An Open Letter to Pay It Forward, a simple reminder


A few weeks ago we gathered in Utah to present at Evo Conference in stunning Park City . We presented at 2  photography  and 1 food styling workshop to some of the most amazing and generous attendees.  The setting in beautiful Park City was beyond beautiful and it was hard to not be inspired by all the community and support that the organizers at Mom It forward and Today’s Mama had set for everyone.

Part of why we love being part of the online community so much is because of the support that so many bloggers, writers and photographers have for one another.

We’re self taught photographers and early on in our photography career, it was tough to find the support and help from others. We’d often walk into camera stores or seek advice from local photographers and the responses were mostly cold and aloof. Collectively, the responses were along the lines of “It took me 30 years to learn all this and you need to go through the same learning process”.

After so many frustrated attempts, we worked even harder and became even more determined to learn everything ourselves.

Most importantly, we swore to never turn anyone away who needed help and to always remember to stay grounded, humble and offer assistance when asked.

As we gained more skills and experience, we helped others along the way with the little information that we had. Even the smallest bit of information that we had was valuable to someone else. Knowing that we were able to help someone was and is the best feeling. Ever.

This is our personal mantra, and during our food photography and food styling workshops at Evo Conference we had a simple request of the attendees.

We encouraged everyone to take the information that they learned from our workshops and to pass it on to 5 other people who needed help. To help make our community stronger, better and more informed as a group is the best way to pay it forward. If we all help each other succeed as a group, then in turn will succeed as individuals.

So taking from what we shared at our presentations, we ask the same of you all today.

Help someone with what you have now and pass it on to 5 other people who are seeking it. Whether it be material goods, inspiration, knowledge, information or a skill, share it with 5 other people around you.  This is a open chain letter that we hope you all will participate in and help our community grow as a group.

It’s always so wonderful to see our friends and everyone around us succeed and at the end of the day, we’re so much more gratified when we can cheer on everyone we care about.

Love, live and share.

hugs and love,

diane and todd

Thank you to everyone at Bushs BeansMom It Forward, Today’s Mama and Evo Conference for strengthening our community through love & inspiration.

Some images from our friends and rocking fellow bloggers: Kristen (Dine and Dish) and Jyl (Mom It Forward)

Diane shooting at food styling session. Above: Photo Credit: Jyl

Todd teaching lighting at food photography session. Above photo credit: Kristen



{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Kim ~ Craftymamaof4

    Thank you so much! Your sessions at EVO were amazing. Reignited my passion for photography.

  2. Judith George

    Beautiful thoughts and inspirational. Thanks.

  3. Lucy Lean

    You have both given me so much – for which I am so very grateful for – thank you. consider your request done – my new thing is making New Years Resolutions all through the year – the latest one – to be more positive and less negative… xxx Miss you hard workers.

  4. nicole

    very sweet and genuine post. thanks for the reminder to be mindful of others and what they need. be it photography assistance or a warm meal.
    and park city really is a stunning place. especially this time of year. i hope you enjoyed our beautiful little town.

  5. Lana

    I always believed in “pay it forward” philosophy, and I am so glad that you subscribe to it, too. I have encountered many people not willing to share their knowledge or experiences, and it made me sad. Nothing makes me feel better than teaching what I know.
    I have not personally met you, but you have influenced my blogging world and cemented yourselves as a couple of truly kind and giving people.

  6. Kami

    You two are such neat people. I’m so glad I got to take your class, and learn from you and hear your message. Thanks for keeping it real, and being so willing to share all you know.

    See you in September! at #TCCE11 !

  7. melody polakow: Vegan for 3.33 a day

    Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing! I’m also self taught and I am slowly breaking into the magazine food photography business… with no help from anyone.. it is frustrating at times, lonely and I wish that people were willing to share more of themselves.

  8. Cate O'Malley

    Excellent reminder for us all, and it was actually one of the topics on our road trip home from the TECHmunch conference in Boston this weekend. Thanks for continuing to spread the good message.

  9. Amandam

    My friend Cheryl, ( went to EVO when she got back this was the first thing she talked about. The way she described you all was amazing… the way you encouraged others to give back and to support each other. Sadly, its not the most common message in food photography! I am so, so thankful for your talent and your message. Twenty years from now people will look back and admire your pictures… but I think they will also be reminiscent about how you made a difference. How you gave and gave and gave and tried to give some more. Your message is changing people!! Thank you!


  10. Kristen

    I know I, for one, appreciate the knowledge and talent you two have shared with us. It has made our community a better place, for sure. Thank you for everything!

  11. laura

    Thanks for the post always good to read.

  12. lisa dowling

    it’s posts like these that keep me reading and i totally want to meet you guys. we live in the same town and i can cook! how about i make you a meal and you come see my husband’s awesome art studio perched next to one of the largest Torrey pines on the Cali coast? 🙂

    seriously, i am glad there are souls like you in the world. even if we never meet, your energy is so helpful to this negative world.


  13. Nicole

    I too look forward to learning from you both at Food and Light. I can’t wait to learn the information and soon pass it on to others.

  14. chris @nestlefoodie

    Your work is beautiful and both of you are such an inspiration to me! Thank you for sharing! I look forward to meeting you in CO at the Photography and Light workshop.

  15. Jen Yu

    you guys are the absolute best people ever. generous, kind, loving, funny, hard-working, ethical, honest. and super talented! you are gems, true gems. i love you.

  16. Kalyn

    Both of you are such wonderful examples of this philosophy! Glad we got to hang out, even if it wasn’t for very long.

