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Meet Duffi Finnegan Crowson of Chaotic Perfection Photography in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Duffi Finnegan Crowson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Duffi. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
My journey with photography started in high school when I took it as an elective class in my senior year. I thought it would be an “easy” class to take the first period, especially after early morning swim practices.

This was back in the days where we used film, processed it ourselves in the darkroom and made our own black and white prints. I used a Nikon camera my mom bought my dad in the mid-’70s. That class was responsible for teaching me the basic principles of photography, like the “rule of thirds,” the exposure triangle and leading lines.

When DSLR cameras were new, I bought one but didn’t really learn how to use it, shooting in Auto and taking it on trips to Hawaii to take landscape photos. Fast forward to 2013, when my son turned one year old, and suddenly my iPhone wasn’t keeping up with him running around. My mother-in-law just happened to be selling her Nikon DSLR, so when I offered to buy it, she graciously said I could have it.

Since I hadn’t spent money on the camera, I decided to invest in taking classes to learn how to use it. My first class was a “Digital Photography for Parents” class. I continued to take pictures of my son and of my friends and their children at birthday parties and other gatherings, continuing to learn and soak up all I could about photography.

In the fall of 2015, I lined up several friends and their families to be my “guinea pigs” to see if I could take family photos. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the pressure of delivering something I could be proud of, and that families would love to show off. Luckily, I did it!

My friends adored their photos and encouraged me to move forward with starting my own business. In early 2016, with a 4-year-old and one year old, and with a full-time corporate job, I launched Chaotic Perfection Photography and haven’t looked back!

In college, I majored in Broadcast Journalism with aspirations to become a reporter – I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, whether it be relating my own life events to friends, or passing on the stories of others. Photography just seems to be a natural extension of that storytelling. Now I am telling the story of my clients and their families.

Has it been a smooth road?
When I started my business, I had a full-time corporate job in marketing that was fairly demanding, along with two very young children at home.

I was balancing my “real” job and the income provided which was necessary to support my family, with a hobby that turned into a profitable passion. I would work Monday through Friday, and then on weekends, I’d be out doing photography sessions.

It created some stress at home because my husband saw how much I loved what I was doing creatively with my photography, and wanted to support me, but it took away from weekend family time and left him to shoulder those responsibilities.

It was especially hard during the later part of the year when my corporate job was ridiculously busy, but it was also “family photo season” because of holiday cards and gifts. For about the last three-four months of the year, I’d be working 18 hours a day.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Chaotic Perfection Photography – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I frequently get asked how I came up with the name, “Chaotic Perfection Photography.” After we had kids, my husband and I would often refer to life as chaotic perfection.

With having two little boys at home, life is chaotic but perfect, and we wouldn’t change anything. My oldest needs to go to baseball practice, while my youngest needs to go swim lessons. They literally climb walls and can turn any piece of furniture into a jungle gym. One is sick and gets better, just in time for the other to catch it. Then it’s my turn. And then my husband’s.

Running through the house in their underwear with lightsabers. Trucks. Superheroes and Star Wars. When I started thinking of what my business name would be, I wanted to do something different than using my name. Chaotic Perfection stood out because I knew it would resonate as a family photographer. Many times, when I am talking to potential clients – the mom – they comment on how much they love my business name and how it stuck out to them.

If there are chaotic moments during sessions, like a toddler tantrum meltdown, I continue to take photos because those are real moments and emotions, and they should be captured too. The parents and I will share a laugh about it, and they are among some of my favorite images. I’ve always loved working with children of any age – as a young teenager, I was an avid babysitter, and then I taught swim lessons when I was in high school and college.

Now as a mom myself, I recognize how to approach different personalities (when I need to be more soft-spoken, or more boisterous and funny), or when a child might need a break. I also know how stressed mom is to make sure their photo session goes smoothly and I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen – whether it’s consulting on the location, wardrobe, bringing my own treats and bribes, or acting like a complete idiot to get the absolute best and most natural smiles.

My corporate background in marketing and client service also play a part because I am constantly trying to think of ways to improve the client experience, what value-added services can I include (like wardrobe styling or hair and makeup) or new session ideas.

I’m also very diligent about following through on ideas I have for special sessions – whether it be finding a VW Bus for beach sessions or a vintage red truck for Christmas Tree Farm sessions. I’m already mulling over ideas for fall 2019 sessions and what I can do that’s new and different. Once I conceptualize a session in my head, there’s really no stopping me from executing it. I feel honored to capture memories for “my” families, to freeze those moments in time, in a way the family will treasure.

My goal is always to make the session fun for the kids (we play a lot of games!), ensure dad has a good time and feels engaged, and make certain mom is happy with the end result (the images!). The messages I get after I have delivered the images, when I read that someone has cried looking at them, or I’m a “magician” for capturing images of a happy toddler who moments earlier was in full tantrum mode, or when clients send me pictures of my art hanging in their homes, make everything I do worth it, and then some!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and the least?
I’m a 4th generation Orange County native, and I love living here – I can’t even wrap my head around living anywhere else because this is all I’ve ever known.

I love the diversity of locations we have at our disposal and how they play their own special role in the images. The beach, urban city, wide open spaces, mountains, desert, historic Missions — we really do have it all! Endless locations!

When I start discussing locations with a client, my first question is always the same: “When you close your eyes and picture your family, where do you see yourselves? What do you want to see on the walls of your home?”

If a family doesn’t like the beach and never goes there, they shouldn’t take photos there!!! And I’m happy to find a location that does fit their family personality.

Contact Info:


Headshot Image Credit:
Rebecca Thacher Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Donna J Smolak

    March 13, 2019 at 22:11

    fabulous article and description of your life, beginnings and passions. And they are most evident in your photos. You sound a lot like my God Daughter. Best wishes for your continued success.

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