“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
This week, I finally did it. After hemming and hawing, weighing the pros and the cons, discussing it with treasured friends and family, I finally took action to alter the direction of my life, and I couldn’t be more relieved.
I spent almost 8 years as a part-time photographer, shooting weddings, portraits, events, parties, and more. I always loved taking photographs, and I thought that the natural step was to take the plunge and go professional. I had a good eye and people told me I was good, so why not?
I didn’t mind in the least giving up my weekends to document major events in the lives of my clients. When I would get a new booking, I would be elated and share my joy with friends and family. Sometimes there were over 4,000 images from a job to edit, yet I was excited while editing each and every one with care.
I thought I could do it all, while holding down a full time job as an educator (and with Lupus and Fibromyalgia in the mix, too). I bought backdrops and lights. I made sample cards and albums. I joined professional associations and went to conferences because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.
And I did do it all, for a while.
But only for a while.
However, what nobody saw was how “photography” actually changed me for the worse.
First of all, I did not care for the business end of it. I quickly learned that while I might have a good eye, I did not have the persona of a savvy businesswoman…and if you are a savvy businesswoman or man, may I say that I admire you! My ethics and morals came before the prices I charged, and I always put my client before my profit, no matter what I had to give up. Believe me, I know what other photographers charged for their work, but I could never bring myself to that level. Perhaps it was because I didn’t feel worthy, or that my work was good enough. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter now.
Secondly, it became more and more difficult for me to properly do the job of a photographer because of my health. What most people don’t know is that after every wedding I shot, I was laid up for two or three days afterwards and could hardly walk. The sudden increase in activity, the stress, the long hours on my feet triggered my Lupus and Fibromyalgia symptoms terribly. Thankfully, my health never resulted in me having to cancel a gig, and I always let my clients know of my condition and what Plan B was beforehand. Even an hour long beach portrait session took a physical toll on my body. Exhaustion, headaches, and leg pain are the norm on a good day, let alone on a day when I have extra activity.
I began to realize the sacrifices I was making in order to record someone else’s life events, and I no longer wanted to compromise my health for someone else. I no longer wanted to miss my family events to photograph someone else’s family event. I wanted to live my own life, not document other’s lives.
Additionally, as the list of professional responsibilities as an educator has exponentially grown over the past few years, I had less and less time each year to not only accept photography gigs, but also to edit the photos, design albums, market my services, attend trade shows, and more. I could not keep up with other area photographers who were able to pursue photography as their only career: their marketing, their equipment, their editing, their studios were always superior because they had the TIME to dedicate to their craft, time which I did not have.
The personal frustrations of turning a loved hobby into a career, at times, resulted in me actually hating photography, something I never confessed before now. But it wasn’t photography that I hated; it wasn’t putting the view finder up to my eye and capturing what I saw. Instead, it was everything else having to do with the “photography” end of it.
And I gave into that hated and put my camera down for a long time when it came to taking pictures of people I care about, or of my own life events. And at what cost? Not having my own photos of, say, my father and I at Thanksgiving, or my father in law and I at Easter…photographs that can never be taken again because both passed away last year.
I hate that I let that hatred affect my life. I hate that instead of real pictures, I have to rely on mental photographs of many people I love and care about who have passed on.
This week, like I said, I finally took action. First, I deactivated my portfolio site, which hasn’t made a sale in over 3 years. I cannot not justify paying a pretty hefty yearly fee in case someone might want to buy one of my photos for cheap. Additionally, I deactivated the url address I used for my business. Again, no hits in a few years, so no justification to keep it.
It was time for me to do this. And as I read both cancellation confirmation emails, I was filled with reassurance and contentment.
I am eternally grateful for the clients who put their trust in me to document their weddings, their milestones, and their events. Words cannot express how flattered I am that you thought my work was good enough for you. I am who I am today because of all of you. YOU are what brought me to this epiphany.
Today, I am MORE than just a photographer. And “photographer” is no longer my sole identity.
I will still photograph school events and get excited when, for instance, I capture a soccer player mid-air with a soccer ball pressed up against his head, the moment a baseball player makes impact with the baseball while swinging, or a cheerleader in a perfect layout more than two stories up in the air.
I will still educate my students about photography and techniques they can use to capture similar images.
I will still photograph my niece and nephews, from being silly and selfies to milestones and card-worthy portraits.
I will still take photographs of where I go, who I am with, and what I see.
I will still share my photographs with you.
Not because I am a photographer.
But because I love photography.
And I will photograph and document MY life as I live it: MY travels. MY celebrations. MY sorrows. MY days. MY sights. MY memories.
MY LIFE on MY TERMS.
What a sigh of relief.