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FBO: Staying Productive During Off Season

It’s technically “off season” but that doesn’t mean as photographers and wedding vendors that we’re actually off…a lot of people probably think that since we aren’t photographing every weekend right now, we just aren’t really doing any work. But, the reality of being a small business owner is that you have to work at it year round, even when your business is slower than the rest of the year. During off season, I’m much less motivated to work though because a lot of the tasks on my to-do list aren’t things I technically HAVE to do and sometimes playing another round of Candy Crush seems so much more appealing.

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I’ve learned a few tricks to help make sure I’m still being productive even when I’m not as busy. Here they are!

  1. Use the time to work on bigger projects. This is the time to work on all of those things that we really don’t have as much time for during busy season. If you’ve got a big project you want to work on, this is the time to do it! This year I’m working on my taxes (isn’t that the ultimate big project for small business owners??), designing a few PDF guides for our clients, and a couple other things. I also like to use the “downtime” to write up blog posts in advance, read business books, update my website, and submit any work that hasn’t been submitted yet.
  2. Make a list of things you want to get done and assign the tasks required to specific days. At the beginning of every week I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish that week and then I assign those tasks to different days of the week. To me, breaking down a to do list makes it seem a little bit more manageable than just feeling like I have to slog through a list of 30 things every single day and can’t stop til it’s done. I’d rather do 6 tasks a day and do something else I’m excited to do when I’m done with those 6 tasks.
  3. Utilize a timer to keep on track. Although I’m also a fan of multi-tasking, when I’m really struggling to be productive, I find it helpful to commit to small chunks of time to working completely uninterrupted on one task. No email, no Facebook no phone, texting, etc. Just one task and nothing else. I use the Pomodoro timer app for Mac because I like how the time remaining stays in your toolbar at the top of the screen and notifications pop up when the timer goes off. It’s automatically designed to alert you after 25 minutes of work that it’s time for a break but you can set it for whatever you want.
  4. Work in your office. When I’m really busy, sometimes I work from the couch or from the dining room table instead of my office. I just feel like I’m in the office too much and need a change of scenery…and  I feel like sitting where I want is a self employment perk! When I’m not feeling super motivated, sitting in my office at my desk is the perfect way to set the mood for getting work done!
  5. Give yourself a break. You earned it! I like to think of this slower time as similar to when teacher friends are off for the summer. Yes, there’s still things that need to be done to keep everything going, but you also earned the right to relax a little bit and enjoy the slower pace!

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that as a business owner you’re in charge of managing your time however you think is best! My goal is always to try to strike that delicate balance between work and life. If your scales tip a bit more towards the “life” end this time of year, that’s okay too because it’ll all even out in the end!

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The Top 10 Reasons I love being a Wedding Photographer

When 2016 arrived a few weeks ago, I realized that in April of this year, my very FIRST wedding clients will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary! It’s crazy to me how much time has passed, but also how quickly it went by. When I photographed my first wedding, I desperately wanted nothing more than to be a full time wedding photographer with a “successful” business. Though I still feel on a day to day basis like I’m striving to get to that place where I can finally feel successful, I technically have all of the markers of success as I defined it five years ago when it was my dream to do exactly what I’m doing today. That just blows my mind because I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to do this!

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Anyway, thinking back to the first wedding I shot made me reflect on the job and I decided to make a list of the top ten things I love about being a wedding photographer. I’m sure all of us wedding photogs have different things that we like (and sometimes dislike, let’s be real!) about the job, but here are my favorites!

1. I love seeing people get married. Witnessing each wedding we photograph reminds me how much I love marriage as an institution and how valuable my own marriage is to me. I love hearing the vows and seeing each couple at the start of something new and wonderful.

2. I get to work with happy people! I don’t think there are really many people who are happier than a bride and groom (or groom and groom, or bride and bride) unless maybe your job is delivering pizza. In which case, I think you have a lot of happy clients too…you might even have the upper hand because EVERYONE loves pizza!

3. I’m good at it. I think it’s really important to seek out a job that is a good fit for you. If you think about it, it makes so much sense for each of us to do jobs that we are well suited for. We’re happier, we do a great job, and we feel fulfilled doing things that we have a natural affinity for. It’s a win/win for both the clients who benefit from our jobs (whatever they are) and us as well. As a visual person, I LOVE doing photography and a lot of it comes somewhat naturally (along with hard work, of course) and I’m an entrepreneur at heart. My job helps me utilize my talents in a way that’s fulfilling!

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4. Every day is different. I was never really all that into working in an office environment. Possibly because a lot of those types of jobs can mean doing the same thing day after day. There are definitely similarities to each wedding day and you come to learn to anticipate what might happen next, but there are always so many unique things about each wedding and it keeps me on my toes! I also rarely spend every single weekday doing the same work. I’m spending time working on social media strategies one day, blogging the next, preparing my taxes, emailing with clients, packaging gifts, designing albums, bookkeeping, etc. There’s always something different to do! You can never be too bored!

