Today I am so honored to introduce one of our closest friends in the WORLD to guest blog for us. We have known Spring for 3 years now & in that time it's amazing how much an important part of our lives she's become. When I'm struggling with getting a new idea to take shape, she's one of the first people I turn to for input and I trust her opinion implicitly. When i need help, she's one of the first people I know I can always count on without fail. But that's just the kind of friend Spring is. She sees friendship as a verb. An action. Something you do. Not just something you say. And we are so, so lucky to have her in our lives. I know you're going to love her as much as we do! Introducing....Ms. Spring Smith!
They might be well known in the photography world, they might be published, well known speakers and crazy talented photographers... but when it comes right down to it Justin & Mary are my friends. I've learned countless things from them through their talks, workshops and seminars, but I've also learned so much from them just by sitting on their front porch, sipping wine, and enjoying some eggplant parmesan. You see the thing is, Justin & Mary are genuine. Don't get me wrong, they can definitely seem larger then life like when I first saw them speaking in Vegas at WPPI 2010. I was moved to tears (as always) by Mary's beautiful and inspirational words. The next time we met was in Maine at their Spread The Love tour and I crashed their dinner plans after the workshop. Since that day, J&M have been my mentors for my photography business and they have also become my good friends for life.
As an attendee of multiple workshops and talks they have given, I've learned so much from J&M that when Mary asked me to write about some of the things I've taken away over the years I was totally overwhelmed and couldn't even think of where to start. There is just so much. But when it really came down to it, three specific things came to mind over and over again.
Your Ideal Client: I never thought about telling a bride "thanks but no thanks." Telling a bride I didn't want to shoot her wedding seemed so backwards at the time. I was trying to book more weddings, trying to make money, and trying to get my business off the ground. Was I super excited about all the clients that were coming to me? Not really. Did I feel like they were people I could be friends with outside of their wedding? Nope. Was I the least bit invested in their wedding outside of my photography involvement? Not at all. But did I book the wedding anyway? Yes. And I did it because I didn't know I could say "no" and still be a successful business owner.
When Justin & Mary gave me the permission I needed to feel good about saying no it changed my business. Could I really turn down weddings and only shoot the weddings I wanted? Could I actually be excited about all my couples, not just a few of them? Wow maybe this job was going to be better than I'd even known was possible! Being able to connect with your clients and be friends with your clients is an idea that literally changed my business. I now book weddings that are my kind of weddings. I book clients that I like and then in turn send me referrals for more weddings that I like and clients that I click with. It's such a strange feeling to feel like you need permission to run your business the way you want, but honestly I felt like I was an idiot if I turned down even one wedding when I was first starting out. It was contrary to all the basic business sense that I knew (which was obviously very little). Over time and with the help and guidance of J&M I've created an idea client profile and I've worked hard to stick to it. My clients are now people that I like. They are fun, typically outdoorsy and would pick a barn over a ballroom any day. They like the mountains and the rustic elegance of the area where I live. They want real moments and not stiff posed portraits that don't feel like them. They LOVE to laugh. They like coffee and wine and cupcakes! They are looking for someone they feel comfortable with and someone they are excited to see on their wedding day. They are my friends. Creating this profile has helped me not only book the weddings that I want, but more of them than I ever thought even existed.
Simplicity & Staying True to You: When I started taking photos years and years ago it was all 35mm black and white film. There wasn't much for Photoshop technique, and when I did play with it at school it was to put some funky blur filter over a photo or swap my friends head with a chicken for kicks. When I started into the world of Wedding Photography though, I got caught up in the "cool, new, funky" filters. There were black and white filters with super, crazy, over the top contract; there were vintage filters and filters that gave everything a purple cast- still not sure why I liked that one so much. I was even one of those people who did selective color images. (i know, i know… bad plan). I got totally caught up in the fad of it all. It was new, it was cool and everyone else was doing it. When I did a mentoring session with Justin & Mary, they asked me a lot about who I was and what it was about photography that I loved. Believe it or not that simple question does not have a simple answer. When I really sat down to think about it, the things I kept coming back to were: the classic black and whites, the pure emotion, and the simplicity of a truly beautiful image. And all the things I liked about my images I was covering up with these fake filters. Justin & Mary taught me to unapologetically love what it is that I love. I felt comfortable for the first time not putting funky filters on images to make them pop- but to take the knowledge and vision that I have to create images that stand on their own because the the lighting, the emotion and the simplicity of the moment is there.
It Isn't Easy: When I decided to try something new and push the envelope I was scared. I needed support and someone in my corner. J&M have always been there for me and pushed me to try for more. As recently as last week, I felt overwhelmingly inspired by Mary's words. She told the room of photographers in front of her to ASK for what we want. What a novel idea. When we want something in business, often we just sit and wait hoping, praying and crossing every part of our bodies that it will just happen for us. We want to be published, we want to speak somewhere, we want to be on a vendor list at this great venue, and we just sit and wait. Often thinking well if it's meant to be, it will be. Why are we so afraid to ask for what we want? Fear of failure, rejection, disappointment? Why do we allow that fear to be stronger than our dreams? I've never thought much about asking for what I want. When it comes to Christmas- yeah I'll make a list, drop a hint (it comes in a blue box with a pretty white bow on top *wink, wink*). But when it comes to business I've never had the guts to ask for what I want. Mary pushed me, sitting in that room, she pushed me to really think about what I want and to write down the steps to get there. To not just close that notebook at the end of the day and put those steps aside for another day, but to actually TAKE those steps. It was't about having a cheerleader behind me saying "you can do it." It was about having a friend and mentor say, if you want this YOU have to make it happen. It was the push, or maybe the not so gentle shove, that I needed to say to myself, "I want this bad enough to get up and actually DO something about it".
They are inspirational. There is no other way to say it. They inspire people. They have inspired me. I'm so lucky to know them and to have them in my life as friends for life and allies against the world. There are so many things to learn in life and in this business and I'm thankful to have people who will hold my hand or give me a hug when I need it and also people who will push me off a cliff when I need that too. I know that I have so much more to learn and I'm thankful to have people in my life like Justin & Mary to teach me.