Well, week one is off to a great start….I am on blog number two! But, I tend to get realllllly excited about things at first and over do it, so y’all might get tired of hearing from me-but for a while, here I am. I have so many things that I want to write on. A lot of them are really personal and deep to me, but until I formulate exactly how I want those to go down, I am going to continue writing about things that I feel like need to be said. With the world of Facebook and social media that we live in, there are always a lot of “Well, I heard…” and “Oh, did you hear….”, and ‘‘YALL LISTEN TO WHAT I JUST HEARD.’’ Rumors and news have always traveled like wildfire in a small town, but now with all the social media, it seems like sometimes people know things about me before I do. And, don’t get me wrong, I tend to take part in these conversations as well, and have discussions with my people in our group texts about what we read or heart or saw that day. I think people in general are nosy, and tend to want to be in the know. Honestly, I am one of the nosiest people I know. No shame, I will own it all day long. * shrug* It is what it is. LOL!
BUT, a lot of times I run into people that I haven’t seen in a while and I hear things about myself that I didn’t know…like, I am not doing photography anymore, or I am way too busy to take any sessions. So, I figured this would be a good platform to let everyone know the real reason why I have made some of the decisions that I have over the past several months to a year.
I touched on this a little bit in my first blog, but as I said, it deserved it’s own post. Because to me, it was a very big decision. Or a series of small decisions that gave me the courage to make a few really, really big decisions. They were hard to make. Because, I am a creature of habit, and to step out of what I had known for a long time and do something new was extremely difficult for me. So, I will start from the beginning to make it as clear as I can…which is probably about as clear as mud, but hang with me here..
At the end of 2017 I found myself in a really dark place. It was not only due to Photography, but, my photography was in a place that I wasn’t really that happy with. I was burnt out, overworked, and I felt like a robot. I was stagnant where I was and I was at the point that I was really, REALLY close to just quitting. And I am talking QUITTING, taking down my business page, my website, and not taking another client. Because I was that unhappy. Something that had given me so much joy at one time in my life was literally one of the things sucking the life out of me.
When I started photography, I literally had no idea what I was doing. Like, at all. I had a borrowed, nice camera that my Mom let me use to take pictures of my kids and a dream to be really great at something that I loved so much. I watched so many photographers that I looked up to, and wished I was them. I started practicing with my kids, and then other people wanted me to take pictures of their kids, and so on and so forth until I decided that I could maybe make a business out of it. So, I did. But, back then, I had no direction. I had no idea what I wanted to shoot and didn’t want to shoot …so, I just shot everything. I wasn’t very good, but I learned a lot. And I grew.
I found some local friends who were also blossoming photographers and became friends. Those friendships are still some I cherish to this day, and still call when I feel like I need a second set of eyes or someone to listen to me rant because they are the only people that “GET” it because nine times out of ten, they have been there too. And, they always answer, they always listen, and they always give me advice. I also learned during that early period that there are people in the photography world who don’t have your best at heart. Who will tear you apart whenever they get the chance. I had a LOT of photographers “slam the virtual door” in my face when I tried to reach out to them. And, I realized that I really was going to have to learn everything the hard way. Blood, sweat and tears. So, I started learning. I watched tutorial after tutorial. I joined online communities. I asked for criticism. I learned my camera inside and out, until it was just an electronic extension of my arm. And, sometimes, I still wasn’t good. But, I was better. And I grew.
So many of my friends figured out the specialty that they wanted to be in. Their niche, if you will. I still was shooting everything under the sun, and had at some point ventured into weddings with virtually no experience. THAT is something I don’t recommend to ANYONE. You can think that you know your stuff, and you can actually know your stuff, and STILL not be ready to take on weddings. They are a whole different beast. The light isn’t under your control. The decorations aren’t in your control. The location isn’t under your control. The drunkenness of the bridal party isn’t under your control. You starting to see where I am going? Nothing about weddings is in control of the photographer, except the photographer. There were always unexpected hiccups that sometimes I wasn’t prepared for, and sometimes the lighting I wasn’t prepared for either. I told myself that I loved weddings. Which, I do….parts anyway. I love being a part of people’s love story. I love watching the Father Daughter dances, the mother son dances, and the love that is in the room. I do. And honestly, that emotion is what kept me in them so long I think. Because I do love that raw and real emotion that you get at some weddings. However, my heart wasn’t ever in it. I watched my friends, the ones who REALLY loved it, put so much time and effort into their brand. Wedding shows, customized magazines to hand out with information, cute little delivery boxes….and I thought I wanted to do all that. So, I kept telling myself I would just get through ‘this season’ whatever season that was, and then I would get organized and get my life together. i would start working bridal shows. I would start networking with Venues. I would start doing styled wedding shoots. And……none of it ever happened and I got frustrated with myself. Wedding photography isn’t something that you can be lukewarm to, in my opinion. It’s just too important. There are no do overs. You get one chance. Nevertheless, all through 2017 I think I had a record number of weddings for me. A. LOT. OF. WEDDINGS. For the better part of the year, i also had a nursing job that was very taxing to my anxiety, which made everything a million times worse. I remember October being particularly overwhelming, even though October is always busy for photographers, it was worse than normal. Horrendous. I was spent. I cried. A lot. I prayed. A lot. I longed for December, because I always take December off to be with my family and to recover from the fall frenzy. Somehow I made it through October and November in this haze of a fog and December finally came. I don’t think I picked up my camera at all for like three whole weeks. I put it in the bag and I didn’t even look at it.
And then, a beautiful series of events happened.
