This is a long one, so get out your reading glasses and a glass of wine, and listen to me ramble and pour my heart and soul out!
I was on my way to a session last week to photograph a few horses at a barn here in Gainesville. I had been feeling extremely down, and really for no reason. Sure, I have a lot going on, but it’s all happy things! Getting married, building our house, going back to school, owning my own business… why on earth was I down?! I have been dreaming about this time in my life literally forever. Well… in a way. I never really thought I was going to meet the man of my dreams, or own my own business, or even finish college. But that’s life right? It has a funny way of surprising you.
Anyway, back to the session. I was in my car, listening to Fleetwood Mac (I started this last year when all the “feeling down” started) and I just started bawling. I mean really, it was a little ridiculous. But I started thinking about things and a lot hit me all at once.
So here goes.
Late last year I had an overwhelming sense of failure. I hit a bump in the road, as my family would say. As creatives, and business owners, I feel that it is expected of us to always be happy, to always have a perfect life, and to obviously never post on social media about anything negative or hard. “Bride’s don’t want to see that!” “They want to see beautiful inspiration and happy things!” Social media has obviously help fuel this way of thinking – we must have Insta-worthy food pics, update our story, have gorgeous adventures, and have thousands of followers. Whatever we can do to boost our engagement. Well guess what Instagram, I hit a very large road block and now I’m posting about it, so ha! The joke’s on you!
This bump, or road block as I like to call it, was bound to happen. I think it happens to more people than we realize, just no one wants to talk about it.
My joy was stolen. My creativity was stolen.
I let competition effect me, I let people get into my head, and I stopped believing in myself. I wanted to give up. To be honest, I’ve wanted to give up for about 5 months now. The business that I once fought so hard for, I wanted to quit. I wanted to sell my camera, take down my website, be done with it. Bradley told me that wasn’t allowed. Literally, those words came out of his mouth. He told me over and over again that I was good, that I needed to power through and block the negativity out of my life. Of course, I wanted to tell him to hush and let me quit, but he wouldn’t let me. I really don’t know how I got so lucky to be able to call him my boyfriend, fiancé, and soon husband. Well guess what? He was right.
I pushed through the winter, what wedding photographers call the “Off Season”. I tried to focus on my business, figure out my ideal client, revamp my pricing, blah blah blah. It worked for a little bit, but I still had that feeling that I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have enough weddings. I wasn’t getting inquiries. I wasn’t booking sessions. But again, he told me to wait.
I’ve waited. I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve had up’s and down’s almost every day. But yet, I waited.
I don’t know how many people know this, but I started doing photography over 7 years ago, when I was in high school. I was the sports photographer and co-editor of our yearbook my senior year, and it opened up this whole new world for me. I photographed every football and baseball game and once I graduated, I went to the University of Kentucky for 2(ish) years. While there, I photographed the Kentucky Baseball team, and being planted right in the heart of Horse Country, I got into equine photography. I had ridden horses since I was 6, so that has always been a huge part of my life and what could be better than combining my love of horses with photography?!
I remember sometime in 2013, I applied to photograph the North American Junior Young Rider Championship, which is basically the Junior Olympics in the horse world. I was accepted as one of the photographers, and rented this particular lens for the entirety of the event – the 70-200mm 2.8 – it was a BIG deal to me. (I still have a photo on my Instagram somewhere showing how excited I was… nerd alert).
So, with all of that being said, on my way to this session, it all just hit me. I remember why I started this journey. I started this journey to follow my heart, to follow my passion. I got into photography to capture raw emotion. To capture the connection between a rider and her horse, the baseball player throwing the winning pitch, the dad giving her daughter away to the man of her dreams, the man looking at his bride for the first time.
I didn’t expect it to be easy, and I definitely didn’t expect it to bring me to where I am today. I didn’t quit. I am following my dreams. I’m following my passion. Someone can’t take that away from me – they can take my ideas, my words, my clients, my inspiration. But they can’t take my passion. That lens that I rented back in 2013? I own that lens. The dreams of having nice equipment, working for myself, being published on blogs… that’s happened. Some how, some way, I made that happen.
I get to photograph couples in love for a living. No, I don’t have 20+ weddings booked for this year, but guess what? It’s okay. I have 10 fabulous couples that chose me to capture their wedding day. Last year, my word of the year was “vision”. I never really picked out a word for 2018, because once again, I wanted to quit. But now that it’s April, and I had this weird epiphany in the driveway of a horse farm, I figured out my word.
Believing in myself, and knowing that I can get through the bumps in the road. I’m sure this won’t be the first, or the last one that I go through. This is life remember? We aren’t perfect. But by golly, I am not going to quit, especially not because I lost my joy. If anything, it made me work harder at finding that joy, and pushing my creativity. I am here to serve my clients – whether they are brides and grooms, horse owners, moms and dads, dogs, whoever they might be. I put 110% into my business to make sure your wedding day is the best it can possibly be, and that you are proud of your images.
All this to say…
Photographers – it’s okay to be real. I promise. It’s not all hearts and flowers and cute Instagram pictures. I’m real. And I’m sure you are too. I’m an open book (obviously) so I’m always here to talk. About the good, and the bad. It’s not about how many weddings you’ve booked, it’s not about how many (or little) inquiries you’ve gotten. I’ve sent myself at least one test inquiry a week to make sure my site is working. Yes everything seems to be working fine, and no, I still don’t have any inquiries. The community over competition thing? Yeah, it kinda sucks. But at the same time, I want to support you. I want to support your growing business. There are enough brides (or couples, or families) that we can all have business. But can you promise me something? Don’t steal it… be your own self. That’s what’s important. I want to know the real you. Use your creativity that got you into this field. I promise it will be worth it.
Brides – if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. This all has been sitting very heavy on my heart for quite some time now. I’m pouring my heart and soul into my business, and this year is going to kick 2017s butt! I can’t wait for my 2018 and 2019 weddings, and to capture you and your love in love. It’s my favorite thing to capture. I am here to capture your day to the best of my ability, and present you with images that you will cherish for a lifetime. If you ever need help with planning, finding vendors, or just need a coffee break, let me know! I love everything that goes into weddings and would love to help you with yours, even if you aren’t a client!
I have struggled, and I was so ashamed of it for so long. Sometimes it takes a very big bump in the road to prove to yourself what’s important and where your heart is.