2017: Love and Lessons
New Year's Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays. Not for the parties or the food (okay, maybe the food) but because it's a collective time of reflection and refocusing. I've always been a very goal-oriented person (which is both a blessing and a curse) so for my business, this gives me a very specific deadline to analyze not only the growth and financial status of my business, but also gauge my passion for the work I've been doing and decide what I want to pursue further. I'll discuss in my next post what my goals are for the year, but as it's still 2017 for a couple hours, I want to look back at the goals I set for myself this time last year and reflect on just how beautiful this year was for me.
So here, in the same order as I wrote them last year, are my 2017 goals and how well they played out:
Photograph more weddings
This was one of my biggest goals. The more weddings I shoot, the more I fall in love with the work of telling each couple's and family's story so that they and their families can remember the day decades down the road. Aesthetically, weddings are also perfect for me because they afford so many different styles of photography: portraiture, photojournalism, detail/product photography, nature, stylized lighting, etc. I love being able to use every facet of the experience to tell the full story. So, after shooting 8 weddings last year, I decided to almost double that for this year (I keep my threshold low so I can give my full attention to each couple) with a 15 wedding cap. And as of yesterday, I finished my 15th wedding for the year!
Photograph elopements and intimate weddings
This was another big goal. There's something so special about a couple focusing solely on the idea of committing their lives to each other. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love shooting weddings, but I also wanted to branch out into elopements. Thanks to some fantastic connections and a good bit of luck, I met Jen and John the day before their elopement in Portland and got to capture those vows - one of the richest experiences of my photographic career. This cemented my love for the genre and I happily captured a couple more throughout the season, as well as one of my most favorite sessions of the year, Lauren and Eric's styled shoot at Black Balsam Knob. I definitely want to photograph more of these beautiful ceremonies.
Photograph destination weddings
This one was a total no-brainer for me. Travel plus wedding photography? Duh. And with another stroke of luck, Monica and Justin found me and after our winter engagement session in downtown Asheville, flew me up to Maryland with them to capture their family wedding on the beach! As a mountain girl, it was especially fun to have a change of scenery for my wedding work.
But, even close to home, I got to photograph in some epic locations! I have a special place in my heart for couples who introduce me to crazy locations I would otherwise never know about (here's looking at you, Meadow and Theo!) and there were so many times when I'd be snapping away in awe of my surroundings. That epic and unexpected snow storm a couple weeks ago certainly didn't hurt.
Capture vacation memories
It's no secret that I adore traveling, so I set out this year not only to travel more, but to travel with loved ones and be able to capture those memories so we could remember our adventures. I went to NYC with my dad, Washington D.C. with my mom and Ireland with my dad and brother, as well as visiting family in Portland multiple times and capturing my grandparents' last fall of camping. Each one of these trips gave me time to enjoy being around my family without the stress of work, yet allowed me to artistically capture the fun we had.
Not to mention, I got to capture vacation memories for another family! Part of destination wedding work is capturing not only the ceremony, but the other experiences of the trip and one of my other top favorite shoots was Monica and Justin's newlyweds cerebration sunrise session where they simply had fun spending time together, no longer worrying about the stress of planning a wedding.
This vacation even ended with a proposal!
More personal work
When I made this goal, I didn't know just how enriching it would be. I picked up my 35mm over the summer and began shooting just to get out and about, but quickly remembered just how much I love the tangible art that is darkroom photography. I bought a full darkroom set-up that now resides in my bedroom, shoot and print regularly, have a few exhibitions in the works, and totally fell in love with photography again through this art.
One of the best things film photography did for me this year was give me an extra avenue to practice my skills. While some rolls of film were dedicated to creating sellable art, other were focused solely on exploring light and color techniques that translated a good bit into my commercial work as well.
Keeping my apartment clean for client meetings
That's funny. It's impossible to keep clean for long with these two goobers. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've always loved teaching but never wanted to be a teacher full time. So, I set aside a few hours each week that I can help other students realize the love of art as well as the reality that it is possible to turn that love into a career. In addition to two semesters of with the IRL program at Asheville Middle, I also worked with the Asheville City Schools Foundation TAPAS program teaching cyanotypes to an honors chemistry class under the premise that there is art in science and vice versa. Though I was a little out of my element in the chem realm, the students quickly took to our projects and were a lot of fun to work with. Teaching is so rewarding when you can see that light of the click in a students' eyes when they both understand and enjoy that they're doing, so in that this year was definitely a success.
And then there were a few goals things that weren't really goals that still had a huge impact on my work.
Deepened my relationship with light to understand both speed lights and natural light
I've been working a long time on incorporating off camera flash into my client work to provide more dynamic images and this year I finally got up the courage to really use it in full force. And I'm so happy I did!
Not only that, but I also focused on embracing natural light; getting to know how to shoot in any lighting situation so that I could make magic on any and every occasion. I'm a huge fan of what I call "natural spotlights" so I've discovered that I actually love shooting in the harsh light of afternoon. As I now know, you can't knock it till you try it.
Became an LLC
This one was huge! As a business owner, I put a lot of time and effort this year into the business side of things, not just the art. I'm certainly still learning the ins and outs of running a one-woman business full time, but as I fully believe that taking a risk on yourself can lead to a huge payoff, I'm excited to take this next step.
Part of that betting on myself also included a shoot with the wonderful Cat Ford-Coates of Studio 828 Photography and I will be sharing those images very soon!
Focused on what I really want to do in my business as well as what my brand is
I'll discuss the majority of this in my 2018 goals post, but all of my experiences this year - both personal and work related - helped me focus on what was most important to me. This all boils down to one thing: storytelling. Just as I fell in love with the art of photography again, so too did I fall in love with tellings the stories of others and myself through my art. And, I realized that this doesn't come simply through images of laughing couples (though I do adore capturing laughter) but through a more nuanced approach of capturing the joy in stillness, the serious pride in accomplishments, the happy tears and even the meticulously-chosen shoes. Essentially, I realized that the images don't have to be technically perfect as long as they truly capture feelings and emotions, much as life won't be perfect but I can still certainly enjoy it through both the happy moments and the sad.
I'm so grateful for everyone who helped make this not only an enjoyable year, but one full of growth, learning and a lot of self-love.