’s DVDs opened my eyes big time!

Then I took a private class with Jessica Claire. She taught me a lot about natural lighting and how to catch it right.

Tracie Stier-Johnson

When I got home, I ordered and watched Me Ra’s second DVD, Beyond the Green Box. Me Ra and Brian made it all sound so simple! I was already signed up for one of their workshops and couldn’t wait to talk in person about any other questions I had. From watching the DVDs, I was definitely able to have more confidence in shooting in manual {my goal}, but I feel like I was still missing something.

The CONFIDENCE workshop was like the flood gates of Heaven opening! I could hear the angels singing ‘Hallelujah” when I finally got it!! Me Ra, you guys must see that moment all the time in your workshops! I’ve been shooting in manual ever since your workshop and have even been trying to teach some of my friends the simplicity of it. No technical mumbo-jumbo … I call it Me Ra – ease. J

In April, I went to the Learnfest workshop. It was helpful to me in getting my business off the ground. It definitely gave me things to think about in the way I wanted to approach my business.

And the last workshop I went to was the amazing, awe-inspiring, goose-bump giving. It was the Discovery Workshop in San Francisco that Me Ra and Brian held with Rick Chapman and Garrett Burdick … absolutely amazing! The Discovery workshop really helped me see myself as an artist, not just a photographer. It helped me open up and learn how to make better connections … with myself, with others, with my clients. An experience I will forever be grateful for and will never forget.

6. What was your first “paid” shoot like? How did you feel on the way, during and after?

I get butterflies before every session! So I don’t think my first paid one was any different. Is that weird? I feel like I’d done enough free, portrait building sessions … I’d done what I could to be the best photographer I could be {at that time, not to say I don’t continue to grow and evolve}. But I’d prepared myself enough to have the confidence I needed to know I would succeed. Trust me, that sounds better than what I was feeling on the inside, but the ‘brain’ part of me was saying, “you can do this. This is what you’ve been training for.”

So … my first official session was truly like all my sessions, only better than my free sessions, because I’d come to a place where I thought, “yeah, I can do this … I’m really doing this!”

7. What is the best and toughest part about doing this while being a mom and wife at the same time?

The best part is having the ability to take beautiful photos of my family! Also, for me at least, I need to have something outside of my family that is just for me. That makes me feel like I’m contributing in some other way. So having this business allows me to keep myself ‘whole’ and in turn be more for my family.

The toughest thing would definitely be the logistics of leaving the family when I have a photo session. But that leads to my answer for the following question …

8. What is one piece of advice you’d give to newbie’s?

Balance. Keep things in perspective.

Tracie Stier-Johnson

But isn’t that true about anything we do? We want to be all and give all … to all! I think we have to realize, and more importantly be okay with, the fact that we can’t do-all and be-all.

My family is my first priority. I’ve taken that all into account when starting my business. I don’t want to work on Sundays, so I don’t offer sessions on Sundays. And a session on Saturday will cost more than a weekday. I’ll also continue to limit myself to 2 sessions a week. It’s very tempting to schedule, schedule, schedule. We don’t want to turn anyone away, we’re anxious for the business and opportunity … but I have to remember, “At what price?”

9. What else would you like to add that I’m missing? Feel free!

I’d like to share two more things. The first involves adversity. I know from reading the hundreds of comments, and from talking to others at the workshops … we are all facing adversity in one form or another.

I was recently diagnosed with early stages of Multiple Sclerosis {MS} and have started a treatment to slow progression of the disease. It’s an every-other-day injectable medication that I have to take for the rest of my life. I’ve lost part of my vision in my left eye, and unfortunately, I shoot using my left eye. I’ve been trying to switch over to my right, but when I’m in the heat of the moment … I revert to my old habits. I’ve also been losing my close-up vision. Almost daily, it gets worse. I find myself having to move items further and further from my eyes, again … difficult when I’m trying to look at the viewfinder to see what I’m getting. Bottom line is that I’m dealing with it.

And not for one minute have I asked, “why me.” Instead, I’ve chosen to embrace my diagnosis and move forward with a brave face even though I may not always feel brave.

The second thing I’d like to share … as I mentioned before, I believe we’ve all been given a gift or talent and I’m so thankful I’ve been given the gift of photography. What an amazing craft we’ve been charged with! Giving others everlasting memories … makes me smile just thinking of it!

Tracie Stier-Johnson

I’ve had a yearning in my heart to give back to others through my photography. I wasn’t sure what all that meant and hadn’t had it sorted out yet. I was worried what others in the industry would think, etc. Me Ra, I don’t know if you remember us talking about my thoughts? We were at Stinson Beach in the little clubhouse on that rainy afternoon during the Discovery Workshop, and I brought the subject up to you. You were the sweetest ever and encouraged me to continue figuring out exactly what it was I wanted to do. And not to worry about what others thought. If it was in my heart, I should do it.

