It's been quite an eventful year - twelve months ago I had no idea I was about to start this little business - but a big bit of encouragement and some willing couples later - here I am - reflecting on all that has happened. It's been a steep learning curve; on business, on photography, on weddings, on myself. I thought I'd use this space to reflect on what some of those lessons have been, lessons hidden amongst both the highs and the lows.
It's possible! Starting a business does not mean knowing everything about everything - all the ins and outs of being a sole trader. It's OK to just start and figure it all out along the way. Something I am still very much doing.
Working from home is great. You can do your admin in your pyjamas.
Working from home is rubbish. You can not leave the house for days and there's no office cleaner.
It's quite all right to take it all at my own pace. Learning to charge properly for things, learning to market myself - these are all things I struggle with and that's OK - they can be worked out in my own time and in my own way.
It's all too easy to become a workaholic in this business - everything takes so much more time than it should. I'm glad I've learnt this early on - and mainly from watching others. It means I can choose to work in a sustainable way - even if it means saying no to work I could theoretically fit in.
It's quite all right to set the camera up simply - to steer clear of the manual setting - to focus on the subject, not the tools. Not only is it how I like to work - but it seems to complement reportage style photography where moments are happening all over the place. This permission only now seems to be sinking in - so the secret guilt I've harboured over not using manual can perhaps settle down a little. Reading articles by Annabelle Williams helped me on this no end.
Learning happens best on the hoof - acquiring and applying knowledge all the time (and forgetting it too).
Accidents happen. And sometimes they're the best shot!
There's no such thing as a pro photographer. There are people who know a lot about cameras. There are people who like taking pictures. There are people who make a living from photos. But there is still no such thing as a pro photographer. This has been a very freeing and validating notion. Thanks to Ken Rockwell for his articles on this.
There is never enough time to do everything. Managing my own (and couples) expectations of what is possible in one day without turning a wedding into a photo shoot has been an important lesson.
I sometimes used to see a shot and think, I'll take that later. Never. Enough. Time. Get it as you see it.
There will almost always be a point in a wedding where I think all is lost. I left the house for the last one saying to Dan - "expect a phonecall about 7pm where I think it's all useless and I should quit the whole thing". Funnily enough - that was the first wedding where I didn't feel that once.
The weddings I've enjoyed the most have had an energy and a pace about them - I'm not totally sure what causes it - whether it's canny planning, exuberant guests or a figment of my imagination.
Guests tend to a) talk to me about cameras and lenses (which I am only now learning not to be intimidated by), b) call me a ninja for my petite size and stealthy moves enabling me to take photos unnoticed and c) marvel that I was taking photos from lying on the floor (this always surprises me - as I'm not always aware I'm doing it - and I seem to think that I'm invisible).
Envy is a cruel companion. When looking at other photographers and photos - if they're better than me, I feel rubbish - if they're not, I feel momentarily validated - critical even - before buckling under the expectation that others will be crushingly critical about me. Comparison seems to end in lose:lose.
Cameras are heavy. And I am little. I now have very strong shoulders.
A certain level of stress is a very good thing - it inspires - it motivates - it strives for better. Keeping the stress at the right level is the tricky part.
I will probably never lose my double-edged ability to be super critical about everything I do. But I am beginning to make friends with that bit of myself, and to take those critiques more lightly.
I can only be myself. In my business style. In my photography style. In my life.
So there we go - lot's to chew on. I am enjoying the learning and the risks, as well as the people and the process. Here's to 2011 and all it holds.
And to end - a few of my favourite pictures from this year (including weddings to be blogged in 2011).
All images ©KateCooperPhotography2010