Every day I’m hustlin’…

I will be the first to admit that I have an amazing job.  I love what I do, and there is rarely a day where I don’t wake up happy and excited to go to work.  I really feel for people who are not lucky enough to be in a job that inspires them and brings them joy every week.

That being said, I gotta tell you, I feel like I am wearing down.  Every time I turn around there is someone new cropping up to do the same job I do, with little technical knowledge, lacking the proper equipment and backup gear, and who pays no taxes and carries no business insurance.  It’s exhausting, really.  Some days I get so frustrated and scared that there is no future in this career path.  I love what I do, but I am deathly afraid that I will not be able to keep a roof over our heads, and I might have to get a ‘real’ job like everyone else.  I don’t have ‘another’ income, and I don’t do this ‘on the side’.  This is my real occupation, and I have to play by the rules at my job just like everyone else.  Because I am a legitimate business, I have legitimate business expenses that have to be paid.  Taxes and insurance are two of these bills, but there’s also studio rent, heat and hydro, telephones (one business line and one cell), props, equipment, upkeep and lots of other little things that don’t immediately spring to mind.  It’s expensive to be in business, and to provide good work EVERY SINGLE TIME, and under EVERY SINGLE CONDITION.   Even though I have to play by the rules, most of the people who crop up with a camera and a dream do not, and can therefore give it away for free, or next to nothing.  It’s not an ego thing, I swear it!  It doesn’t bother me that most of my friends and family do not use me for their photos.  For some, I am not in their price range, or they prefer another style of photography.  No harm done.  But when I see local people turning their favorite hobby into their new occupation I literally have to bite my tongue so I do not say something unkind.  I am trying to be gracious.  I do wish other entrepreneurs well.  I just wish they would do a few things differently.

So you have a camera and a dream, eh?   Well, there’s a couple of things you should learn about your new career path.

"You need a light bitch?" Wait, let's try that again. "You need a light, bitch?" Punctuation is everything...

First of all, I hope you enjoy working weekends, and lots of them.  Almost all of them, in fact.  As it turns out, people are usually available during the weekend and evenings.  That’s when most people DON’T work, and that’s when you will be working.  Forget going to barbeques every Saturday in the summer.  If you become a success, your ‘weekends’ will fall on different days of the week entirely.   Having 7 days off in a row will be difficult.  You will promise yourself that you will ‘take days off’ but then you will get a request for a job and you will go ahead and work anyway.

Also, the editing that comes with your workload can be staggering.  You think it’s pretty fun to be out and creative with your camera, but imagine how much fun it will be when you get home and have to sort through the 300 images you took, in order to find a few that are properly exposed, tack sharp and have pleasing expressions on your subjects.  You will start to see the value in getting that shit right in the camera BEFORE you take the photo.   One year during the Christmas season I had a big splotch on my camera sensor, but I was so busy with work, I couldn’t seem to travel the hour and a half each way to get my camera guy to clean it for me.  So instead, I spent more than twice the amount of time on every session I edited, in order to remove that goddamned spot out of every single frame.  This was about 6 or 7 years ago, and way before I dreamed of editing in lightroom.  No, I had to open each and every frame I took and edit them individually.  That was 6 painful weeks of hard learning.  Get it right the first time, and save yourself a boatload of time in the end.

Edit. Edit. Edit. Shoot. Edit. Pee. Edit...

While you are on your journey of financial freedom via photography, please keep in mind that there are very few successful working photographers who can make a living from their cameras.  I mean truly support themselves and their families with nothing more than their photography.  Do you know why so few are successful?   It’s because it’s bloody hard.  It is not easy to balance work, editing, life, children, home and a marriage in this career.  I believe it was one of the biggest reasons for the failure of my first marriage, simply because it ate the majority of my time, and demanded nearly all of my attention.   Owning your own business has many, many benefits, but you must be a real hard-ass of a boss to make it work.

You should also think of what you will need to propel you forward in your new career.  It’s a given that you need a camera, but what about a backup body?  What about extra lenses?  Flashes?  Are you prepared to spend thousands of dollars to outfit yourself with the kind of gear that you need to do the job correctly?  Hopefully you are also prepared to buy a second copy of all of that expensive gear, in case you have a disaster with the first one.  I remember having my camera crap out during a wedding on 3 separate occasions.  Luckily, I had backup.  I ALWAYS have backup.  I have dropped flashes, lenses and battery packs and heard them crash to the floor, never to operate properly again.  Of course, I had extras.

Bag 'o gear. Don't forget to insure that shit...

I mean, really, what professional doesn’t understand that SHIT HAPPENS, even when it isn’t convenient or cheap.  I have had cards go corrupt, and have spent hours running them through software to extract the damaged files.  That’s always a pretty fun afternoon, trying to find files that have vanished.  The sweat that runs down your back is the kind that reminds you that you may have just completely fucked up the biggest day of someones life.   I’m happy to tell you that that hasn’t happened yet, and we have backup methods on our backup methods to ensure that our client’s files are safe.  That doesn’t mean that bad stuff doesn’t happen, even if you are very prepared, because it does.

