We have to talk....
Hi, friends! We need to talk. This post is going to be a bit of a journey, and a very personal one. So if you can, please bear with me. This is something I've been very torn about sharing and I've been pondering how to go about putting into words what my heart has been telling me for a while now. I'm going to take you back 8 years to when I started this business. When I first started taking money for photography, my daughter was 3 years old and my son was just 3 months old! I was excited and hopeful and thought that I had found something I could do 'on the side' in order to make a little extra to help pay the bills. I had quit my full time job as a teacher to be home with the kids while they were little, but found myself needing an outlet for creativity and a way to stay engaged. Fully intending to go back to teaching after they were a bit older, I imagined myself using my Bachelor's & Master's degrees in Early Childhood Education and teaching forever! I thought I would even go back to school and get my PhD someday! I never imagined a complete career change, but as I dove headlong into photography, I realized that I was actually kind of GOOD at it. And my friends agreed. They started hiring me. And then people I didn't even know started hiring me. I was over the moon excited! So I learned as much as I could about running a business while learning about taking pictures and I was off on a new path!
But it was a struggle to build a business and have little ones at home. I spent hours and hours on my computer, learning editing techniques, taking online classes and watching tutorials about f/stops, ISO, shutter speeds, lighting, and posing. I explored the infinite possibilities in Photoshop & Lightroom, spent way too much money on props, backdrops, actions and classes to achieve the vision I had in my head. And I was a mom 24/7 - supposedly a stay-at-home mom giving 100% to her kids. Truthfully, I probably neglected them a little too much during those first few years as I buried my face in my computer, editing the day away or sifting through forum after forum, soaking up any bit of knowledge I could. I was often away at dinner or bedtime so that I could photograph families at the "golden hour" - right before sunset most nights of the week. I spent nearly every weekend shooting family, newborn, or cake smash portraits for families who couldn't get off work during the week for a session. I even ended up weaning my son earlier than planned because I couldn't keep up with on demand and evening nursing sessions while being out with other families in the evenings around my kids' dinner and bedtime. Most people think photography is a super easy thing to do to earn some extra cash. I mean, just get a camera and editing software and you're done, right? Haha! I learned early on that it not only took a lot more money than I originally thought to keep it going and actually make a profit, but it took exponentially more TIME than anyone outside the industry imagined. But things were going well and business was increasing and I was thrilled! And even though I was stressed and sometimes frustrated, I loved what I was doing and felt like if I could just get through the first few years, and past the baby/toddler stage with my kids, it would all work out.
I assumed that when my kids got older, it would get easier. They wouldn't be underfoot, whining about needing a snack, fighting naptime, or wanting me to play with them, right? I wouldn't have to worry about childcare all the time. They wouldn't, well, NEED me as much. But now that both my kids are finally in school full time, I've found that it isn't actually easier at all. It's just...different. They do need me, maybe even more than they did when they were little. Not in the same way that they needed me back then, of course. Not like when their chubby little fingers reached out for me. Or when Mommy was the only one who knew which stuffed animal would heal their boo-boos. Not to teach them to ride a bike or snuggle with them after they fell or take them to playdates and craft with them.
No.....now it's more subtle. They need me to listen to what happened at school when I pick them up every day. They need me to sign papers, guide them to stay on task with homework, help them organize their bookbags, study for tests and know what's coming up on their school calendar. They have sports practices, play rehearsals, and of course those games every.single.Saturday.morning. They want me to take them to practice and watch, to come to all their school events and plays, to their swim meets and ball games. They need me to cook them a healthy dinner and sit together and talk each night. Also, it's tricky, raising pre-teens in the digital age. I don't have to get a babysitter anymore, but I do need to monitor their electronic usage and what they are doing online and who they are texting and FaceTiming. I need to be present and dialed in every afternoon and evening. The minutes between picking them up from school and finally tucking them in at night are jam-packed full, without a minute to spare. Weekends are the only time we have as a family to do any "fun" things, and that is around their sport schedules and social calendars.
