When I first started out in the world of wedding photography, I only knew one thing: I love taking pictures. I love holding my camera in my hands and capturing the moment. But was that enough to start a business that would foster my passion and grow my creativity? As I looked around for an answer to this question in the beginning of my career, I was really discouraged. The first workshop I ever attended was led by a person who didn't photograph weddings anymore (Mistake #1: listening to a person who, didn't like photographing weddings). As I talked to people in the room they told me about how they wanted to make it big in wedding photography. They dream of relaxing during the weekday and only working one or two days over the weekend. "It's the easy life," they tell me. "This speaker's going to tell us how we're going to get rich!"
Now I'm not saying that money isn't important. As one of my photo teachers instilled in me, it's really nice, and really validating, to get paid for something that you love doing, and to get paid for practicing an art. That way you can eat and sleep under a roof, and eating and sleeping is always good for creativity. But that night I wanted my $40 bucks back, because not only did I feel like I wasted my time, but it depressed me that I was entering into a sort of rat race where everyone wanted to get rich quick and it wasn't really about the couple.
So this is how I started my wedding photography career. After that workshop I decided that I was done with workshops (mistake #2: Using my past experience to assume, generalize and judge future experience; it was only late last year that I began to take workshops again discriminately) and I went about it on my own and went back to school.
This wasn't bad, but soon I realized that I wanted to find a mentor. I have mentors in almost every area of my life, so this was a natural step in growing my business. This time around I wanted to shadow someone who was more experienced and established, still photographed weddings and had a lot of fun doing it, and was not a participant in a soft pyramid scheme.
And so I found the mentor who took me in: Chenin Boutwell
. I've been following her blog for sometime. When I look at her pictures here are the words that come to mind: genuine, funny, whimsical, and pretty. And in interning for her this past summer I discovered that she is exactly these adjectives. In taking pictures she is only projecting herself, but what a self that is. She is your "everyman" photographer, in that she really does think it's a great thing that there are wedding photographers out there who are just starting out and enjoying the medium. She is not a naysayer, but she keeps it real and tells you the honest truth. And in a city where the truth can be hard to find, there she is, running an honest and joyful business and mentoring photographers everywhere with what she has learned in the business and art (you need both!) of wedding photography.
But wait, there's more! She runs a successful business (note: this means working days, working nights, working weekends, and time in between too) and she has a one year old son AND she gets home in time to cook dinner for her family. I grew up with people telling me you either like working, or you like being at home with kids. Can't do both. You'll be unhappy because when you're at work you'll want to be at home, and when you're at home you'll be at work. So I know this can be a struggle but can someone please show me that it can be done and happiness can be found?
If Chenin can do it then I can too.
In the end, that's what mentors do. They instill in you the lessons that they've learned and practiced time and again, and they help you understand that you can do it too. It might take a lot of hard work, maybe even some blood, sweat, and tears, but I believe that passionate people do achieve what they want in life, and that is to live a life where they are honest with themselves and honest about the way God has made them.