And I did! I’m currently giving back half my profits to organizations all over the world. My giving plan is focused on organizations mostly overseas involving mother, children and the spreading of God’s Word. You can read more about it here GIVING PLAN. I feel so incredibly blessed to have this plan.

I encourage everyone to look for ways you can give back … it doesn’t have to be grand … but it should be something that makes you feel good!

Me Ra, thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my story with your readers. My hope is that I’ve inspired and encouraged anyone that might be feeling uncertain in their own story.


*Tracie, Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story and BEAUTIFUL images. You are such a strong woman. Even with the new challenges you are facing, you are not giving up but going for your heart’s visions even more. You are such a powerful force of nature. It’s a honor to feature your work, your stories, be a part of your life. Thank you for all the time you gave to help this interview post happen. We are better people for it.

To read more about Tracie’s experience at the Chicago CONFIDENCE Workshop, CLICK HERE. To see more of Tracie’s beautiful work, click TRACIE’S WEBSITE. And yes, you must check out her great blog as she shares her unfolding journey. To order your own copy of our Award Winning DVDs, see below!

I also invite you to ask Tracie your questions in the comments. She has such a strong spirit to support women. I’m sure she would love to start a conversation with you! And it’s always nice to hear that your process was helpful to someone else. To know we are not alone–isn’t that what it’s all about? Thanks Tracie for letting so many women know they are not alone.

Have a wonderful weekend friends. Much love, Me Ra

p.s. Did you miss the last two Amazing Mom features? If so, check them out here!

1. Interview w/Leslie Webber from Indianapolis, Indiana!

2. Interview w/ Michelle Riddle from Santa Cruz, CA

A new one to come next week! :)

p.s.s. AND, would you like to be featured on our blog too?

If you have attended our workshop, purchased one of our five 101 Kits, or watched our DVDs, and feel like your life has taken a new and wonderful turn for the better, then please send me an email at I will send you directions on how to be featured. We can’t promise to feature everyone, but I want to do this type of blog post more and more. Hundreds of people have sent us the most amazing emails regarding our workshops and DVDs impacting their life, their before and after photos, their revived passion; I would love for all of you to hear those stories!


The Minneapolis CONFIDENCE Workshop deadline for the Early Bird Registration price has been EXTENDED!! HOORAY!!! You now have until this Friday to get in on the deal! FYI, I don’t think we’ll be able to make it to the East until next Fall, so if you are near Minneapolis or on the East Coast :), come join us! To find out more details and get yourself a spot, CLICK HERE!

Want to learn more about Framing, Composition, Blurry Backgrounds and Lighting? Check out our Award Winning DVDs, Refuse to Say Cheese and (They are BACK IN STOCK!! Yeah!!), or discover our popular 101 Kits for starting or expanding a business in photography, click on the titles of your choice!

37 Comments: “Featuring an Amazing Mom! Meet Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Portrait Photographer, Tracie Stier-Johnson!”

  1. jeramy says:

    great stuff tracie!

  2. Kathleen says:

    Yay Tracie!!

    You have such an amazing, inspiring personality. I’m honored to know you. :)

  3. Allison G. says:

    Way to go, Tracie! What a great example of strength and compassion you are to your children!

  4. Lauren says:

    Way to go, Chicago sista!

    I follow your blog every day. Your work gets better and better with every post. I can’t wait to see what you do next. I also love seeing your beautiful girls. :)

  5. Tacey says:

    Tracie.. Wow. You have such a beautiful spirit and an incredible eye! Photography is truly medicine for our soul…I wish you nothing but continued success and a healthy future.

  6. Tacey says:

    Oh-and I am dying to know…Who drags the bed and couch outside for you???? LOVE it!

  7. Cathy M. says:

    HOORAY Tracie!!!

  8. Genie says:

    Tracie – you are such a love – compassionate, strong and amazingly generous. So inspiring to read about you in depth.Seeing you makes me smile. Knowing your challenges helps me be more compassionate to my sister-in-law with MS. And, I also want to know who drags the furniture out – and such cool pieces too!! I’ll be checking in on your blog too…thank you for sharing your heart!

  9. Heather says:

    Hard to believe that someone who really wasn’t looking to start a business creates such beautiful, awe-inspiring images & memories! Your work is as incredible as you are!

  10. Amy says:

    Beautiful interview, with an amazing photographer and such a delight to work with. One of the most fantastic photographers and people I know.

  11. Leslie says:

    This interview makes my heart so happy! Tracie is (and has!) a gift. She’s a beautiful person inside and out, and captures beautiful images because she puts her heart into it!