If you want a glimpse of our crazy life from 3pm-8pm, just click below to watch a video compilation I recently made:
You might be wondering why am I writing all this? Well, as my business grew, my boundaries sort of disappeared. And I've realized lately that something has to give. It's been gnawing at my soul for over a year now and I've pretty much just ignored it. I've tried to set some boundaries, but often acquiesce to client demands or requests, trying to accommodate their schedules. I've taken client sessions on my children's birthday weekends, over holidays, & when we were supposed to be on vacation. I've missed family dinners and dance recitals and school functions to take sessions or meetings. Some of that is unavoidable, for example, with Birth Photography. For three years in a row, I spent part of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at a hospital for some portion of time to capture the birth of a baby. And I LOVE IT while I'm there! Don't get me wrong, I love capturing memories for families and literally can't count the number of families I've photographed in the nearly 10 years I've been doing this. And I am blessed to have families choose to come back to me year after year, session after session. I NEVER take for granted the fact that people choose me out of a sea of photographers and spend their hard earned money with my small business. I am SO, so grateful. But I'm realizing that my children are on the losing end of my work schedule most of the time. My health is at the losing end of my work schedule all of the time. So, I have decided to start putting my children and my family and myself back up at the top of my "to-do" list. As much as it pains me to admit it, I've been burning the candle at both ends for so many years that I don't really even know how to slow down and carve out time for us.
So, for 2018, I've decided that I'll be instituting some pretty strict Studio and Session/Reveal Hours. I'm hoping that this will help families to plan ahead, knowing what to expect from my availability and allow me to focus on my kids while they are home at nights and on weekends.
The new schedule will be as follows: I will be scheduling sessions only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-2pm. I'll be in the studio on Tuesdays and Thursdays for consults, pre-session planning meetings and Big Reveals from 9am-2pm and will only be scheduling consults, Big Reveals and meetings on Thursday evenings from 5-8pm. I will schedule one Saturday a month for sessions and will be closed on Sundays completely to reserve it for my family. I will offer outdoor evening sessions for maternity and families at the golden hour on weeknights, but will only be booking them as my calendar allows, especially during the spring and fall months (summers will be more flexible!). Minisessions will still be scheduled on weekends, but I won't be adding multiple weekend dates - especially around the holidays. Fall Family Minisessions will be booked EARLY next year - in September & October! Santa might even visit the studio in early November next year instead of early Dec. to give us a little time to actually enjoy the holiday season!
What does this mean for you, my wonderful clients? You'll definitely want to join my newsletter at the bottom of this blog/site. That will be the best way to know about special events and to book in advance for minisessions. I won't spam you (promise!), but I will be sending quarterly, if not monthly updates about special offers, minisessions, and new things coming to the studio. Following us on Facebook is great - but sometimes we get lost in the feed. If you are on our FB page, click the button next to LIKED to actually FOLLOW our posts. Also, the more you COMMENT on our pictures, the more our photos & announcements will show up in your news feed! But by following us and turning on notifications, you are sure not to miss any announcements!
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These schedule changes may also mean waiting an extra week or two for those of you with less than flexible work schedules. It may mean your session has to be planned further in advance to accommodate a week day session or my one Saturday open each month. It may mean thinking ahead for your session and booking a month or two in advance to ensure you receive the date of your preference. It's going to be a transition - and one I know will not be understood or appreciated by some. But I hope everyone will be patient with me as I figure out the best way to serve both my business AND my family. And I hope to be able to continue serving the families of Hampton Roads and preserving their memories for generations to come! I love you all and can't wait to see what 2018 brings!!!
If you've made it this far.....thank you. I appreciate your support through the years and hope to photograph your family again in 2018! Our studio will be closed from Dec. 22 - Jan 3 and then will be looking forward to a fun New Year with lots of new offerings!!
From my family to yours,
Have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year!!!