As my small business grows and others become more aware of my work, I get many questions. Most frequently, “do you ever think this will be your full time job?” To be completely honest, I thought it was a pipe dream. I love photography. Other than time with my family, it’s what fills me up when I’m running on empty. Getting lost in the moment during a shoot when nothing else matters is an incredible feeling, almost addicting. Obviously it brings me joy, but in reality, could it pay the bills?
I started learning to shoot portraits when Mia, my now 10 year old was born. I had some experience photographing events in a previous job, but that was totally different than photographing people. I purchased my first “real” camera when she was just a few months old. I remember winning a contest at work with a cash prize and that’s how I bought the camera. I had my husband pick it up from Best Buy on his way home from work and I think he had thought I lost my mind when he saw the price tag, which I now know is a drop in the bucket when you start to get serious about this artform. When my oldest brother got married, I photographed his wedding as a gift. I look back now and think “why did they let me do that!” Anyway, people must have liked it. I started getting requests for family photos which caught me completely off guard. Same story… I took the photos, others shared them, and the requests kept rolling in. I was becoming what the photography world would call a typical Momtog; the industry has heard similar stories a million times before.
I became obsessed with improving my skills with the camera. I spent endless hours training myself in online courses on exposure, lighting, editing, equipment, you name it. Then I started reaching out to other photographers that I admired. So many have been helpful and influential in this journey. Cassidy Drummond, Brittany Tootle, Logan Detty, Allison of Kismet Visuals and Jesse Salter just to name a few. The input that I received from these individuals regarding the business aspect of the industry and suggestions for improvement is really what made the difference for me. I also learned that by not taking myself seriously, I could potentially be hurting the industry. That is the last thing I wanted to do and had honestly never looked at it from that perspective. At that point, I had to make a decision. Did I want to be serious about this? How much work was I willing to put into it? Did I have the potential to make this work?
I couldn’t picture my life without shooting so I decided to go all in. The first thing I did was figure out what to charge. I know, it sounds crazy, but I had no idea what it took to be able to afford the equipment that I needed and actually pay myself. Next, I stopped comparing myself to other photographers. I still fall in this trap at times, but the biggest shift in my work happened when I created what I loved, not what I thought others would want. I also upgraded my gear and opened a small indoor space above the Sunroom at the Brick in Frankfort, Ohio. I buckled down on the financial aspect of my business. My Husband is really great with a budget, so we talked through every decision together. I hired someone to help me with bookkeeping so that I knew exactly what came in and what went out.
Fast forward to the present: I am so thankful for this growing business and all of the support that I receive from friends, family, my community, and others engaging with what I share on social media. But you know what…. I am tired. Keep in mind folks, I still have a full time job as a teacher and am raising a family. My husband and children have been incredibly supportive, but I needed to be more present and less tired for all of us.
Let’s take a tangent here and talk about teaching. When I was hired as a career tech instructor for high school students I was like, “This is it, what I’ve always wanted, I know I’ll do this forever!” To add, “I’ll be home every evening, I’ll have my summers off with my kids, I’ll have allllll kinds of time… things will just be SO perfect.” Well you know what? It ROCKED MY WORLD. Like, the “having your first baby” kind of rock your world. Teaching is the most challenging job I have ever had by far. I mean, planning periods make me chuckle. There is no possible way that a teacher could prep and grade everything they need in 45 minutes a day for just the following DAY let alone a few weeks at a time. I had the privilege of teaching other people’s children. I care so much about the kids in my classroom and I wanted to contribute to the adult that they would someday be in a positive way. I did not take that lightly and I never felt as though I was able to completely throw myself into this role. Something in me was holding back.
In the last 18 months, I have felt a shift in myself. I give all the credit to God on this one. I started to feel my focus shift away from work and back to what mattered most to me; my faith, my husband, and my children. My photography business continued to grow and I could see the happiness that I was experiencing reflecting in my work. I began to feel more at ease with the possibility of making my business my sole source of income. After a pretty rough Fall in the classroom, I went out to lunch with my Husband and we made the decision that I would not be returning to the classroom the following year.
Since making this decision, I have had moments of panic, thinking to myself “what the heck are you doing?” along with moments of pure peace at the possibilities of the future. It’s certainly a mixed bag of emotions, but I plan to go at this with everything I’ve got. As Rachel Hollis says, “nothing worthwhile is easy.” I am looking forward to seeing what happens with Sweetbriar when it receives more time and attention from me, but I’m even more excited about pouring myself into my family. They have always been my priority but now they get more of me without the distractions that having two jobs can bring. I want to be completely present and in the moment with them.
I hope that you read this and it inspires you. If there’s something that you want to do with your life and you feel like it’s just within reach but not quite close enough, DO NOT give up. Stay true to yourself and who you are - let others inspire you but don’t try to become someone else. If you’re a beginning photographer or creative and you’re feeling like you don’t “know” enough or could never be as good as “THAT” photographer, remember that “in the absence of experience or knowledge, determination makes the difference between where you are and where you want to be,” also from my girl, Rachel Hollis. I am not there yet, but I will keep working every day striving to be my best for myself and my family. I hope that you will cheer for me and know that wherever you are in your journey, I’m over here rooting for you too!