When your path as a photographer gets blurry, what if you saw it as an opportunity to adjust your focus? To be more intentional about how you curate your life? To get curious in your creative explorations? To find a narrative for meaningful work that summons your muse and lets you find new joy in your art?
When I think back to the first wedding I captured—the current of excitement, the beauty of two lives joining, the inner knowing that this was my calling—I never imagined that one day, my passion would dim.
For eight years, wedding photography satiated my soul. I planned my life a year in advance and waived weekends because I was committed to my art. When I realized I was missing precious moments with my own family while I was looking through the lens of everyone else’s lives, I knew I had to take pause and recognize the importance of making my own memories.
Like all creative pursuits, this one was easy to begin but challenging to complete. My roots in the wedding industry dug deep. I had planted and nurtured relationships with clients and peers over the years. I was proud of my portfolio of work and confident in the space I held. To let it all go and transition to lifestyle and branding photography, I had to be willing to evolve and transform.
Choosing a creative livelihood takes courage. It takes long hours, persistence, focus, consistency, and the self-assuredness to let negative feedback slide off your heart. But if you are honest with yourself and push conventions aside, you can explore uncharted territory and find where you truly belong. A place where art, life, and business can co-exist. A place to begin again.
With a new small studio space in an old downtown building, I rediscovered my footing and my voice. I attended workshops, approached my craft with a beginner’s mindset, and curated a photography portfolio that reflected the work I wanted to be known for.
It was a slow surrender of the brand identity I had once known. As my website and portfolio evolved, I continued to receive inquiries for weddings and family work, but I shared these referrals with my peers so I could concentrate on creating a new narrative for my life and career. Every time I graciously declined an opportunity, I worried about what my current clients would think. While there were days when I felt like I was flailing or failing the people who had supported my wedding photography business, in truth, I was creating my best life with the people who mattered most.
So if you feel like your creative voice is getting lost in the noise of entrepreneurship or that your career path is no longer serving your life, I want you to know that it may be your true purpose calling. A new season inviting your ideas out to play. An opportunity to grow and evolve.
While facing that truth and navigating the path ahead may seem daunting at first, based on my personal experience, here are some strategies you can use to successfully manage the transition…
LEARN OUTSIDE YOUR INDUSTRY
We find a sense of self-purpose when we learn something new and bridge a gap in our knowledge. Collecting different perspectives from individuals outside the photography industry can lead to exciting new discoveries and experimental strategies that you can incorporate into your own workflows, marketing efforts, and creative process. When we open our hearts and minds to the possibilities, they become more endless than we ever could have imagined.
FOLLOW YOUR FEAR
You will always find valid reasons for not wanting to venture beyond the comfort zone of your craft. You will face obstacles that feel insurmountable. Yes, taking a step without knowing what comes next can be daunting. Stretching your creativity can inspire fear. As creatures of habit, our brains reach for security nets and shy away from change. So start becoming mindful of your obstacles. Which obstacles do you need to remove? Do you need to value your skills more? Do you spend too much time on social media and bend your identity for your peers? How are these obstacles affecting you and what could you achieve if they no longer existed?
CREATE FOR YOURSELF
Sometimes to discover the work that is most meaningful to you, you need to get back to creating art purely for yourself. Remember when you held the weight of your first camera and learning your craft was an adventure? Revisit that place in your heart. When you begin exploring a new niche or style of photography, you may feel a flash of vulnerability at first or worry your work is not at the level you need it to be. Find joy in the journey, follow your curiosity, and rediscover that experimental spirit that inspired you to master your craft in the beginning.
FOSTER YOUR OWN COMMUNITY
Now more than ever, you may feel disengaged from the social and networking circles you previously found a home in. Be open to fostering new relationships with those who share your values and creative vision. Be intentional about who you choose to gather with or which activities you commit your time and energy to. Build a mastermind or peer accountability group to give yourself the strategy and structure to create more success in your business and more meaning in your life. Gathering with like-minded people can inspire you to expand into your potential and stay grounded through this time of transition.
HIRE PEOPLE WHO GIVE YOU ROOM TO GROW
You are an artist, adept at capturing the magic of a moment, but you may not be as self-assured in other areas of your career or life. Hiring the right support people can inspire more confidence and lend strength during this delicate time of transition. Invest in a marketing manager, stylist, copywriter, website designer, or even a financial planner. The expertise of professionals can give you room to organically grow your artistry into another form.
My shift into my new niche of brand and lifestyle photography started a couple of years ago when I reduced my number of wedding clients, accepted more family portrait work, and offered to be a second shooter. All purposeful steps to help me gradually phase out weekend work.
Bittersweet is the only word I can think of to describe the emotions I felt when I looking at that last wedding circled on my calendar in August. I know I will miss photographing weddings using medium format film at golden hour. I also know I will continue to create fine art images and offer a lifestyle lens for those who appreciate the process, style, aesthetics, and richness film can evoke.
Even though my growing pains are still present as I enter a new season in my career and life, I know I am on the right path. So if you feel a yearning to try something new or change course in your photography career, listen to the call. Acknowledge the opportunity it presents. Ask yourself if now is the time to let go of the artist you thought you should be, so you can become the artist you know you were meant to be.
Images of the official last wedding booked for Haley Photography: Click Here