Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thanks for the memories....2013...a year in review.

Compared to my first year in business, nothing of epic proportions happened to me this year. I mean, I had my fair share of ups and downs of course, but in reminiscing about that first hard and painful year of literally, giving everything I had and owned to become a business owner, things appeared to be a little more figured out in 2013.

The winter months are always a struggle and leave me feeling a bit uneasy with the unpredictability in our down season. But the beginning winter months of 2013 were jam packed with shoots, meetings, styled sessions and courses. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started shooting in areas out of my element: Real Estate. Headshots. Bands. Corporate. I networked with people who were inspired by me and who I was inspired by. I second shot for photographers I admired, and helped out newcomers by sharing our knowledge. Thou shall not covet. And I never do. In fact I ran a few contests and giveaways for free shoots. I donated to other small businesses, whether it was time or money, even though those were two things I didn't necessarily have an abundance of.

We photographed in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico. We spent a week in Ottawa and Quebec shooting and making lifelong friends and memories while doing so. I took a personal trip to New York City, with someone I never quite planned on becoming such a best friend. She organized my entire birthday around places she knew I would adore. Unforgettable, is an understatement to describe that trip. And sometimes when you're busy focusing on those you've lost, you fail to recognize someone right in front of you that you've gained.

Alongside all the beautiful venues, surprise proposals, gowns, countries and bouquets, we photographed a family who had lost their baby and were granted the gift of a new one. We photographed a wedding in a hospital, so our bride's ailing father could bear witness to this union. We fundraised for the Tim Bosma foundation. We cried alongside these tragedies. We photographed women who had never felt beautiful. We photographed couples who had lost a parent or a sibling. How could I ever begin to describe the feeling of being witness to all of this? To be chosen out of the thousands of local talented photographers, as the one. The one to document such tragic and triumphant moments. The one to quietly take these moments and turn them into lifelong preserved memories?

We put on thousands of km's on the Mazda, driving to and from shoots and meetings. Spent thousands of $ on new equipment and replacement equipment that we either broke, lost or left behind somewhere. I took at least 100,000 photos this year. Legit, no joke. We stayed in umpteen hotels, met so many people that my head spins trying to remember names and along the way, made a few friends that we will never forget.

You can't always expect every job to wind up in a friendship. Heck, sometimes there are clients you just downright don't get along with. I've had to put my foot down this year and get a little more business savvy, set boundaries and put the personal aside. This means being firm on decisions but still maintaining a good work ethic and integrity. Making both clients and myself happy. It's not an easy balancing act. But for the most part, we have formed the kind of relationships where we would actually hang out with most of our clients. Off duty, off the record and no payment or camera involved.

On a more personal note, we have been trying to make our own family in this household towards the wrap up of the year and since things have been settling down after the busy rush. Our moms are both retiring this week and we foresee a whole lot of family time in 2014 and the future. God willing.

With almost 100 shoots booked this year, our hearts are full of love and gratitude for all of the love and support our family, friends and clients have shown us. The ones who matter the most to us have at times, taken a back seat to our busy shooting and editing schedules. But with 2 full years under our belts, we've worked on a plan to work smarter, harder, faster to balance the needs of our clients and ourselves.

We've got a good handle on who we can count on in an emergency situation, a network of trusted shooters we all refer, a more efficient editing and backup system and a whole lot of Faith. We've got the kinks worked out with our album designs, our branding, our accounting and have dedicated a block of time in the new year to focus more on video, lighting, off camera flash and promo video. Michael's food blog has really taken off and provided us with additional income and separate interests; two things a marriage needs most. (Thank you Martha Stewart for funding his passion!) Our little businesses have been featured on prominent blogs, websites and magazines, and shockingly enough, we have spent zero dollars in advertising (a plan which did not go over well with the business bureau when I was applying for my grant...they said I would never make it relying solely on social media to get the word out). They were wrong.

I spent many nights crying about the uncertainty of the future, wondering how we would make it as a new business. Where the next paycheque would come from. And then a funny thing happened. I became too busy/distracted shooting that I didn't realize all of a sudden in merely one month, I made what I did in an entire year in an office. We not only caught up, but far surpassed any projections made. How could one tiny idea that started with a simple family paid photo shoot, end up providing an annual income for a husband and wife, that the two of us combined couldn't dream of making working for the man? Day in and day out of thankless, meaningless bullshit of working for the man for the almighty dollar and not even a simple Christmas card to say thanks? And here we are.  Now in charge of our own destiny, making memories for people and enjoying doing so. This job has left me sometimes gaining friends, and losing weight and conversely, gaining weight and losing friends. There have been times where those I would never dream of disappoint, and the underdogs pleasantly surprise. That's the funny thing about life. Sometimes, there is no concise beginning, middle or end. There is no right and wrong way to do things. Sometimes baby comes before the wedding, and the conventional notion of marriage goes out the window. Sometimes most of your business comes from the one or two people you least expect. Sometimes, everything you've planned turns upside down and right side up and you're left scratching your head about where the future will take you.

But that's the great part about life. The journey that you take and those that come along for the ride with you. And if you're really lucky, you'll have a camera in your purse to document it (or at the very least, an adventurous photographer friend on speed dial, ready to pick up and join you on your travels.)

It's been a great 2013. Thanks for the memories.




P.S. People often ask how I got started in photography. If you'd like to read about my confessions starting here:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Steph & Jamie {Moon Palace Cancun Mexico Wedding Photographer}

I received a text message with a photo of a beautiful diamond ring on the night of their engagement asking "Will I?" (be their wedding photographer). The answer to the question of course, was yes!

I had photographed Steph and Jamie's newborn photos of their precious Reilly and now it was time for everyone to witness their vows in beautiful Mexico.

We showed up to the airport knowing nobody but the bride and groom, and left with the memories of their wonderful people. Steph and Jamie's family and friends welcomed us into their group and we were honoured to document their wedding.

Mother Nature knew what she was doing this day. The sun shone brightly but was breezy enough to be comfortable. The rain abruptly started, as the last song of the evening faded. 

There were tears representing joy, loss, and the union of blended families. One thing is for sure: these two are very, very loved. 

I will save the spoken private words that took place for those who were there and for those who were not, let me just emphasize the importance of family in a child's life. Because that child grows up, becomes an adult and is forever changed by their loved ones. Family, no matter blended or blood, is everything. They are everything we were, are and one day will become.

At one point, the groom's father turned to me beaming and said: I'm just soaking up this moment as a proud father. 

And so he did.

Here are some of my favourite moments from our last wedding of 2013. On a personal note, we so greatly appreciated the down time that this resort had to offer. Golf, massages, swimming with the dolphins and exquisite food as well as a view of the ocean. There were a few nights where I just sat on my balcony and soaked it all in that indeed, this was my job. And I have never for once taken it for granted at how very, very blessed I am.

We wish Steph and Jamie and their growing family nothing but health and happiness in their lives!



p.s. Here is a little video I put together....I managed to document both stills and motion for this beautiful day.