Another year gone by, another end of year blog post. So I sit here, water bottle and phone beside me, dog in lap and another at my feet, and take time to pause and reflect on 2016. There is this reoccurring theme on social media that 2016 was not a good year on a widespread level. It’s funny how that can happen…how as a collective group, it can unanimously be decided that a certain year was hard. Whether this year has been hard or not, I still have hope…and for that I am endlessly grateful. I still see how the good outweighs the bad. I still see the beauty spill through. As true as 12 years ago when I first coined the phrase as my own, light follows darkness. I am very ready to change the chapter and enter into a new year but also enjoy the opportunity to reflect through words and imagery what 2016 has meant to me.
I have another blog called Emberly House which outlines in much more detail the experiences I have had this year, both heartbreaking and exceptional. It’s a personal space for my life and as a writer, it is an amazing comfort and outlet for me. I am always uncertain if sharing publicly is the right way but then I reflect on how grateful I am of all the people who have influenced my life through the written word who had to share publicly to do so. The gratefulness I feel for their vulnerability helps me grow more comfortable with opening the book that is my life and laying it out for others to see. Often the harder it is to write, the more impact it will have. So I continue to share in hopes that I will continue to reach those who need it. I will keep my thoughts in this post as an addition and not a repeat to what is already written over on my personal blog. Feel free to join me over there and read about my experiences in that space. In this post, I will aim to talk for the most part about what I have not yet shared or talked about.
Right now, as my baby kicks away in my stomach, I have absolutely NO idea what direction my life is going in other than knowing that I am going to be a mom in May, and that is the best thing to look forward to and I could not be happier. Today as I woke and felt my ever growing belly it occurred to me that I have never loved something so much. I have taken 2017 off from weddings since long work days with no breaks would likely not fair well with a newborn and little sleep. Next summer my sweet baby will be 1-4 months old and I don’t feel that is old enough to be without mom for 10-14 hour days so I am gladly taking the time off to be with my baby. That being said, I really don’t know what any long term plans are…or even how to make them when I don’t know what life will look like. I don’t have the opportunity for maternity leave and therefore no set date when returning to work is determined. Scott and I aren’t even sure to what capacity I will return to “work” in a structured sense of the word. But don’t worry – I will never put my camera down – it’s my 5th limb and will never be separate from me for long. I just really don’t know what exactly I will be doing. I actually love not knowing though. For so long I was attempting to plan and envision a life while stuck at a fork in the road and not really knowing what direction I was going to move forward in, the two paths in front of me being my life without kids and my life with kids. For that reason (since kids change everything) I always have had a sense of having no real clue what my future might look like. Even buying a house was a little weird. We bought a house with 7 bedrooms but unsure if we could even have kids (keep in mind it was abandoned and the whole thing was dark and musty and painted brown lol…so it’s not as flashy as it sounds!) We just knew we wanted a great home that would fit lots of people and would serve as a place of inspiration for us and others so we took the leap and went for it. God filled us with a dream that at the time made little sense to most people, something He does quite often. Now that we have a baby on the way, our impulsive decision does make more sense – this will be such a fun house to grow up in. We also want more kids – whether through natural conception, fostering, adoption, etc. We have no idea what the future will look like for our family but are excited for it to grow over the years as it is meant to and we know that goodness is in store.
So back to the point – what will happen to my business? Well I wrote awhile ago that one of my new goals as a professional photographer was to turn my photography into a hobby. As ridiculous as that sounds, I bet a lot of full-timers who have been in this for many years can relate. Making money through your art is a huge blessing but sometimes the art can get lost, or the motivation to create with purpose can become muddled and twisted. I always think of the title of the song/album “Give The People What They Want” by the Kinks when I reflect on what drives a business. When you can create a fusion of what people want AND what you want (and get paid in the meantime), that is true bliss as an artist. That’s the sweet spot. I definitely found it. But ever evolving, my artistic direction continues to shift and now I really don’t know what I want to do! I may completely alter my game plan. In fact, I probably will. A lot of moms get into family portraiture full time as sessions are short and fit into a schedule with kids. That’s always a possibility but I am not sure that’s the direction I am leaning in at this point. Right now, I absolutely love shooting commercial. It is a totally separate space where I can create and at the same time bless businesses, which I love. Teaching business led to an unexpected passion for growing businesses and when I do commercial jobs, I am partnering with the marketing team and their vision to help improve the success of others’ efforts and I love that! So I may continue down that path. I also love how commercial can still actually lend from my fine-art or nature/travel photography experience and therefore I can still feel like a hobbyist while remaining a professional. When I was hired to photograph a trail or children playing outside, it was simply awesome. It’s a neat hybrid. I can see myself exploring more fine-art lifestyle portraiture and offer more luxury tangible products to go with that, while also still working commercially with businesses and organizations. Teaching college also forced me to spend a long time taking a good look at today’s industry and realizing how very few photographers are even making money, and how many still don’t even realize it because they have no idea their cost of doing business. Most break even when it’s all said and done, some are in debt, and a few smart ones are turning a profit. So I have also had the seed planted to change my business around a bit. I also realized how few people are printing tangible products anymore. Images are getting lost in cyber space, or collecting dust on discs, never to be viewed as those discs will soon become obsolete or damaged. I want to give my clients the very best I can offer, and lately my mentality has shifted from giving my clients all digitals and shaking hands goodbye…to realizing that clients have no clue where to start once they have their images. Many do nothing with them but share on-line. Others print at Wal-Mart or other non-professional labs, which is basically the equivalent of buying the best music equipment in the industry, grabbing a talented artist, and recording their album on an iPhone for release. The quality is disappointing and a bad representation of all the work that has gone into the artform. So I don’t want my clients getting stuck with junky products (or no products at all) and have started researching how I would like to change the structure of my business for 2017 and onward. So that is another big change coming down the pipe.