It all started when I took my kids to see The Greatest Showman. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Since I was a little, I have found myself drawn to certain movies simply because of the look, the feel, the light, and the design of them. Hook, for example, is probably my all time favorite movie…and even though I always like Peter Pan, the look of the movie Hook pulled me in. I still watch it literally every night when I go to bed. I could recite it by heart. So, when we went to see The Greatest Showman when it came out I found myself drawn into it like I was when I first watched Hook. I cried about 6 times during the movie because it was so beautiful. I love the story, but the movie itself was what I loved. The colors, the lights, the magic. And, that magic settled itself right into me and started a fire that would end up into a forest fire within just a few weeks.
I always have ideas for magical shoots in my mind. Always have. I hardly ever brought them to life, because I either a) didn’t have time to get everything together, b)put it off and then decided it wasn’t worth it, or c) didn’t think I could properly do it justice so I just pushed it to the back of my mind. The Greatest Showman gave me one of these feelings. and I had an exact image I wanted to make happen inspired by the rooftop sheets with the little handmade projector that shined light and stars on everything. So, I bought a star night light, I hung up a old bed canopy, and I put Kenzi into a dress that we had shoved back in the closet…….and do you know what happened? Magic. When I got the image into my computer, and edited, I cried. For the first time in SUCH a long time, I had made the magic that I had always wanted to. It was everything. And it was right then and there that I knew I had to make a change. So I started scheming…
I started looking into education for myself, I knew I had always wanted a studio, and had never had the courage to learn so I told myself that in 2018 I was going to learn. And I did, and I grew.
Soon, I was branching out and shooting all kinds of things that I had always wanted to. Mostly with Kenzi, but some with other people too. I started planning mass sessions that I didn’t know if anyone would want or love, but I knew that I needed to offer them to see. I did so much education in the first few months of 2018 that my head was spinning, but in a good way. I swore off of actions and presets (tools made by photographers to achieve certain looks…similar to instagram filters) and made myself learn how to do all the things I wanted to do to my images all by hand. I never looked back. They weren’t always good at first, and I still have loads of things to learn, but I grew.
I sat down one day and REALLY thought about my business and where I wanted it to go. I felt like I was at this crossroads personally and professionally that was pretty big. Set myself a part and potentially fall flat on my face because everyone hates it, or stay safe keep doing what I am doing and be completely miserable with where I am? I am not even about to lie to you that I was scared. I know reading it now, the answer seems obvious, but at the time to me, it wasn’t. And although I have a RN job and John has a good job, at the time we still relied on my income to supplement what we needed. If I fell and no one booked, then I would be doing my family a disservice, but if I didn’t try I would be making myself miserable. So, I decided after so much contemplation to just leap and hope that people saw what I was doing and appreciated it. Because I wasn’t really sure in a world full of film looking photographers, I was the colorful and rich black sheep. Standing out was about to be either a good, or a really bad thing. And I had no idea which. But, I jumped nonetheless. And I grew.
That jump, lead to me thinking about other aspects. About the fact that when I actually asked myself WHAT I loved to photograph and WHAT made me happy……it was easy. Kids and Tweens. I have always loved chasing kids, and capturing the “themness” that they have. I love tweens because they are old enough to take direction, but still have that childlike wonder about them. It was easy to see where my arrow needed to be pointing.
And…..not surprisingly, weddings was NOT what made me happy. Because I do work a week day job, being gone all day on one of my days off, and having a wedding work hangover the next day makes me feel like I wasn’t ever getting a day off. Missing out on things with my kids on the weekends because I was working was making me anxious and jaded. I dreaded every single one. I loved my brides, and I loved being there for them, but in my heart of hearts I wanted to be home with my kids. Or at their baseball tournament, or shopping, or at the movies, or whatever they may be involved in at the time. Wedding photographers a lot of times don’t get a lot of appreciation. it is a LOT of long hours on the day of, but then almost an entire 40 hour work week to get it edited. That task itself makes me shudder and used to make me feel like I was never caught up. It’s hard. And, not everyone is cut out for it…ME being one of those people. I will take this time right here to tell you to THANK your wedding photographers. Praise them if you love their pictures. Refer them to your friends if you find a good one. They. Are. Rockstars. And I am thankful to know quite a few really really good ones that continually blow my mind with every wedding they post. Thank them, hug them, make them feel appreciated-because they are WORTH IT.
I figured out that my very best work is when I am shooting something I am passionate about. So, now, that is what I do. I shoot things that I love all the time so that people can get the very best of me. I set boundaries so that I can keep myself sane. I standardized my pricing and finally told myself that even though YES I am expensive that custom photography is a Investment, a Luxury, and ultimately an Heirloom and I am worth it. I no longer apologize for being exactly who I am, charging exactly what I am worth, and shooting only the things that I am passionate about. I will make no apologies for that. I am proud of who I have fought to become over the last year, it took a lot to get me here. I’ve learned so much. I have learned that I am good enough. I am worthy. I have learned that not everyone wants to see you succeed. Some people will put you down to make themselves look better and although it sucks to go through, it is not a reflection of you, but of the person who must bring others down to make themselves feel better or important or relevant, or whatever. I have learned that I am my own competition. That the person I have to impress is the person I was yesterday, last month, last year, ten years ago. Would my high school self be proud of the person I am today? I sure hope so. Do I make my Mom and Dad proud? My husband? My friends? My colleagues? I sure hope so. But, what is most important? I grew.
So, that’s my story. And that is why and how I ended up where I am today. Was it hard? Of course it was. But, more importantly, was it worth it? Absolutely. I would do it all over again to find myself like I have.
And, now that I have thoroughly bored all 4 of my readers…maybe three now because I rambled REALLY long this time, I think I have said what I need to say. If there is ever anything that you want to see appear on my blog, always feel free to comment it here. If you made it this far, double gold star for you today. You guys are the best, thanks for listening to my words, I love yall.
Below….the photo that started it all. <3