Our lives are defined by a series of moments. A flip book of little snapshots that make up a whole life. Blink and the years fly by. That’s why I became a photographer. To define those moments in the flipbook of people’s lives.
All my life, I’ve wanted to tell stories. Stories have shaped me into who I am today. My great-grandma’s stories of leaving Switzerland as a teen. My grandfather’s stories of serving in World War Two. My mama’s stories of visiting her grandparents’ store as a child. As a nerdy, artistic kid who never fit in, books were my best friends. I laughed at the escapades of Anne of Green Gables. I dreamed of magic with Harry Potter. I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett. I drew and read and dreamed and wished for a place where I could sum up the world in a few hundred pages. I traveled the world to find something that I couldn’t define. I went to college to study history because I needed to know why those stories were so important. I saw how stories could shape the world. I learned to use my skills as a photographer to capture other people’s stories.
As I get older, the stories I read and want to tell are changing. Last year, I cut way back on shooting weddings, and recently, I realized, it was time to put aside that story. I won’t say that I will never shoot another wedding, because I might change my mind in a couple years and miss weddings. For now, I want to focus on other things, on other stories. I’m not sure what will happen with the website or the blog, but my goal is to catch up on my backlog this year, and enjoy these last few weddings. I’ve been shooting a lot more families and small businesses, and I’m not sure what the future will hold at this moment. I know I’ll always be a storyteller, and I’m opening my heart up to the next chapter of stories.
I’ve got some ideas, and I hate to be vague, but first, I’m going to enjoy the last bit of this season of my life, and spend some time trying new things, before I make any announcements.
Does anyone still read a blog? Like, really read them? Besides me? I love blogs, I’ll never pivot to video, and while I know 98% of you are just here to look at pretty pictures, sometimes I need to talk too.
So, here’s a post to say that, once again, I dropped the ball. Despite my best intentions (and my goals!), I am woefully behind on blogging. But still using words like woefully, because ya’ll, I’m a bookworm and a nerd. Not because I haven’t wanted to blog – I have so much to share – but because now that N is here, I don’t want to spend 12 hours a day working. I want to spend time with my kiddo and our family. So, while I love blogging, it’s not the highest thing on my priority list (that would be client emails and editing).
I thought about just jumping back into content – but instead, I wanted to say first that life is busy, life is hard, and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in this world, there are always more things on your to do list than you have time for. And in this season of life, I’m prioritizing time with my kiddo and our family. So that means working crazy hours and long international flights to visit her great-grandparents. It means late nights, early mornings, and less blogging during the busy season. It means dreaming of a few things I just don’t have the bandwidth for right now.
So, if you’re struggling with balance. If your emails, laundry, friendships, trips to the gym, or whatever your to do list item is, are falling behind, I just want to say it’s okay. In the end, if the important things are getting done, then you are doing enough.
Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.
— Albus Dumbledore [JK Rowling]
This week, I’ve really been struggling with doing what I do. Don’t get me wrong — I love my job. I think I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. I spend my days capturing beautiful moments. But, in the currently world climate, I have wondered if what I do is a joke. I started this post a half dozen times, and wrote a zillion things, but it all came down to a few things.
I don’t save lives. I don’t help cure Cancer or West Nile Virus. I don’t work to change laws to make the world a better place. I simply photograph meaningful moments. My job is frivolous. It is unnecessary.
After all, one does not need to have photographs – much less professional ones – to be married.
Yet, there is something to be said for the beautiful photograph. For that moment when you tear up as your partner promises to spend the rest of their life with you. For the moment when you see each other for the first time on your wedding day. Or the first day of your brand new baby’s life. Maybe it’s a simple moment at home, or as a family. Toddlers in all their glory and dogs and chaos and everyone grows so fast. It’s the last photo of you and your grandma, or maybe a photo of all your cousins together on your wedding day. Those college friends who flew in from all the corners of the world. It’s your dad dancing under the twinkle lights with your best friend from elementary school. Your mom embracing your new spouse. Those are the photos I strive to take.
Telling that story matters. Remembering the good matters. My job – my industry – may be frivolous, but we cannot fight the terrible things in this world 24/7. We must take time to cherish the beautiful moments as well. I don’t know what the next year will bring. I hope it brings more peace and love. I know that I’m going to continue to work to bring good in this world. We cannot sit around and just hope for things to get better. We need to work for them. We need to find the light switch and turn on the lights. So, I want to keep photographing these beautiful moments of yours. I hope that my job, while not life saving, brings light into your life and into the lives of the people around you.
I wanted to write a sweet little post about what I’ve learned in three years of doing this full time. But then I realized, I don’t know how it’s been three years! It feels like it was just a year ago I was waking up on the first day I didn’t have a day job and working in my jammies in the living room of our apartment in Seattle. It feels like just a couple months ago that H got the job offer here in Spokane and we moved over here. How was that over two years ago? And wasn’t it just last week that we bought our house?
Three years is a big deal. Not only do many businesses fail in their first year, many more don’t make it past three years. So being here, now, feels like a huge accomplishment. I was going to do some silly stats, like number of photos taken, but I realized that that isn’t important. What is important is saying thank you.
