Authenticity — Behind the Business

Authenticity — Behind the Business

Ugh. I’ve debating even blogging this, but you know what? That’s why I have to.

The last few weeks have been a bit crazy. In the way that nothing seems to be finished. In the way where you spend hours working, only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at all. So instead of finishing the half dozen posts I’ve got in the works, I’m writing this.

I’ve been working on updating my about me page lately. Because, while it’s all nicely written and it took me WEEKS to write it, it’s not right. And while I’ve stared at it for hours, I still haven’t changed it. But I’m struggling.

Because it doesn’t feel like me.

Because I find myself editing the words I say on the blog. Not just for clarity, but to sound better. More like those other wedding photographers. Those people I’m comparing myself to.

But I’m not them. And that’s the thing. Their business is not my business. Their story is not my story. Their clients – the ones they want – they aren’t the clients I want.

We’re all different.

Having the house has been fantastic, especially the garden. At the moment, we’ve managed to remove a lot of dead old plants. We even paid to have our big tree trimmed (now I feel like an adult). And I’ve met with dozens of people about a variety of things, trying to figure out what project(s) to tackle first.

But next week I’m escaping for a few days to Portland. I’m going to spend hours and hours at Powell’s. I’m going to eat from food trucks and catch up with friends. And maybe, for a few days, I’ll forget that endless list of things that need to be done. I’ll go to the market and drink some wine. And I plan to have a dang good time.

Blogging is going to be a bit thin around here for the next few months. There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes – the not-photography part of a photography business – but I’ll try and post occasional updates.

One of the things I’ve been working on is cleaning out my harddrives, which resulting in finding this beauty from our old apartment in Seattle. Sometimes I dress my cat up and torture her by taking her photo. She deals with it. Most days.

tuxedo cat with a bow // Emily Wenzel Photography

A New Year, A New Home

A New Year, A New Home

All photos taken with my HTC One, and edited with VSCOcam for Android. Because I don’t always use my big fancy camera 🙂


While I knew late in 2013 that 2014 was going to be an amazing year, I had no idea what changes it would bring. I am so super excited to share this next big change with you all — finally! Sorry for the secret keeping.

A while back, I posted this beauty below to Instagram. An image of my feet, standing in the snow. A snow day. Not so uncommon in Spokane. What I didn’t tell you was that they were standing in the back yard of a house we now own.

Buying our first home // Emily Wenzel Photography

Yup. As of last week, H and I own our first home. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me well. After all, I’ve been dreaming of tearing down walls and making my own space since I moved out of my parents house. They never let me tear down walls, although my younger brother got to do that when he was three. I’m still a little bitter, Dad. Although, you did let me paint my room crazy colors…so there’s that.

Moving on. I’ve been watching the Spokane housing market for over 18 months. Yes, more than a year before we moved here. Please don’t judge me. Homes came and went. This house was on the market that entire time. We looked at it, we dreamed about it. We talked it over and sketched out ideas. And then? Gone. Foreclosed. And our brand-new-to-us Realtor didn’t have high hopes for when or how it would come back. Foreclosures can be a funny thing, and a lot of them end up being auctioned off in Spokane County. So we moved on. We looked at other houses. We put this one, this perfect for us with old wood floors and great light, out of our minds.

And then, poof. Back on the market. And, in a very uncharacteristic move, I was the one who hesitated. H was ready to buy it the moment we walked through it a second time. I waited. But she called to me. With her location in one of my favorite Spokane neighborhoods, only a few short blocks from my favorite coffeeshop and bar, we really couldn’t have picked a better home for us. She had a history — one I’ve started looking up in the Census reports and hope to research more this spring.

On Christmas Eve, we put in an offer on our 1902 little beauty. And thus began six weeks of back & forth with Fannie Mae.

Buying our first home // Emily Wenzel PhotographyBuying our first home // Emily Wenzel Photography

The first image above I posted a couple weeks ago. That was from the day we put in our first offer. The second image is one I snapped the day we signed all our paperwork and closed on the house.

Buying our first home // Emily Wenzel Photography

I took this photo almost two weeks ago. My key. To our house. Sitting on our kitchen counter. Whoa. That was a crazy moment. There were times when I questioned our sanity in purchasing this house. Times I wanted to cry over the headache buying a foreclosed home brought us. But then, I would walk in the house, with it’s 112 year old (original) hardwood floors. With it’s big, beautiful windows that let in so much light. The backyard that begs to host family BBQs, and the park (perfect for a dog, right H? …I’m working on him) just steps away from the front door. I’m not saying it’s perfect. Oh no. This beauty needs a lot of love and TLC. But I do love a good project.