To sum up my efforts of 2016, I was very distracted personally with fertility treatment, pregnancy, loss, and then pregnancy, and then pregnancy sickness, and now pregnancy bliss. I took on as much work as I could handle but was wise in that I booked just the right amount and despite all the good and bad that went on personally, was able to have another great year with my clients and create a body of work I am really proud of. It’s funny – because I shot way less this year (k, way more of my dogs) I was really worried of putting this post together and realizing I had nothing good to show but now seeing this collection, it helps me appreciate all the great times, either professionally or personally, that my camera was able to capture. I also love reviewing the collection as a whole and trying to spot themes that I may not have even been aware I was creating. In a lot of ways, I see something magical threading the images together – a new found sense of wonder and a new way of looking at things, even just the ordinary. I see a lot of images that are strictly documenting what was around me, going in line with my “it is what it is” mentality that carried me through the summer, not in a negative way, just in the way of acceptance, especially acceptance of things I cannot change. I see a love for animals, especially my dogs. My dogs appear way more in this set than previous sets and I have to say that this year they have meant more to me than ever before. Often, when trapped inside the loneliness that haunted me as I grieved my lost baby and the fear of the future, my dogs were sometimes the only ones who could enter in to that place and bring me comfort in the silence. They somehow knew I was hurting and brought smiles to my face when I felt like I could never smile again. I have always loved them but love them all the more for being my companions through my pain and am not at all surprised that I documented more of them this year. They are kindred spirits and mean the world to me…even though they are crazy sometimes too ;)
As for personal accomplishments or highlights, this year I was honored to work with both the YMCA and the Trans Canada Trail for their ad campaigns, which was a lot of fun. I also worked with an old pal from the music scene when I was in high school (frontman for Hello Kelly) on one of his new music projects which is the first time one of my images has adorned the front of an album so that was a cool highlight. Kind of funny, but I second shot my FIRST wedding ever this year to help out Magna…so it was kind of a totally strange experience to take the backseat after 10 years of shooting weddings always as a lead. It’s not something I tangibly could afford to do often since I limit the amount of weekends I work, but it was a lot of fun and allowed me to be creative without worrying about the big stuff, so I really enjoyed the opportunity! I also traveled to Utah and Vermont. Utah was for a Young Living business conference and was an amazing experience…and Vermont was for the wedding of two friends. We were able to do a lot of sightseeing for both trips, and took a lot of photos, many of which are in this post. Road trips are always a highlight for me…the open road is my favorite way to travel. I love the desolate little towns, the scenic views, the hole-in-the-wall diners, the music, the company, and the carefree feelings that accompany those trips. Even if the destination involves work, we always manage to take a few days for ourselves too. The memories Scott and I cherish from our road trips are some of the best we have together and definitely worth the investment! Fingers crossed baby likes the car, because it will have no choice but to get used to road tripping…lol. I don’t know if it has been mentioned on this blog before, but I am also running a second business from home as an essential oils distributor – I fell in love with EO’s when trying to get pregnant and working to overcome some health issues and now it’s sort of snowballed into something bigger and an opportunity for me to make money from home while also empowering others to pursue wellness and seek out alternative health solutions for themselves and their families. I really enjoy how this business fits into our lifestyle – especially as I transition into an “at-home momma”.
Well, I think I have covered quite a lot about 2016. To close, I’d just like to say a few thank you’s. I’d like to thank Magna for her help this year. I can never rave about her enough – she is a huge asset. One of the weddings we shot was 4 days after my miscarriage and I called her and asked for her help, even in case I just needed a breather emotionally, and she was there. I never want my personal life to affect my client’s experience but sometimes it truly is the people around you that lift you up and give you strength so you can put your best face forward. Magna has been there for me this year so much and I am beyond thankful for her friendship. Edit: she actually JUST published her 2016 Review post today! Click here to read it. She is so young and so talented – it is a joy to watch her grow into who she is becoming. Of course, Scott as always is a rock and part of the glue that holds it all together for our family. The first 8 months of this year were some of the hardest times for us because of the trials and uncertainties we faced and yet he helped make the journey one of wisdom, peace, grace, and patience because his character consistently radiates all of those things. I love him and am so excited to see him become a dad! We are both so thankful for this new adventure ahead and to welcome with open arms this new life that awaits.
Thanks as always to our incredible clients for choosing us this year. We mostly worked with our loyal, repeat clients as we limited bookings and it is always so special to see our past clients and document their growing families. We count ourselves blessed for each opportunity we had. Much love and light to you. As we transition forward into a new chapter, I hope our paths continue to cross. xoxo
Enjoy these images and please leave a comment if you’re tempted – I love reading them! Happy New Year everyone! I pray that 2017 is your year <3