It’s that time of year when I can barely breathe. Two weeks ago I spent 8 hours driving north to photograph a wedding and 7 mini sessions. This past weekend was spent driving 10 hours to photograph a wedding. Oh, and stopping along the way to photograph a 2 hour family session. Before that, it was weekends spent second shooting weddings, answering countless emails, calling potential couples (it’s engagement season), editing for other photographers (alongside my own work), booking family sessions, boudoir sessions…BREATHE.
I have to remind myself that this is the season. The holidays are near. Everyone is ready to book, thinking about holiday gifts for family and friends. It’s the time of year that is to be spent with your loved ones, and it’s also the time of year that I barely see mine.
“This glass of wine would sure be nice if I could share it with someone.” This is the thought I had after arriving to my AirBnB, alone, for my wedding 2 weekends ago. I had been on the road for hours and had finally grabbed a quick bite to eat and a bottle of wine. I went back to my AirBnB, poured a glass, and turned on the TV. I stared at whatever show I was watching, blankly, zoning out with feelings of anxiety.
I’m a wedding photographer. There is always anxiousness, always. I’ve been photographing weddings since 2007, and I still get a pit in my stomach with each one. This is not a day that I can do again if something goes wrong. These are photographs my couples will have for a lifetime and I only get one chance. The amount of pressure that puts on a person is indescribable. As an introvert, I have to be “on” the entire day. I become a stylist, therapist, and best friend. I have to make sure that my film is safely stored, and that my flashcards are downloaded and backed up immediately. I have backups of all of my gear in the event that something just stops working (YES, this has happened). I am insured to protect myself and my clients, but what if? It’s the thing we fear the most and something that isn’t talked about a lot. What if someone robs me on my drive back to South Florida and they take my camera case, which has all of my flashcards and film? What if FedEx loses my film? (This is why I back everything up on digital, but it’s still super scary). What if I get super ill and can’t photograph the wedding? (Yes, I have something in place for this, but can you imagine? It’s every photographers worst fear). What if I’m going through a divorce and I have to show up and put a smile on my face and act like being at a wedding isn’t destroying me? What if someone in my family just died? What if the airplane I’m on has overhead compartments that are too small to fit my camera case and I have to gate check it? (This has happened several times. You should see me. I take everything out of my case and wear it like a crazy lady. I’m shoving flashes into my purse, putting multiple camera bodies around my neck and shoulders, putting film into my pockets, etc). On top of that, what if there is bad weather and my flight keeps getting delayed and delayed and delayed? (Yes, this has happened and why I fly out two days before the wedding and not the day before).
I am someone who already suffers from anxiety and everything I listed above eats away at me with every wedding.
Lonely. This is how this job feels most of the time. I’m on Facebook throughout the day so that I can feel like I have teammates. So that I can have someone to talk to. My failures are my own and so are my wins. Every year I wonder, “Is this the year people will stop believing in my work? Will they just not inquire or book?” I’ve been so fortunate and my business has grown every year since starting it in 2010. But, it’s the reality of working for yourself.
Why? Why do I do this? I will be real with you and tell you that I think about this often. When I get told that I’m too expensive. When I realize how much I have left after expenses and taxes. When I see how much I’ll be paying for health care. When my camera just stops working and I know that I’m about to spend thousands. When I get the bill from my film lab. When I get countless emails of couples just price shopping. When I get someone who loves my work but I never hear from them after sending pricing. When I haven’t gotten an inquiry in days, or weeks.
There has to be a reason I put myself through all of this madness, right?
YOU. You are why I do this. When I open an email and I read this:
I just wanted to thank you again for performing such beautiful work photographing our wedding. As you know, having my grandma there and her walking me down the aisle was one of the most defining moments of my life and you captured the moments, and her, in such a unique and perfect way.
I lost my grandma last night and having these photos is irreplaceable.
Thank you for providing these memories for me to look back on with such vivid clarity.”
I was at a stoplight when I opened this a couple of days ago. I stared at it for a while. I get so in my head about people not booking me. I get so in my head about not being exactly where I want to be with my business. And then, then I get emails like this. I can’t tell you how many I’ve gotten like this. I start to remember why I’m the crazy woman, on the plane, with bags and cameras wrapped around me. I remember why I spend so much money on backup equipment that I might not even ever have to use. I remember why I drive countless miles to stay in hotels by myself, eat by myself, go to bed by myself… I remember why I do any of it. It’s because I care. I care so deeply about everyone who steps in front of my camera and allows me to create. I care so deeply that someone chooses me, ME, to capture the most important moments and milestones in their lives. When I’m having those moments of doubting my career, it’s not because of anything else but my selfishness.
I am here to service others. I am here to capture the stories YOU are desperately trying to tell, to scream. This job isn’t about me, if it was, I would have quit years ago. It’s demanding, incredibly stressful, and awfully lonely. But, I do it because it’s beyond me. I do it because my story is nothing without telling yours.