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Trashing my best work made my business stronger (one year later)

One year ago, I wrote this post: How Trashing my Best Work Made my Business Stronger. And, boy was it a cathartic thing to do! In that post, I discussed how I found myself in the same trap many of you are in (judging by the many emails I receive). I found myself shooting sessions I didn’t like, didn’t want to do and didn’t want my business built on. But I was doing them anyway. Why? Money. You know…the thing that’s in your hand one minute, gone the next. But you know what doesn’t disappear as quickly as money? Self-disappointment.

So yes…a year ago, I threw my dollies out of the pram and proclaimed that

I will no longer take pictures I don’t wanna take!

That included families, maternity, events, boudoir…none’a that. I stripped it all away from my Facebook page and from my website and declared that I was through -finished!- with families and anything else I didn’t want to do. I would forever be a children’s portrait photographer and everyone else could beat it. And you know what? It was the best thing I ever did for my business.

I guess I was feeling backed into a corner. I felt like I had to do it all. Be all things to all clients. Say yes to every job. Never turn money down. Charge less than everyone else and still give clients more. But from the moment I put my foot down and decided that I was going to do it my way, my business started taking a turn I never ever saw coming. And this is why I say that we never stop growing. As soon as we’re convinced that we’ve made it -that we’re proper professionals- life and business can take a turn that we didn’t see coming.

So where am I today? Many of you have been on my journey with me as long-time readers. Others are new to my madness (hello!) and whatever category you fall into, some of you are wondering why you read my manifesto in that fateful blog post yet when you view my website, you still see that same work I had declared that I trashed. It all comes down to one very simple concept…

discovery //

After trashing anything from public view that didn’t represent the new me, I went on a journey of discovering what I really wanted to photograph. At that point, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be a children’s portrait photographer. So I dedicated myself to getting better at it. I invited many beautiful children I knew for sessions where I could experiment with new ideas, new poses, new locations. I took lots of ridiculous photos. I made many new friends. And ever so slowly, I silently experimented with the things I said I hated. Like families. And maternity. And couples. And newborns.

I discovered that I didn’t hate photographing families. I hated the feeling I had that I had no choice. That if I wanted to be a ‘real professional’, I had to be able to produce any kind of photography on demand. I hated feeling backed into a corner with no choice in the matter. And I hated compromising for the almighty dollar. Those are the things I hated. I have discovered that I don’t hate photographing families at all. Now that I actually know more about how to do it, of course.

I discovered Beloved. And it has changed my life. I discovered the power that photography has to mend a relationship. To create an experience. To bring a mother and teenage son into a moment which is rare. Who could argue with this? Who could look at this and say there’s nothing good to be found? Beloved has saved my business from itself and I am passionate about bringing it into every interaction I will have with a client from now on.

And so with all of these discoveries, I have slowly integrated the genres I have found that I actually enjoy back into my business and onto my website. And there are still things I look at and say “Meh. I’m not that into newborns. Maybe I’ll take those off the website” because I’m still discovering who I am as a photographer. But you will never NEVER know what kind of photographer you are until you give things a try. Be willing to try. Be willing to fail. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Being a photographer really isn’t rocket science.

If you want to be a photographer, start taking pictures.

Some other changes I made since writing that post:

I changed the stupid name. Glacier Cake was an anagram of my three children’s names. I thought it would be quirky and memorable. Instead, it was confusing and…more confusing.

I started charging more and working less.

I stopped sending the previews online and started pushing in home viewing and sales sessions.

I closed my studio. I spent the better part of a year renting a great little studio space in a barn but I found that I was using it as a glorified storage unit and dressing room and I was doing all my best work outside on the farm. So I said goodbye to the studio dream and embraced the great outdoors.

So in short, I have stuck with my decision to only do the genres that move me but over the past year, it has changed shape from what it was when I first made the decision. Once in a while, I’ll take a commercial job or something that I decide is a good move because it puts food on the table and sometimes, I really do love getting all my equipment out for a studio session. But the point is that I do it because I want to. Not because I’m trying to be something I apparently wasn’t.