  12. Tracie, thank you for sharing your story! I had the pleasure of meeting Tracie at the Discovery workshop and I can tell you she is a beautiful person, inside and out. Tracie, I didn’t realize all that you were facing…you do it all with such grace and a positive spirit. You are definitely an inspiration♥

  13. p.s. Tracie, your GIVING PLAN is simply amazing! just one more testament to who you are as a person…

  14. LobotoME says:

    Tracie is a beautiful person on the inside & outside and SO brave…she inspires ME all the time! J :)

  15. lora says:

    Tracie, Thank you so much for sharing. I loved hearing your story, and your images are beautiful. Best wishes for your health you are an inspiration!

  16. Aileen says:


    What an inspiration you are. I found so much truth in your words about the gifts we’ve been given and keeping your head up in the face of adversity. I can’t wait to check out your website and your blog. The pictures here are wonderful.

    I especially love your ideas about balance. It’s so important to keep in mind when starting. I’m struggling with that now. Thanks for the words.

    And yes, who gets that stuff outside for you??!!

  17. Michelle says:

    How absolutely beautiful your story, your attitude and your images are! Thank you for a dose of inspiration today!

    And Tacey asked the question I had – who brings out all the furniture??? =)

  18. Stepheni says:

    Tracie, I am so afraid to click the link to your blog! The reason is that I love your images so much that I have a feeling I would get lost in it for a crazy amount of time and miss out on date night with my hubby! :) I love how you added the simple doodles to two of your photos, especially the angel wings! I have never seen that idea before and it really is making my creative insides churn :) I also love how you brought such large furniture to the out doors! How do you do that?! I have seen chairs, maybe benches… but full sizes couches and fully made beds?? That is amazing! Also to think of putting the couch out there on a newborn session is also ingenious!!
    Can you tell that I have appreciated this post, Mera?
    Great job Tracie, truly inspiring!!

  19. Tracie, I love looking at all your photos. I try and remind myself to check in with all my Discovery Workshop gals blogs/websites to see any new images. You take amazing portraits. I love your artistic eye. You truly are an inspiration to me. I am so thankful that we met in Sausalito. God Bless.

    OH adn yes I need to know who drags the bed and couch out for you…awesome! Love it.

  20. Chelsie says:

    WOW! I’m speechless…. and in tears. I am so proud that you are so strong and so absolutly inspired by your giving plan! Im sitting here reading the blog screaming out to mom somthing exciting from each paragraphy (she has to be getting mad knowing she wants to read it herself!) I was just thinking about you the other day and was going to tell mom we should email you. You are amazing! I am also proud to know you. =)

  21. Julie Watts says:

    Beautiful images, inspiring story…a “Giving Plan” is a great idea. Instead of random, sporadic giving…making a solid commitment with a plan. It’s a small distinction but makes a big difference.

  22. Pamela says:

    Yes, an amazing mom & photographer. I just wanted to quickly say thanks to Me Ra & Brian for their workshops AGAIN, because i’ve gotten to know such amazing women like Tracie. There have been many times that I have read Tracie’s blog & sat at my computer crying. Because she is so open with everything, it has been easy to see where her help comes from. I am dumbfounded by her drive to learn photography, being an excellent mother to four and producing STUNNING images. I guess it doesn’t surprise me that stunning work comes from someone who works on her insides as much as her visuals. Really, it such a large part… Congratulations on your beautiful photography business. We are all very proud.

  23. tracie says:

    wow … i’m just so inspired by all these comments. so hard to take it in and accept their for me. {tears …}

    but as me ra taught us in the discovery workshop … “i receive.” i receive your kindness & generosity.

    i’m truly honored to have a presence on me ra’s blog … thank you me ra … in fact, my thanks goes so deep, a mere ‘thank you’ just doesn’t touch the surface.

    huge sigh …

    the furniture? do i have to tell? oh, alright! i have a ‘guy’ … he’s kind of our handyman/honey-do guy … oh! and the bed … it’s just an air mattress, not the full blown thing. :)

    serious love & thanks to you all …

  24. Michelle says:

    What a great interview..I everything you said Tracie. I have been following your blog and LOVE you the bed outside. I need a “guy” to help me with that stuff!
    Congratulations on all your success!

  25. Erika says:

    Thanks for posting these interviews Me Ra! You have such a great eye for selecting the most fun and creative photography.

    Great job Tracie! Very inspiring photography! Love all the shots :)

  26. Christene says:

    Yeah Tracie!!! So PROUD of you!!!

  27. Kelli says:

    Yay Tracie!!! Awesome! You are strong and brave and a amazing photographer! We need to schedule a Chicago workshop reunion in the near future!

  28. Sharon says:

    Tracie! I’m so proud of you! You are truly an inspiration!

  29. Addie says:

    Tracie, you are an absolute inspiration! Your creativity, your compassion, your love for others is such a wonderful example and it all truly shines through in the images you create. Thank you for sharing, thank you for your kindness during the Discovery Workshop, thank you for inspiring my daughter and me, and thank you for being who you are. We are all truly blessed to know you. Love and hugs my dear.

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