10 years ago today I shot my very first wedding :)...
I'm gonna be honest, I have thought of this day all year. I have dreamt up promo launches and fancy videos and feature posts....
but today, I paused it all and just have to say thank you. thank you to those who have encouraged me, invested in me, been patient with me in the busy seasons and reminded me of His perfect provision in the good and the hard. I sat down this past week to map out the timeline of being a photographer. This is mostly a table of contents for my brain and the conversation of "how did you become a photographer" Read if your interested. Comment if you can. Otherwise--thank you for being here and for being part of the journey. :)
January 2008 - I PICKED UP MY FIRST DSLR and took a local community college course which I failed miserably--mostly because we had our first baby during finals week and didn’t quite finish. :) I did, however, learn about prime lenses and my instructor had a coffee shop meet up and took a portrait of a little girl standing near a window that turned my head. I loved what he froze and the light that he captured--it was something beautiful and real. I wanted to capture people like that.
August 2008 - My first official wedding….and I didn’t know WHAT the crap I was doing. I floundered more than thrived but fortunately still delivered a portfolio the clients were pleased with. I discovered that low light warehouses were no joke and that the art of photography was harder than it looked. I had a LOT to learn.
October 2008 - Shot a picture of a bride that made me fall in love with the elegance and anticipation of a wedding day. (andrea burns...you haven't aged a bit :D)
January 2009 - My first season of portraits and captured one particular session with twins. They were as crazy and rambunctious as they come and yet the raw journalism from that shoot and just “go where they go” style flipped a switch with lifestyle photography. I loved that the pictures made me feel the kid's wildness and curiosity. I wanted to do more of that.
Summer 2009 - i loved the connections i was getting to make with couples and shot several weddings i was proud of.
Spring 2010 - went to my first WPPI - wedding and portrait photography international conference. Met my photography celebrity crush -- Kelly Moore IN THE FLESH, shook hands with Kennie Kim (my destination wedding muse) and came home with a keen sense of ambition......tempered HARD by my season of life as a MOM. My kids were young. I had a 2 year old and a 4 month old. They needed me more than I needed photography...but i'm not gonna lie--the tension was real and my heart had to fight to stay present in the home.
Summer 2010 - I stopped booking weddings. Hubby was facing a career change and were headed to Saudi Arabia to teach English as a Second Language. Long story for another time.
Spring 2011 - Our time in Saudi Arabia adventure met a detour and we ended up in Tucson with hubby’s family. Started from scratch and we opened LKM’s doors again.
Spring 2012 - Went to WPPI again and Susan Stripling made me weep and fanned a flame for excellence and creativity. SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY was so very loud in my brain. I had been out of the loop of photography and felt inspired to GO FOR IT. It was my first portrait season in Tucson. I went crazy and gifted ALL THE PEOPLE with portrait sessions. I shot 75 sessions, hyperventilated, had some bad-apple client experiences, got to know Tucson culture better and unraveled melodramatically by the end of the year. Below are some of the highlights during that first year launch in Tucson...
Winter 2013 - rebranded and booked a celebrity wedding for the coming summer. "Celebrity wedding photographer" was a fun label to own but I didn’t want my clients to be my stepping stones. I fought against the pressure to compete and "need" for like and followers. I was surprised by how toxic the hustle could be and I knew my "why" was being challenge and I couldn't quite answer that question.
June 2013 - I shot 6 weddings in the course of 4 weeks in 3 different states and nearly came home with my 2 weeks notice ready to flop on my husband’s side of the bed. BUSY was a hat I started to wear--a badge given by everybody else. I had to figure out a way to slow down but still make ends meet.
January 2014 - We raised our prices and then held on for dear life. I was scared I was shooting myself in the foot. But in the spirit of “if you build it, they will come” we set our prices to be what we needed to make to sustain a healthy business that paid the bills and its taxes and might even help put food on the table while allowing me to be more present. Business slowed but the clients who invested in me that year were ones that breathed life and joy into the art of wedding photography. They were eager to engage and trusted me. I found a stride and a "why" -- to be better at storytelling with people I could connect with and build a rapport--to tell their story authentically.
November 2014 - Business picked up and I was meeting my max capacity so I reached out to a colleague whom I respected and loved his work and had heard he "hated the business part of things." I asked him if he wanted to come shoot with the studio--under my name, take some weddings and function like a team. He agreed.