5. I get to travel a lot. It’s given me the opportunity to explore my state (and John’s home state of MD, too!) from corner to corner. We’ve shot with our toes in the sand and literally driven up and down mountains to be alongside our clients on their wedding days. It’s fun to be able to combine two things I really enjoy (photographing weddings and traveling) into one job!

6. I get to do it with John. Not every wedding photographer works with their spouse. I don’t think it would work for everyone, but it works really well for us! I love having my best friend at work with me on the weekends. He’s so at photography and he’s also really patient and adaptable so he makes the perfect second photographer. We make a great team!

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7. It allows me the freedom and flexibility of making my own schedule. I love being able to manage my workload the way I want to during the weekdays! I love being able to go to the gym during the day when it’s quieter or have lunch with my mom or another fellow entrepreneur if the opportunity arises. I like being able to travel without having to use vacation days. I also really appreciate the fact that one day when we have kids, I can be at home with them more during the week and still have a career that I love. Wanting to create my life in this really intentional way was a huge catalyst for starting my business and one that helps set the tone for the way I do things now.

8. I actually really love running my business on the back end. I think a lot of creative people struggle as business owners because they don’t have the mentality that you need to run your own business. I’m kind of odd in that I love to do creative things, such as (obviously) photography, but I am also really analytical and business minded. I love blogging, bookkeeping, marketing, etc. I love planning out my goals and figuring out how to accomplish them. I think I’m so lucky to have a job that lets me work both parts of my brain!

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9. I’ve made genuine, life long friends through the business. This is a huge gift that I never expected to receive when I first picked up a camera and thought to myself “Hey, what if I did this for a living??”. A lot of people have friends who become clients, but I’ve been lucky in that a lot of my clients have become friends! Some of them are such good friends I know I will still be friends with them forever, even if I stopped running my business tomorrow. I also have a few photographer/industry friends that I consider my “forever friends” who are always there to share a laugh or commiserate.

10. What I do actually means something. I have to start this with the disclaimer that I really don’t think what I do is going to save any lives or anything like that. I’m not a solider or a firefighter or a nurse, or even a teacher. What I do doesn’t impact tons and tons of people, but it does offer something meaningful to the people I work with. My job takes memories and makes them tangible. It turns them into something beautiful that you can hang on your wall or make into a book. My job saves stories for future generations. And even more than that, more than the images, which are a huge part of the legacy I help document for each of our couples, my job is also to help add something positive to each wedding day I have the honor of being a part of. To me, it isn’t just about taking photographs and passing them on, it’s also about making people feel good about themselves. It’s about taking people who feel less than confident in front of the camera and making them feel beautiful (and/or handsome). What I do actually means something because I’m in the business of making people happy. Does it get better than that?

I can’t close this post without a thank you. Thank you to all of our clients….past, present, and future. Thank you for trusting us with your memories and letting us be a part of your stories! Thank you to all of the friends and vendor pals who believed in me from the beginning, and of course, thank you to YOU, the person reading this, for reading and supporting the blog.

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Hawaii on Film

I have a couple of confessions to make.

1. I really only took my film camera (Canon AE-1) to Hawaii because it’s a LOT lighter and smaller than my digital. And, it only cost me $39 bucks, so if it fell in to the Pacific Ocean, I couldn’t really be that mad, could I?

2. It actually takes really bomb photos.

3. I’m still figuring out what I’m doing when it comes to film, despite owning a film camera for a couple of years.

I actually only shot one roll of cheapo film in the AE-1 before we left (and THOSE photos were just so not good that they will never see the light of day) so I felt like I was kind of taking a gamble with shooting a few rolls of film on our trip. I could have taken my other film SLR, which is a little nicer and actually HAS proven itself with some good results in the past, but it’s larger, heavier, and uses my “work” lenses that I would definitely not be okay with disappearing into the ocean. Instead, I chose to take my $39 Ebay purchase on an adventure and just see how it went.

I’m actually REALLY excited about how the photos turned out! They’re not perfect, but they are wonderful snapshots to remember our vacation by, and I can’t ask for more than that for a camera that cost less than dinner for two at PF Changs! Here are some of my favorites!

(All images shot on Kodak Portra 400 on Canon AE-1 and scanned by the FIND Lab)

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As usual, thanks for stopping by the blog today! If you’d like to see our Hawaii video, go here! For the Oahu recap, go here and here! And for our Maui day trip, head here!

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Stunning images! :)

I love these images soooo much. It takes me back!! And, I love that you used that camera. We have an old Ricoh that’s very similar. While I love our autofocus Nikon film camera (with all the lenses, etc.), there’s something more magical about these manual cameras that make you slow down. Plus, the images are dreamy!

Maggie Richard

Love them!

2016 Goals

2016. Feels so weird to say (and read!) it doesn’t it? This time of year always feels like there’s so much to be excited about! What opportunities will come our way? Where will we travel? What new couples will we be meeting? There are so many memories yet to be made. This is just the start!

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it can also be a little scary to start a new year. All of the same unknowns that we get excited about are also easy to get anxious about. I’m not a fan of the unknown myself, but I’ve learned that writing out specific goals and planning things out helps assuage my fears of what might (and might not) happen. I think it’s smart to make our goals things that are both attainable and intentional. Meaning, let’s not set ourselves up to fail AND let’s be sure that we have a good reason for putting a goal on our list.

