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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Nelson

Let's Get Real. My Story

This article is going to be less about the tips and tricks of the trade, there are still some, cause let's face it, I can't help myself. But it'll be a bit more about what it took for me to take the leap and how it has shaped the kind of photographer and person I am.

A little back story on me. Right off the bat you may notice the cover photo is a picture of myself with a very stylish, goofy, sliver haired man. Some may already know, or guessed, but that is indeed my father. I chose that photo to headline this article because he is my number one inspiration. I'll talk more about my family and other influences in another article, but for now, my dad. Long story short, my dad has tirelessly worked for 34 years as a junior high psychologist and has just recently retired from the school district, but not from his passion. He is passionate about helping any and all kids who are in need of guidance, a listening ear, a quiet space. And that extended into how he raised myself and my sister. He raised us to be strong women who have opinions, who are kind, who want to help, who follow their hearts and their passions. I have looked up and admired my dad from day one and have always wanted to make him proud. When I picked up the camera and started telling stories, he was always there to look at a photo, or watch a documentary I made, no matter how poorly it was done. He is always there to give advice, to say,


and he is always there when I am struggling and when I chose to leave a stable job to join the world of freelance, he gave me his advice, and stood quietly by my side as I stumbled through many and all mistakes. This is where my story begins.

Over this past year I moved into a full time position at a job that I didn't find fulfilling anymore that ultimately lead me to put in my two weeks notice, six months after accepting the position. From there, I jumped full time into the entrepreneurial world working for a brand new start up. After four months of butting heads, arguments, a trip to France, a decline in clients, a whirlwind of emotions and a regrettable text, I derailed off that life track. Two months of "finding myself" which consisted of being a dog walker, and someone who bakes a lot, lead me to pick up my passion with photography again. Pulling myself up by my big girl panties, I decided to take another headfirst dive into the entrepreneurial world, but this time for mine, and my own, personal growth.

For any new photographers who may be reading this, let me tell you, it is not easy. A month after starting my business I saw a rapid decrease in my finances which lead to several break downs. Having gone through those, I can tell you that the age old saying,

"You have to spend money to make money"

is pretty darn accurate. However, do yourself the biggest favor ever and educate yourself every which way in that sense. You have to know where you want to spend your money and know what kind of return you can expect from it before signing up for anything. Once you start advertising yourself as a photographer of any kind, you will start to be targeted by those who want to make a profit off of you. In some cases it is great and both parties win, and in others, you will be the sole loser in the situation. And those times suck. Just recently I went through a poor financial decision because I was promised the reality of rapid bookings to the point where I would be turning away clients because I was so busy. Now doesn't that just sound like a dream come true? So I whipped out my credit card and bam, paid for that sucker. Literally ten minutes after, I realized I had been sucked into their greedy little hands and melted down. Because I have chosen to work in the wedding photography business, one in which there are many others like me, I chose to see if my quick and poorly made business choice would warrant any clients instead of canceling and getting my money back right away. You can say, and "they" do, that I did indeed get a client out of the decision. However, the proof is not concrete and after consulting with someone it was brought to my attention that it was indeed a rushed decision and one that cost me quite a few pennies.

These are the moments when things get really hard. You fall into the traps of those who are advertising their help for your well being and they end up being shady money grabbers. So now when I am presented with a "wonderful new opportunity that will grow and expand my business" I am very real with them about my history and how I will never jump into a promise without concrete proof. This is where all the education and second opinions, really save your check book and your sanity.

Now, it has been about six months that I have been actively pursuing my passion as a wedding photographer and turning it into a business. I still consider myself a novice at all things business related, but am learning everyday that some part of it gets a little, I wont say easier, but a little less difficult. I feel like a baby learning to walk sometimes. I'll get myself up and then my chubby little legs aren't strong enough so I plump back down. Some days I stand up and even manage a step or two, my arms flailing before I inevitably fall back down. But with every step comes a new level of confidence. I become more asure of my capabilities to sell a wedding package, or to reach out to a newly engaged couple, or to try out new poses during an engagement session.

"You've got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.”  – William Albert Allard

In this business, I am my own leader, and honest to god, somedays I don't want to be. I want to follow someone and learn from their mistakes and not my own. But to be in this world of freelance, of small business owner, of entrepreneurial spirit, you must be your own leader. But, believe me when I say this, when you book your first client, or when you sit down and talk with a couple about their wedding goals and see their faces light up because they have confidence in you as their photographer, all of the meltdowns, and heartbreak and guilt, go away in that moment. And when you have that rush of "oh man! I can do this", run with it. Let it propel you into your next client meeting, or into your next photoshoot, because when you feel confident, it shows!

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