I get asked all the time how I became a Wedding Photographer and how I manage to run a successful Wedding Photography business while being a full time mom to young children, so I thought I would share my story as well as some insights, challenges, and tips with all of you.
To begin, I’ll explain how and why I became a Photographer and how my life experiences began shaping my future. I find it so interesting and serendipitous that I landed in Wedding Photography.
Unknowing Childhood Photographer:
As a young child, I was always interested in photography and imagery. I’m sure a lot of influence came from my experience growing up attending Waldorf School, and from my parents who are both artists in their own ways. Throughout my childhood, my dad would never miss an opportunity to document family or friend gatherings with vivid, artistically raw, up-close photo images of everyone’s faces. When my parents gave me my first camera, it was so natural for me to habitually carry it with me and constantly take photos of my friends (people were always my subjects), it didn’t even phase me. Truthfully, taking pictures was just something that I did; it never crossed my mind until much later that I wanted to be a Photographer ‘when I grew up’. I remember as a teenager, I would set up shots/scenes and have my friends pose for me. I would also experiment with light and multiple exposures, yet when it came to picking my free periods in high school, never once did I consider taking Photography.
My Path to “Finding Photography”:
I finished high school early through the WA State Running Start Program – working at a coffee shop during the day and going to school at Community College at night so that I could finish school ahead of schedule and go travel the world. My travels during this first trip which ended up lasting over two years landed me in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru. Later, I would go back to Peru and Ecuador and also travel through Bolivia. All the while, I documented my journey in a daily journal which was for me, how I studied and reflected on my current life and surroundings/teachings. I spent a lot of time thinking/learning about human behavior, human psychology, life patterns, our place within Nature, and of course learning Spanish. For me, documenting my travels and experiences made me realize that I wanted to ‘document life’ as a profession but I didn’t know quite how yet. I went through many cameras while there, some of which were lost/broken/stolen, but my journals become the most cherished of my possessions. Near the end of my travels, something became intrinsically apparent to me – I knew that I wanted to document human happiness – to show the world that happiness exists everywhere (even in poverty-striken third-world countries) and I realized that Photography would be my medium in which to do so. When I finally returned home to the States, I began shooting more for fun and taking on small jobs and eventually, when I was sure that Photography was it, I searched the country for the best photography school, and ended up moving to Santa Barbara California to attend Brooks Institute of Photography, where I truly thought I would become a Photojournalist Photographer and travel the world.
Evolving as a Photographer:
During school, I worked so hard at honing in my craft that I let a lot of other things in my personal life slip away and I made many mistakes which I have learned great lessons from. If I had to do this part over, I would have spent more time with my family and balanced my homework/home life a little better. As the years flew by, it became extremely clear to me that being a traveling Photojournalist would never work for me because having children and being a mom would trump everything. I’ve always loved children and my first job ever was babysitting, which later became full time nannying for other children. It hit me one day, that I would never want to leave my children for an extended period of time to go do a photo story in another country. After trying out many different types of photography including Maternity and Newborn Portraiture, Digital Retouching, Family Portraiture, and even some Commercial Photography, it dawned on me that Wedding Photography was it! I had shot a smattering of weddings throughout the years but never thought it would become my shtick. Then all of a sudden one day, it hit me so hard I knew this was it! Wedding Photography was everything that I ever wanted and more! It ultimately allowed me to capture/document happiness AND be a mom. It also came with some great perks including setting my own hours (except for the wedding days – which are usually only once per week) and provided much needed income stability and predictability.
Learning the All Important Work-Life Balance:
This one never came easy to me. I think if I did not have my children and my partner to remind me of the importance of a work-life balance, I could easily slip into workaholism. I am such a hard worker, which I am proud of, but having balance in life has brought so much more joy into my life. When my twin daughters were born, finding that balance for them was easy. They needed me so much and I wanted to be there for them that there was nothing that would stop me from putting them first. They were and still are such good reminders of the importance of stoping to enjoy life’s little moments, of play and laughter, of spending quality time with loved ones, and of being ever so present in the current moment. Now that they are six years old, I find myself cheating sometimes and trying to work late, but they don’t let me get away with it – and I’m so grateful for that. Along the way, I’ve also learned the importance of taking time for me and recently began bicycling everywhere, hiking, and gardening. For so long, I was narrowly focussed on my little world at home with my babies and my business, that I forgot to open my eyes to the beautiful that surrounds us. Santa Barbara is a special place and I am working hard at reminding myself everyday to enjoying it to it’s fullest potential.
Tips and Tricks that have allowed me to thrive at both being a Mom and a Wedding Photographer:
1. My daughters come first, but my clients come so close to first as well
2. I’ll do anything it takes to be there for both my daughters and my clients
3. I’m extremely organized and diligent about responding to clients within 24 hours
4. I have an ongoing TO DO list that I email to myself and keep in my Inbox, which I am constantly updating
5. I stop work (almost) every day when my girls come home from school to spend quality time with them
6. I sometimes work at night when I need to, in order to feel ‘sane’ and caught up
7. I treat myself to frequent massages – especially when I have a migraine or tension in my neck or shoulders
8. Now that my girls are in school (Kindergarten), I do my errands via my bike whenever possible, so that I get built-in fresh air, nature, and exercise.
9. Networking with other Wedding Photographers and Industry Professionals has brought so much more to my business and overall success.
10. Checking back with client inquiries pays off (sometimes people simply forget to respond until you remind them)
11. Looking at blogs and others Photographer’s work helps keep me inspired and pushes me to constantly grow as a Photographer
12. Submitting Weddings to Magazines and Blogs and keeping up with my blogging is a must for exposure
13. SEO is important to understand, learn, and update often
14. Diversifying Advertising Expenditures is a must, as is identifying the ones that yield the greatest return of target customers
15. There’s nothing wrong with asking for Reviews from past clients – and the more positive reviews, the more reputable you become
16. Volunteering my services here and there is extremely rewarding and personally gratifying
17. Work Hard, Play Hard. Again along the lines of that All So Important Work-Life Balance
18. Always honoring my contracts and and surprising my clients with early delivery of their images whenever possible is so great for making Happy Customers
19. Being real and being honest are very important to me and I believe directly reflect the kind of business I draw to myself and the clients I work with
20. Always striving to keep the pedals turning and keep moving forward. Being grateful and happy with where I am at today, but always reaching for the next goal at the same time.
1. It’s not easy
2. It is worth it
3. I feel blessed to be/do both jobs
4. I haven’t always been good at the work-life balance
5. I’m super passionate about both of my careers: being a Mom and being a Wedding Photographer
6. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything
7. Wedding Photography provides the income stability that is absolutely necessary when raising a family
8. Basing my hours around my family is a must
9. Wedding Photography is super rewarding – it’s what I realized a long time ago that I wanted to do – ‘document happiness’
10. Goals change and growth happens but loving the journey is the most important part!
If you’re interested in reading more about my story – here is a blog post I wrote a few years back About My Travels
Here’s another Photographer-Mom’s insight about her experience balancing both: Jessica’s Video Blog