Buying our first home // Emily Wenzel PhotographyBuying our first home // Emily Wenzel PhotographyBuying our first home // Emily Wenzel Photography

First — our house, the day after we got the keys

Second — those floors, my shoes. the light

Third — me, excited to live in a place with stairs, and the sidewalk I shoved ALL ON MY OWN when H was in San Francisco for work. I’ve rarely been more proud. Seriously. Look at those crisp sides.


I want to promise you this blog won’t be all about the house now, even though I’m SUPER DUPER OH MY GOSH EXCITED. But I might sometimes write about it, because it’s a big part of our lives. Also, please excuse any craziness and slow responses in the next week-ish as we move. It’s been a bit insane to clean a home almost twice the size of the largest place we’ve ever lived. 

Visiting the Windy City

Visiting the Windy City

Oh Chicago. You toyed with my affections.

First, it wasn’t easy to travel to your fair city. Although, I suppose I can’t blame you for that lightening storm in the Cascades, and the subsequent flights that were cancelled between Spokane & Seattle. All in all, we missed 6 flights (although I think there were only 3 flights that were cancelled/missed that we were actually booked on) the day we left for Chicago. Details.

Chicago, you seem like an interesting city. The University of Chicago campus was stunning. I was in love with Rockefeller Chapel & the ivy covered walls. There was that great little Greek place we at brunch at. Your deep dish pizza. But I could have done without the humidity. I guess I’m just too much of a West Coast kid. Humidity kills me.

Before we left, a few of us took an architectural boat tour of the city. That was pretty cool. If I was to live in Chicago, I’d want to live in one of those old brick warehouses that were converted to loft apartments.

All these photos are from the tour. Because of the craziness with travel, we spent more time catching up with friends than touring the city. And I’m okay with that. Half of these photos were taken by H, so I can’t take credit for all of them. Actually, I shoved a camera in his hand and told him to have fun with it.

Chicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel PhotographyChicago Architectural Tour // Emily Wenzel Photography

H took the photo of me. At first, I wasn’t going to include it, but I had to point out that you can see my freckles!

And that black & white photo three images up? H took that as well. I’m in love with it.

2013 In Review — Running a Business

2013 In Review — Running a Business

2013 flew past me in the blink of an eye. Back in high school, someone told me that the years go by faster as you get older. I’m not sure if that’s true overall, or if it was just true for 2013, but I felt like the year was gone in the blink of an eye. Starting the business was a big part of my year. It was the source of my most triumphant moments, as well as a player in the lowest moments too. I struggled with finding validation. With understanding that I can’t measure my worth — my personal worth — by whether people want to book me or not (but I can measure the success of my business by that metric), my outlook changed. I feel like, as a whole, my business did well in 2013. But, as always, there’s room for improvement. Late in the year, I confessed that I got a job in retail, only to leave that job a few short months later (which I hadn’t talked about yet), but I learned so much from those short months. However, I’m happy to be only self-employed again. Really. If anything, working for a retail giant confirmed the thought that this business is where I want to concentrate my attention.

Midway through the year, we picked up everything and moved to Spokane on very short notice. The big move could have been a big mistake. I was terrified that we would have moved, only to regret it a few months later. But it’s felt so right. Deep down, I know that this was the right move, not just for the business, but for us. We’ve been so much happier since the move. H loves his new job, I love all the sunshine. We both enjoy the better weather (there are so many seasons here!) and the lack of traffic. I wish there was more snow on the ground (come on, Spokane!), but I’m so thankful to be part of a great photographer and wedding community here. There is a sense of belonging that I never found in Seattle, as much as I loved it there. It just feels right. Although, I think there needs to be an IKEA in the area. I miss cheap meatballs! 😉

I only met about half my 2013 business goals. So last week, I really sat down and looked at them. Some of them were laughable. Totally unreachable. And then I made goals for 2014. This year, I’m not making crazy big goals (that was a problem last year). This year, it’s all about SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, & time-bound. For example, one of my goals? To visit a new Spokane area venue each month. Another is to shoot 5 rolls of film this year, because I miss shooting film. I’m still working on fleshing out the last of my goals, but I hope to have 10 of them for the year. Small goals that are going to be building blocks for a better business.

You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe. trust. let go. and see what happens. — Unknown

below the boat photography

I shot this image a couple months ago for a fantastic company, Below the Boat. One of my goals last year was to challenge myself as a photographer. So I’ve been doing some product photography. Below the Boat sells these fantastic charts, and some of my work is already up on their site. I’m more than a little in love with these beauties.

