I’ve been a wedding and event photographer for seven years and have been fortunate enough to work with some of the best couples, families, and business peers in the world. When I would tell others what I did for a living, many people would shudder at the thought of the stress and sacrifice that must accompany such a profession. While I would agree that it HAS been some of the hardest work I’ve ever encountered in my life, I can honestly look back and know that these extraordinary connections have made it all worth while.
Never before have I been able to witness the private lives of friends and families bound by unconditional love. Never before have I seen such acts of kindness and gestures of loyalty. We had such fun adventures in your engagement sessions! Your weddings unveiled the pride in parent’s eyes, the heartfelt toasts by best friends, and those planned (and unplanned) moments that lead to raw emotion and authentic personalities. We laughed, held our breath, and even cried together.
HOW I STARTED:
After moving to North Carolina, and proposing to my wife in 2007, I soon discovered my passion for photographing weddings and special events. The inspiration hit me out of nowhere as we discussed our personal choice for a photographer. As we jotted down a list of traits we we’re looking for, I felt this moment of “This is me!” followed by “I NEED to do this!”
Those first few years were filled with a lot of gratis shoots and event donations to help build my portfolio. Then I started to receive referrals… and before I knew it most venues and peers had added me to their preferred vendor lists. For the last five years I had more work than I could handle. I even booked several destination events and traveled to some amazing celebrations in places as far as Greece, Hawaii and Italy!
With such wonderful memories (and a thriving business) you may be asking why I would need to stop. The short answer is “timing.” My wife’s company had been purchased by a larger company in Boston. While we loved North Carolina (and knew we would miss our friends terribly) the allure of living in a larger city (which neither of us had done before) was exciting. I postured that photographing in such a diverse city would breathe new life into my business and craft.
OPTIMISM VS REALITY:
After taking our leap of faith and moving to Boston, I immediately jumped in with positive enthusiasm like never before. I was determined to reboot my business and grow personally and as an artist. I joined several networking groups and attended every meeting possible. I did free engagement shoots again to begin building my local portfolio. I volunteered for dozens of charity events and personal parties and fostered lunch meetings with anyone that was interested. I even went to such great lengths as to document thirty Boston venues with hopes of strengthening my relationships in the local community. You can probably see how much time I poured into these endeavors.
It quickly became evident that all of the blog posts, marketing, web SEO, and personal relationships I had built in North Carolina couldn’t push my local Boston business forward. I was in limbo. Most NC couples found it difficult to incur the additional travel costs and local Boston couples and peers already had their favorites. For awhile I didn’t let this deter me, but over time I realized that I needed to be honest with myself. Despite the promotional efforts and new referrals from my newfound friends, I realized that it was going to take at least three years to achieve stability. I had to weigh my options.
HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR ME:
For fear that I might come across in a negative tone, I had considered omitting this section of this post. But then I determined that it might lend some perspective to anyone else that’s encountering similar decisions in their life. So, here’s a list of additional reasons as to why I’ve decided to move into the next phase in my life and career.
- Most successful businesses (including photo studios) depend on local interactions and relationships. If I were to consider leaving New England I would need to start over (yet again) and close the business at that time anyway.
- For seven years I’ve given up most of my weekends for weddings, events, engagement shoots. It’s impossible to plan ahead and the result has been missed parties, a best friend’s wedding, and the inability to attend social functions with my “weekday working” friends.
- Boston’s wedding season is 3 months shorter which further amplifies the above statement. Most events are held during the best parts of the year in which I would essentially be working.
- While I deeply value the individuality of every artist, I also believe that some parts of the industry have become homogenized. There are many factors driving this but it’s harder than ever to make a unique impact under time constraints and mounting pressures. One could argue that this elevates the craft in some areas but also stifles creativity in others. None of my couples view their wedding photography as a commodity but it’s simply harder than ever to find them.
- Each year I’ve seen an increase in difficulty to price my services in a way that allows my business to remain healthy. With a growing list of talented photographers that are willing to discount their services (for various reasons) I’ve found it difficult to cut through the noise and educate potential clients on the value of my work and the commitment I provide to a unique experience and result.
With all this said, I can honestly say that I’ve attracted clients that value my work and style above everything else. I’ve received lengthy reviews that make me tear up when I read them and can vividly remember all of the great people I’ve met. I have no horror stories. I mostly hold personal tales of compassion that has made me more appreciative for those in my life.
In addition to the above shifts, I feel in my heart that this has been a blessing in disguise. I’m embracing this decision and resulting change. I’m excited about the new direction I’m taking. For those that know me best, you’ll agree that I’ve always been an creative entrepreneur at heart. As I’ve grown older I’ve started thinking about the future as well. For twenty years, I’ve traded my time for money in service based professions and feel as if I’m now meant for something more. I want to evolve my life into experiences that help and inspire others as opposed to a focus on the origins of my next paycheck.
I never wanted to grow Luster Studios into a huge operation. I’ve had opportunities to add associate shooters, franchise the brand, teach workshops, or simply charge more and shoot more. I believe that anyone can be a rockstar if they work hard enough. For me, none of these options were appealing. I’ve always valued quality over quantity. The fact remains that you it’s been difficult to attract quality inquiries when you’re starting over.
My singular goal has always been to provide the best photography possible at a price that would allow me to give my time to those that connected best with me. From my epic full day engagement sessions to my in-depth editing of every single photo, I can walk away knowing that I always gave 200% in everything I did.
If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU for sharing this journey with me over the years! I will be finishing my current commitments for 2014 and will only be accepting special requests and destination opportunities in the future. I hope I can continue in some way with those that seek me out.
I am currently launching two NEW endeavors. Hooray for clarity!
The first is an online platform for creative entrepreneurs. I hope to inspire and educate, help others improve their small businesses, and teach passive income techniques and social media strategies. My goals will include launching a podcast, becoming a keynote speaker, and authoring various new media. The brand is called www.MODERNPRENEUR.com and the FACEBOOK FAN PAGE is up and running. I’d appreciate any input or participation.
The second path I’m exploring is that of software developer and app creator. I’ll be seeking ways to streamline (and improve) several markets through cutting edge technology. There may even be a few entertainment projects along the way. I’m excited to help the event industry as I already see a lot of opportunity for us to improve our business processes.
At my core, the current battle cry is to improve other’s lives through education and to pay my knowledge forward. For those I’ve gotten to know, thank you for your trust and support. I hope this new path will lead to amazing things for everyone.
Please know that you’ve created just as many wonderful memories for me as the ones that I’ve been able to capture. Above all else this means the most to me.
Much love and please stay in touch.