2012 was an amazing year for me and my little business. It was my 2nd year doing this wonderful thing called photography full time and my 3rd year shooting people who weren’t my friends or family (in 2010 I was on Maternity Leave and built most of my portfolio during that time.) Last year was also the first year where I felt like I got to feel out what I wanted from this career, what worked, what didn’t work and how much I could realistically do. I shot 13 weddings, which was amazing in itself, but I also kept up with my portrait sessions and did a few sides jobs as well…you can definitely say I was busy! Now, with a wee bit of hindsight I’ve been able to realize a few things, but looking back has also brought up some tough questions for me, mainly:
What do I want to focus my creative energies on?
I’ve come to realize that I cannot be everyone’s photographer and I cannot say yes to every request that comes along. I do not want to spend my time shooting subjects and events that do no interest me, plain and simple. I feel like what I’m most passionate about shows in my work and now that I have a few years under my belt, I can start being a bit choosier with what I do. This goes for both the types of weddings I do and the types of portrait sessions I want to do. I’ve debated whether I should become an exclusive wedding photographer, or whether I should continue doing both weddings and portraits. Right now the answer is to continue doing both but to scale way back on the amount of portrait sessions I plan to do, as well as what kind. I struggle with this decision though because I feel bad saying no! Especially to young families, as I know how hard it is to find someone reputable to photograph your family in this area. I don’t want to limit their options even more, but at the same time I simply cannot keep up with everything and still have a life with my own young family. Because of this, my non-wedding shooting schedule will be pretty limited in 2013, especially for child/family portraits.
My tentative plan is to host 2 mini sessions days, one in the summer and one in the Fall, and this will be when the bulk of my family portraits will be shot. I’m not sure of the dates or details but it will be similar to the mini sessions I did last year, with a ‘set up’ of sorts and an affordable, inclusive package. Full family/child sessions with probably be limited to only a 3-4 a month. I will continue doing senior, maternity, newborn and engagement/couple sessions as they come along, since I don’t receive quite as many requests for those, and also because those are types of sessions that I still find really enjoyable and creatively fulfilling. I’m also still open to doing my “Baby’s 1st Year” package, since I love seeing little ones grow up in front of my lens.
(I want to stress that none of this means that I did not enjoy photographing the families and kids that I did last year…quite the opposite! I enjoyed it so much that I took on too many and in the end felt stressed and like I wasn’t delivering the best service that I could to my clients, which is what led me to my decision.)
With the idea of providing better customer service and a customer experience in mind, I will also be making a few small changes to how I do things:
- Questionnaires: I want to start having my clients fill out a small questionnaire before their session, tailored to find out exactly what they are looking for in their portraits, as well as find out a bit more about their story as a couple, family, mama-to be, etc. I want to start getting deeper with my clients, and knowing a bit more about them will help me provide the types of images that I’m striving for this year. This will be especially true with my wedding couples, and will be a requirement before booking with me.
- Deposits: I currently have a deposit policy but have never been very good about reinforcing it. This year I will have to be more diligent since I am limiting the amount of sessions that I am doing and therefore cannot afford to have anyone cancel at the last minute. This will be especially true for the mini session dates and wedding bookings. I currently take cash, cheques and email money transfers, and may look into accepting credit cards if it seems like something many people are interested in.
- Products: I will be making a few changes to my packages this year, but nothing too drastic. Mainly I will be switching up sizes to some of my new favourites (hello 12X18!), and will also be focusing on providing quality items like canvases versus standout prints. Packaging/branding is also something I want to refine this year.
- Sneak Peeks/Blogging: Another thing that I’ve (slowly) learned is that less is more. I should only be presenting my very best work here on the blog, so my sneak peeks and client sessions will be smaller from now on. This is really hard for me because I’m usually a ‘more is more’ type person, so I love showing lots of images, but I know that in the end it’s diminishing my work so I will be more selective from now on. I will also only be blogging sessions that I feel market my style; again, this is not to say that I am not proud of each one of my sessions, but as I said before, it all comes down to choosing what I want to focus my energies on. Same with Facebook, I will most likely only be showing one image as a sneak peek from now on. It pains me to say it but it has to be done! I’m also hoping to bring back my “Everyday Photographer” series this winter and share a bit more than sessions here on the blog, including some personal blogging, which I’ve missed doing the past few years.
I also have some exciting new things happening this year, including investing in a bit of studio equipment! Studio work is another thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately; I know that as a natural light photographer I am limited in my shooting season, so having the option of doing indoor portraits during the winter months is an important step for my business financially. It is also important if I want to take my newborn photography to the next level; however, I know that I do not want to become a ‘studio portrait photographer’; it is simply not a style that I am in love with. I much prefer being outdoors with natural backdrops and lighting (it’s hard not to look ‘posed’ in front of a white wall). Still, I am very excited to use these new tools to expand my skills and options for my clients.
This month I hope to give my blog and website a little makeover (as you can see I’ve adopted a new logo, though I’m sure it will change a bit in the coming weeks…choosing a font is hard you guys!), update my portfolios, oder new business cards and printed materials, and generally get myself back into ‘business’ mode after a crazy Fall/holiday season.
On a personal note, I’m sure that most people reading this realize that I work from home and that I have 2 small children (a 3 year old and a 17 month old). Right now they are in daycare three days a week, so those are the only days where I am able to focus completely on work such as editing, replying to email, blogging, etc. That is only about 24 hours a week, or the equivalent of a part time job. The rest of the time I’m sneaking off to the computer during naps or screen time, or replying to messages on my phone, so if it is taking a bit of time for me to get back to you or to get your photos/products, this would be the main reason. This job requires that I work all sorts of hours and that is fine, but it has definitely cut into my family time and my home has suffered because of it. I am really going to try and set stricter business hours for myself this year (and cut out distractions like social media, housework, etc) so that I am able to be more focused on my kids and the house when I’m not working. I hope that you all understand and continue to show the enormous patience you have shown me in the past 🙂
My current ‘official’ business hours are:
(This may change shortly if we decide to pull the kids from daycare for the winter to save a bit of money, but for the past little while this has been my schedule.)
Well, if you got through this post congrats, I know it was a bit long and dry, but it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now so I wanted to get it all out there while the thoughts and the year were fresh!
Again, I want to thank everyone for their support over the past few years; it’s because of all of you that I have been able to live my dream and work for myself while raising my family, and I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
Until next time,