2013 In Review

2013 In Review

2013 was a crazy year. It started with our trip to Germany, where we spent three weeks exploring Munich, Dachau, the Reingau, Bonn, Berlin, & Hamburg. While I didn’t take any photos of cake, trust me, I ate plenty. Once we were back, it was time for weddings! My wedding season started in March last year & ended in October. With tons of portrait sessions and a cross-state move in the middle.

I’ll be posting a little review/my thoughts on my first bridal show later this week and a 2013 business recap next week. [Summary: it was overwhelming but great, and I learned a lot. From both.] If you’ve found your way here after visiting my booth at the show, hi! I talked to so many wonderful ladies and gentlemen, so if you didn’t sign up for the email, but want more info on my bridal show special offer (or signed up and didn’t get the email), send me an email through the contact link above and I’ll get you all sorted out.

And now, the photos! I tried to go through all my photos from this year on my harddrive and pick out my favorites, but it was too hard. So I quickly went through my upload archive for the blog and grabbed them that way. This way I can recap my 2013 before the first month of 2014 is done. And yes, there are a couple I did pull from a portfolio update I did that haven’t been blogged. Next week! Without further ado, the best of 2013.

Cataldo-Mission-wedding-002Berlin Tempelhof Airport FieldUniversity-Chicago-wedding-008Hamburg Germany in WinterCamden-Ranch-wedding-bridal-shoot-20Mazama-Winthrop-wedding-007Fall Spokane Wedding PhotographyThomas Heinrich Peterson Seattle WADachau Camp MuseumCountry Barn Wedding PhotographyKolner Domvolunteer-park-5Destination Wedding PhotographyChicago Boat TourPortland Oregon Portrait PhotographySeattle Wedding PhotographyVilla Vashon WeddingsVashon Island Wedding PhotographySpokane Portrait PhotographyJewish Wedding PhotographyPortland Portrait PhotographyGasworks Park Maternity PhotographyYakima Valley Wedding PhotographyMazama Ranch House Wedding PhotographySeattle Portrait PhotographyJewish Memorial BerlinBridal-Show--slideshow-066Columbia Basin Wedding PhotographyCasual Portrait PhotographerCasual Western Wedding PhotographyEpic Dance Party WeddingsMotorcycle Engagement PhotosWahluke Soccer PhotographyUniversity-Chicago-wedding-006Dachau Camp MuseumEastside Gallery - Berlin WallVilla Vashon Wedding PhotographyColumbia Gorge MuseumColumbia River VantageMunich neighborhoods snow


Family History, The Ballard Locks — Seattle, WA

Family History, The Ballard Locks — Seattle, WA

I’m in a strange place right now. This retail job I picked up, it’s driving me crazy. Besides the full load of work I do for the photography (which, at this time of year is less photo-taking and more business-maintaining), and the 20-30+ hours at the retail gig, we’re also house hunting. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the job. It’s been a learning experience and I’m gleaning whatever I can from this, as well as working with some pretty fantastic people. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting the days until I head out. I miss making my own schedule, having time to read a book. Being my own boss.

Back when we went to Seattle in October, I conned H into driving us all the way out to Ballard on Monday morning before we left. We were driving against traffic, so it wasn’t even that bad. I love the locks, for more than one reason. First, because they’re fascinating. Because it’s fun to watch the ships come through the locks. Heading out to sea, coming back in to port. Second, because I feel connected to the locks. If you’ve ever visited the locks and walked all the way across, you might have seen the plaque below. It’s in honor of my great-great-great grandfather (my dad’s mom’s grandpa), Thomas Heinrich Peterson. He was one of the first shipbuilders in the Seattle area, and his shipyard was at Salmon Bay (which is long gone) and he lived in Ballard around the turn of the century. We have a model of one of his ships in my parents’ living room, but we didn’t know about the plaque until recently.

As we look at houses, ones old enough that my great-great-great grandfather could have lived there, I’m reminded that the past is just as important as the present and the future. That we need to remember the little things. This plaque doesn’t tell you that he almost died in a shipwreck once, or that he wrote very long run-on sentences with little-to-no punctuation, or that he had five children, or that his wife outlived him by many, many, years. But it’s there. A testament to a life well lived, to a man who left his mark on Seattle’s history.

Seattle AlkiBallard Locks SeattleThomas Heinrich Peterson Seattle WABallard Locks SeattleBallard Locks SeattleBallard Locks SeattleBallard Locks SeattleBallard Locks SeattleBallard Locks Seattle

Merry Christmas everyone. I’ll hopefully post again before 2014 arrives, but if not, I’ll be back with more in January!