I follow a photographer and have for years and years, that I just feel connected to. I admire her work, I admire her systems and beliefs. I admire her strength in what she has been through in life. I purchased a course from her last month and listen to her talk about growing a business and caring about people in the process. Not just caring by giving a wedding gift to your clients on their big day, but really caring. Caring about what they love, what they’ve lost, and who they are. I think I relate to this photographer, Katelyn James, so much because I have always been this soft-hearted empath. I mean, I cry when I watch the Olympics, Super Bowl commercials, and inspiring movies. I cry at weddings almost every time I’m photographing them, even if I don’t know the couple very well.
Today, I’m listening to a particularly moving segment from this photographer’s course. She showed eight images of past clients she has had and spoke about them. One bride’s mother passed away just seven days after her wedding, one bride lost her father just a few months before her wedding. I’ve been crying for an hour after listening to these stories because they moved me so deeply.
Women in business have also been hardened by society. The “boss babe” mentality of scaling businesses and being super successful has really hindered what being a woman in business is actually all about. As much as I love Beth Dutton, we don’t have to be like her to win. We can have moments of weakness, be vulnerable, share our battles and our wins, and be true selves in front of our people. We don’t have to have the mentality of trying to overtake the patriarchy by being a hardened businesswomen. Women are powerful, intelligent, and driven. But we are also nurturing, caring, and loving. We don’t have to choose one or the other. We can be like Beth Dutton with her adopted kid that she has a certain soft spot for and her father, John. We can also still be like Beth Dutton who survives an explosion and protect what’s hers at all costs. There’s a place in the middle that we need to find and get comfortable in.
Photography has become painfully business-like, but to me, it has always been about capturing special moments, seeing things from a different perspective, interacting with people in hopes of making their day better, and capturing moments that are important, giving back to the community through my abilities. Photography has become cutthroat, highly competitive, very saturated, and has absolutely let down the great opportunity we have to unite and love. It has created a culture where there is almost no choice but to get down and dirty to succeed. We compare ourselves to each other constantly, measure up how many followers and engagement someone has on Instagram, and refrain from recommending other photographers if we’re not a good match or already booked. We have become the mean Beth Dutton to each other, and that’s not really cool with me.
It’s easy to get caught up in figuring out how to win, how to raise your prices and become the top local wedding photographer, how to be the one that gets all the calls and all the venues. It’s easy to say “I’m the best and that’s all that matters.” But does that matter? Not really. What matters is that my people, my couples, and my families, are taken care of. I’m not here to be the most sought-after photographer, I’m here to capture those moments of brides with their mothers and fathers. I’m here to document the love between a bride and groom that have waited years to get married. I’m here to get connected to people so that I can document their stories in ways that are unique to them. I’m here to be inspired by the groom and grandmother dance that has me in a waterfall of tears. I’m here to capture that vulnerable moment with your mom as she looks at you in your wedding dress just before you marry the man she finally approved of. I’m here to make sure you have your bouquet dried off before you walk down the aisle and your eyelashes look bomb.
I’m the photographer that cares enough about your story that I cry with you for these moments, that I give you the opportunity to make payments over a year even if you get married before it is paid in full because I don’t want to add an ounce of stress, that I use part of that money to go toward helping children through photography. I’m the photographer that feels uncomfortable telling you all of this because I don’t want it to come off as sales-y but I know I need to because it matters to me and it may matter to you. It matters that I want to know your favorite color and your mother’s name. It matters to me that you know I’m not here to make money, but here to tell your story, to put the money I do earn toward something good, and toward reaching more couples and families whose stories I can connect with and document.
Photography was never about “making it” for me. That’s why I waited so long to actually consider it a viable career option. I charged very little because I had another job that put food on the table and I wanted to do it. It was fun for me and I charged enough that I could afford my gas and editing software. Now it’s my livelihood, my full-time job, my lifelong career. Which means I have to charge more and figure out how to make a solid living. And I don’t want to! My photographer friend thinks I’m crazy to offer payment plans for family and senior sessions, but I truly just want to provide a great experience and beautiful images, not just make money. I mean it when I say “if I could do it for free, I would.”
So, all of this to drive this point home: photography is a creative passion, a way to connect with and create some change, and it is my very enjoyable job. I may take the last photos of someone dear to you at your wedding that you’ll be able to cherish forever. I may capture a moment with your sister just before the ceremony that no one else saw. I may show your eight-year-old neice how to use my camera during the reception and she goes on to become a successful landscape photographer. Maybe I make you laugh so hard you snort, or bring Nana’s plate to her, or show you how to cut your wedding cake. Whatever it is, I’m honored and ecstatic to be a part of your life whether it be during your wedding or a cool spring evening with your family.
I’m not sure what all of this was, I just needed to write it down and share it. I hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas week!
Dec 20, 2021