This week I have been hours and days deep into revamping what 2014 is going to look like. I have been ordering studio album samples, hiring designers, crunching numbers, and dreaming really, really big. I have been in fight mode. The good kind. Determined to see bigger things happen and making the necessary and (scary!) decisions to see it through.
You see, in the past year and a half, I have learned the privilege of what it means to specialize.
It has been this adventure of things working incredibly well. And at the same time this adventure of learning that some things are incredibly difficult.
Specializing in my unique niche of portraiture has been incredibly rewarding. There have also been times where it has been super hard, and times where I have questioned the choices I made.
For example, exclusively presenting my work in a square size means that I cannot be featured on the cover of a photography magazine. Magazine editors are looking for “full’ size images to fill their cover. It means that I am unable to use most generic made templates and studio tools from amazing companies without a significant amount of customization, often making it not even worth the convenience in purchasing at all. It means that finding products and ways of displaying my client’s photographs takes a lot of extra work and hunting, because often there are only a few square sizes available if at all. It means having some clients really interested in my portrait sessions, only to decide to go elsewhere because they can’t seem to part with the idea of not having a 5×7. It means having a highly respected company in the photography industry suggest I allow clients to “just crop” the images “however” for the “convenience” of using their software. (I hope you can picture my face with that one.)
Exclusively booking Connection Portraits means that I have had to send well paying weddings to other local photographers, even if it meant that saying yes would pay off that credit card, or pay for my website and business insurance for the entire year. It means that I can’t charge less then what it costs me to actually run the business. It means that when everyone else is booking an incredible Mini Session deal, my inbox may be quiet that week. It means that there will be days when some people email me, and when I give them my rates they never write back. It means that I may not be able to do a lot of things like a fancy gym membership, or buy new clothes as often as I used to because any extra I have goes right back into building my business so that it can stand on its own someday.
Specializing has not always been as easy as perhaps it might look.
I have had to fight for this.
Believe in it.
Stay up late with it.
Wake up early for it.
Be alone with it.
Even if no one else “got” it. If no one else thought it would be successful. If no one else made it EASY for me.
I made this decision last year to never photograph what I didn’t want to ever again. To build a business, a brand, and (as Mary Marantz always says) a LIFE that I loved. I knew that if I stopped booking weddings that I could no longer charge $200 for a portrait session and build ANY of those things above. I knew that the brand I wanted, the life I wanted…didn’t involve 15 mini sessions on a weekend so that people wouldn’t think I was too expensive. And photographers who do? I am SO grateful for you because Lord knows I couldn’t do it anymore. I was beating myself harder into the ground trying to be EVERYTHING to EVERYONE. I was trying to be everyone else FOR everyone else, all at the same time.
My decision to change all that. Changed EVERYTHING.
I may not see my favorite portrait grace the cover of a prestigious magazine anytime soon, if ever.
I may not see my gorgeous styled wedding shoot on a blog like Style Me Pretty. (people. can we make the portrait blogs better?! Anyone?)
I may get told “No” more than I get told “Yes”.
I may have to work a little harder and dig a little deeper.
My phone may not ring as often as the girl charging next to nothing and sending a burned CD in the mail.
And I have never been more okay with it.
Because over the last few months I have discovered something. Something that I just didn’t see as clearly before. Something that fuels my fire and keeps me going when I feel alone in it, when I doubt it, and when I begin to look at everyone else and how easy it seems for them.
I don’t want to be everyone’s photographer. At all. Not even a little.
I can confidently say that I am not the photographer for the family picture in the fall leaves…just because it’s fall. I am not the photographer with the children’s wagon and red balloons to set up the most adorable Christmas Card you ever sent out. I am not the photographer who will
stuff place your baby in a bucket because people on Pinterest think it’s cute. I am not the photographer for the family reunion and twenty relatives squeezing in for the group shot of the year. I am not the photographer who wants to use seven different editing actions on an image that also had seven different vintage props.
And I can say ALL of this ^^ because I have tried every single one. I have sent the burned CD with the family’s name written with a Sharpie. I have done the September, October, and November Mini Sessions. I have raided my friend’s house for their antique home decor to use it in a photo shoot because I thought it was awesome. And tried it with gumption. With passion.
And it’s not. Who. I. Am.
It wasn’t an overnight discovery. And everyday I feel like I learn a little bit more about what I was meant to do on this Earth.
I am the photographer for the couple that just found out they were pregnant. Maybe after years of trying. Maybe after miscarriages and heartache beyond what words could ever even describe. For the maternity and newborn portraits that mean so much more than cute pictures. For the portraits that speak of God’s faithfulness in a way just as tangible as the family itself. I am that photographer.
I am the photographer for the husband and wife who have not had pictures taken of them since their wedding day. Maybe it is a celebration of all the years they have stayed faithful to one another. Maybe it has been hard. Really hard. Maybe it is a portrait session to remind them of the God who restores ALL things. For the portraits that they can give to their children as a legacy that they can make it through their anything someday too. I am that photographer.
I am the photographer for the mother who is trying her very best to raise her little girl in a world that will tell her that she is probably not pretty, not smart, and never enough. Maybe that mother fought breast cancer this year. Maybe every time of dress up with her three year old daughter was one more chance to be the best Mom in the whole world. Because for a while no one really knew how it was going to turn out. These would be portraits to tell her daughter that she is beautiful. That she is the smartest. And that she is ALWAYS. More than enough. I am that photographer.
And it’s not better than other kind of photography out there. It’s just simply what I choose to do.
So I will fight for it.
Believe in it.
Stay up late with it.
Wake up early for it.
And never. ever. give up on it.
Because even when it’s not easy. The road less traveled is always full of the greatest rewards.