Becoming a Full Time Photographer | Part 2 | Personal

May 28, 2020

(If you missed Part 1, click here.)

It was 2014. I’d been shooting on and off for 4 years and was my business was HEMORRHAGING money. I had little to no income coming and my bills kept coming in month after month. I was thinking about just shutting my business down and giving up on ever being able to be a wedding photographer.

I was in a bunch of Facebook photography groups and one day in the winter I stumbled upon a post from a photographer in Cape Cod who was looking for a second shooter for the season. I quickly googled how far the Cape was (~3 hours drive), and responded to the post. It was such a Hail Mary shot that I truly didn’t think I’d ever get a response, but a week later I found myself at a Panera meeting her in person, and she ultimately hired me for the season. We probably shot around 20 weddings together that season and I was immediately reminded of why I loved it so much.

Woman standing in church holding camera

She’ll be embarrassed to hear it – but Sarah Murray saved my business and passion for wedding photography. Before I met her I was quickly going down the drain and she rescued me, taught me so much and because of her, I am where I am today. We’re going on our 5th year shooting weddings together (not as many anymore because I have my own), but every time we have SO much fun (also I love the Cape venues!). Sarah allowed me to use the images that I took for my portfolio and as soon as that had been compiled, my inquiries started to happen.

All I’d needed all along was someone to take a chance on me and help me out. I remember how THRILLED I was when someone booked me for a wedding and paid over $2,000! I’m pretty sure that I cried and was SO thankful that people believed in me. Oh, also if you’re wondering – yes, I did drive to the Cape every weekend for weddings for YEARS. Now I drive it and I’m like, “how did I not find this to be that big of a deal!?”

Once my own weddings started to take off in New Hampshire, I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t believe that people wanted to hire ME to photograph their wedding days. I started to invest more in myself – I upgraded my equipment, could finally afford to buy a camera bag that I’d been dreaming about for YEARS (I’m not kidding, I used to visit the website at least monthly and look at it ????), and dove into education. I fine tuned my editing style, learned posing tips and tricks, and started to build my brand.

I’ve talked about her before, but years ago I found a photographer named Katelyn James and consumed every single “for photographers” blog post she had on her website. I’d read all of her wedding and engagement session blogs and I would study the way that she posed her couples. I watched every webinar she recorded, and ultimately invested in a LOT of her educational programs (worth every penny).

In 2017, I randomly applied to go to Ireland for a week long photography workshop. They were only taking a handful of photographers, and I was somehow selected to attend. I hadn’t even told JB I was applying because I truly didn’t think I even had a chance to go (there were hundreds of applications). When I got the email I just froze and stared at my phone and started to cry with happiness…and for good reason, because that trip changed my life. I met some of my best friends on it and we’ve since traveled all over together. Not only was it an incredible workshop, but I learned so many different posing and editing skills that I never would have had the opportunity to know about. Those more recent trips have taught me even more because we’re always shooting together and I learn something every time we travel.

During all of this, I was STILL working full time as an EMT and my workplace situation was not ideal. There was a lot of disconnect between employees and our employer, we were being paid a non-livable wage, and it was an incredibly toxic environment. I hadn’t abandoned my dream of becoming a full time photographer but instead was starting to realize that it may be a feasible option after Ireland. I met so many women who had turned it into a full time business and I thought that it was more possible that I had previously imagined.

I started to save like crazy to potentially move to a part time position at work and be able to dedicate more time to photography. The best part about EMS is that you get paid so little that it makes you REALLY good at being poor. I worked hard to pay off as much debt as I could before I felt like I was financially ready to take the next step (this was truly KEY). In the spring of 2018, I officially went part time at the ambulance (which is 1 24 shift a week instead of 2+). I kept working and saving and paying off as much debt as possible to take the next step.

Through all of this, I kept learning and shooting and traveling and more and more was realizing that this was the right path for me. Yes, it was scary to be self employed, but as I was now able to put more time into my clients and my brand, I started to see the results. I kept hoping that I’d be able to quit my job permanently because it was getting worse and worse – but I didn’t want to leave my manager in the lurch without me. I *hated* going to work that one day a week and dreaded the feelings of depression and frustration I had when I was there.

Finally, last April, the opportunity came up to pursue photography full time and I grabbed it before I knew what I was doing. Literally. The words “I quit” came out of my mouth before my brain had time to catch up with what I’d just done. My poor husband came home from work and I was like, “Hey! Welcome home! I quit my job today!”

Has this year been incredibly scary knowing that I’m running a business by myself without a guaranteed paycheck coming in from another source? Absolutely. Has it been rewarding and hard? Also absolutely. Did it enable us to get a puppy? Yes. Best decision ever. Because of this wild and wonderful ride, I’ve been lucky enough to capture moments like the moment my brother in law proposed to my sister, some of my best friends maternity shoots, engagement sessions and weddings of people I’ve known for YEARS, and a hundred million moments in between.

I invested in Katelyn James’ business course in the winter of 2018 and learned MORE than I thought I ever could…and then had the opportunity to finally meet her at a live event she hosted for our course. Let’s just say that I cried from the realization of what a full circle I had come – literally picking apart all of her education posts back in 2012 to finally meeting her. I was so thrilled and couldn’t get out fast enough how she had helped me in my business over the years. It was embarrassing.

People told me for years that I’d never be able to be a full time photographer, much less one in a small town. But here I am, amidst the middle of a global pandemic that’s forcing the event industry to shut down…and I’ve never been more confident in my choice. I recently celebrated 1 year of being a full time business owner and cannot believe that it went so quickly. It sounds far too much like one of those inspiration posters you see in the dentists office…but if you believe in yourself and work hard towards your goals – you’ll get there one day. I’m proof of it.

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