And that is a

very.

good.

feeling.

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  • Diana

    Thank you!

  • Congratulations to you. I found this post very inspiring.  It was like you cleared the clutter from your life and left only what you needed.

  • Britta

    You are refreshing! I am not a photographer, but I still enjoy reading your down to earth blog posts & you sharing your journey. And I always share them with my photog friends. Thanks!

  • Britta

    PS, I think you are an amazing photog as well!! :)

  • Ericahildebrand

    This was such an incredibly helpful post for me. I’m starting my maternity leave in a couple months and during that time I plan to do some “re-branding” in many different ways and forms. I’ll hopefully get some time to do some more research, and this post has really sparked a drive in me to do this sooner than later. I HATE taking pictures of newborns, but LOVE taking pictures of little kids….I hate weddings, but love doing couple shoots….I absolutely can’t stand extended family shoots, but love the small family shoot….all of this kind of stuff I need to hash threw in my brain and come up with a “business plan”. Its really scary, cause I’m like how you were – I love the money. But, I also know that with a third child on the way I want to work less, but make more. You are inspirational. Thank you…keep giving us snippets of your brilliant business mind – its a gift.

  • Wendy

    Very inspiring article.  Thank you.  So many of the thoughts in my head are the same.  New to the business, I find that I too thought I didn’t like something that I love… Thank you for sharing.

  • Mamaduso5

    Great post.  I love doing seniors!  But will not do infants.  I don’t have a lot of experience yet as I am just starting out, but it is good to admit that already there are somethings I like to shoot and other things that don’t inspire me at all.  Events don’t inspire me.  And I want  so badly to learn how to do beloved sessions, or to incorporate that in all my shoots.

  • Theavner

    I’m 1 year behind you!  LOL.  This is exactly what I needed to hear to push me into some very hard decision in 2012.  But I’m sure I will come out on the other side, as you have and be happier and better at what I love to do.  Thanks for the inspiration and PUSH. 

  • Thanks for the post! I find it so interesting that we all are drawn to different subjects. I like still life, glamour and love the kind of surreal fantasy look to photos.

  • Hhhh3

    Love this post!  Thank you,
     Hank
    HankHenleyPhotography.com

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I feel like that answers some of the questions I sent in an email, so I appreciate.  I love following your journey of discovery yourself as a phtographer.  And I appreciate you sharing that knowledge with us! 

  • ~as I find myself feeling like my bucket is very empty and in need of visiting “the well” this post just made me realize that I am right in my thoughts and to follow my heart,thank you:0)

  • dini

    amazing!!!!! i loved the part about branding it according to who you are! i have so many of these feelings and now i realize its okay to pick and choose. thank you

  • Lea

    Love it!

  • BRAVO!  That is what I did for the last three weeks – really the last six – took time since moving to our new location to turn my business into ME!  What moves me and makes me swoon during a session!  I’m more excited then ever before to be a photographer!   I am doing it for THE LOVE of what I capture and create.  Not because I have to be what others are – but because I can bring all that I am to my clients!   Hugs from the states!   

  • Thank you for this post. Sometimes having a business that offers too many services one loses oneself. I will be taking onboard your valid points as I reevaluate my design & photography business for the new year

  • I love this post – thanks for sharing!  I’m not a photographer (though I do have the desire to learn to better use my camera…hehe), but I have been feeling this way about some areas of my life and what an inspiration it was to stumble upon your blog (via pinterest) and read exactly what I needed to hear.  I’m ready to walk into 2012 no longer doing what I don’t want to do but setting myself up and preparing for the things that I do want.  Thanks again and wishing you the best in 2012 in your life and business!  :-)

  • Ryan Marie

    What an inspiring post. Thank you! 

  • Thank you for this great read.  Something that I really needed right now in my design business.  Thank you for your perspective.  You have the most beautiful work.

  • Luiz Muzzi

    Wonderful post…truly inspiring for an enthusiast photographer like me…I used to feel a bit guilty for not liking studio photography…