Spring 2015 - It was the year i started to travel. I had several friends who were getting married abroad-- one in the Philippines, Alaska, Northern California, and then a cute little elopement in Mexico. That launched the "travel wedding photographer" part of the brand. To be honest though...we weren't quite sure what to do with it.
Christmas 2015 - wrapped up the year with our 1st attempt to function as a studio with an associate and became acutely aware of how unorganized our back-end was. We had no systems, no workflow. I knew if we were to grow if not thrive forward, I needed to stop looking so much externally or function autonomously. I had to start tending to the bones and foundation of the business. So we went into what I call the "ostrich" season.
Early 2016 - We started working with an accounting firm who knew their stuff. They asked us hard questions and gave us hard numbers. I started to actually KNOW my business.
May 2016 - I started working with an editor who I’m convinced is actually an angel. Learning how to outsource was a game changer. My world turned to color again and I started sleeping more. (Jo -- you are a gift from God.)
Summer 2016 - We were stabilizing but I still couldn’t keep up. Accounting, studio management, social media, lead generation and retention, shooting, editing, marketing, planning--I felt like all the spinning plates were beginning to wobble. I needed to figure out how to tend to less plates and spin the right ones well. Introducing …. INTERNS.
Fall 2016 - Makayla McGarvey joined the LKM team and I trained her on back-end tasks while being a regular second shooter. I exposed her to all the things -- family portraits, weddings, headshots, seniors. I wanted her to experience "on location" real world and find her preference. (below are a few of my faves from her this past year as second shooter)
January 2017 - Makayla and I reconvened for a studio pow wow and I offered her a promotion with a bare minimum gaurantee of work and a whole lotta "i don't know what's gonna happen but i do know i need help." She accepted the unknowns and we promised we would take the teamwork in intervals of 6 months.
Spring 2017 - We started focusing on technical and portfolio development. We set hard goals and high standards and she was more eager for feedback than I knew what to do with. Our trip to Maine was a big game changer. I asked her some pretty deep, hard, life, goal questions. I thought she'd run and peace out. Instead, a tearful plane ride home was filled with silent nods and an expression of "i want life to be more than pretty pictures and social media. I want to ask "why" more." We hunkered in and started applying...
November 2017 - Makayla shot her first independent wedding without me...and SHE NAILED IT. Despite the wedding being a rough experience (involving crazy mean park rangers, gnarly wind and wonky scheduling) she handled it beautifully. We officially promoted Makayla to associate shooter.
February 2018 - Major highlight.... Taxes were coming due and I was cleaning up the books. My jaw dropped when i saw the final profit/loss statement for our accountant. We had grossed over SIX FIGURES. My net was modest but it was something real and sustainable--and an intense moment when I sat in front of my husband and showed him the numbers and realized I had matched the average salary of a teacher -- the job i went to college for. I felt like a legitimate business owner and had hit an elusive goal in a changing and challenging industry.
WPPI 2018 - 2 new interns joined us for WPPI and I experienced a passion for mentoring small businesses and start-ups. Asking hard questions and challenging people’s “why” lit my fire. A shift began in me.
Spring 2018 - Makayla & I traveled. A Lot. It was a season of me passing the baton. It was also our first Indian wedding which rocked our worlds. The culture and 3-day emphasis on family and "celebrating well" had me in tears by the end.
June 2018 - We soft announced the shift for Makayla’s role as the New England point person
July 2018 - We spent this past month revising workflows, updating backend software, rewriting templates and projecting numbers for 2019. We also honed in on Makayla’s travel/adventure packages... coming soon to instagram feeds near you :)
CURRENT… I've decided to slow down and focus on local gigs and stay in the southwest while Makayla takes over most of the traveling abroad. I am firmly convinced, especially since working on the healthy bones of the business, that it is worth the sacrifice of busyness to live at a cadence I can keep up with and share stories with soul more than stress.
So, in the spirit of “remember and remember well” this is the timeline of God’s provision...both the chaffing, the challenging and the championing.
Thank you for being a part of the LKM journey. If you made it this far down the rabbit trail of a blog post, you must either be crazy, creepy, competition *cough* colleague, commuty or a companion in this ride. The last few--thank you. Bless you. Cheers to the future and by all means--glory be to God for this job that has been a gift and a joy and a challenging petri dish of faith training. Cheers! | LKM & CO.