Birdman and I really do try to patronize businesses that are owned by real people, and not corporations.  We try to put our earning dollar into the pocket of people who own small businesses.  We believe that we need to support and nurture business that is trying to make a difference.   Well, I am one of those businesses.  I am trying to give people something of great value and beauty for a reasonable price.  I live to do it, and I want to do it until I can no longer do anything.  It is what I believe my calling is, and how I hope to spend the rest of my working days.  I believe in giving my clients the best of myself, every time.  I am not giving it away for free, (unless I choose to).  I am a skilled professional, and I guarantee the work I do.  I am prepared to give 100% every time, and I will have fun doing it.

In the new year, I will go back into the studio and start dreaming up ways to make sure we make it through another business year.  I will try to think of ways to generate income in the off-season, and to attract enough engaged couples to employ me to photograph their weddings.  It’s exhausting, and it does feel like I am always hustling.  I don’t need your pity, I just need your referrals.  😉

If you hire me, I will not make you look like this...

Thanks for letting me vent.  I’m done now.  I want to remind you that it isn’t all that bad, despite my rant.  This fantastic job has provided me the opportunity to attend every one of my kids recitals, and school plays, volunteer at their school, and know all of their friends.  I have been able to drive to countless playdates, host sleepovers and get-togethers, and I know all of the parents of my kid’s friends.  I have watched soccer, dance, and home-made theatrical extravaganzas galore.  I have the freedom to drive my kids to and from school EVERY DAY if I choose.  Most days, I do choose to drive them.  I like it.  I like knowing that my amazing job gives me the freedom to enjoy the few short years that my children will actually give a shit if I am around them.  I am relishing these years…reveling in them.   If I was any luckier, I would have horseshoes stuffed up my ass.  I love my job, and i don’t care how many half-price imitators crop up around me, I will always love it and be so thankful that it allows me to live this amazing life, with this amazing family.

Tomorrow I will hustle again, just because I can.  🙂

Mrs. Birdman




9 thoughts on “Every day I’m hustlin’…

  1. well said…..and I personally know you are a fantastic photographer. You are simply great at what you do and I cant imagine you doing anything else. For those of us who have been fortunate to have you photograph us and or our family or friends no doubt refer you whenever possible…..You truly love what you do, and it shows in every single shot. I can tell you and everyone else ….YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!!!
    Love your work girl….keep it up!!!
    Love your bestie!!!!

  2. I too will attest that this is “your gig”.
    You rock the camera and you always have … I don’t think that I remember a moment in our pre-teens when you didn’t have a camera in your hand and then when you picked it up professionally, I think all of your friends had this light bulb go off in their heads “Yeah! THAT makes sense. G doing photography!”
    You have such an amazing eye that no one can compare.
    I wish you many many many more years of creativity and hard work because that’s what makes you tick and the fabulous person you are.
    Anyone who takes a moment to talk to you won’t want anyone else as their photographer — trust me 😉

  3. Hey Momma, let ChinDaddy know who these people are that are getting all up in your business! Perhaps they can be reasoned with by Chin and Associates!

    Some day in the future, when the younger princess has the hardware removed from her mouth, perhaps you could snap some pics of them for me? I would love you even more….kidding! I can’t love you more! I’m max’d out!

  4. I love to hear you talk about your work, combining technical & people skills…mostly because you rarely do…

    I love what I do too but despite the mythology surrounding my vocation at the end of the day it pays the bills. Like yours it can be done poorly or well.

    And like I always say, ” That’s how you know it is work because you get paid”.

    PS loved reading your blog…you are a hardworking and practical woman despite the glamour & flash of your profession (every pun intended)

  5. I wish I lived closer so that I could get some more pics done by you!! You are absolutely right, this is your calling. You are always evolving and I am always amazed at what I see, EVERY time you post something new. I can never thank you enough for the awesome job you did on my wedding day, you captured so many special moments that I will treasure always. You are a PROFESSIONAL through and through my friend 🙂 Here’s to many more years!!

  6. We always love the work you do (I totally agree you get what you pay for) but for us it’s just as much about how much fun you make our sessions. Even though some of us (you know who I’m talking about) may complain like crazy about doing it, but afterwards will always say he had a great time and is glad we did it!! That is thanks to you!!

  7. I know for a fact, that people who did not get you to do their wedding (or any other pics) wish they had, after seeing their friends beautiful wedding photos taken by you. Although I am a bit partial to you I truly have never seen better pictures anywhere. Also I know all about the business crap. You do play by the rules and I am very proud of you for that and so many other things. Please don’t fret too much about this, because you will be doing what you do for a long long time. You do get what you pay for and you are the best. Love Ya.

  8. Wish we lived closer together. I would love my picture taken by a pro. You know, where I don’t look too fat or too dorky. I have enough of those.

    • First of all – where do you get off NEVER inviting me to a “sleepover” or a “theatrical extravaganza”? I like to sleep! I like to extravaganza theatricaly! Whatever, we will have to have meetings about this on the beach!
      Second – PLEASE take a familty photo for wifey, and my side, EXACTLY like the one in your blog – TOO FUNNY!
      You are the best at what you do – unfortunately, people have to find out by giving someone $20 for them to wreck the memories of the best day of their lives! (by the way – i just got a rebel for Xmas and i could do your special day for about $60! do you think thats too much? ok $50, but its only good for 30 min, and I WILL be shitcanned!)
      See you soon Mrs!
      Hey Birdman – you are a cunt! (couldn’t resist, love it!)

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