When I first announced the start of my photography business in January of 2010, I got more inquiries for weddings than for anything else. The problem was, I didn't shoot weddings. I photographed families and babies. And I didn't want anything to do with weddings. What did I know about shooting a wedding? I had only practiced with children, newborns, and families for the last 9 months, how could I ever simple jump in and charge people for wedding photography when the only thing I knew about it was from my own wedding 4 years prior.
Fast forward a few years later, I had 2 close friends who were having small, informal, beautiful wedding ceremonies that wanted me to photograph it for them. I happily said yes (remember, informal, meaning they would have been happy with just a few shots of the main event), and I actually liked it. I thought, "I could do this, maybe I should do this". I began second shooting to learn more about the ins and outs and when approached almost a year later I felt ready to say yes confidently.
From there, I started focusing some of my attention to marketing weddings and trying to get more of my own all while second shooting and still shooting families and babies like I had always done. I loved documenting the day because it was the family's historical moment. I'm a dork like that, it's the moment those 2 families joined and forever changed their history! I loved that.
But I quickly realized that what I liked even more about it was the bigger paycheck up front. The hours were LONG and even when charging appropriately, I always felt I wasn't making much per hour. My legs and feet were always swollen. It usually took me 2 days to recover from wedding dehydration because no time for pee breaks meant no time for hydrating. I was starving on the way home because I only had 3.5 minutes to shovel down the "vendor meal" before someone came into the bathroom (where I might be eating it) shouting "they're about to do the first dance!" even though it wasn't scheduled for another 20 minutes. I would end up stopping somewhere for a snack which consisted of an assortment of junk (you know, the good kind from the convenience store: combos, twizzlers, sweedish fish, and the occasional bag of trail mix because that was "healthy").
It lead to my feeling stressed out all the time. Stressed about woo-ing wedding clients, taking time and money to meet them and wash my hair and look cute enough so they would want to book me. Stressed about pricing and packages and negotiating. Stressed about forgetting the damn ring shot, which I always hated and found unnecessary. Stressed about being "ON" alllllll day with family, guests, other vendors, my second shooter, and that my serious case of RBF would come to bite me in the ass later. Stressed because I knew after the wedding I had so many hours of work to do and so much money spent on film. It was all so ingenuine.
I began to think about the real reason I wanted to be a wedding photographer so badly, and it lead to a pretty gross, humbling realization. I wanted to be one of the "photography rockstars".
You know who they are. Those photographers that have the perfect about me pages with a sweet little video of them and their spouse, that have all the perfect photos of flowers, golden hour photos of a wedding couple in a location I would never ever see in Maryland. Those rockstars that had so many people commenting on their IG posts and seemed to be so #authentic and pretty and real.
It's incredibly embarrassing to share that. Really, really, embarrassing.
Because the thing is, I didn't even realize that is what I was aspiring for. And it's such a crazy and unrealistic thing to want. Not to mention it's completely opposite of my personality, but I was caught up in the social media world where everyone (ok in fairness, most people, not everyone) who #livesauthentic is probably faking it, a lot.
And the more important thing is that when I was most happy photographing, it was with my families and newborns, with one year olds and super fun, crazy three year olds. Why was I trying so hard to be something I'm not, completely ignoring my own passion and strengths?
I never had a bridezilla. I never had one of those "nightmare" situations with an Uncle Bob or a mother of the bride that I see posted in FB groups and glance over with a slight eye roll. I always had great experiences and relationships with my wedding clients and genuinely felt happy to document their day. But the feeling never left me that maybe I wasn't the right person to do it. Maybe I wasn't giving them my full attention because it wasn't my strength or passion.
Last October I had my first double header wedding weekend. And it also happened to be my last weddings ever. It has felt SO good to give the part of my business the attention and passion it deserves. I think shooting weddings helped make me a better business person. And I know it made me better at shooting those things I love to shoot. Because I now know my strengths. I know not to ignore my passion or who I am.
And I know when to say "No, I don't shoot weddings any longer, let me refer you to XYZ who would do a wonderful job for you." Even when I could use the extra money in my bank account.
Are you being true to the direction you want your business? Do you know why you are doing what you are doing for your business? If you're not sure, I encourage you to take a minute and look at your "why" and if it's not reflected in what you're doing now, change it. You'll feel much more satisfied with your own business!