  17. moowiesqrd

    It might sound a bit corny, but I’m the photographer I am today thanks to you both. When we met, I was struggling with “seeing” a picture before taking it, but you provided the guidance and inspiration to move past that obstacle and really look at a potential picture with my heart and intuition. I wouldn’t take the pictures I take now if I didn’t know you guys, so thank you so much!! Keep doing what you’re doing… you’re an inspiration to us all.

  18. TidyMom

    Thanks to both of you for being SO inspiring and taking the time to talk, share AND listen!!

  19. Sally

    Diane and Todd,
    How beautifully expressed–you two really do walk what you talk and I, for one, am very grateful. Since Mexico, I have COMPLETELY changed the way I am now using my camera, thanks to you and Matt and Adam and Penny De Los Santos’s creative live workshop. You two inspire all of us with your photographs and your generosity. It is wonderful to watch the collaboration you have with your peers from a cyber distance. Photography is challenging, with so much to learn for us self-taught types; having willing (and patient) guides like you makes an enormous difference. Thank you, thank you (and I will gladly ‘pay forward’ all that I have learned from you so far!)

  20. Victoria

    I agree with Winnie.


  21. Winnie

    You two really are the best 🙂

  22. Cooking with Michele

    We formed a local food bloggers group here in Colorado and really provide some great support to each other. We just added a new bi-monthly session where one blogger gets to review their blog and get input on problems, challenges, and tips from the whole group. It’s great to see how supportive everyone is!

  23. no plain janes kitchen

    I’m paying forward tomorrow when I share what I learned at your styling and photography session with a group of food bloggers in Denver tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your talent and experience…I’ve got so many pictures from the sessions to share. I really appreciated you showing how to build the shot…now I look at food shots with a whole different point of view.

  24. Sharon Miro

    Pay It Forward.

    Years ago when we all lived with generations in the same house, or farm, there was no thought given to teaching skills to the next generation. No ambushing someone who was getting good at what you yourself were good at. Only genuine joy to pass along knowledge and skill.

    If you wanted a real depth of knowledge, you didn’t go to college and learn from books, you apprenticed to a master and felt blessed to be able to see/participate in how the “work” was really done. This is how we developed our master craftmen.

    Pay It forward is not a new idea, but it certainly is an idea that needs to be “brought forward” right now. Thanks!

  25. Heidi @ Food Doodles

    What a beautiful post, thank you so much. Just starting out blogging(ok, so it’s been a few months now) it was incredibly easy to be intimidated by amazing photographers and more experienced bloggers in general and it’s an awful feeling. It’s so refreshing to see someone successful wanting to share their knowledge. And you’ve been a great inspiration to be willing to share in every aspect of my life even when it was hard to achieve and wherever possible, and I think that’s something seriously lacking these days.

  26. alison @ Ingredients, Inc.

    I loved seeing y’all at EVO and your willingness to give, teach and pass on what you have learned. Both of you are such an inspiration for so many people, and I hope that more people will be so giving throughout the world. Your workshop was awesome, and I learned so much! I am excited to get to see you again this fall.

  27. Cookin' Canuck

    This is just one of the many reasons I love you guys. You got your message across very well at EVO and I think that all of us there were inspired to share the information you gave us. Thank you!

  28. TheFromagette

    A lovely and refreshing post…

  29. jyl johnson pattee

    Thanks so much for bringing your positive, wonderful vibe to the evo Conference. I LOVED attending both of your sessions and learning from you. The call to pay it forward by sharing our talents and knowledge with others was so inspiring. I appreciate you doing just that at the conference.

    So excited to get to know you better and hopefully, to see you back next year!


  30. Sandra McKenna

    I knew the minute I met you that you were amazing! The more I see how you live your life I am in awe and grateful that I have had the opportunity to get to know you! You inspire me!!!

    I am getting a new camera. Do you have suggestions … taking into consideration I know nothing about talking pictures other than I love taking pictures!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Sandra- start with the camera you have. Remember, the camera is just the tool.
      Start practicing through the most important camera of all, YOU.
      Let your eyes be your lens and your heart be your shutter. Go out and start seeing life, light, composition, textures, movement, moments and story : all constant themes in photography of all disciplines.
      Capture the story and moments around you. Practice, practice, practice.
      Then and only then, after all this, will the type of camera really matter.

  31. J Marquard

    Yes! Do it. Do it times three. You nailed it, guys – keep fighting the good fight!

    “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

  32. Carolyn Binder

    A genuine and beautiful post…just like both of you. Your generous spirits and willingness to share what you know has helped so many people (including me!) to grow and learn. Thanks, Todd and Diane!

  33. Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking

    Thank you, Diane and Todd! You are both such wonderful inspirations. And when it comes right down to it, isn’t that what life is all about (or should be, at least), love your neighbor as you love yourself, encourage and build each other up, thereby opening someone up to infinite possibilities, so that they may do the same?. The world would be a much better place if everyone took your sentiments to heart. Yet sometimes we all need that reminder. Thank you.
    What a great way to start a weekend!

  34. Michelle

    You are a true inspiration, I love soaking up as much information from you two as possible and hope that one day I will be able to learn from you in person. Thanks you for taking the time to acknowledge everyone, no matter how small and insignificant.

  35. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    What a beautiful post and sentiment!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!

    “Most importantly, we swore to never turn anyone away who needed help and to always remember to stay grounded, humble and offer assistance when asked.”–
    Thank you for keeping it real. I have already been scared off by some photographers..feeling like my work will never measure up and I feel like I am in 2nd grade if I have a question and am scared to ask the teacher. Not a good feeling.

    Thank you, thank you, for always being there to help others!! 🙂

  36. Prerna@IndianSimmer

    What a great gesture! You guys are really an inspiration!

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