Where do I start? What do I say that I haven’t read in other photographers’ blogs half a dozen times myself?
I will start at the beginning–the beginning of my career as a photographer. To be more specific, the beginning of my photography business. As some of you know, I started in Photoshop thanks to a Christmas gift as a pre-med student at Baylor (of all times and places to start!). After years of personal edits using the program, I started working for a photographer in Waco. I worked for a man who loved photography so much for photography’s sake that he couldn’t help but teach it to any of us who worked for him and even to clients whose sessions took place in his studio.
When I moved back to North Fort Worth to start my life over, I decided to take the knowledge he had taught me along with what I had learned about images through the editor’s eyes to pursue photography as a source of income. In the 2 years I worked in that Waco studio, I became the office manager and learned what a hard industry it could be and how little of the session fees and sales turned into personal income for the business owner. I took the massive amount of information I sought out about the industry and how to run a profitable business during those 2 years as office manager and was sure I could “make it work” if I did it right–which would take A LOT of work.
I was single without children and recently moved into my parents’ home for my transition, so I took temporary unrelated jobs and contract work while I tried to establish my work and my business in that first year.
Here I am, 8 years later, with 2 children and a husband working toward a new career path he is passionate about and with a few years of schooling and training ahead. Here I am, 8 years later, still struggling to get my business started. I know it must look successful–to be the official photographer for organizations and to have had a real, commercial studio space. So many times, I looked at my own progress–sometimes in terms of income growth in the early years, sometimes in terms of my actual photographs, and sometimes in terms of clients who became friends and wouldn’t want anyone else to photograph them. I remember when I photographed my second breastfeeding session and my client spoke on camera about the experience. At the moment (and every single time I viewed the video) I thought, “THIS IS IT! I finally found it! What I was supposed to do, and I’m actually doing it!” But, most months I just advertise and market. (Transitioning from employee to business owner, I knew the majority of the work would be the planning, the marketing, etc., but so much of the last 8 years has been ONLY doing those things–to prepare and build so that when all the hard work paid off with steady work from month to month I could keep up or easily incorporate help into my systems. Literally, the first 2 1/2 years were mostly planning and advertising with a few sessions a year spread throughout–most of which were free.) Because I need the income for my family, I don’t do free sessions just to fill up the calendar or to look busy for the sake of looking busy anymore. I no longer do huge giveaways for sessions plus almost anything you could possibly want from them. I used to spend anywhere between 40 and 60 hours every week studying, planning, designing, advertising because I wanted to do my best and reach people. Only about 10-15 hours was spent working with clients each month, usually only every other month. That was even after Tristan was born. I had so many plans…
I wanted to reach women. I wanted to be one of those stepping stones to better self-confidence for them. For women who usually avoid mirrors or look at them to tear themselves down, I loved giving women images of themselves they couldn’t stop looking at. When I began, I never thought my business would be about celebrating motherhood, let alone breastfeeding, but 8 years later here I am.
I love that I do. I love the impact my imagery has on women, children, and families. I like to think it has had an impact–however small–on society beyond my clients. I believe that imagery–particularly when printed and displayed–can play a role in the foundation of our self-concept. I believe it goes beyond the very un-superficial issue of body-image many of us struggle with. I believe it can be the reminder of our roots and identity within our families and relationships–especially for children who need a constant and easy-to-access reminder of who they are, a reminder that they are a part of something with people who know their worth and love them. Portraits won’t prevent or treat depression, eating disorders or suicides, but they can help anchor us as proof that we have been woven into something beautiful and that we are not alone. They can remind us we have a place in the world, and that is where we all begin. Getting portraits made can be an act of celebration for who we are or the seasons of life we have come through, and it can even be a rebellion against what we fought hard to overcome.
I and my own family are in a season of our lives where I need to step back, in a significant way, from my portrait business. I need to focus much more of my energy and my passion on my family, my home, and my mental health. Over the last 2 years, my passion has waned as my energy felt too split and as I was worn out from depression as well as anxiety over making the business work and to make all the things happen that need to happen within my family. I made mistakes over the last 2 years which were completely contrary to all those early plans and hours upon hours I spent learning and setting up systems. I let some people down as I struggled, and stepping back to make a new way is the only way I can think to prevent that from happening any more. I will be continuing the portrait business part-time, so that I can both honor my personal life and those who seek me out to create portraits. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had, ways I have been invited to serve, the support and encouragement I have received even from those who didn’t have a session with me yet, the incredible wisdom and knowledge I have gained from clients and other women through my work, and for the income I have made over the years. There have been times when this business helped pay a few utility bills, groceries, and paid for birthday celebrations and holiday gifts for the kids. That will never be lost on me, no matter how many or few sessions I take on as a photographer. If you ever shared an image or post of mine, if you ever referred anyone to me, and certainly if you came to me for a session (or several) I am more thankful than you know. Those precious few of you who have come to me year after year, new baby after new baby it’s more than thanks I owe you. Still, thank you.
I will absolutely honor the commitments I have made to my clients, gift certificate-holders, and organizations I am partnered with. As you have seen, since September I am now operating a primarily mini-session-based business. I will have a very limited number of custom session dates available each month as well as a number of mini session dates throughout the fall. The number of custom sessions I will take in 2018 will be very limited as I will still offer mini session dates. There are only a few dates left for 2017, so if you are interested please check the mini session page. I will keep that page up-to-date as I schedule 2018 dates, so do keep an eye out there.