This wouldn’t be possible without you. So thank you. Thank you to all the couples who’ve booked me, all the friends and past clients who’ve referred me. Thank you to those same people who have gone for coffee or drinks with me on good days and bad days. Who’ve helped me through the good times and bad. The truth is, it has taken me these three years to find my footing. I’m finally feeling more confident as a business owner, as a person. Maybe that is something that has come with age, and not with the time as a business owner. Either way, I’m finally at the point where I feel like I’m not in a state of panic at all times.
In the past three years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to get dressed, so I do better work. I’ve learned to take the day off – or walk away from a project – when it’s just not flowing. I’ve learned to show myself grace, because no matter how much I look like superwoman on the outside, I know that I’m not perfect (no one is)!
I’ve learned that my greatest fan is, always has been, and always will be, the man I married. He has been here in the good times and the bad. He has wiped my tears and told me it’s not a failure if I want to move on from this. He has celebrated every booking with me. Given me pep talks and cake. He has been there to wish me good luck before almost every wedding, and helped me carry my gear back in when I’m exhausted at the end of the day. He has made me dinner on the days where I’ve had to work until the wee hours of the night, and for this – and so much more – I know he’ll always be there for me.
I’ve learned that failure is the best way to find out what works well. I’ve learned that you have to take risks in order to reap rewards. I’ve learned to ask for the sale, but I’ve also learned that sometimes you have to tell a client when they’d be happier with someone else. I’ve learned that money isn’t everything, time is more important.
I’ve learned that this is exactly where I’m meant to be right now. And that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of you. Even though I pretend my mom (hi mom!) is the only person who reads my blog, the numbers tell me otherwise. So thank you all. After three years of this, my advice is to always take chances. You never know where life might lead, so take a chance and jump for what you’re dreaming of.
Ever wonder what it’s like behind the scenes at a wedding or engagement session with me? The majority of the time, I shoot alone, so there’s no one around to take photos of me making faces and doing whatever it takes to get a shot. But sometimes I have a second shooter, or I drag my husband along to carry coats and umbrellas on rainy days, and then I find these gems on my camera, or my second shooter’s camera, and I save them in a little folder to make me laugh.
Sometimes, like at Bethany & Peter’s Portland engagement session, a friend drops me off and I make her walk around a park and test the light with me before she runs away for a drink. My friends are pretty awesome, despite the exasperated look she’s giving me right here, she did drive me all over Portland so I didn’t need a rental car. 🙂
Or my husband hangs out at the table where I wanted to take photos, so I can make sure the lighting is good, and that there’s not too much glare, like when we were in Ballard for Natalie & Sam’s engagement session.
Or, I get lucky enough to have a great friend like Katie along as my second shooter, who takes sneaky photos of me while I’m posing Joel & Dan during their wedding photos. I’m probably telling them to cuddle in closer here.
…and then we multi-task by having Katie check the lights while I’m on Instagram, sending out a sneaky behind the scenes shot of the wedding that I snapped earlier in the day. And we take silly selfies in the mirror.
Photos 4 & 5 by the incredibly kind and talented Kate Ford.
When you grow up in the high elevation desert (I mean…), you learn that there is truth is the saying, “when it rains, it pours”. I remember as a child, running between school and my mom’s office, feeling the wind whip my hair, and without warning, the skies just opening up. So much rain you couldn’t see five feet in front of you. And mere minutes later? The sun would be back. With all the rain that Seattle gets, in my years there, I never experienced a storm like that. I never really understood what a drizzle was, or how mist fell from the sky (and not a sprinkler), but I know about pouring down rain.
The same saying feels like it could be applied to wedding season. This rain is somewhat one of my own making, and one of circumstances. My younger brother and I both have summer birthdays, there are wonderful summer holidays, work to be done on the house, the patio at my favorite hangout to enjoy, a hammock to lounge in, and – thanks to our super-quick-middle-of-wedding-season move two years ago, a lot of little business details that need to be addressed every summer.
With the move, I had to update my business license. No big deal, right? Except, this changed my filing date to the middle of summer. It was a little annoying, until it became really annoying when I wanted to make some changes to the business this year. I started working on this process back in March. March! Last week, after weeks of research, paperwork, and time on hold, I officially filed that last pieces of paperwork to change my business from a sole proprietorship to an LLC. I’m official! Phew. Someone pass me a drink.
What does this mean? From the outside, not much. I’m still a one-woman show (for now). I’m still running this show as Emily Wenzel Photography. And it’s all still happening from the littlest bedroom in our house. However, it took me a few calls to different state organizations, lots of time on hold, and couple very nice ladies who walked me through some of the less clear processes. There were two reasons I put off making my business an LLC, and honestly, they weren’t very good reasons. I didn’t want to spend the money or the time to do this. So, if you’re starting a business or own a business that isn’t an LLC, get on that shit. And then we’ll grab drinks to celebrate your new official-ness.
Funny thing: I got into business to create beautiful pictures and run a business I believe in. Turns out that I do the second much more than the first. I would say I spend less than 25% of my time actually taking photos, and the rest is the administrative, the behind the scenes work: editing, blogging, taxes, email, going to the bank, etc. I wouldn’t trade my business for a job in a cubicle. This is what I’m meant to be doing right now, I know that.
And, because every post deserves a photo, here’s a behind the scenes shot of Kate & I from last summer at Joel & Dan’s wedding. I’m booking up for 2016, and I’d love to shoot a couple more Seattle weddings next year.