I was naive. I’ll admit that when I decided to transition from resident “girl with a nice camera who photographs everything” into “photographer” I thought it was going to be a pretty smooth ride full of creativity, happy clients, beautiful smiling faces, a full schedule, sunshine, rainbow, glittery unicorns…all that jazz. I mean, I was passionate about it, I worked hard and studied harder, my work got compliments & I was so thrilled to have a creative release from my full-time job & part-time job. Plus I was so excited to be doing something that I was obsessed with, AND getting paid for work that didn’t seem like work at all, that I was practically giving it away. Yeah. I was naive.
I realized I wanted to be a wedding photographer, without really realizing it at the time. I threw my all into photography books, blogs & websites-trying to teach myself this entirely new skill set from scratch-all the technical aspects, camera lingo and how to correctly pronounce “bokeh” & “diptych” (I still don’t have that down). I had reached out to a few other photographers in the state but got no response. My sister & a few high school friends had also gotten bit by the photography bug so we could chat about it & complain how close knit the community seemed, but being pretty green ourselves we could only offer support and 2nd hand knowledge. Plus, I am NOT competitive so I didn’t want them to feel like I was trying to take their business or copy their ideas. I got so excited when I would stumble upon a photographers website where they shared their experience, knowledge, tips & techniques freely. I became a
blog stalker loyal reader and then realized that I was not only a fan of their work, but a fan of them. I felt a personal connection that went deeper than our common interest of photography, making me realize that beyond the technical skills, camera functions, editing software there was a business. And behind that business, behind that lens, was a unique person. BOOYAH! Lightswitch ON!
Okay, well it wasn’t that easy obviously,because I was still lost as last years easter egg when it came to know what to do with my passion for photography. So I kept pushing forward the best way I knew how which was straight up do-it-yourself. I believed that I had to have a broad range of subjects & be good at all of them – children, maternity, newborns, weddings, engagements, seniors, you name it! I thought I had to offer holiday sessions, christmas cards, prints, albums, mini sessions…Seriously, how am I ever going to do it all with my day job, no budget, no business degree & not many clients? How on earth do I create a stellar workflow to tackle all of this? I quickly realized what I loved about the business and what I didn’t, what I wished I could do but didn’t. From the very first one, I knew I wanted to somehow, some way, exclusively photograph engagements & weddings – and if I felt like throwing in a senior session I could, but my business wouldn’t depend on it. But I kept asking myself, can you do that and still be a successful photographer? Sheesh, I was clueless when it came to personalizing my business & making it work for me, not me work for it.
I saw photography businesses pop up overnight in my area, I saw girls 10 years younger than me that had incredible images & tons of clients after 6 months of business, I saw photographers making the leap into full-time, I saw posts about how their schedule was so busy they had to turn people away, I saw brand spanking new websites & blogs that were unique and undoubtedly expensive yet well worth every penny.
And I saw that I didn’t have any of that. So I convinced myself I probably never would. Despite my joy for their success, my sincere support, I was discouraged by my lack of. I got sucked into the black hole of comparison, thinking I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t go to school for photography so I would never know enough, I wasn’t networking with the “in crowd”, I was too old, people didn’t like me nor did they care what I had to say, I didn’t have a support team, I didn’t have the time or money to build a small business, and so on. As a result, my creativity waned, photography sessions began to feel like work and I told myself I just had a really expensive hobby.
It was also around this time that after almost 2 years of teaming up for weddings and gaining momentum as the Goodwin Girls, that my sister & I photographed our last wedding together before she moved across the ocean. What do I do now? I felt like I was starting over from scratch. I almost rolled over and played dead. Almost. But my intense love for the craft, excitment for all things wedding, Pinterest oozing with it’s fabulousness, and a few mentors who were sent to me when I needed them the most, wouldn’t let me shut the door. They reminded me how it was love a first click when I photographed my first wedding, that one of my favorite things are the handmade & personal details that represent a couple, the sparkling engagement rings that I pray I don’t drop, how much I enjoy sending sneak peeks to anxious clients and their oh so sweet words of appreciation. I can’t give this up. I won’t give this up. I want it just as much as I need it.
The truth is I didn’t know a single thing about the photography industry or the wedding industry for that matter, and very little about running a small business, branding or marketing when I first decided to start my photography business. I feel like I still don’t. I know that knowing your camera like the back of your hand and mastering technical skills is a must to produce great images, but I know even more that it’s an emotional connection that produces incredible images. I know that a strong brand should be professional and attractive, but even more so, one that is truly unique to you and your style so you love it, you rock it, and you attract your ideal client. I know that building & maintaining a business takes passion, blood, sweat and tears, with a strong business sense of strategy, organization and marketing.
For me, this all started with a passion for photography. An obsession over iconic & emotional images. A need for connection. A want to provide a tangible memory. A way to preserve a piece of history. Nothing has changed except for my confidence in myself and my idea of success. Well, I am still figuring out what success means to me and what works best for my life & my business- so honestly I don’t know if I want to pursue photography full-time or as an awesome part-time business (where I have the choice to go full-time if I choose), but I do know I desperately want it to be more than an expensive hobby. I want to build a wedding photography business that allows me to work with super awesomely creative people, share the biggest moments of a persons life, laugh with them, cry tears of joy with them, giving them an incredible experience, all while doing what I am the most passionate about.
This year, I’m starting over with my business and I’m going to rock it. Now, where do I start….
(hopefully by winning a seat to Katelyn James’ highly acclaimed workshop, ‘cause the girl has got it going on & I’m betting she can whip me & my biz into shape