It’s taken me a little bit to think up what I wanted to add to my goal list for this year, but I’ve finally got a few things going! I also really want to try to make a monthly goal list to work on each month, sort of a micro goal list, so to speak.

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Without further adieu, here are my 2016 goals!

Business Goals 

  • Meet booking goal – Duh, I think this goes without saying! We have 5 wedding weekends left available in 2016 and we’re also starting to book for 2017, which is exciting!
  • Be consistent with submissions – I’ve talked about this before, but I have yet to find a really great, really easy and user friendly solution for submitting my wedding work to publications. I once thought TBL was the answer, but it’s just not very user friendly and it’s kind of clunky and time consuming, in my opinion. I’m looking for another way to make this simpler and will report back when I find it!
  • Professional branded headshots – This is something I really want to carve out the time for! Our “headshots” on the site now are more or less just a hodgepodge of photos our professional photographer friends have been kind enough to snap for us, but I’d really like a full session of  branded images to use on my website and all of our social media platforms because I believe that branding should be really cohesive!
  • Collaborate more with fellow wedding vendors – I tend to be a bit of an introvert and a homebody, so it’s tough to get me out to wedding industry events when I could be at home cuddling with Lucy in my free time. I would love to work on projects with other wedding folks though this year! If you are reading this and would like to work together on something, let me know!
  • Secret project – Ooh la la! Shhhh I have a secret!!! I’m working on something behind the scenes that I’m not quite ready to announce or share yet…but hopefully it will be ready soon! Off season gives me a bit more time to work on things like this, which helps.
  • Re-examine each part of our wedding day shooting flow and see what we can do better. I think it goes without saying that you should always be focused on improving and getting better. I think there are so many areas where we are doing great, but there are also a few where we could be better, or just do things differently. I’d like to sit down and really look at each part of how we approach wedding days and figure out if there’s a way to do it better and/or be more creative.
  • Education of some kind – I think it’s really important to continue learning every year, but I’m finding it harder and harder to find education that fits my needs as a photographer and business owner right now. I feel like almost everyone offers mentoring or workshops for newer or intermediate photographers, but when it comes to education opportunities for people who have been in business 4-5+ years, there’s really not much out there! I’m on the hunt for something that’s a good fit for me!
  • Read a business book a month and blog about it. I keep meaning to read some of the business related books that I hear are so good, but then Harry Potter looks so good sitting there on my shelf and I cave in and spend my time at Hogwarts instead! I think it might help convince me to read some of these business books if I designate a time to read them where I’m technically “on the clock” so that I still have time for fun reads when I’m “off”. We’ll see how it goes!! I’d like to end the year having read 12 business related books though, so if you have suggestions on good reads, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email!
  • Cut out unnecessary business spending. This is more of a chore than any of the other things on my list, but it’s something that I’ve got to do if I want to have a successful, profitable business. I think so many of us run our businesses in a way that puts having a certain “appearance” at a higher priority than having a bigger profit margin. I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve taken trips to workshops, bought fancy leather camera bags, spent money on really nice business cards that I almost NEVER hand out, and more. I’m lucky in that the business has made it to it’s fifth year, HOWEVER, I want it to last many more years, so I’ve got to be prudent where my finances stand and think more like a CFO.

Personal Goals

  • Do a strict pull up. I have NEVER been able to do a pull up! Not a real one, at least! It was the ONE thing keeping me from completing the Presidential Fitness test in elementary school and it still haunts me! Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but I’d really like to be able to do a strict unassisted pull up or two by the end of the year!
  • Pay off our car. This one is not a fun goal at all, but I can only imagine how good it will feel to not have a car payment every month!
  • Get a second tattoo. This is a carry over from last year. I really want to get a tattoo that commemorates my marathon in 2013!
  • Take two trips. We don’t have anything planned right now, but a lot of my trips last year were somewhat spur of the moment, so I’m sure that travel opportunities will arise throughout the year:)
  • Shoot one roll of film a month. I had this on my list last year and I didn’t keep up with it. I added it again because, well, I just thought it sounded like fun! I don’t have a lot of hobbies, but film photos can kind of be a hobby, right?
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Favorite 2015 Detail Photos

I’m so excited to finally start these “best of” weddings posts for 2015! It really does feel like every year goes by more quickly than the last, but I like to think that going back and reminiscing a little bit helps make time slow done at least a little;) I also have so much fun looking through the images we took and remembering each wedding day that we were a part of!

Details continue to be one of my favorite things to photograph at weddings. Though we’ll have been married five (FIVE!!?!) years this upcoming May, I still remember how hard I worked to put together our wedding day details. So much care goes into making them special and heartfelt. They’re an important piece of the wedding day story that you’ll want to share with your kids and your grandkids one day! Either way, you’ll definitely want to look back and remember how it felt to be there on your wedding day and the details play a big part in that 😃

Here are some of my favorite detail images from 2015!!

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Want to see more of our favorites from 2015? Be sure to check back next week for my favorite portraits!

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